Scottish Government Library blog

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We went. We saw. We did.

It seems such a long time ago when my SG Library colleague Alan Aitken and I headed down to Internet Librarian International on 29th October last year.

So why am I only mentioning it now? Well, I personally took a lot away from the 2 day event, and decided to keep my blogging tinder dry until I was able to report on developments our Library had made as a result of the conference.

Overall, I came away enthused at all the stories of customer focussed innovations the presenting libraries shared and discussed. Although most were FE or HE libraries, much of what they are doing could be applied to a government library such as ours. That is to say, the use of (often free) technologies to deliver services and foster the sharing of knowledge. All done within tight budgets and limited resources.

The development of smarter working through collaboration across the Scottish Government (SG) and beyond to the Scottish public sector is a key part of our library’s work. So for me, the opening keynote struck a chord as summarized below:

Stop lending and start sharing
R. David Lankes (@rdlankes), Syracuse University School of Information Studies Director, Information Institute of Syracuse.

David’s premise is the more you lend, the less you have. The more you share, the more you have. He argues librarians should be the catalysts for such collaboration, as we’re already thinking like this. Librarians have moved on from being merely ‘book collectors’ to continually using and upgrading to the most relevant tools and platforms to meet our users’ information needs.

Libraries should be promoted and seen as the platform/space where sharing of information is enabled – community spaces, either physical or online.

I was encouraged that the other libraries represented at the conference also create and deliver extensive training programmes tailored to their users.  As part of our planned training programme we created and delivered a series of information events in 6 SG buildings in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Livingston around sourcing and sharing information – Source & Share. We’ve even had to put on extra events to meet demand! This quote from an attendee sums up what we were aiming to achieve:

“I found it all very helpful and is part of drive to expand my ability to learn as much as i can about my policy areas in the most efficient way.”

So what else can we do to take the Library to our customers? The Library continues to be a contributor to a range of information events within the SG. Most recently an Information Fair in St Andrew’s House. We’re also planning to re-introduce our ‘information surgeries’ in public areas across main SG buildings.

Learning Fair
St Andrew’s House Learning Fair (24/04/13)

What other learning from the conference has the SG Library put into practice?

1. As we are a service for SG staff , we’ve added a Tweet to our @scotgovlib Twitter account directing readers to the library topic on the SG’s Yammer. This is because we will use Yammer to:

  • Give delegates the chance to carry on with their learning from our courses
  • Nurture conversations with our users

2. We have published our service standards on our Library intranet homepage.

3. We launched a daily round-up of tweets selected by the Library from the Scottish Government and Scottish public bodies and on Scottish Independence using

4. We provided links to relevant Civil Service Learning on the Library’s eLearning intranet page.

5. We promoted our version of a ‘Library Survival Guide’. The conference made me realize how useful this was, and our version – our ‘Welcome!’ email flyer has now been distributed across the SG via Yammer.

Of course, there’s always more to be done:

6. Use online polling in our courses. We are planning to use web conferencing to make our courses available to more SG staff, and to use the online polling this technology offers to help deliver tailored training.

7. Make more use of video/visual tools for short library guides. This was a repeated message from the conference, supported by evidence showing instructional learning is best delivered via visual than printed media.  Though we have made a start by creating a 10 minute Library tour for SG staff.  The tour is a narrated presentation on the SG’s intranet demonstrating how SG staff can access our key services.

For me, the litmus test for any event or meeting is if I can apply or deliver any learning from it. Was Internet Librarian International worth going to? Certainly! I plan to return, and recommend it to any librarian wishing to develop their service.

You can see my conference tweets, follow ILI on Twitter or join the conversation at #ili2013.

Paul Gray
May 16, 2013

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Putting the ‘e’ in Library

Our small and busy Library team have a clear vision of which services we need to deliver to the Scottish Government, and how to deliver them.  So a few years ago we made the decision to focus on delivering desktop access to our services and market the Library as a virtual library.

We developed our Library pages on the organisation’s intranet and re-branded it the eLibrary.  And we continually describe and promote our Library as an eLibrary.

The eLibrary is continually developing, and now we’re taking this to the next level with the launch of the first in a series of eLearning modules.

Readers of this blog may be aware that our Library has been providing links to a range of desktop and mobile information services via our Library on the Web page for almost a year now.  So we’re delighted to say our eLearning modules will initially be available to anyone on this blog at our new eLearning page.  

So visit our eLearning page see our first module – Go Google!  Go Google! aims to give you some top tips to help you get the most from your Google searching.

Go Google! menu

Follow our blog and be the first to see our exciting eLearning developments over the coming months and beyond.

Paul Gray
April 2, 2013

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Keeping up with the Library

I previously wrote about what, broadly speaking, my job as a Scottish Government Librarian involves.  Over my next few posts I’d like to explain some of the specific things our library does in a bit more detail.  In this post, it’s the turn of our alerting services.

The Scottish Government Library has always delivered alerting services to Scottish Government staff.  Helping staff to keep up-to-date with their subjects seems a very useful thing for the Library to do.  However, our experience is that very few staff come to the Library to receive the ‘traditional’ alerts we offer.  That’s to say emailed table of contents alerts (via ZETOC) and subject alerts from our subscription bibliographic databases (via EBSCO).  We are surveying staff to gain evidence on why that should be.  Though what we can say is that staff can set up these alerts for themselves, and may be doing so.  We also have an intranet page, our Alerts Centre, where we list a wide range of free alerting services from Google News to Amazon with loads in between.  Plus, of course, staff have always used their own ways to keep abreast of their subjects.

