Explore, Dream, Discover

I think the first useful thing I said to a group of librarians here in Cambridge was at an event at the English faculty – after giving a lot of marketing blah that was probably OK, but maybe not that fascinating – I was getting frustrated by comments from the audience about the barriers that were apparently in place to stop them as librarians from developing and learning. Some people there were actively looking to, and waiting for, the UL to somehow be able to wave a magic wand and cater to their every need rather than grasping the nettle themselves. In essence what I said was that they shouldn’t wait for such assistance and that everyone “must help themselves” or words to that effect (I subconsciously knew as I said it that I was  paraphrasing Tom Baker’s Doctor Who circa 1976 when he famously said the same thing to a bunch of hapless humans who were busy being threatened by a monster of the week!) My then recent horrendous experience of centralisation at Oxford had made me a bit outspoken about not waiting for the same process here in Cambridge to solve problems as, however well its done, its more likely to add new problems to your list rather than solve old ones. Besides if you wait to be told how to do something and don’t find out for yourself, then you miss out on a crucial part of the process which not only affords you a deeper level of understanding but also helps you to apply it directly to your own work context.

For me Cam23’s greatest strength is just that, the opportunity through a self-directed programme to have an explore and a play and see what tools work for you and your library (and which ones don’t). I’m a big fan of its voluntary basis, of its requirement for personal application. In the words of Reggie Perrin’s CJ “I didn’t get where I am today by waiting around for someone to show me how something works!” On a  broader scale the Cam23 project itself came about out of good ol’ DIY enthusiasm – a casual tweet something along the lines of ‘shouldn’t we have a 23 things programme in Cambridge?” By the following month, after a few hours creating the blog (how long ago does that feel Emma?!), Cam23 was born. A programme ‘out of nowhere’ buoyed up solely by the enthusiasm and goodwill of a  handful of people. Yay us.

Admittedly us project team members had a slightly harder time of it than participants having to research and write main blog posts and carry out a bit of administration and support (blog registration, drop-ins, the launch) as well our own personal posts , something that has occasionally made me a bit twitchy when complaints about the time involved have reached my ears!   It has been a bit of a slog. But as I knew I would, I’ve learnt a huge amount. I think I’d used all 23 things before but I’d never explored them in as much detail. And blogging about them really helped me to think about them and evaluate them in a way that I just know I wouldn’t inside the comfort of my own head!

So how exactly has Cam23 changed things for me? Well for a start, I’ve got to know 5 other librarians very well indeed (and my suspicions that they were good people have been 100% confirmed) as well as heaps of other librarians from the Cambridge Libraries community.  I’ve started to use Google Docs regularly. We’re currently creating our own mini-motion picture as a result of my research for podcasting week – watch this space! I’ve integrated my personal and our Library team Google Calendars – a huge operational boon. We now have an all-singing and dancing Delicious collection of free business information resources. And most importantly of all, Cam23 helped me to decide to move our Library Service to a blog (http://cjbsinfo.wordpress.com/– the woodland image is temporary, we’re waiting for a new logo).

I’m going to end with a quote because I’ve been reading too many Cam23 blogs not too!  This Mark Twain quote sums up the Cam23 ethos for me:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”



61 thoughts on “Explore, Dream, Discover

  1. Suzan says:

    Thank you for the Mark Twain quote which summarises what Calon Lan did this year. Thank you also for all the work you put into Cam23 and for the new networks which have been created, Suzan


  2. Miss Crail says:

    Oh god, don’t start me.
    Fair do’s, if you want to find out how to do something, you should indeed try to find out yourself. HOWEVER, the UL should be under some obligation to provide training, even for those it doesn’t regard as of The Ton [ie its own staff]. As I said in my own dear blog, we bottom-scrapers on the periphery are very isolated [you could say that’s our problem, but a one-hander can’t do everything]. We don’t know what we should know, if you see what I mean.
    We are most certainly not expecting the UL to cater for all our needs – that is a grossly unfair assessment. Most of the time we manage completely unaided.
    Having only worked in only one other large library system, I cannot claim vast experience but I do know that even in a supposedly lowly Polytechnic there was communication, training, and a career structure.
    The lord helps those who helps themselves but that doesn’t mean the UL can lie about on the chaise longue all day.
    Shall I resign or wait until I’m sacked?


    1. libreaction says:

      I wasn’t aware that the UL staff lie about on a chaise longue all day – I’ll take your word for it shall I?

      My comments about ‘helping yourself’ related to an impression that I got from some of the audience at the event in question – it was not a general assessment.

      Its also been my experience that former Polytechnics invariably have excellent training programmes in place but to be fair to places like Oxbridge it’s a lot more complicated, partly because of the sheer number of libraries involved. Besides Cam23 has proved that training doesn’t necessarily need to come from ‘the UL’.
      TeachMeet being another excellent example coming our way.

