Friday, November 09, 2007

CILIP Ethical Principles and Code of Professional Practice

When I started to complete my Personal Professional Development Plan, I was a little concerned that I had nothing to offer under the Ethics heading (!) What did this say about me? After discussing it with my mentor we agreed that there were a few things that I could do to look into ethics in the information profession. One of them was to make an effort to attend the presentations that fell under the Law/Ethics category of the Umbrella 2007 conference (which I did...check it out). Another was to have a read and think about the CILIP Ethical Principles and Code of Professional Practice...

Ethical Principles
The introduction acknowledges that not every statement in the Code will apply to everyone and that is certainly true but it also contains a softer version of the ‘one size won’t fit all’ statement about the Principles. In general, we are to see these as applicable to our work, some to a greater and some to a lesser extent. On the whole, I guess I would agree. Most of these are just good, common sense (which my mother reassured me wasn’t as common as the name would imply) and are ones to which any conscientious employee would adhere regardless of their choice of profession. Having said that, though, the principle that encourages equitable treatment of all users just isn’t realistic in a commercial setting – some people’s requests get priority because of the office they hold...

Code of Professional Practice
There was more in the Code that made me go ‘hmmm’ than I there were in the Principles (but I guess the specific nature of the Code would make that inevitable). Some were on specific points and others were on the overall tone but I think most people would pick up on things like the access to information flavour and be able to see the limitations in different settings. No doubt this is what the authors of the introduction had in mind when they stated that "[g]iven the diversity of the information profession, it is inevitable that not every statement in the Code of Professional Practice will be equally applicable to every member of CILIP."

However, some of the ethical points are basic job requirements that could lead to incompetence dismissals rather than ethical disputes in some settings. Point eight under Responsibilities to Information and its Users is a good example of states that members should "ensure that the materials to which they provide access are those which are most appropriate to the needs of legitimate users of the service". I can see how this would be a bad thing to miss if you were working at a school or public library but think of the possible consequences of getting it wrong in a legal or commercial setting.

Now, I know that we don’t have anything in the UK like the US’s Patriot Act, but if we did, the fourth bullet under Responsibilities to Information and its Users would create an ethical dilemma of its own were an information professional obliged to divulge some information on a user of his or her services. While the introduction states that "[t]he Principles and Code assume that respect for duly enacted law is a fundamental responsibility for everybody", the Code states that members should "protect the confidentiality of all matters relating to information users, including their enquiries, any services to be provided, and any aspects of the users’ personal circumstances of business". Although this dilemma would exist for the UK information professional were anything like the Patriot Act to become law here, in my opinion, this dilemma raises more questions about the ethical nature of laws such as the Patriot Act than the correctness of the Code (but maybe that’s the granola-munching, sandal-wearing, tree-hugging, left-wing, liberal hippy in me talking.)

Peace, man.

(CILIP's position on ethics and the documents referred to above can be found on their website at

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Usability testing: Bernard and Belinda’s route to information – Davina Borman & Frankie Wilson, Brunel University Library

Frankie and Davina have been giving their library’s website an overhaul and they have made great progress improving both the content and the compliance with accessibility guidelines. The content of this presentation was a great deal more practically focussed than some of the more theoretical ones that I attended.

They took us through the whole process but the most interesting aspect of it was that referred to in the title – their approach to usability testing. They started with creating some personas based on the different user groups and then asked librarians to ‘get into character’ and perform a few tasks on the new website. Although it was very time consuming, it turned up several aspects of the website that could be improved. Next, they trialled the new site using volunteer undergrads from the University. Although this group identified a few more issues, none of them contradicted those identified as part of the persona process. I’d say that’s a vote in favour of the persona exercise.

I can see the application of this persona concept really coming into its own when testing a website for which the audience is so large that it would be difficult to engage the end user. In this particular project, the audience is a finite and known group: the students. On top of that, it is a group for which they have the means of contacting every individual member. With such a closed group, I would have thought it would make more sense to engage a representative selection of the student body in the process right at the beginning to ensure that the first pass was as close to what students wanted as possible. I would then have used that same group and second representational one to test the site.

Frankie and Davina are the first to admit that they didn’t really know what they were doing and that it was a lot of enthusiasm, reading and a steep learning curve for them, but I think that their approach was a little naïve. Having said that, the methodology that they used appears sound and the results of the student testing did, to a large extent, prove the effectiveness of the persona approach. As the audience for our website is so large both in number and geographical spread and is largely unknown, I will be suggesting to the project team that we could use this persona methodology when we review our website in the next year.

WSIS: a proxy for government control of the Internet or an opportunity for cooperation? A view from DBERR on Internet governance after WSIS

Martin Boyle introduced us to WSIS – the World Summit of the Information Society. Having never heard of it (Am I alone in this? Sounds like the kind of thing I should know about...!), I was pretty grateful to him for starting here. I’m not going to go into great detail about it here but basically, WSIS covers a range of things including:
  • allocation of IP addresses
  • introduction of new generic top-level domains
  • sovereignty of the country code top-level domains
  • control of the root
  • root servers
Each of these issues is closely linked either to revenue generation (we pay to register a new generic top-level domain) or control (sovereignty of the country code top-level domains) or both.

