Finally a beginning….

Yes I am still enrolled in the minor research project. Yes, I have begun doing some reading on my GLAMS topic. So far I have done enough background reading to get an idea of the main ideas and themes in and around GLAMS (or LAMS as it seems to be called in much of the literature).
Here’s what I’ve discovered in terms of potential points that could be developed into a research project:
1. There is a lot of commentary, research, analysis around the need for a specific LAMs/GLAMs curriculum in higher education of information professionals. The most important point that seems to come through here is that while the convergence of Libraries, Archives and Museums is vital in the digital world of WEb 2.0 there must also be a way of maintaining the distinctive qualities of these institutions.

2. There is also writing on cultural policies (national, international, cross-institutional) regarding the possibilities for LAM institutions into the future. This is particularly interesting at the moment with regard to the Australian government’s production of a cultural policy…something that is currently in process. Feeding into this is the need to understand government resourcing of these institutions, particularly with the move to digital access. How is this to be funded? What importance is placed on it by the government and by the institutions themselves?

3. There is writing on the technical issues that spring up when LAM institutions start to collaborate. Lots of issues around metadata and information systems. While this is clearly vitally important it is WAY outside of the scope of a 12 credit pt unit for me as I am a technical dunce in this regard.

4. Any research project on LAMs needs to set itself against the contemporary background/contextual issues of Web 2.0 – for it is this that enables the possibilities of LAMs (GLAMs) as a disciplinary area.

5. The question of “collaboration” as a concept – theoretical and practical – pops up all over the place. Some writers are developing theories of collaboration. This is interesting too but I don’t know if it is a complete research project in itself.

6. A number of bits and pieces I have read highlight the need for clarity around the various concepts – like digital archiving vs digital curation vs digital preservation etc. They emphasise the importance of not collapsing these concepts into each other. This relates back to the first point I have here.

At this stage I think I am going to focus on the cultural policy issue with a specific focus on Australia. More reading and planning to come over the next week.

an auspicious Sunday afternoon

Well it certainly is an auspicious Sunday afternoon. I have just submitted my final report for INN332, Information Retrieval. I was very fortunate to be granted an extension over the long weekend because there was no way in the world I would have completed it by last Thursday. I know now a lot more about piracy in the music industry as well as the challenges involved in finding quality information about that same topic using online resources. I think for my first subject it will be okay but over the course of the term I have realised just how much I don’t know about library and information science. I have also realised just what it is like to be a distance education student in this brave new world of learning management systems. On the one hand there is so much more available for students studying by distance education than there was in 1996/97 when I last studied externally. On the other hand the reliance on information technology systems can be a real pain in the rear especially when things don’t work. I never had that problem with a paper based study guide. So you know, that’s how things go. I have one more task to do before I finish the term and that is to release my e-portfolio. If you don’t what that is, I am only very slightly ahead of you. I will explore this tomorrow as it’s been about 6 weeks since I even touched it and I really can’t remember how it is all supposed to work. Then I am done done done until next term when I undertake something called Information Programs. Perhaps I should read the course profile to see what that is about. But not today.

a nitwit in the local library

I’m just about finished my second assignment. I need to find time this week to go on my undercover mission to the local council library and ask my “question”. Quite frankly, the exercise makes me feel like a nitwit. I have done a little preparation though and searched their catalogue online so I have a bit of an idea of their holdings on television comedy (which is the focus of my question). I must say I was extremely impressed with the chat inquiry service from the State Library of Queensland. However, I will save my writing about that for my discussion forum post which is part of the assignment. Once I have done that I have to do my 500 word reflection and I am finished. For those of you anxiously awaiting news of my mark for my first assignment, I got a Distinction which I was very happy with…particularly given my lack of visual creativity which formed a fair proportion of the final grade. Next it is onwards and upwards to the final assignment which is a big report. Eeek. Here’s something else you don’t have to write in humanities’ degrees…reports. Well, I never had to anyway.

trying to think of a good question

Today marks the final day for submitting my first assignment. I uploaded my 500 word reflection to Blackboard yesterday. Having been on the other side of the educator/student fence for such a long time, submitting anything for assessment feels very strange indeed. I am used to marking, assessing, grading etc. I am no longer used to being marked, assessed and graded. It’s a little disconcerting and I feel like I might be trying too hard. Some things seem suspiciously easy. Am I doing them wrong? Am I not reading the question correctly? Do I have any idea about anything at all? These are some of the comforting thoughts that have been going through my mind of late. Anyway, Assignment Two beckons. It is due on Friday May 6. This is also the week of the music eisteddfod so it’s particularly bad timing and means that once again I need to get it done a week or so early. It may not surprise you to read that I have already started. This time we work through a reference training program, practising finding online sources, and using various search engines, subject directories etc to locate different types of information and respond to queries. I have completed the first two parts – shadow a librarian, undertake two of a number of training modules on particular reference types. I chose biographies and then almanacs/yearbooks/handbooks. Never having had the need to consult an almanac before in my life I decided I would choose something with which I was unfamiliar. Next step is to ask a question through a library chat service and then compare it with asking the same question at my local library. At the moment I’m trying to think of a good question. And then I have to reflect on all these things and submit that – again through Blackboard. So I move forward…on to bigger and more referencey type things.

the "good stapler"?