      I’m afraid I’m not in a position to advise you on your professional future.


  3. Celine says:

    Am hastily drafting irate memo inquiring as to whereabouts of my UL standard-issue chaise longue.

    I do understand the frustration as someone who worked several years in Cambridge outside the UL before moving there (who used the phrase “the dark side”?). That’s for a time when I’m not single-finger typing on iPod touch.

    Andy, am very interested in the experience of Oxford centralization


  4. Miss Crail says:

    Right, sorry, I certainly did not mean to imply that UL staff do nothing all day. I’m a regular visitor. I meant that the UL as an institution does tend to regard itself as important and the rest of us … not important. Yes, I do comprehend that the Cambridge system is far larger than most others, but whereas cataloguing etc might be bedevilled by the diversity within the system, other functions might not. And I do understand your dislike of the iron fist school of management.
    Perhaps you might turn around the impression you got at the meeting last summer? – and realise that those of us who attended were keen to better ourselves, as we have in trying to be part of Cam23, in signing up for TeachMeet, in going to talks when we know about them and if we don’t have other commitments &c. Please don’t see us all as needy baby birds sitting on our fat bums squawking ‘feed me!’
    You don’t need to advise me on my professional future: I’m 94 and a library assistant, so not much hope there.
    However, I’m with Suzan above in being grateful for all the work done by you and the rest of the team, as I do understand that it required a lot of hard work and commitment. It has helped enormously


    1. Libreaction says:

      The event I was referring to wasn’t that Marketing workshop here at Judge but a conference-related doodah over 2 years ago, and as I said, the comments only came from some of the audience on that occasion. I try not to make crass generalisations and that certanly was not my intention – I was really just using it as a way in to explaining why I like the Cam23 model so much.


    2. Sarah Stamford says:

      Hi – Can I butt in here and say in my opinion I think you’re both right. There “ought to” be (and hopefully will be before too long) a structured training and career development programme for librarians, and that will help to promote a more forward looking attitude and no doubt better morale too. However “bottom-up” initiatives, such as this (and the ebooks project) have proved that we can get together and make things work. We shouldn’t necessarily assume that “the UL” or “someone else” is going to do it for us, nor that they are the best equipped to do it anyway. There is scope for better recognition of our value and achievements on all sides, eh?


      1. Libreaction says:

        Room for both – exactly, but in my experience if you feel like you’ve been waiting too long then there’s no better alternative than doing something about it yourself.


  5. Céline says:

    Hm, I’ve tried to add a comment once already and it seems to have disappeared (adding comments from the ipod touch is proving hugely frustrating and mostly beyond my skills).

    Firstly, I would like to state that I am immediately drafting a memo as to the whereabouts of my UL standard-issue chaise longue. I think having one sounds marvellous and I’m most disappointed it hasn’t made its way to me yet.

    Secondly, I do actually understand much of what Miss Crail is saying. I do emphasise and remember the frustrations well from the years I spent working in Cambridge libraries outside the UL. It led to some of my early comments on my blog (at the beginning of cam23) about the need for better communication, etc. Although I’m now working for the Evil Empire, er, the UL, I still see the bigger picture and it’s a subject worthy of discussion to be honest. Maybe here isn’t the best place but somewhere. I think people would have interesting things to say.

    Andy – I’m particularly interested in what you describe as your “horrendous experience of centralisation at Oxford”, could you elaborate? I’m genuinely very keen to hear more, not least because the Oxford model is often touted as something the new Cambridge model (with increased moves towards federation) should aspire to.



    1. libreaction says:

      To be honest I think I should keep my mouth shut about the Oxford model as I’ve probably made myself unpopular enough about that already. If the top brass haven’t already grasped the fundamental problems experienced at Oxford which I have detailed at length then its never going to go in. In short though centralisation at Oxford induced incredibly low morale due to very poor management of organisational change leading to a mass exodus of expertise. Whoever is lauding it as a model to aspire to either hasn’t been listening, has never visited Oxford libraries or has only talked to the Bodleian PR department!


  6. Céline says:

    Oh x-post.

    Fair enough, Andy, will go and see if you’ve talked about this earlier in your blog maybe. Very interesting though.

    And yes, I am sometimes still given the impression that “they do things better” at Oxford. To paraphrase.

    Also, let’s not forget that Cambridge is a LOT more joined-up than it used to be between all the libraries. That has happened since, um, roughly 2002 with the adoption of Voyager at the UL and in an increasing number of other Cambridge libraries and all this has brought along with it. And also with a gradual change of ethos I think, but that’s just my personal take on it from my lowly perspective both without and within the UL.