The most interesting thing in this presentation, from my perspective, was some insight into the politics that operate behind the technologies that I use in my day-to-day work. It goes something like this: in most countries, the government is the principal telecoms operator. In the UK, things are no longer like this but I gather that it is still the case in many countries. Clearly, the Internet crosses political boundaries and so a summit of this nature is clearly an opportunity for international cooperation. At the same time, given the revenue and control elements and the vested interest that many governments have in protecting telecoms income in their country, it is also an opportunity for abuse of position in applying some government control.

Like the session on copyright that I attended, this one was of a more theoretical nature rather than practical and so although I don’t have much to take back and apply in the workplace, I have gained a better understanding of the forces that influence Internet technology.

The ethical nature of copyright – Graham Cornish, Copyright Circle

Graham gave us a sound introduction to copyright. Not being very up on my copyright, I found it really useful, though if you were quite knowledgeable about copyright, this might have seemed a little elementary.

Here is a quick run-through: It is accepted in societies that if someone creates something, it is theirs to keep, sell or give away. If they choose to sell it, they should be compensated for it. This is an ethical arrangement.

Where it becomes a little less clear is with the shift from a physical resource base to a digital one. With a physical resource (e.g. a book), once you’ve purchased it, it is yours to do with as you please – you can keep it, sell it, give it away, etc. In a digital world, though, once you have purchased something, it is possible to transfer it to someone without having to give it up yourself. A mathematical representation of this scenario is:

Physical resource
1-1=0 (gave the book to a friend to read)
0+1=1 (the friend now has the book)
0 (your copy) + 1 (your friend’s copy) = 1 (total number of copies)

Digital resource
1-1=1 (shared the file with a friend)
0+1=1 (the friend now has a file she didn’t have before)
1 (your copy) + 1 (your friend’s copy) = 2 (total number of copies)

With the digital resource, the creator has now effectively been compensated for one copy (yours) but not for the second (your friend’s). One way of ensuring that the creator is compensated for both copies is through licensing. Licensing enables you to pay for the right to use something that you don’t own. That contract will have limitations on it which prevent you from sharing it with a friend. The issue is no longer how do we compensate the creator for the two uses but how many times do we compensate the creator for the reuse of his work. The balance is shifting. At what point is the investment of time, materials, skill and effort on the part of the creator fairly paid for? The third user? The 100th user? And if we can agree this limit, does that mean that the fourth or 101st user doesn’t need to pay? What will the other three or 100 users who are paying think of that arrangement?

So, what is the ethical nature of copyright? It’s ensuring that the creator of something is fairly compensated for their investment and effort and ensuring that the user is not unfairly charged for use. I think this is a very interesting situation. How do we do this? Licensing is an enabler of it but is it the best way of achieving the ideal ethical situation?

I enjoyed Graham’s presentation and learnt a bit about copyright at the same time. Having said that, because the focus of this presentation was of a more theoretical nature, I’m not too sure how I am going to apply this new knowledge at work...more of a learning session for me.

Building your portfolio – Representatives from the Career Development Group

This session was a little like the Chartership and Beyond session that I attended in Lewisham a few months ago. It reinforced the importance of quality over quantity when assembling your portfolio and emphasized the need for evaluation in the written statement (what did you gain?, what did you enjoy?, what will you do differently?, what benefit was there for you and for your employer?)

In addition, there were some handy tips:
  • use the application as a checklist to ensure that all elements of the application are ready and included
  • use the CV as much as you can as it doesn’t have a word restriction
  • be constructively critical in the written statement – it needs interpretation and analysis, must show awareness of wider community, and demonstrate CPD
  • get a proof-reader
  • bind it securely (e.g. comb binding)
This was a useful session as I find the whole gauntlet that we are running a little confusing at times – it served to reassure me that I am aware of all of the aspects of this submission.

I want some porn! – Pat Beech, RNIB

Pat’s presentation provided the audience with some pretty astonishing facts and figures concerning the market for alternative formats and the shocking lack of supply. The one that stood out most for me was that between 1999 and 2003, only 4.4% of title published were also published in an alternative format. If that weren’t bad enough, that’s across all possible alternative formats, so if you wanted something in giant print, it wasn’t even as big as 4.4% of titles.

She went on to encourage buyers of materials to consult their users but I started to take note when she began to discuss the Internet as I don’t purchase materials but I do maintain a Web presence. Now, our site is pretty poor from an accessibility perspective. I have managed to get our e-newsletter to comply with the WCAG 1.0 (opens in new window) double-A criteria but the website has more stakeholders and so doesn’t conform even to single-A. And it would seem that we aren’t alone. 81% of sites are not fully accessible and 97% do not even meet minimum requirements. In the information age where the Internet plays such a central role both at work and at home, it isn’t surprising that 40% of people who become partially sighted or blind have to give up on their hobbies.

