Licence to… Infograph


Me as a James Bond LEGO minifigure in my troubled imagination yesterday | Photo credit: DuneChaser (

One of my biggest takeaways from the excellent #i2c2 conference in Manchester last month was the fact (yes – fact), that we librarians are pretty damn appalling at visualising the data in our possession. This was occurring to me as keynote speaker Brendan Dawes showed us his chart of James Bond kills (for which I was sad enough to identify both The Man with the Golden Gun and Goldeneye as featuring the least and most number of Bond kills respectively, without being able to read the legends from my seat! Ladies and Gentlemen – I thank you).

Although here at Judge we’re getting much better at employing better, bolder and bigger, images on our plasma screens, in our teaching presentations, and our website, when it comes to what I do with our data in my student survey results and annual reports, the situation is frankly embarrassing. Up until now its been Excel-generated bar charts or Qualtrics-generated pie charts all the way. Who gets excited about a pie chart, even an exploded one?

Back in 2012 I experimented by presenting our student survey results as a prezi but with the best will in the world it was the wrong medium and more importantly the wrong way of presenting the data – far too much of it for one thing. A shiny rosette goes to anyone who managed to swerve through this prezi from start to finish without wanting a good lie down afterwards. You can go looking for this prezi if you really want but I’m not going to provide a link here as I think too much of you dearest blog reader.

What I think makes my indolence on this data visualisation score even more unforgivable, is the fact there are now heaps and heaps of infographic tools out there for us to use to make our data look pretty and engaging. And furthermore our users have been asking for recommendations and assistance with such packages for some time now, so actually evaluating and using them would kill two birds with one stone. The data I wanted to visualise btw, or infograph if you will (You won’t? Tough) was from our 2014 student survey.

piktochartAfter a bit of research and testing I decided to go with Piktochart which comes, like all this infographic software, in Free and Pro varieties. Now Piktochart is not without its limitations and anyone who can speak Photoshop fluently would probably feel hugely constrained and irritated but I found it pretty intuitive and simple to use. In fact I liked it so much I bought the company. I didn’t.

Anyway, the end results of my labours, which will shortly adorn every plasma screen and webpage in a mile radius of my office, is here on Piktochart or click on the image. Now I know its a bit basic and by no means perfect but for around 2.5 days work I think it a worthwhile effort and its an important first step along the road to visualising our library data more.

Right, I’m off to kill a few non-speaking, but heavily-armed, extras.

Beep! Beep! Can I see your licence please?

smdlcarMajor breakthroughs here at my place of work in respect of social media. I get the feeling we’re at a tipping point or at the very least at a point at which my non-library co-workers are starting to recognise that there actually is a tipping point.

I’ve banged on about the value of social media here at Cambridge Judge Business School for nearly 5 years now, not always a lone voice, but often the most vocal, and I have long seen the need for education as to what it is social media can actually do for anyone researching or learning. Of course us librarians have been ahead of the curve on this for, well, years. It was way back in 2010 that Emma Coonan and I initiated the successful ‘Cam 23′ a 23 Things programme for library staff across the University (following on from the great work of Laura Wilkinson and Emma Cragg et al. in Oxford), but our success as a library service here in convincing those outside the library community to engage has been mixed to say the least.

There have been some wins along the way such as our well attended ‘getting started on Twitter’; ‘the value of blogging’; and ‘making the most of LinkedIn’ sessions; but that has all been library-led and hasn’t really resulted in a true bedding down of social media and/or a realisation that there is true merit in these channels. Just like that media stereotype of librarians, that media stereotype of twitter as ‘celebrities sharing what they had for breakfast’ has neatly clicked back in to place as the default setting. But… wait, what light through yonder window breaks?