    1. Libreaction says:

      I made reference to the problems at Oxford libraries in a recent edition of CILIP Update in an article on boutique libraries (written with Libby Tilley). The article was the digital edition, last but one I think, so I think it went a bit under the radar.


  7. Girl in the Moon says:

    I agree that finding out and/or organising it yourself is a great thing to do – and not always as difficult or scary as it seems (today’s camlibtm dramas not withstanding).

    But on the other hand (and I’ve been saying this ad nauseam) for those who are lower down the system, or working on their own in small libraries, it can be hard to find out what’s already going on, let alone what you might want to make happen, or what you should be learning about next. The feeling that stuff is probably going on somewhere, but that you don’t know how to find out about it can be quite crippling. This isn’t the place for this gripe, but I’m so pleased about the new Service Developments blog and having made new librarian friends through Cam23 because now I can find out about things like the RDA toolkit and Aquabrowser preview without relying on the forwarding (or not) of lib-list emails.

    Anyway. Cam23 was great. Thanks to Andy et al. for all their work – the intro posts have all be very interesting and informative and must have taken lots of work.


  8. libchris says:

    Also for those in college libraries, don’t forget that the CCLF regularly puts on training sessions (suggestions I believe are always welcome 🙂


    1. Girl in the Moon says:

      Again, so long as people hear about them 🙂 Is there a central website with CCLF info on it? Do all the events go on the CamTools page? Or are we reliant on emails (which junior members of libraries might not know they should be getting) to find out what’s on? CCLF does great work – I’m not knocking it, but I do think it would benefit from a stronger web presence (or I could learn where that web presence is!)


  9. Miss Crail says:

    This is my last, promise. I was going to shut up, but feel I must make it entirely clear that I am absolutely definitely and unequivocally NOT saying that UL staff do nothing. I am sincerely sorry that Celine was offended, as that was genuinely not my intention at all. Nevertheless, I unreservedly apologise to her, and to anyone else from the UL who felt equally stung.
    I also apologise for mistakenly believing the ‘event at the English Faculty’ was the session on marketing etc last summer. There was indeed some griping going on [but not from me, I might point out].
    The plans for the structured training for library staff, after all that form-filling and faff with the career progression pilot, appears basically to have revealed itself to be a HR paper exercise. It didn’t seem to be related to the UL at all anyway. Yes, I do know that there is another initiative underway asking members of library staff what training they would like.
    Of course finding out for yourself is an infinitely better way of learning than having someone else feed it to you, but that ‘wave a magic wand and cater to their every need’ remark is very unfair. Yes, it’s tough at the top, but it’s tough at the bottom too. I’d hazard a guess that most of the people struggling to find the time to complete Cam23 tasks are library assistants, who are required to complete often less-than-fulfilling tasks for most of their day.
    I will just say [truthfully] that I work in two fantastic departments, and I’m perfectly happy where I am, thanks very much. In many ways I have the ideal job, and there’s not another one in Cambridge I’d rather have [apart from College Gin Tester]. It’s great to have relative freedom to do as I see fit, and of course I don’t want the UL telling me what to do – but as I said before, a lot of the information or instruction is handed out to different groupings of people, and we aren’t all in on all the secrets. Just because a lot of us aren’t very Web 2.0-savvy doesn’t mean we are indolent. It could be possible that we do have other things to do as well.
    And I bet there are some things from Miss Crail’s previous existence as an exotic dancer in Bar Sol on Interstate 10 in Phoenix AZ that you’ll never learn how to do. So there


    1. libreaction says:

      And I just must have a final word to say I’ve never criticised anyone for not being Web 2.0-savvy nor described anyone as indolent.


  10. Laura Wilkinson says:

    I’m going to raise my head (or perhaps just my eyebrows) above the parapet and say that I’m a fan of increasing centralisation at Oxford. It must be very hard for students to move between so many libraries where the expectations and lending rules are different, so I believe that encouraging harmonisation will make it easier for people to study there.


    1. libreaction says:

      Hi Laura, Very brave! As someone who endured the pain of centralisation very directly I have very strong opinions on this matter, not least because a lot of great librarians left Oxford in droves due to it. The biggest problem was that a lot of head librarians lost their autonomy and were running perfectly good libraries which had different rules and regulations for very good reasons. Said Business School suffered by having to surrender its budget – a budget that could never be sustained by OULS, so extensive cuts became the order of the day and many promises set down in black and white agreements were broken. Centralisation also meant heaps of interminable meetings attended by too many people for any policies to be discussed sensibly or agreed. The business school library was always a unique case much to everyone’s annoyance. Several senior OULS personnel did openly admit later on that we should never have been part of the centralisation process and that including us had been a mistake.