It was an interesting presentation with a good message but it shared a session with John Pateman’s and unfortunately, based on the questions asked of the two presenters afterwards, it looks like the audience was thinking more about John’s speech. I hope that I’m wrong about that.

Libraries and the War on Terror: censorship and diversity – John Pateman, Lincolnshire County Council

John changed his subtitle after it had already been published but I failed to make a note or it at the time; it changed from a focus on censorship and diversity to one on human rights. This change was important as one of his points was the erosion of human rights as the UK government inches closer to a police state.

He went on to mention the Patriot Act in the US which allows the FBI to obtain browsing and borrowing records. This in itself is a little worrying as users of the library have come to expect an element of privacy (and clearly it is illegal for librarians to refuse to comply with an investigation), but the fact that it is also illegal for the librarian to inform the user of the request is more worrying to me. It means that the librarian becomes part of the investigation and this isn’t something with which I would be entirely comfortable. Recently, the University and College Union (opens in new window) refused to comply with a request from the UK government to monitor and report unusual behaviour amongst their students. Another of John’s points was the potential good that all of the funding that goes towards the Iraq war could do if it were spent domestically.

One member of the audience pointed out that he had come very close to denying the presence of terrorism (which I also felt at one point during his speech). This gave John the opportunity to make it clear that he did not condone terrorism and that his position was that we need to address the causes of terrorism as a matter of priority, not the terrorism itself.

While I share many of John’s concerns, it was unfortunate that he used the majority of his time to talk about his political opinions and criticise the UK and US governments’ actions rather than focus on how the War on Terror has affected libraries and library services. The one point that he did keep mentioning in connection with libraries was the reduced funding that they received as a result of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. This point, though, is a misrepresentation of fact – the truth of the matter is, as was pointed out by one of the members of the audience, that funding for libraries has been decreasing since long before either of these wars commenced. While I can see that it is yet another obstacle to better library funding, it seems naïve to conclude that it is the cause. More interesting and relevant were the few aspects of the speech that focussed on changes to legislation in the name of the War on Terror and how that affects libraries.

At the end of John’s speech (and it was a speech as opposed to a presentation), there emerged a polarity of opinion in the audience regarding the use of this forum for promoting his opinions. Unfortunately, John called for a straw poll after one member of the audience objected to his use of this session for sharing his political views rather than focussing on the impact that the War on Terror has had on libraries. While I agreed with many of John’s points, I agreed with this individual – it was not what we had come to the session to hear. My feelings about the use of the session to present a political position aside, in my opinion, calling for this poll was petty, belittling and disrespectful to the individual concerned; I lost all respect for John at this point. He clearly felt as though he and his ideas were under attack and he was unable to handle it well.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Practical uses for Web 2.0 in a library environment – Phil Bradley, Information specialist and Internet consultant

Having attempted a definition of Web 2.0 (more of a concept than anything else) and describing it in relation to the existing Web, Phil took us on a canter through the different pieces of software/service that conform to this change. These bits of functionality are Web 2.0 because they sit within a platform that involves the consumer in a creator capacity as well and the output is not dependant on any particular machine and can be reused/relinked any number of times.

Phil spent a bit of time talking about blogs, recommending that every library have one, and that it ought to be treated as a website in its own right rather than a diary or journal. He also touched on RSS, Aggregators, Podcasts (great example of a library that has made its orientation downloadable as a podcast), bookmarks, communities, instant messaging, and mashups.

Phil was a very engaging speaker and the canter through Web 2.0 technology and options contained something for everyone. Of particular interest to me were the customised start pages (pageflakes -, netvibes - – probably more from a personal perspective, though I can see applications in more traditional library settings – and the tailored search functionality (Eurekester -, Rollyo - – from a personal perspective as I have dozens of careful organised bookmarks, as well as a professional one.

Unfortunately, he didn’t talk very much about the potential pitfalls of employing Web 2.0 in a library environment; there were three areas that I would like to have heard more about:
  • issues of ownership / copyright in an environment where the host of the site is not necessarily the sole creator of content,
  • related to that, the legal liability for content that is generated by a disparate group of creators, and
  • the pitfalls of collective intelligence. Phil touched on this last one in his introduction: if we adhered to collective intelligence, we’d all still believe the world to be flat – group think can be damaging in the long-run.
Phil’s session was an introduction to Web 2.0 technologies that are available rather than an overview of Web 2.0 as a concept. To be fair to him though, doing the latter any justice would probably require more time than the session allowed.

His presentation is available at

Monday, July 02, 2007

Thesaurus vs taxonomy vs subject headings

A few weeks ago, I attended a course on how to build a thesaurus (opens in new window). Having thought about it a fair bit since the course, I’ve come to the conclusion that what we probably want to do here, at least in the short term, is not to create a thesaurus but to put together a list of subject terms. Here’s my thinking…

A thesaurus is a comprehensive listing of all the possible terms that someone might use to describe content within our subject (not an official definition but it’ll do for my purposes here). Although this means that whatever term someone might use, the thesaurus should make sure that they use the same one as the cataloguer, the problem is in the time required to create one. One of the things that I picked up from my course is that building a thesaurus from scratch is a very large task. Having discovered that there isn’t anything quite right out there already, I think I’d be looking at quite a bit of work. Also, although it is more flexible, I need to use more terms to describe the subject. Where a single subject heading will capture it, I might need to use several terms from the thesaurus.