However, we feel it’s important that we provide alerting services to staff as we encourage the use of quality information sources to help staff work smarter.  We also wish to share our detailed knowledge of the best resources as the Library is such a source.

With this in mind, in April 2010 we decided to create a Netvibes page to aggregate the best resources by subject for staff.  With the content coming from RSS feeds hand-picked by library staff, as well as encouraging suggestions from Scottish Government staff to make the service as relevant as possible.  You can read previous posts that mention this work from July 2010 and August 2010.  This excellent CommonCraft YouTube video explains how RSS works.

Over 2 years have passed since we started our Netvibes page, so it’s time for an update.  Well, we completed it in October 2010 and then asked our colleagues in IT to create a ‘topics’ widget on the corporate Intranet for our aggregated subject feeds.  This provided another way we could make our feeds available to staff.

The RSS to email stage of this work I discussed in August 2010 launched in November 2010 with MailChimp.  We went for MailChimp as in tests it was much more reliable than Feedburner.  So we now offer the aggregated feeds for each subject as a daily email newsletter.  Anyone can sign up for the newsletters.  Subscribers receive the newsletters at around 5am each morning, though these can be set for any hour and can be sent daily or weekly.

It’s worth saying that this alerting service is entirely delivered by free 3rd party services (Netvibes, the RSS feeds and MailChimp), and with limited staff and financial resources to develop a new service, this seemed a good solution to us.

In fact the only resource required is to routinely check the services are running and deal with any problems.  We felt this was achievable as we already had a staff rota to check links in our Library webpages.  So we simply expanded the rota to cover the Netvibes pages.  As for MailChimp, I have each daily newsletter coming to me, with a rule moving them into their own folders which enables me to spot when any newsletter hasn’t delivered.  This can occasionally happen, and usually resolved by logging into MailChimp and giving the offending newsletter a nudge to send it out.

Given that we’ve used 3rd party tools, the service has continued to prove pretty reliable.  In the 2 years it’s been running there have been very few occasions where any of the services have failed.  And where they have, it’s been temporary.  Often resolved by either the tools sorting themselves out, or sometimes the tools requiring a bit of a kick-start from me.

Of course, from the outset we were careful to be transparent that we were using 3rd party services, and encouraged staff to let us know of any problems – and we would do what we could to fix any problems.  But with the disclaimer that we didn’t have complete control over these services.

More than 2 years into this service, we are pleased to say we now have 370 subscribers to our newsletters – some from outwith the Scottish Government.  We are happy to make our newsletters and Netvibes page available to anyone.  Please do check them out, and if they’re useful feel free to use them and spread the word.

Paul Gray
October 26, 2012

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The trouble with technology?

Firstly, a bit about me.  I’ve a job of two halves.  I’m part of our busy enquiries team, and when I’m on the enquiries rota I get to answer the more complex enquiries that requires a librarian’s eye, and conduct research (literature searches) on behalf of Scottish Government staff.  But I’m also interested in information literacy – teaching Scottish Government staff to do it for themselves.  So I work with Jenny Foreman and the rest of the library team on developing information skills courses and training, which all the librarians in our enquiries team deliver on a training rota.  You’ll find links to these course materials on the right of this page or via the menu at the top of this page.

Therefore my job is less about issuing books and more about using technologies to deliver services to our users.  In fact, I haven’t issued a book in years and there’s very little I can do in my job that doesn’t involve technology.  That’s been a huge shift for me over the last 10 years.

I’d like to talk about that for a bit.  ‘Librarian needs technology to do job!’.  OK.  So far, so what?  But what if I tell you I don’t like technology.  It’s true.  OK.  Let me qualify that.  I don’t like technology – I like what it can do.

My jobs in libraryland have always been about purpose.  I’ve just used the tools available to achieve the purpose as efficiently as possible.  As my jobs have changed so have the tools.  As I’ve been required to learn the job, I’ve had to discover and learn the right tools to do the job well.

It just so happens that now almost all of these tools are technologies, and increasingly, social media technologies.  Nothing I can do about that – they just are.  So, I’ve had to find them, learn them, and yes – it’s been in turns easy, difficult, enabling, frustrating, wonderful, time consuming and time saving.

They’ve made it possible for our Library to launch whole new services (check out some at Library on the Web) and they’ve also led me down dead-ends as I hit various workplace IT problems. 

The trouble with technology?  Technology isn’t always easy.  I’ve had to spend time finding and learning every tool I use.  But I tell you, we couldn’t have done what we have for our users without it.

Paul Gray
August 13, 2012

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Hello and welcome

We’ve had our training materials available online for a while.  Now we’d also like to share some of our thoughts and ideas on the work we do as government librarians – welcome to the Scottish Government Library blog!

Why now exactly?  Well, as a team we talk about the benefits of blogs and blogging to civil servants in our social media training sessions but most of us haven’t actually tried it ourselves so this would be a bit of practice.  Plus we often get asked what we do.  So our blog will be a place where we’ll write about what we’re working on and what we’re professionally interested in.  It’s a bit of an experiment, really.  We’d also be very interested in any comments you may have too, of course.

We’re a small, happy team of six librarians and four support staff who are based in Edinburgh.  Most of us are at Victoria Quay, next to Leith docks. At work, I’m particularly interested in information literacy (media, digital etc), social media, training and elearning.  One of my jobs is to  help promote collaborative working within the Scottish Government, including the Knowledge Hub. More of all that later…

Jenny Foreman
July 27, 2012