Some little breakthroughs, some little cracks in the veneer, some signs of spring after a long Narnia winter: a faculty member, the marvellous Chris Hope, moves to blogging and twitter and reaches a new audience and becomes an advocate (I am awake aren’t I?); an MPhil Director, hello pioneering David Reiner, asks if we can give support to one of his courses which is going to have an assessed twitter component (I pinch myself to check I am awake); the library team start to be recognised as social media allies rather than scary social media enemies – people to turn to for support and advice (I’m definitely not naked – another sure sign that this is not a dream); it is agreed that there is a need for a Social Media working party,  to make our activities and energies in this area more focused and joined up, which will be part of the formal reporting structure of the business school, chaired by yours truly (this is a really weird dream, any minute now I’m going to do that falling through space thing and wake up with a bump); a faculty member asks me – waves to the talented, forward-thinking Shima Barakat – to assist her with informal mini-blogging workshops with faculty (OK this is real folks); and perhaps best of all, well maybe not best, but potentially most far-reaching and long-lasting, we embark on the idea of a Social Media Driving Licence for all staff, open to everyone at the institution, whether faculty, researchers, or support staff.

The exact look-and-feel of this Licence (I did have to check whether that should be license, but then you all knew already that there’s only an ‘s’ in the UK if it’s being used as a verb rather than a noun – right?) has yet to be determined and the agreed form then needs to be approved by more senior staff than I – I know my place (I really don’t), and a meeting this very lunchtime will take some important steps forward in this regard. In essence, the idea behind the SMDL as I’m already calling it, is that social media is now a component of our every day lives and that there is huge potential for its use in an academic context, especially in respect of the research process, classroom learning, marketing, and engagement, and that the Licence course, for a course it shall be, will address this and advocate this message. The team behind the SMDL have also identified that there are those staff here who come into less contact with social media channels in their working lives, but still need to understand their benefit and uses as part of their professional development. Above all else I guess the Licence will be about making members of the business school better informed, establishing best practice, helping people to see the opportunities social media offers, and, yes, the pitfalls and problems too.

Format-wise we will be borrowing some 23 Things elements – online, self-directed, task-led in part – but also borrowing from the MOOCs model although it will not be Massive or Open to all, more of an OC really! So I guess what I mean MOOC-wise is that there will be instructional videos. Just as we discovered from Cam23 there will be contact time too – drop-in sessions as well as some ‘sage on the stage’ stuff. We’re currently thinking the course will last for 3 months or thereabouts. All in all it is set to be be a ‘heady mix of gorgeousness’ – quoting myself again there.

I will of course share more information from Planet Libreaction as this initiative unfolds. I will be taking this adventure with Georgina Cronin (our rather good new UX Librarian) so follow her too for the full story. Beep! Beep!


[Photo courtesy of wreck]

Not jazzed (no, not at all)

Meg prior to Lego training back in July (photo: Rachel Marsh)

Meg prior to Lego Serious Play facilitation at the EBSLG conference back in July (photo: Rachel Marsh)

It’s a sad week here in Information & Library Services at Judge, as we prepare to say a fond farewell – on Friday – to one of our esteemed colleagues: Meg Westbury. Meg has been with us since January 2011 and despite her part-time hours has made a huge contribution to our service offering, regularly encouraging us with the expression: ‘I’m jazzed!’ None of us are at all jazzed about her departure, but hand-in-hand with these feelings, we’re of course very happy that her next challenge will be running her own library service (at Cambridge University’s Wolfson College).

Meg was originally employed as our ‘Projects Officer’, but it was her tapping into the zeitgeist and academic background in anthropology that led to the the renaming of her own post to ‘User Experience Librarian’. Although Meg ran the odd usability study or focus group, her part time hours never allowed her to fly with the more ethnographic elements of her role. As fate would have it only now are we able to offer the UX librarian post as a full-time position, but Meg is already set on a new course.

It would take too long to list Meg’s many achievements but it would be remiss of me not to mention: her extensive contribution to the Designated Support Librarian initiative – part of the boutique/personalising mindset we operate here; her regular 30 webapps classes and many other top-notch teaching sessions; evangelism on behalf of Mendeley (although I never once saw her in the Mendeley t-shirt that I know she owns); those project management initiatives, which we have spectacularly failed to embrace; her acres of social media expertise; and her undoubted excellence in website design. Perhaps the biggest impact she has made, certainly in organisational terms, has been her legendary support of our Executive MBAs which has been described in so many glowing terms it has frankly started to get a bit wearing!

Since September of this year, various circumstances have dictated that the teaching load we share has been heavier than ever, but we have both risen to the occasion and, even better, got to understand each other more as a result, to the point at which she is now finally giving back the sarcasm I’ve always dished out to her. I just knew I’d wear her down in the end.