Today I continued working towards my second assignment. Part of it involves doing a shadowing session in a library at the reference/information desk. This required me to walk over to our library building on campus and take a seat behind the desk with the librarians. Usually I stand on the “client” side and ask questions. The hour that I sat observing confirmed a lot of what we have been learning during the first five weeks of the term. Librarians in the 21st century have to be experts in technology. And by that I mean, they don’t just have to know how to use technology to help library users find good and relevant information. They have to know how to troubleshoot the technology in the library for the users. There were questions about the photocopier, the printer, the self checkout machine, the coffee machine and the vending machine. There was even a question about where the “good stapler” was. As it is a regional campus, resources in terms of staff are limited. With five regional campuses CQUni works with a floating collection. That means every day there are requests from staff and students at other campuses for books in our library. They are sent overnight by courier (as long as the request has been made by 12pm). And then there are books received from other campuses that have been requested here. They stay at this campus until someone decides they want to borrow them. None of this completed by administration staff. It is all done by the librarians themselves. I also observed the very beginnings of the system whereby university alumni have access to the library for free for the rest of their lives. I was impressed when I saw QUT offered this service and it is in the initial stages of being rolled out at our institution. I found out as well that members of the community can join the library for 100 dollars a year (which is pretty good I think) giving them access to the hard copy collections and some of the digital material as well. Interestingly, the one question about a book (the student knew the title but not the other) but solved by a fellow student before the librarian had the chance to even sit down at her computer. It’s a whole new view sitting behind the desk that’s for sure. What was slightly scary was that as soon as you sit there people approach you to ask questions. I didn’t know the answer to any of them. That’s right…not even how to refill the water in the coffee machine or which one was the “good stapler”. Clearly, I have a lot to learn.

You’re gasping in astonishment

I posted my first assignment away yesterday. It was the poster. I spent all last weekend and most of the week muddling about in Publisher trying to put together something that had even a hint of “creativity” about it. If there is one thing I am not it is a visually creative person so this was a challenge. I will happily write you all the words in the world but tell me to pretty something up and I am stumped. I guess that’s why I never could see the point of scrapbooking. And I know I will never be a graphic designer. Because apart from the fact that I’m not visually creative, I can’t be bothered fiddling around with documents in that way. Anyway, I finally came up with something that included a jpeg file of the book cover, a background on every page of a hipstamatic photo I had taken of some of my old violin music which I then altered the contrast on so the text stood out, and I scattered some very unoriginal music clip art to break up the text. I also highlighted all the key words throughout the text so they stood out…sort of like the online dictionary did itself in its entries. I know. You’re gasping in astonishment at my creativity!

Then I toddled to the post office before work, bought one of those tube things and sent it away. Done. Finished. Moving on to Assignment Two which as far as I can gather involves some kind of reflection on a shadowing session in the library. I need to have a read about this tomorrow I think.

1800 words…that’s a mighty big poster

So I am working on my assignment today which as I have already mentioned is a poster presentation, evaluating a reference resource. I thought I best make myself sit down and write the content of the evaluation before I got any more excited about the visual part of things. Two hours later I have 1800 words. I have a feeling that might be too many. I return to the drawing board.

Stravinsky, Nijinsky, Riot

I have spent the morning mulling over my first assignment which is to create a poster that evaluates a reference resource. So far, I am doing well in that I have chosen the resource I have to evaluate and submitted my choice to the wiki on the Blackboard site before this Thursday. I am going to look at the Oxford Companion to Music which is now available online and is part of Oxford Reference Online. After looking through the assessment criteria and the various documents on what is expected in the evaluation I started playing around in the resource. It’s fairly user friendly. What’s really good is that even though you are searching in the Music Companion you can connect to all the other reference resources (shall we call them e-books? I think we shall) in the Oxford database (am I using these terms correctly? I’m not sure). Perhaps Oxford Online Collection would be better?

What does this mean? Well I decided to start at the very beginning (in what they teach music students in the Western tradition anyway) and searched for “Gregorian chant”. From there I was directed to the entry on “Plainchant” (which I had the option of printing, or emailing to myself). I emailed it to myself and it arrived in my inbox within minutes. Then, however, there is a groovy little search function called “cross reference”. This means that in the plainchant entry I can highlight any words and click on cross reference, whereby I am directed to entries anywhere in the entire Oxford Online Collection that will explain this word or term. I chose to highlight “Emperor Constantine” and found myself in a different dictionary/encyclopedia altogether, reading about Constantine. This is pretty useful as it enables users to not only find the quick facts they might be looking for, but it also gives them the option of putting their new found knowledge of plainchant into some social and historical context with more explanations. My plainchant entry also offered me summary of the I could quickly navigate to the relevant section if I wanted to, rather than reading the whole thing; a list of connected terms to do with plainchant and interestingly, the keywords for the entries adjacent to plainchant in the Companion. “Whoops, I meant to search for pizzicato but accidentally typed in plainchant”..that kind of thing. I can see how this would be useful in some instances. More useful though is the pattern searching which looks for words close to the keyword you type in, just in case you have spelled it incorrectly etc. I didn’t have that problem with plainchant.

There’s also a collection wide thing called a “Timeline Search”. The Timeline function allows you to choose which area or discipline you would like to check out for important events in its historical timeline. I went to Timeline, clicked on Performing Arts and then Music as my sub-category. Then I decided to test out Oxford Reference Online and searched for 1913. Sure enough, as any good undergrad music student knows there was the Stravinsky, Nijinsky, Rite of Spring premiere, riot as the notable event in that year. Good work OUP.

I also discovered the Oxford Online Collection has a very detailed Help section where basic and advanced search methods are explained with examples. The Browse function was useful with it’s A-Z and subheadings for searches underneath each letter. Even better was the “Links for this book” where the user is directed to a page which gives many links to other useful reference sources that would be companion items to the companion. If you get my drift.

Anyway, I copy and pasted bits and pieces of useful information about the resource into a word document to look at later. Now I just have to distill all this into an evaluative poster.

I shall think on this some more.