A taxonomy has the same description limitation as the thesaurus (potentially many terms required) but is much quicker to produce. Of course, a user needs to guess the right term where a thesaurus will direct them to it, providing they’ve had a reasonably good guess in the first place.

Subject headings are a little less quick to produce than a taxonomy but still a quicker process than a thesaurus and they can describe the subject a little more effectively (this is because they provide context which an isolated word does not possess). Subject headings have their own pitfalls, of course, particularly when it comes to consistency of use over time.

So here is how I sort of see things looking:

(I don't know what's going on with this table...scroll's there...I will look into it later as I must get going now!)




Subject headings

Time to create








Ease of use




Ease of Maintenance








The time to create is an initial outlay of resource and is not ongoing. As a result, from a long-term perspective, the fact that this might be Slow isn’t too critical. The bit that makes a thesaurus less attractive as an option is the effort required to maintain it (of course there is software available to assist). The appeal to me of the subject headings is their time to create and their relative ease of use. I think that I would start the subject heading creation process by building a taxonomy and use that to develop the subjects. After creating and introducing subject headings initially, I think that I should use that same taxonomy (and the finished subject headings) to develop a thesaurus and aim to use that in the longer-term.

What do you think? Are there flaws in my thinking here? Are there other aspects that I should consider? This hasn’t exactly been a scientific process so there is every chance that I have missed something…

So, was the course a waste of time/money? Not at all. I couldn’t have arrived at a conclusion around the best way forward for my organisation without having attended it, even though the conclusion was to not build a thesaurus. Also, if/when we do get to the point where we want to introduce a thesaurus, I will have an idea as to where to start.

Monday, June 25, 2007

June mentoring meeting

Karen and I met up for what is due to be one of our last meetings. We looked at:
  1. Strategies for making the most of my evidence for the portfolio and the best way to present it (e.g. attended Thesaurus course last week, attending K&CUK and Umbrella conferences next week)
  2. Strategies for making the most of planned activities (in PPDP) that aren’t going to happen before I plan to submit (marketing course, writing a website strategy – though there’s still a chance for this one, conducting e-newsletter subscriber survey)
  3. Strategies for effective/efficient use of the evaluative statement
  4. Update to dates on the project plan in light of holidays in May, July, and September
It was, as usual, a good meeting and we managed to cover each of these items. Better still, Karen had some good suggestions!

1. Strategies for making the most of my evidence

This was a relatively quick one. We agreed that the best way to capture the learning and present it as evidence was to write about it in the blog. As a result, our conversation focussed mainly on what aspects to emphasise when writing things up. For example, I attended the CILIP thesaurus course a couple of weeks ago and found it really interesting and very useful but probably not for the reasons that were intended. I still need to write this one up, and will put a link here to it when I do, but basically, I think that what we need in the short term are a series of subject headings and that only in the long-term would we want to look at creating a thesaurus.

Action D: Write about decision to go with subject headings instead of a thesaurus

2. Strategies for making the most of planned activites (in the PPDP) that aren’t going to happen

This was a more meaty one. There are a few things that I planned to do in my PPDP that I submitted but it’s now looking like I won’t do them before September when I want to submit my application. Oops.

For example, I had planned to conduct a survey of our e-newsletter subscribers. Nothing too fancy, just something to help me evaluate the value that is being delivered to our subscribers, gather feedback on some of the changes that I have introduced since I took it over last October, and a mechanism to generate some ideas for improving it. I need to write this situation up as a separate entry (see below) so for now, it will suffice to say that I’m looking at doing the survey a month or so after I hope to submit.

Karen’s suggestion for managing this ‘forced omission’ is to write it up in the blog (as mentioned) and then submit this entry along with a project plan for the delivery of the survey as evidence. We have agreed that it isn’t as good as having done the survey but I will also include an invitation to contact me regarding the project if that would help my application. Form what I understand, the evaluation process can take some time and I may have actually carried out the survey and analysed the returns by the time they are looking through my application.

Action D: Write about survey delay
Action D: create project plan for survey delivery

3. Strategies for effective/efficient use of the evaluative statement

1000 words isn’t very long. As you can see from my entries, I tend to exceed word limits. This part of the submission is going to cause me some real problems. Karen’s first suggestion was to try to make as much use of the detailed CV as possible (given the assessors are expecting something pretty comprehensive and probably a lot longer than the evaluative statement). She provided me with a copy of hers from her Fellowship application back when we were first setting up the mentoring relationship and has suggested that I look at it for guidance. Her second suggestion was to produce a covering page for each item of evidence and to use that space to describe things like the context, the execution and the outcome associated with the piece of evidence. Doing so will free up some valuable space in the evaluative statement and enable me to use a couple of sentences of introduction and reference.