What will I miss most about working with her? Other than her utter reliability as a co-presenter, and supportive function as a go-to person when I needed an additional voice to make a decision, probably her unfailing ability to respond with the line ‘That’s a great question!’ as a shorthand for: ‘Let me get back to you on that, after I’ve thought about it’.

Meg you will be HUGELY missed.

Thanks for everything (apart from the salt water taffy, obviously).


UX Librarian @ Cambridge Judge

A very specific workplace-related blogpost today detailing a new vacancy here in the department I run here at Cambridge Judge Business School – the business school of the University of Cambridge – for a ‘User Experience Librarian’…


This is a revised position, formerly a part-time role, which has been extended with a view to the post-holder having more time to explore aspects of our service in detail, specifically the opportunity to design and introduce initiatives intended to gauge how well we meet the needs of our users and improve provision accordingly. So there is an expectation that the post-holder will be drawing on the fields of ethnography and usability in the course of their work.

As you will see from the job advert and further particulars this is an important part of the role, but there are other key elements, including: information support of our Executive MBAs; answering research enquiries; and classroom teaching. We are also keen to offer more support and expertise internally to business school stakeholders on RDM and Open Access (naturally in line with existing central University of Cambridge provision).

How much the role turns out to be UX-oriented will no doubt depend to some degree on the appointed candidate and the outcome and application of the initiatives and projects they devise, but there is certainly a will and a strategic determination to move in this direction.

Candidates do not necessarily need to have a background in UX, anthropology or business information, but either or both would of course be an advantage. The post is for one year in the first instance with a very good chance of extension beyond this. The closing date for applications is Friday 22nd November, with interviews in the first week of December.

If you would like to contact me for more details or have any questions then please do email me


Photo credit: allyaubry via photopin cc

Access to research at a price

dollars2My opposite number at Said Business School, University of Oxford, Chris Flegg, has penned a lucid and clear-minded article for the Financial Times Soapbox section – with the same title as this blogpost, I’m borrowing it – of their Business Education webpages, which you should all read. Her article summarises Harvard Business Review’s attempts to make Said, and several other business school libraries, pay extra for access to their articles despite the fact that they could already access them via existing expensive subscriptions to EBSCO’s Business Source. I blogged about this myself back in 2009: Drop the Pilot.

Chris’s article follows academic Joshua Gans’ attack on HBR’s renewed efforts to source revenue from libraries as we have once again been approached to pay up for direct access to HBR. The difference this time is that EBSCO have shamefully colluded with HBR and agreed to turn off our access to permalink to 500 of the ‘most popular’ HBR articles – actually within our existing subscriptions to Business Source Complete. A move which, quite honestly, beggars belief.

In her piece Chris goes on to identify the bigger picture at stake here:


Ironically I had to print screen this section of her article as the FT website wouldn’t let me copy and paste it!

Chris’s article goes on to consider these issues in respect of the Open Access debate which is a far trickier beast, however laudable the intention of OA, with its underlying arrangement of delivery ‘rife with likely irritations and stand-offs as in the Harvard case’.

I strongly advise you to first read Chris’s piece – worth it for the summary of the OA state of play alone – and then spread the message far and wide by all means at your disposal. Crucially we need more academics wading in – in support of us, understanding the complexity of the situation we are now facing. You can read Chris’s article here.

After talking to Chris about her article she flagged up another important point that also bears repetition: the fact that within the current OA debate there is a very bad and dangerous tendency for people who are critical of the present underlying business model, which surely we all agree needs to be radically altered, to be classed as anti-Open Access.


photo credit: borman818 via photopin cc

Twitter: 20 Top Tips & Tricks

I was very pleased to discover this month that our social media advocacy is starting to pay off locally as the Director of the MPhil in Technology Policy course here at Cambridge Judge has elected to embrace a twitter and blogging component whereby: student engagement with class content; twitter conversations; blog comments; and connections with the wider world; will be assessed this term and count towards a percentage of the marks for the course.