      As for the confused student angle I’ve never bought that argument and still don’t. I still raise my eyebrows whenever I hear it. Whatever centralisation achieves it doesn’t change the fact that Oxbridge students will always chiefly attend at least three very different libraries with different collections and rules: their college library, their departmental library and the Bodleian (or the UL in Cambridge). These very different library experiences are never going to be smoothed over by centralisation. My only concession would be that a few small things can be harmonised. Where I don’t agree with this approach is when everything is brought down to the lowest common denominator – as my experience was that this ignored very valid reasons for different practices at different libraries e.g. we charged much higher fines in order to get books back from MBAs, we needed to promote our own portal rather than OXLIP, we wanted to use our own more effective IT department rather than OULS IT etc.

      I can see that centralisation might work for some libraries and librarians, but for business schools at Universities it just doesn’t. There are several departmenal libraries in Cambridge that work brilliantly well at present and I can see centralisation threatening their already excellent standards – in my view, if it ain’t broke don’t try to fix it.


      1. libreaction says:

        I should have made clear in my previous comment (far too late at night to be writing lucidly!) that my concern about loss of autonomy by departmental/subject librarians is in view of the fact they are the people who know their users the best. Tieing their hands can damage the student experience very directly.

        Another argument against harmonisation – levelled by my wife, an Oxbridge graduate, after she read my comment – is that she and her friends used just one library 90% of the time, and that the quality of the resources and the support of staff in that one library was far more important than an overall consistent feel across all libraries.


  11. Celine says:

    Slightly off-topic to how the discussion is going but want to say: Miss Crail – please don’t apologise to me. I wasn’t offended, amused not offended and my reply was just in a joking tone. Actually am thinking of buying a chaise longue for my days at home and training my toddlers to feed me grapes and fan me in warm weather since it seems unlikely that I will get this kind of lifestyle at the UL.


  12. Moonhare says:

    I can see why Miss Crail reacted to your post in such a way. Yes we can and should learn new things for ourselves but there should also be some sort of UL training available, which there is, but with the proposed plans for more centralization there needs to be more done to support staff who work in departments. Perhaps more programmes that are self-lead could be introduced, I find it a good way to learn, it can be done at your own pace and it saves a trip over to the UL.

    To mention in such a public place that you have been annoyed (ever so slightly) by people complaining about how time consuming 23things has been when you have had to work so much harder, I think, is a bit unprofessional. You are one of the team leaders and are standing up and saying in your students faces- “stop moaning, I’ve had to do so much more work than you”. We are grateful for the work you and the rest of the team have put in and are aware that people running courses do put more work in having to prepare and organise things. I’m probably been a bit over sensitive, but it is annoying especially when you then have time to tweet about reactions to your post.


  13. libreaction says:

    I agree that more UL training would be a good thing.

    However, I disagree that I can’t be honest on my blog about how its been ever so slightly annoying at times to hear some participants complain about the programme being time-consuming. Had I said the sentence you’ve written above I’d agree that would have been unprofessional, but all I said was ‘a bit twitchy’. I’m human too. So I think you are being over sensitive – yes.

    Whether I have time to tweet is entirely my affair and a matter between me and my whiteboards and diary.


  14. Sarah Burton says:

    As I’m new to the profession still and I don’t understand the inner workings of the Cambridge library system, I’m going to ignore everything that’s gone before and bring my own experience into this. I am a big exponent of the can-do attitude and wholeheartedly believe that you learn things quicker and better when it’s self-learnt, that’s why I preferred seminars and workshops to lectures at university.

    When something goes wrong in our library, such as a printer for instance, I always try and fix it myself instead of going straight to IT. They are always appreciative. This also means that if I can fix it, it’ll get done a lot quicker and we won’t have to annoy students by putting an out of order sign on the machine. It always annoys me when people don’t even try to do things by themselves; if they fail then at least they’ll have tried. They’ll also be more informed when they ask someone for help.

    Another example is our online tutorials project. I took it on myself despite not knowing a thing about it. I researched the different software, taught myself how to use it and then taught everyone else. Now I can teach all of you as I’ll be doing a presentation on Adobe Captivate at TeachMeet.

    That’s why I’ve loved Cam23, we can learn at our own pace, but we’re also not alone. There’s this for instance, getting advice and views from other people, the drop-in sessions and the links sent with each new thing. There needs to be the same combination within the Cambridge library network: support from others such as a centralised programme at the UL, but also an element of remote self-learning. That’s what I think anyway.


  15. Ed Chamberlain says:

    More training would be wonderful, but like all things it takes time and usually a bit of money to do it well.