Action D: schedule creation of evidence cover pages

4. Update dates on the project plan

This last item was a reasonably quick one. I went over the changes that I had made to the project plan and talked a bit about why I had moved them around. The main point coming out of this agenda item was that I was no longer looking at submitting on 6 September as I’m going to be on leave that week. As I can’t submit it any earlier (because a year won’t have elapsed since I started) and because I had planned on using that week (i.e. it won’t be ready any earlier), it looks like my new target submission date is going to be 18 September.

That’s pretty much it. It was also encouraging that Karen commented on the fact that it looked like I had everything that I needed and really it was just a matter of finishing a few things off and then getting it all organised and pulled together. I suspect that I will find that bit just as much work, if not more!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What’s the worst curse or expletive you can think of? No, that doesn’t quite capture it...

I came up with quite a few colourful ones this weekend. I have been squirreling away bits and pieces of evidence for my portfolio in a cardboard box in the garage. It squats happily with the other things 'in storage' towards the back of the garage. It has some suitcases, ski and camping equipment, Christmas decorations, an old TV and our kitchen table (which is currently not in the kitchen while we get ready to do some work in there) for company. Every once in a while, I take a few more bits and pieces out to add to it and make a note of them on an evidence grid.

This weekend, I went into the garage to get my bike out for a bit of a ride and what did I discover? That for the past who-knows-how-long, our bathtub has been draining onto the ceiling of the garage and that sometime in the last week, that ceiling finally gave way. The result? A large hole in the ceiling of the garage, a lot of standing water on the floor, very wet suitcases / ski and camping equipment / Christmas decorations / TV (now junk) / kitchen table (now badly damaged)...and a portfolio box, once full of evidence, now full of near-pulp.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

How to construct a thesaurus

This is the first CILIP course that I've attended though it isn't the first time I've been here (while studying, I carried out a feasibility study for what was then the Library Association).

There are a couple of courses that were on yesterday and the coffee and registration is in one room for both courses. This is a great idea from a networking perspective but the room is full of tables and chairs meaning that delegates aren't as encouraged to mingle as much as they might be if there were only a few tables. The result, though, is that if people are talking they're only talking to the one or two people in their immediate vicinity. ( here first and sat at a began to fill up but no one is sitting at my table :( Could it be the shaved head, goatee and swastika tattooed on my forehead? Kidding.)

So, at 9:30, we were called up to our meeting room to begin the training session. The presenter, Keith Trickey, was very knowledgeable and a good speaker and he dove straight into things. I have a bit of an academic hidden inside me who really enjoys talking/thinking about things like the ways in which nouns/verbs define adjectives/adverbs as much as the adjectives/adverbs describe the nouns/verbs. For example: heavy suitcase (a suitcase that is heavy) vs. heavy smoker (a person who smokes a lot). This relationship is important because in a thesaurus, words are usually separated from each other meaning that the information that travels in the context is lost. The same is true when verbs are turned into nouns – the verb carries some additional information in its conjugation and context (e.g. manages --> management) that it loses when it becomes a noun.

Anyway, having talked about these problems with dissecting words and compiling them into a thesaurus, it was straight into some of the rules and methods. (It is not my intention to record all of my notes here – I have assembled a mind map to supplement the course handouts for my future reference). Then it was in to some exercises. The exercises were fun and helped to illustrate some of the challenges and to demonstrate some of the rules in practice.

Finally, we spent a bit of time talking about the process of creating a thesaurus. This included ‘top tips’ and a look at some of the software that can be used for creating thesauri. My only criticism of the course, which I thought was otherwise really good, was that the only piece of software that we really talked about in any detail and had a look at was Multites. Quite a lot of time was given over to playing around with it – I started to get bored here...I don’t need to see each of the ways you can add a term in this particular programme.

On the whole, my feedback form contained positive comments/scores (with the exception of this one point about the time spent on Multites).

So, what did I learn? Well, the rules for assembling a list (like whether terms should be singular or plural) are good practical things that I can take away and put into use when it comes to creating a subject thesaurus. I think that I also have a better understanding about the different strengths and weaknesses of the different options (subject headings, taxonomies, thesauri, etc). I also feel more confident about evaluating existing thesauri for application to my contexts.

Having consolidated my thoughts from yesterday, the next set of actions on this matter that I have are around identifying potential existing thesauri for our use and then looking for anyone else who is looking to introduce or has recently introduced, a rail industry-specific thesaurus. Having seen what is involved in creating one from scratch, doing so is definitely my last choice!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Surveying subscribers

We publish a monthly e-newsletter for which I am responsible (content, creation, distribution, data management, subscriber satisfaction / evaluation). I have done quite a bit to improve on each of the first four aspects and now need to turn my attention to the last. Apparantly, we conducted a survey almost two years ago now so I think that another one is about due. On top of that, I’m interested to know what subscribers think of the changes or whether they have even noticed them. Some of the changes they are not likely to have noticed (such as the changes to the template which ensure that every issue conforms to XHTML, WCAG and CSS guidelines - all links open in new window), some they won’t know about (such as the new software we use to manage subscriber data and e-newsletter distribution) and others they almost certainly will have noticed (such as the new look our e-newsletter has received).