Meg and I have been called in to give a twitter introduction class to Technology Policy students, a request which prompted me to finish off a PPT I’d be working on about how to get the most out of twitter. This stuff may now seem obvious and basic to you dear reader but you might wish to use it as a visual guide to newbie/intermediate twitter users at your institutions. It’s a combination of ‘how to’ and why’.

How I work

Ned Potter has thrown down the gauntlet by name-checking me in a very interesting post about how he works.  In between my 2nd and 3rd MBA induction of the day I’m going to attempt to do the same. See Ned’s post to find out where this meme came from.

Location: Cambridge
Current gig: Information & Library Services Manager at Cambridge Judge Business School
Current mobile device: iPhone
Current computer:  A regular DELL PC with a nice wide screen monitor
One word that best describes how you work: RelentlesslyWhat apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
Has to be Twitter because of the content I access via it and the community of librarians and other peeps on it whose opinions and tips & tricks I value.

What’s your workspace like?
Pretty tidy. In fact sometimes I fear that visitors to my office might wrongly conclude I don’t have enough work to do. I bloody do. I can’t bear mess but occasionally I get a bit overwhelmed and a clean-up is required. I’m easily distracted so that’s the chief reason I keep it pretty spartan.

What’s your best time-saving trick?
Only do the important stuff that adds value to the service. Not really a trick, more common sense. I’m a big picture person so quickly make a judgement call on whether the work I have (or my team has) to do is worthwhile and really adds to our offering or not. Sometimes I can reach this conclusion too soon though, not allowing enough time for reflection or recognition of alternative applications/related ideas.  When I have heaps to do I write a paper joblist to tick off and when things are really bad I block off time in my Google Calendar with the tasks so I am reassured that I can get everything done in the time available.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
My physical notebook. I’ve tried various apps. Nozbe almost caused me to have a nervous breakdown with its incessant task reminders. The best thing I could do for my productivity was delete it.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
I’m desperately trying to properly integrate my Android Samsung tablet into my life but I am mostly failing in this mainly because I never have time to explore how I could be using it better. It looks at me sometimes saying ‘I could be helping you out here, idiot.’ And then I hate the thing for being smug and the cycle continues.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
Writing prose/text very quickly. I can write reports, cases for funding, blogposts, academic chapters and my non-fiction TV and theatre stuff very quickly and not too badly either, or so I am told.

What are you currently reading?
I’m reading The Garden of Evening Mists – eloquent but simply written (I can’t bear heavy ‘intelligent’ books). Garden of Evening Mists reminds me of my favourite book of all time: Kazuo Ishiguro’s An Artist of the Floating World.

What do you listen to while you work?
My team working downstairs, or if they’re quiet – nothing. We have a weird arrangement whereby there’s a gap between my floor and their ceiling. I can hear them, they can hear me. Eavesdropping on both sides – for the win. If either they or I need to let off steam we go elsewhere, although they may have heard the occasional swearword emanating from above their heads. Because of this arrangement they sometimes call me ‘The Voice of God’. Not always respectfully.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
I used to be a definite introvert but becoming a manager, presenting more, increased confidence in my vision for our service, and various big public events I’ve been involved in have, over time, made me a confirmed extrovert.

What’s your sleep routine like?
I had 8.5 hours last night – perfect, but I usually get 7 and can on occasion become the Black Eyed Beast of Cambridge. Raaarrrghh!

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see ______ answer these same questions.
I was going to say Emma Cragg as she’s pretty darn fabulous, but I checked and she’s just done one so I’m going to say Emma Coonan, because I bet she’d be witty and interesting. I’m not obsessed with people called Emma. Other names are available.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Show don’t tell’ from the actress Lucy Fleming. This belief regularly pervades my thinking and actions. Also less profoundly, but just as valuable, from my fantastic wife: ‘Everything will be OK’.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Usually you can’t shut me up, but no I’m outta here.

Embrace the informal

The first time I coined the phrase ‘embrace the informal’ was back in May when I was preparing a presentation and trying to find words to encapsulate our approach here. For the purpose of that presentation I used the phrase alongside a photograph of myself and (my Deputy) Ange’s legs and footwear. Well actually it wasn’t our legs but it may as well have been as its exactly what we wear most days – me in my brown boots and Ange in her Converse, both of us in jeans. Here’s the image:


The image later turned up in my 33 priorities Slideshare at the start of July and prompted some interesting reactions from many librarians, in fact the slide was commented upon far more than the 32 others, which I find interesting in itself.