    Within the UL we are concious that we could do more, but no-one here has the full time role of trainer in any capacity. The libraries@cambridge team of three and a bit people manage to provide a lot of training regarding Voyager (besides running it). You also get a free conference every year. Given the tiny operational budget of this team, I think thats not bad for starters.

    I also belive that the UL’s series of user education sessions are very much open to Library staff. These sessions really form the core of what we offer internally other than in-the-job training, so I can’t see how anyone is missing out. More training all around would be nice.

    The fact is we have to try and learn things for ourselves. I taught myself to program and pick up most of my new knowledge from books or the Internet, and did so in my spare time. Don’t expect people to tell you thos either, I had to make guesses about what is important to learn and what ends up being ignored. I often get it wrong. There is a world of free vendor events and JISC groups out there that people could join.

    Whilst I can understand the viewpoint, I do have to take personal objection to the idea that we in the UL belive we are in someway superior, institutionally or as individuals. Its simply not the case. We are bigger, yes, but can in no way meet the varied needs of Cambridge library users alone. In some places our service undoubtedly suffers compared to smaller for reader-focused libraries. The complex nature of the UL and its legal deposit intake makes things horribly confusing anyway.

    Acting in a more joined up fashion would certianly benefit us in the UL. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve needed a handy subject Librarian to take advice from or rope into a project but been unable to do so.

    The flip side of this is that we cannot consult everyone all the time on everything and occasionally have to make quick judgement calls ourselves. This has certianly been the case with the Aquabrowser implementation. Decisions were not born from a sense of inate superiority, just a need to try and get things done.

    Finally, as someone who has worked in a departmental Library in Oxford and central one in Cambridge, things are easier there, but not as much as you would think.

    Their key asset to my eyes lies in their centralised bibliogaphic database. It makes life easier for readers and brings with it a greater sense of shared purpose and operation. Whilst we share an LMS, its distributed nature and use arguably disruptes this.


    1. Girl in the Moon says:

      Ed – it’s good to hear from someone at the heart of matters. I agree with Celine that communication’s at the centre of this problem, which is why it’s so nice to hear from a Libs@Cam person here. Looking at the l@c webpages, it’s quite hard even to find out who the team is (and I think the list isn’t quite correct any more – isn’t Rachel back in cataloguing now?). I (and I suspect, almost no-one) doubts that you all work hard, but for those of us who never have direct dealings with you, you seem quite remote and hidden away. Does that make sense?


      1. Ed Chamberlain says:

        Yes and no. Firstly, I’m not actually in the libraries@cambridge team, but a slightly seperate arm of ESS with more internal responsiblities in the UL. I work closely with them however, so its really much the same. Members of that team spend a lot of time visiting libraries, and you can always drop them a line.

        I belive the l@c web pages are due for a much needed revamp. Again, this does not happen of its own.

        In terms of remoteness, Cambridge is a big University. I could make the same about colleagues in UCS or MISD. Usually, if I take the time to reach out to them, they respond. Many others in Cambridge phone and email me all the time, you are welcome to. I’m on lookup and usually at the other end of a helpdesk. To be a bit blunt hwoever, if we are out an about all the time, we simply can’t work effectively.

        I also spend a lot of time in the UL working face to face with readers and other librarians, so I would like to dispute the image of remote and hidden away!


  16. libreaction says:

    Very glad you’ve posted your comments – that’s pretty much how I read the situation at the UL i.e. that you’re doing your very best given available resources.

    Some shared purpose and operation is undeniably useful.

    Things are definitely easier for me here at Cambridge rather than in Oxford as my budget is more secure, I don’t have two masters with conflicting demands and our students, staff and faculty are infinitely happier with the services and resources we provide. It is of course that last point which governs pretty much everything I do.


  17. Céline says:

    A lot of this is just a general communication/awareness problem – many people outside the UL regard it as monolithic, mysterious and don’t really know what happens within. Many people (not all) within the UL have an in-depth detailed knowledge of the many procedures/requirements/services of the UL but little to no idea of how these might overlap with or differ from other Cambridge libraries, or even what it’s like in the most general sense in one of the college/faculty/departmental libraries.

    And Ed’s right, we don’t have tons of in-house training that we’re just not opening up to other people. In case anyone thought this was the case.


  18. Ed Chamberlain says:

    Absolutley, again we could do more in terms of communication, but its difficult to pitch this well and does take up time. We started the L@C update blog in April 2010, but getting it up and getting content out alongside everyhing else was actually non-trivial.

    Ground-up-initiatives such as 23 things and the user-education group are fantastic, doing things that no single library (including the UL) could acomplish on its own.

    Andy, strong specialist libraries and undergraduate focused college libraries are one of Cambridge’s major competitive advantages. It would be a shame if any future changes diminished that.