I haven't done a whole lot of thinking on this one yet but I can immediately see three ways forward:
  1. The first is to put together a few questions in an email to which we ask subscribers to reply. This is probably the cheapest option but:
    1. it’s probably the least professional and slick looking to the subscribers
    2. it’s more onerous on the subscribers
    3. and certainly creates a fair old bit of work for me in compiling the responses for analysis.
  2. The second is to outsource the entire thing to a company specialising in this sort of work. This is likely to yield the most professional-looking result for the subscribers and would be the least onerous for me in terms of data compilation and analysis but is almost certainly going to be the most expensive option.
  3. The third option is to use something like (opens in new window) which would enable us to create our own online surveys and does the data complilation and some basic analysis for you. It’s the least flexible of the options (you are working within the confines of an OTS product) but it probably offers the best combination of professional appearance, simplicity for subscribers, simplicity for me, and cost.
I have had a go at putting something together use (there is a free version available but I think that we would want to use one of the paid subscription versions as the benefits of doing so are in our favour – e.g. limitations on the number of forms submitted are raised or removed depending on which package you opt for) and am happy enough with it.

Has anyone out there done a survey like this before using a tool like What software did you use? Any ‘top tips’ I might use?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Metadata and the RMS

The Business Support team (of which I am a member) has been working on the last few aspects of a project to introduce a workflow management system that we refer to as the Research Management System (RMS). When I started looking at how we might apply a metadata schema to our publications and how we might store that metadata (database vs. embedded), the RMS seemed like the most sensible way of capturing the metadata and certainly presented a way of storing it as well (though this isn’t my preferred option – more on that later).

Creating a schema

I looked around at other organisations and tried to find a schema that we might adopt but they were either too tailored to their current applications or were too general. My conclusion was that it was best to create something that could be adopted by the industry as a whole but that would certainly meet R&D’s needs. I have already written a bit about this work but as a reminder, I basically assembled a series of elements from the Dublin Core and the e-Government Metadata Standard and then created a few that were specific either to the industry (e.g. Asset Type) or to R&D (e.g. Research Objective). For as many elements as possible, I have used existing, internationally-recognised encoding schemes (e.g. W3C’s Date-Time format) and for the R&D-specific ones, I have used schemes developed through a consultative process with our Heads of Research Section and a selection of Research Managers (e.g. Audience Group). I have created the Application Profile though I have yet to create the XML definitions and publish them on our website, though this is ultimately my objective.

Applying the metadata

The RMS is due to go live next week and the metadata schema, along with the controlled vocabularies that I have had to create to support some of the R&D- and industry-specific fields, will be put to the test. Without going into too much detail here, we have worked as many of the elements into the process flow as possible so that as our Research Managers work through a project and record it in the RMS, some of the data that they enter is held in metadata fields for later application to any publications that emerge from the research. Clearly, not all of the elements can be populated this way (title for example can only be completed once the publication has been completed) but many can (such as research topic).

At the end of the research process, there is a knowledge management stage where the method for publishing, promoting and evaluating the publication is captured and the remaining metadata elements are completed. Some of these are set to defaults that will almost certainly not need to change, such as the publisher (that is pretty much always going to be our organisation). It is all looking like it should work but of course there is really only one way to find out for sure.


My one disappointment in this project was the inability to sort out a controlled vocabulary for subject element in time for the launch of the RMS. The problem I encountered is that existing controlled vocabularies are either too granular (for example, SELCAT ( have a highly detailed thesaurus on the topic of Level Crossings, just one of the many areas of research that we pursue) or insufficiently granular (the Integrated Public Sector Vocabulary, or IPSV, directs users to categorise anything having to do with the railways, from electrification to passenger crowding, under Rail transport). Developing one of our own is just too big a task to try to sort out in only a few weeks (at the same time as all of the other projects that I am working on) so for the time being, the field in the RMS will be populated with: [IPSV] Rail transport. Although this is largely useless to us, it helps us tie in our work with that of the Department for Transport and other government bodies applying the IPSV.

Towards completion and "subjectfulness"?

The next stage of this project for me will have three aspects:
  1. The first is to refine the schema and existing vocabularies (Do we have all of the elements that we need? Are there any that have been included that just aren’t necessary? Are the controlled vocabularies: sufficiently granular? too granular? incomplete?)
  2. The second will be to create a final version of the application profile and to publish the element and encoding scheme definitions that I have had to create to accommodate some of the metadata that is specific to our requirements.
  3. The third and final aspect is to resolve this issue of subject headings. I am attending a CILIP workshop tomorrow called “How to construct a thesaurus” which I am hoping will give me some ideas and strategies for solving this problem. I would like to use existing vocabularies (to build in as much interoperability as possible) where possible. Maybe the solution will be to use things like the SELCAT vocabulary and the rolling stock manufacturers’ parts vocabularies but to only go down to a particular level within them (not sure what the implications of doing so would be, yet).
Metadata in the database vs. metadata in the document

I have already written about this little bug-bear of mine but it is still an issue for me. At the moment, I am going along with a database-held metadata solution but this is largely due to the presence of this option and the distinct lack of any alternatives. I think that once the metadata schema is relatively set and the encoding schemes in use, that I will turn my attention to resolving the issue of how we embed the metadata into the documents themselves...