The principal comment they made was that they could never consider wearing jeans at their institution and that formal business attire was an absolute requirement. Of course I accept that in some institutions there are firm ‘no jeans’ dress code rules and that therefore my encouragement to ‘embrace the informal’ in this way could not be taken up, but I thought – and still think – this a shame and that a crucial point about an opportunity to make connections with our users and helping them to feel comfortable is being missed. I also feel that this is a rule that is increasingly out of step with the age we live in and, moreover, is not just about clothes, but I’m getting ahead of myself…

Before I argue for a more informal approach I’d like to make it clear that I still wear suits and formal trousers as the occasion demands – meetings with senior management, dinners, receptions – and should I ever run a larger library service I imagine I would wear my jeans far less frequently (I admit that formal has its place when it comes to authority), however I know that myself and my team could have been forging quicker and crucially more ‘passing the time of day’ connections had we gone informal earlier.

You see, up until about 2 years ago I was still a card-carrying formal trousers-wearing librarian. I can’t remember the precise trigger to change, but I’m fairly sure it wasn’t a running out of clean work clothes situation! One definite factor was being around MBA students, faculty and fellow support staff who were predominantly wearing jeans, including – crucially – the Director of my business school, another was the sense that the boundaries between my work life and my personal life were blurring, partly because of Twitter and partly because of the fact that I was increasingly ‘on’ because of my smartphone. In addition there was the discovery – not Saul on the Road to Damascus, but still pretty revelatory – that casual, friendly conversations at work were bearing far more fruit than more formal encounters and that as a team we needed to start to take a more relaxed approach in order to create more and better opportunities for engagement. Taken together these elements made me quite suddenly feel like the ol’ formal trousers were, well, just too formal and no longer fitted with the image and outlook I wanted to portray.

2 years on I am quite certain that the engagement we have won with our user community and key stakeholders across the School has in part been due to the jeans and boots (or in Ange’s case jeans and trainers). We are an information and library service, we’re not the UN, we’re not politicians, or bankers. Why do we need to create further barriers to people coming to use our libraries?

OK, time for some facts. Concentrate.

Fact 1: Clothes don’t make you professional. In fact, some people hide behind the clothing they wear in order to feel up to the job. I may be kicking around in my boots most of the time but I’m still professional, perhaps more outspoken than some people, but still professional.

Fact 2: You feel more comfortable in casual clothes and this aids productivity. There’s plenty of research and studies out there, most notably in Harvard Business Review this year, which have concluded that companies who get the best results out of their employees have recognised that they need to be comfortable and relaxed at work and able to be themselves.

Fact 3: Just like pictures, clothes tell stories. Our clothes are important and very visual presentations of our personalities and outlook, without being able to wear what we want to express ourselves we’re hiding some very important clues and signals and as a result missing opportunities and hooks for connecting with our users. I don’t know how many PhD research requests have resulted from a brief exchange with Ange about her latest geek chic t-shirt, but it would be well into double figures for last year alone.

But wait, this isn’t just about clothes, or boots, or trainers, its about a mindset…

Here at Judge we have made a deliberate decision to be more informal in all aspects of our work, whether it’s through the delivery of more relaxed presentations, engagement with our users via social media funnies and zeitgeist-hitting stuff, or simply in our written communications. We took the decision to rewrite all our guides so that they sounded much less – quite honestly – bloody uptight and pompous, and have also sought to write for our blog/website journalistically with more casual turns of phrase.

All of this has gone hand-in-hand with an attempt to offer a far more realistic holistic approach to students, playing to the stresses and strains they experience during their time with us. Hence the introduction of DVD and fiction collections that have nothing to do with business but instead encourage them to relax and look after themselves and which crucially have also started conversations – and from there led to relationships and more effective use of both us and our business resources. Our pop culture plasma screens inside and outside the Information Centre – see the Game of Thrones example below – have also sparked conversations that we wouldn’t have otherwise had.