    In terms of the overlap, some form of job swap or shadowing would be a really great idea. In his time as an Arcadia fellow, Tony Hirst suggested we all ‘swap one day with the next library on the left’. Again, this will take time, a bit of money and enough buy in to make it work. None of those things are easy to come by, even on a Friday afternoon!


  19. Niamh says:

    Hi all,
    I’ve been reading the comments here with interest, and nodding at little bits of the posts from all directions.

    First, well done to the team, we really do appreciate the time and effort you’ve put into the 23 Things programme, and I for one am now much more clued in to how things work here.

    Second, the training of course has to be a combination of DIY and training provided to staff to ensure that we can do our jobs effectively. I’ve seen long lists of courses that I’d love to tick off one by one, and that can be seen even if you don’t work for the university.

    Third, I agree with Celine and Katie that the nub of the problem is communication. It appears that there are lots of different channels, with only certain people having access to certain ones, with the result that librarians (for example) may assume their staff know about something which was in fact only announced on lib-list (for example).

    Ed, I take your point that most people will be happy to help if contacted (and I’ve made a mental note to feel free to contact you with any questions), but I think the problem is less the willingness to help and more the lack of knowledge of who to be asking for that help.

    For example, I don’t have access to the lib@cam content because my Raven permissions are wrong, so I can’t actually see the service developments blog (or all the other wonderfully exciting things that are hidden behind that locked door). Can anyone here advise me on who to ask about this? The (fantastic, inclusive and very encouraging) librarians here in the medical library have contacted two people to ask how to resolve this, with no luck so far.

    I love the idea of swapping jobs for a day – I can imagine it would be an eye-opener and would really help with understanding how all the different libraries would fit together.

    I’m sorry I’ve waffled on a bit…


    1. Ed Chamberlain says:

      If you work in the UL or a dependent library, email the IT services helpdesk. If you work for any other library, try the libraries@cambridge helpdesk.


    2. Ed Chamberlain says:

      I take the point about the UL seeming impenetrable onboard. We will bear this in mind when updating the l@C pages.

      However, if you have any general questions or queries, please do feel free to email the necessary helpdesk with them, they are not necessarily there for just tech support. Many folk do this all the time.

      We use Request Tracker software so many people can monitor queues, assign messages to the right person and quickly respond. It does not matter so much if you email the wrong person, we can forward it on!

      It may seem a bit impersonal at first, but its better than sitting in the dark.


  20. Niamh says:

    One last thing – this is the second blog post during 23 Things that has caught my because of the long discussions of barriers to communication among library staff. It’s clear that not everyone is hearing of all the hard work that is done and opportunities that are available to us, so how do we resolve this issue?

    Aidan has already identified a number of these different channels on his blog, but I’d love if someone could suggest a constructive solution that would involve fewer places to check and make it more likely that people can find the information they need.


    1. libreaction says:

      Thanks Niamh. An admirable suggestion about simplifying and improving communication channels. I too am still a bit mystified about where to go for information myself and I’ve been here for almost 3 years now.


      1. Girl in the Moon says:

        I’m in the middle of writing a response/reflection post all about this (provisional title – “the post that wouldn’t die”), but can’t refrain from commenting here yet again.

        Would a wiki be a way to draw together all the information that we think is currently hard to locate? Or maybe we could work on the Cambridge_Librarians CamTools site and launch a marketing drive for it as a central hub for information?


  21. libreaction says:

    I think that usage of the CamTools site is pretty low but that might not be a good reason to abandon it? Maybe this is the shot in the arm it needs? Either that, or as you say, a wiki. We should arrange a meeting soon of interested parties so we can establish the current communication gaps and problems and agree a way forward, including an appropriate platform. I could set up a Meeting Wizard for that and put it on the main Cam23 blog?


  22. Céline says:

    This is the one outcome I’ve hoped for from cam23 and from my very first blog post. I’m so pleased to see it is getting discussed now and hopefully the discussions can continue – good idea Andy & Katie.

    Just a thought before we set up a whole new wiki – what are the reasons for poor take-up/usage of the CamTools site? If it’s due to lack of familiarity with CamTools/this kind of interactive site at all or due to a wariness about the technology, then setting up a new wiki is going to encounter the same issues and fail to reach the same people. If it’s just an issue with marketing/promotion and getting the word out to get people to have a look, then again, this is something that could be solved with a new initiative and a big push to make people aware, etc. CamTools does have a wiki function, which we use in my Division of hte UL and which is in no way more complicated or difficult to learn than any other wiki function. I’m worried that setting up *another* site is not looking properly at why the first attempt with CamTools hasn’t been as successful as hoped.

    CamTools has the advantage of being private (ie not indexed on Google, etc) and being accessible to all members of staff in all libraries in the Cambridge spectrum.