Sunday, June 10, 2007


One of the priorities that our Technical Writer has is to introduce xml-based content classification to better enable content reuse. This is something that could be of benefit to our organisation as a whole and we are eager to get others to start thinking about it. Last year, two of the team attended a conference called X-Pubs (opens in new window) and found it really helped them to move their thinking on this topic forward. I was hoping to go this year (it was last week) but given that I am already out of the office for a Thesaurus course (opens in new window) tomorrow, the Knowledge & Content UK conference (opens in new window) and the CILIP Umbrella conference (opens in new window), both at the end of this month, it would have meant that I just wasn’t able to keep some of the day-to-day aspects of my job moving forward (why is it that all of these conferences are in June???) and my event-supported CPD was pretty healthy as it was. As a result, the plan was to try to get some of the people in the organisation who we want to have thinking about xml and content reuse to attend instead. Unfortunately, there were no takers…

Is there anyone out there who attended X-Pubs this year?

Friday, June 08, 2007

Umbrella 2007 – clippers2007 wiki

My company has agreed to pay for me to attend the Umbrella conference this year. I’d not heard of it before my mentor suggested that it might be worth attending and as it is in my backyard this year, it seemed like a good plan. Fortunately, I have an employer who believes in supporting staff CPD (it helped that they didn’t have to pay for travel or accommodation) so they were happy to give me the time and the delegate fees.

I had sort of forgotten about it, to be honest, as I had taken my eye off of the CPD ball lately but reading another Chartership colleague’s blog ‘Musings of a chartering librarian’ (opens in new window) this morning, I was reminded that a few of us on the LIS-CILIP-REG list (a listserv for chartership candidates) had agreed to update a wiki together – (opens in new window). So I have just gone and added my two cents to the ‘Who we are’ page.

I hope to be able to make some notes at the Conference that I can post both here and add to the wiki…

Managing Up

My experience of managing a team of people has taught me that there are a few rules to follow (mainly HR-driven ones) and that after that, it’s a case of good manners, good planning, good sense and experience. Each person is different so trying to define ‘how to manage a person or team’ can only ever be boiled down to a few basic principles.

Managing upwards is something that I suppose we all engage in (even if that only ever looks like ‘I can get that ready for you by the end of the week’ type of comments (expectation setting) but I wanted to read a bit about how to do it well so did a little research. It would seem that every HR consultancy has written something on the topic (some articles more helpful than others) but two principles kept emerging:

  • Know yourself: know what your strengths and weaknesses are
  • Know your manager: know what motivates them, what their priorities are, and how best they ‘digest’ information
On the back of these two principles, you can look for the best overlap of strengths (yours) and priorities (you manager's). Using your communication skills (and as librarians, we should have a bit of a head start over some of our non-librarian colleagues with this one), make sure that you are presenting the most useful information at the most appropriate time to your manager in the format that works best for your manager. I think it also helps to have some credibility with your manager and to have some vision as to where things (at a business, department, team, and job level) are going. After that, I think that we’re back to my earlier principles of good manners, good planning, good sense, and experience.

So where does this leave me in terms of gaining something that I can apply to my day-to-day working life? Well, I’m not too sure. I think that I know my own strengths and weaknesses reasonably well (had to do a fair bit of this sort of thing as part of the first module of my diploma in management, including some interesting exercises around things like management techniques and learning methods). I think that I’m pretty tuned in to my manager’s priorities and given that every time that I suggest a new idea or project, he asks me to write it up, I guess I can pretty much figure out how he likes to receive information (though I have also noticed that the organisation I work for has a keen leaning towards having everything in a paper of some description).

I suppose I could do a more formal analysis of my strengths/weaknesses with my manager’s motivations/priorities but it looks like it’s a case of experience and communications skills. Experience only comes one way so I guess I’ll focus on trying out some different ways and combinations of communication with my manager and try to figure out to which one he responds best. Rereading that last sentence makes it sound like a bit of a lab experiment and I suppose that to some extent, it is…here’s hoping I recognise the results when I see them.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Why does someone always have to spoil the fun?

So, I have, for the first time, experienced an annoying side-effect of having a publicly accessible blog today…spam. It was a thinly veiled plug for a service that had little to do with the subject of the posting (nothing offensive but not welcome either) so I have deleted it.

It’s too bad…I really enjoy reading people’s responses to my entries…someone’s always got to spoil the fun.

Anyway, I have basically taken a month off from posting (and other chartership work) so it’s back at it.