This more informal approach has made a real impact: because we have appeared less rigid and desperate, and instead, more relaxed and approachable – engagement has followed. And this isn’t just a feeling I have, its backed up by: an increase in the number of enquiries we receive; higher footfall; ridiculously good session feedback scores; and stratospheric overall service/team scores. Not all of this list is entirely down to us being more informal, but the approach underpins it all, ensuring deeper, more frequent, and more numerous connections.

Go on… ‘embrace the informal’ today. After all there’s nothing to lose.


Looking back (and forwards)

Andy mid-lecture

Yours truly teaching, as seen in our annual report.

I always find it a bit of a struggle to compile the annual report for the Information & Library Service I run. I’m not lazy, in fact I’m relentlessly motivated – some might say irritatingly so, so why is it such hard work? I think the reasons are three-fold:

1. For some reason the statistics my team take never exactly match the statistics I need for the report, plus some of the ways the stats are formulated change from year to year so we’re not always comparing apples with apples;

2. I know its not read as widely as it could or should be internally. I’m sure the front page of highlights (a light executive summary) will get a glance but how much beyond that?;

3. I’m not a great one for looking back, not at work anyway.

Having said all that, I am convinced that the benefits far outweigh these niggles. For the sake of symmetry let’s go for 3 points again :

1. Compiling the report is a great reminder to myself and my team as to how much we’ve achieved and how far we’ve come in a year. This year the most striking change was how much more teaching we’d done, and how much the overall tone of our service has changed – conversational and informal – in line with my ‘call to arms’ to ‘embrace the informal’ (incidentally the topic of my next blogpost).

2. We can record statistical progression of our service so I have facts at my fingertips rather than feelings when we’re required to account for our activities (see my previous post on stats collection).

3. It helps me to reflect on next steps and new priorities. Looking back helps one to look forward.

The full report is available to download here. Go on, make my day and read it! Better still, comment on it.



A pre-emptive strike

BSLcoverI’ve recently received word of the publication early next year of Ashgate’s Business School Libraries in the 21st Century, edited by Tim Wales.

Yours truly contributed a chapter on communication entitled ‘Business school libraries on the radar: not seen and not heard?’ which examines how library services within business schools should be communicating with their stakeholders, particularly senior management, to ensure their value and purpose is actively understood and supported.

Here is a short pre-publication excerpt from my chapter which urges librarians to take a ‘pre-emptive stirke’ when communicating service statistics:

‘…In recent years the global economic recession has prompted swingeing cuts at most higher education establishments and libraries have been very much in the firing line. Perhaps partly because we’re considered to be soft targets; ‘nice to have’ rather than essential, unlike other business school activities. But how much do each of us actually do to counter or seek to address such an assertion within our institutions? Are we ready to level strong contrary arguments and fight our corner when required? As with the time spent battling for recognition and understanding, are such attempts to prove our value equally fruitless?

In this chapter I will seek to argue that although we may think we currently communicate enough within our respective business schools and that our excellent services speak for themselves, we actually live in an age in which there is no room for this sort of complacency and we must make better use of the many and varied communication channels open to us.

At the heart of the problem is a dangerous tendency amongst academic librarians to sit back and wait to be asked for information about our services. A tendency to wait until statistics on loans, enquiries and database use or a weekly breakdown of typical staff activities are directly requested; a new and innovative service is noticed rather than promoting it extensively; someone else identifies that a project or approach we currently undertake is perhaps not the best use of staff time. Business schools are becoming more and more accountable. These days, the bean counters are now very much in charge – very few Deans or Directors do not have an accounting or operations management background – and they only want to know facts and figures, not how you, or others, feel about the service, or how you ‘think’ it is doing. At the very least I would advise that we need to be collecting the following key statistics: footfall to the physical library; visitors to the library’s electronic presence (whether it is a website, portal or blog); usage of databases; cost of database subscriptions relative to use and each other; loans and percentage use of printed collection; usage of ebooks – downloads and views; and the number of enquiries received and fulfilled by staff in person, by email, or instant chat. However, it is not enough just to collate this data and wait to be asked for it. It is far better to ensure that the people who need to know this stuff are informed, at least once a year, of these top level statistics, before they ask for them: a pre-emptive strike if you like…’

The back cover text – below – recognises the value of the book to all librarians in the academic sector and beyond. We are all grappling with the same problems and opportunities…