    I believe strongly that what we need is something not hosted on the UL site (if possible, just because of the problems of perception this might cause) and something completely open to ALL staff at ALL levels, with no “permission” required from line managers/Librarian and no assessment made of whether a staff member is “appropriate/senior” enough or that what is being discussed/advertised is relevant to specific immediate duties. I hope that makes sense, but these are the issues that current dissemination methods face and which continue to cause communication problems.

    I’m very very very interested (if you can’t tell) in any initiative along these lines so count me in (Katie, you’re a star for taking up the mantle here but… aren’t you on holiday?)



  23. Niamh says:

    I agree that Camtools is the logical place and second Celine’s berating of Katie, who just can’t keep away 😉 I haven’t been here long so I don’t know what exactly the problem is with Camtools, but would guess that if people had a specific reason to use it they would be just as likely to go there as to an external wiki – provided, of course, that they know about it.

    I can’t remember if there was any discussion of library communication channels in my induction – if there isn’t, I think there should be. That doesn’t solve the problem of people that are already working here not knowing about it, so there would also have to be a pretty strong awareness campaign as well.


  24. libreaction says:

    I’d be happy with CamTools. As you say a separate wiki might have the same usage issues. I think the main problem with these things is maintaining momentum – ensuring there is a reason for librarians to go back to it. Like a good blog it would need regular updates.

    And yes it needs to be open to all Cambridge library staff regardless of rank!


  25. libchris says:

    Think the problem with CamTools is just it hasn’t reached critical mass yet. You need a reason to go there – maybe this would be a step in that direction 😉
    (I believe it can be set up so that you can ask for alerts when anything new is added to a section you are subscribed to/interested in? So if there was a good publicity campaign saying that the wiki existed, once signed up you would have a reason to go back to it and therefore keep up the impetus for keeping it up to date.
    (hope that makes sense!)


    1. Niamh says:

      I’ve gone off to explore CamTools again – how do you set up the email alerts? I found the settings for general CamTools notifications but not for the different courses/projects.

      There really are lots of useful features in there, I must use them more either way.


  26. Libby Tilley says:

    As we write/speak the Cambridge Librarians CamTools site is being set up to take on board all the information about the new library staff training initiative. So this might be the kick start that’s mentioned above for getting people back on board and engaged with CamTools. It’s not ideal in many ways, but it IS part and parcel of what a lot of libraries are engaged with already and in some shape or form many are already present there.

    Communication will always be complex and it’s really important to understand how different people receive information in different ways. One person’s perception of what they have heard/understood can be completely different than another.

    All of the avenues of communication eg CamTools, wikis, cam23, blogs, twitter, websites, emails etc etc are simply just that – avenues. They don’t determine whether information has really been communicated ie understood by the recipient. So – yes – we can always improve on what we do (there is no perfect place of work that I have heard of) but occasional bouts of tolerance and a ‘let me put myself in their position might not go amiss! There is nothing wrong per se in having lots of avenues of communication but we need to be intelligent about content and how we get it to others in a form that they will understand. Strikes me this is what we try and do all day every day for our students??


  27. Girl in the Moon says:

    I rise from my sun lounger (if only…)vto say I agree that it would be better to make CamTools work than to set up something new, and I agree with everything that Celine, Niamh, and Chris say regarding critical mass, updates, access etc. Andy – yes, a meeting would be a good idea, I think.

    Libby – I agree that different people will understand in different ways the same message that they hear or read, but I’m more worried about the people who don’t manage to hear/read the message at all.


    1. Libby Tilley says:

      Happy to talk about this issue face-to-face with anyone but I suspect further message exchanges will just result in too much time to-ing and fro-ing! I have the ironing to do 🙂


  28. Céline says:

    Niamh – go to Personal Tools>My Settings and set up email notifications in general.

    If you are part of a wiki (which I am but on a closed network so can’t add you to show you how it works) then there’s a further setting under Watch which allows you to set email notifications specifically for updates to that wiki and there are also rss feeds. I’m sure there’s more than that even, like you I feel there’s a lot I haven’t quite figured out with CamTools.


  29. Lyn says:

    Some interesting discussions on this and camtools. One of the reasons we set up the camtools site was so that anyone could join it and post things to it. It is not limited to the chief librarian or UL access.

    But I have to say it is not the most user friendly of interfaces (I keep hearing a new version is on its way but it never seems to get here). Also in line with what Andy was saying, the site is there and a large number of people just expect it to be populated with useful information and disseminated out to them. No thought seems to be given to “who is creating that information”? We have a working group on the induction side and as Libby said the library training will be incorporated as well. But its success relies on everyone contributing and not just relying on others.

    On the other hand I understand that people have lots of ways they are communicating and promoting services and events and this may not be the option that suits them.


