Scottish Government Library blog

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Scotland’s Digital Strategy

Scotland’s refreshed Digital Strategy was launched on 22 March by Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Constitution, Derek MacKay MSP at an event in Tontine House, Glasgow.

“The strategy sets out the Scottish Government’s vision for Scotland as a vibrant, inclusive, open and outwards looking digital nation and describes the actions we collectively need to take to ensure that Scotland anticipates and reacts positively to the changing opportunities the digital age presents.”

Information literacy per se may only be mentioned once (see extract below) but our take on the digital skills mentioned throughout the document includes not only being able to work online using technology, but also critical thinking skills, information search skills, skills to inform decision making as well as understanding privacy, security and keeping safe online.

“Digital allows information to be transmitted faster and further than ever before, enabling us to develop new communities of interest and opening up new opportunities for education, commerce, creativity, friendship and leisure. In doing so however, it raises new challenges around security, information literacy and privacy”.

Jenny Foreman
March 24, 2017

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Information and Digital Literacy in the SG Library

As civil service librarians we need to keep informed about what the Scottish and UK Governments are doing as regards “digital”. Firstly, because it’s an integral part of our jobs to be aware so that we can thereby play a part in the process of providing information and support evidence based policies. Secondly, we’re interested for professional reasons, to keep up to date with the information and digital age and finally, digital literacy is a component of information literacy, something all the SG librarians are involved in daily.

Digital skills are mentioned in the UK Government’s “Civil Service Reform Plan 2012” for example. “The Civil Service needs to have the right digital skills embedded at every level.” In the SG Library we’ve chosen to interpret this through our information skills training programme where we deliver a wide variety of awareness sessions on social media, digital skills, collaboration and engagement, all of which we can tailor to particular work areas and teams. Likewise, if the Scottish Government is aiming to “ensure Scotland becomes a world class digital nation by 2020” and seeking to engage the public in ‘Scotland’s Digital Dialogue”, then SG staff need to have those skills and abilities too. This is where we aim to help. (Incidentally there is SG training available, besides SG Library training which provides other digital skills training such as web publishing, for example).

Up till now it seems that the digital participation debate has been somewhat sidetracked by access and infrastructure issues. Now the emphasis is slowly moving towards how to make use of these digital technologies and the importance and key role of public libraries and their skilled staff in doing so. In October 2012, I went along to a Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals Scotland (CILIPS) event Digital Learning in Libraries where Colin Cook, the SG’s Head of Digital Participation, outlined the ‘‘Scottish Government Digital Strategy’’. The public librarians attending soon put the emphasis firmly on the training, guidance and support that public libraries will be required to provide (at a cost), a role that they have been fulfilling successfully for some years now, regarding IT and information skills.

At the same time the SG librarians have not only been engaging internally with staff via our training and other services but over the years we’ve been collaborating and benefiting from the partnership, knowledge and expertise of numerous information literacy specialists and advocates, such as John Crawford, Christine Irving who originally founded ‘The Scottish Information Literacy Project’ and more recently set up an online information literacy community of practice, “Information skills for a 21st Century Scotland”. The community of practice was formally launched in June 2012 at the CILIPS annual conference in Dundee where we held discussions about what work the community of practice would seek to achieve, and recruited some facilitators for all sectors: schools, further and higher education, public libraries and the workplace.

I’ll be writing a separate blog post shortly on information literacy and the community of practice “Information skills for a 21st Century Scotland” but until then please take a look and sign up if you’d like to join!

Jenny Foreman
March 3, 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