  30. Sarah Stamford says:

    I’ve just had the chance to read through these posts. I have 2 concerns. (1) We seem to be returning to CamTools as the preferred option for communication. We already have a number of different avenues for communication (email, ucamdiscuss, lib-list, libs@cam service blog, CamTools … and Andy’s blog!) some of which are “official” and some aren’t. CamTools could be a good place for less formal discussions, but as Lyn says, it isn’t the easiest stuff to use. Moreover, what chance is there of more senior managers being aware of any discussions taking place there? Will they make any impact on service development? (2) The UL is a unique and wonderful library and there are some very good people working there, but it is only one library among many in our system. There has been an unfortunate assumption within the University, and it is not entirely the UL’s fault that it arose, that the UL could speak on behalf of all the libraries in Cambridge; and a lack of understanding at institutional level that libraries now function in an interconnected world, changes in one place affect others. (As a College Librarian this is very apparent to me!) I agree it would be so much better if the UL’s website was a branch off from libraries@cambridge rather than the other way round. Could we then have an area for information for librarians (behind a Raven password) which we could all see?
    (Digressing slightly, One of my favourite Camlib moments was when I asked about some information about the UL and was told “Oh, it’s ok, you can read it on the intranet”. I didn’t even know the UL had an intranet and I certainly can’t access it!)


    1. Libreaction says:

      Some good points there Sarah. I think an initial get-together to establish communications problems and issues across Cambridge libraries (and the best platforms and avenues to use) would be valuable. I plan to add a communication meeting post to the main blog today.


      1. Libby Tilley says:

        Am not complete and utter convert to Camtools BUT there is a complete cross-section of people registered on Cambridge Librarians from SMT at UL to library assistants from all varieties of colleges and facs/depts – so perhaps beware of throwing baby out with bathwater…………….


    2. Ed Chamberlain says:

      There is a cross-library project underway to provide a general and much needed library portal for Cambridge to replace / incoporate the public facing l@c pages, of which the UL site would then sit below.

      How we would organise the Librarian side is another matter. The UL Intranet is really for UL staff right now. Its mostly about shelving rotas and duty officer pagers …


      1. Céline says:

        That’s very interesting, Ed.

        Not that this is your domain really, but I’ve had a couple of issues in the last two months where it would have been incredibly useful to have had a “space” online which was accessible to both UL staff and lib@cam library staff. One was the need for a referring URL for the new RDA Toolkit open-access subscription and the conclusion was that there was nowhere to put this where it was non-public but accessible to both UL staff and staff elsewhere in Cambridge libraries. The second was when I was holding training for staff across the UL and dependent libraries – I was keen to have some kind of online booking form (to move a step up from the current system of bits of paper stuck up as sign-up sheets on the whiteboard near my desk, not ideal for those who work at the far end of the UL or in another building). Lib@cam has fantastic online booking for training but there is no easy way to add the details of the UL library staff to the existing database of lib@cam library staff, so it was not available to me/UL staff to use. Huw was very helpful but admitted it would be too much work to do just now (fair enough) but it does seem ridiculous that the 2 sections are compartmentalised from each other in this way.

        Another example would be cataloguing documentation – yes, it is local UL practice and therefore not always useful to other people but I know when I was organising cataloguing workflows and writing policy in a faculty library, I was very very keen to know what UL policy was on various issues (there is admittedly more information on the lib@cam cataloguing pages now than there was then but even so, at the moment lots of the AV/other training documentation is essentially duplicated with some minor changes so that it can be made available to both “communities”…)

        Finally, in the course of 23 Things, there have been several mentions of things on the UL Library blog which those people working in other libraries cannot access. Another example where there would be a great interest in everyone being able to see everything.

        I can see the lib@cam pages but am unclear whether that is true for all UL staff or whether that’s left over from when I worked in a different library.

        I understand that shelving rota or lunch duty or building information woudl only be of interest locally but there is probably more overlap than you realise. I’ve had some really productive cataloguing-related discussions with people over the last few months and feel a little frustrated that there’s no natural home for that to continue after 23 Things.

        Oh, I shouldn’t have started…. sorry to keep adding here!



    1. Laura James says:

      This is a fascinating discussion, and I’m glad it’s taking place somewhere I can join in.

      If anyone is struggling with CamTools, or would like to learn more about what it’s capable of, or have any questions about it at all, do drop us a line at camtools @ caret.cam.ac.uk and we can help out. We’re always happy to talk to people or offer training or whatever would work for you.

      (Lyn – we are still working on new CamTools, which will make it much more oriented around people, and will also make it easier to create content and share it with whom you want. It will be going into pilot with the whole Engineering Department this autumn.)


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