Monday, May 28, 2007

May mentoring meeting

Due to holidays on both of our parts and the fact that we had met up at the beginning of May for lunch after one of library visits near where she works, Karen and I decided that we'd cancel the May meeting. Having been a little snowed under at work lately, I'm beginning to feel a little burnt out so am happy to have the break!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

April Mentoring Meeting

We had our April meeting last week where we talked about the Library + Information Show (LIS), library visits and this weblog. I won’t record our discussion about the LIS as it pretty much duplicated my entry about it below (opens in new window). As far as the visits are concerned, it was really just a quick update on the actions that I have taken towards arranging library visits. The first one was this Monday (hope to get something written up soon) and I have two more scheduled for next week (May 3). I have also started trying to track down my counter-parts in other industry organisations but I haven’t really thrown myself into this task yet and so have only made marginal headway (actually, just one lead…) We also talked about my looking into a visit to the British Medical Association – I need to inject a bit of variety to my visits (mainly government and legal so far) and the BMA has a well established library service (and happens to be only a few doors down the road from me).

I have picked up a list of actions that I need to get organised before 17 May:

Action: D – post question to Listserv regarding ethics issues encountered in workplace (this one has been outstanding for some time now – oops)
Action: D – review PPDP and identify list of actions and create a schedule for their completion (don’t want to be rushing them through in August!)
Action: D – investigate library visit to the BMA
Action: D – set some deadlines to get portfolio of evidence together for: a)CCI work and b)NCSL work
Action: D – look into the Network of Government Library and Information Specialists (NGLIS)
Action: K – send NGLIS weblink

That’s pretty much it. Work towards Chartership is moving along smoothly so far and as a result, our meetings (since submitting the PPDP) are pretty efficient things. I think that starting in May, they will begin to get a little heavier as I concentrate on getting my portfolio of evidence and my statement sorted out…

Saturday, April 21, 2007

CILIP? Cilip? cilip?

CILIP vs Cilip...traditionally, an acronym (initials to make a word - e.g. scuba, radar, modem) doesn't need to use capitals but an abbreviation (initials that are spoken as initials - e.g. DfES, PDF) is written using capitals. Now, I have always written CILIP in capitals but I think that I might be wrong's actually an acronym and as a proper noun, needs an initial captial letter, giving us...Cilip. I also see that that is what they use themselves.

I guess I had better update the title of my blog!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Library + Information Show 2007

Yesterday, I went to the Library + Information Show (opens in new window) in Birmingham (at the NEC). It's on today as well but I have found that usually one day is enough at these sorts of things. I find that these shows can be useful and interesting but that it is essential to have an objective for the day (to which I shall return in a moment).

I attended a couple of the seminars and picked up some useful bits:
  1. Panning for Gold - Maximising the Value of Your CV (presented by Suzanne Wheatley, Sue Hill Recruitment)

    Suzanne presented a few excellent suggestions that weren't new to me (like using action verbs and quanitfying things) but she also had some suggestions that I hadn't considered or found interesting:
    • 'Career History' is a more positive term than common alternatives such as 'Employment History'
    • If you're going to claim to be a high-level user of MSWord, for example, then make sure your CV (if it's in MSWord) makes full use of the software features (e.g. use Styles to format the content rather than modifying the 'Normal' style for the headings, using Tab instead of five spaces)
    • I have never included an 'Interests' section but if you're going to, be specific - if you like to travel, what kind of travel and where?
    • she also had a handy list of 'dos' and don'ts' but rather than list them all here, I will link to her presentation as soon as it is made available on the L+I Show website.

  2. Blogs, Wikis, and RSS: Key Technologies for Information Provision and Gathering (presented by Karen Blakeman, RBA Information Services)

    Karen's session was also interesting but I felt as though it was targeted at an audience with less knowledge and experience of blogs, wikis and RSS than I have. However, I learned about a few different services that I hadn't come across before (so it was still time well spent) including:
    • Omea (opens in new window) - a desktop RSS reader
    • (opens in new window) - lets you embed RSS feeds in web pages
    • Karen had a list of links to library blogs and to blog search engines that I would like to have captured as well but was too busy listening! I will have a look at her presentation slides (and link to them from here) when they are made available on the L+I Show website
My objective for the day was to find someone who could talk knowledgeably about metadata and engage them in a conversation around the management of document- vs content-level metadata (opens in new window). Although I found a few exhibitors who understood what I was talking about, none of them had encountered the siutation before and generally, they had a CMS that used document-level metadata and then relied on content keyword searching.

On the whole, it was an interesting day and I met some interesting people, some of whom may prove to be useful contacts in the future (and one who has already suggested someone I ought to speak to at BT about their use of metadata). I don't think that I needed more than one day and to be henest, rather than doing a 10-5 day, I probably could have accomplished the same amount in an 11-4 day...but I'd have missed out meeting a few people (and on my glass of cava - thanks Bennett Software)!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

When I grow up...

I want to be a Librarian!

Katharine Widdows has a blog (When I Grow Up I Want to be a Librarian! - opens in new window) where she too is capturing a record of her thoughts and experiences during her Chartership process. She and I have had a bit of a conversation about blogs and how best to use them in this process over email and I can't help but feel a new entry to my blog on the topic coming on.

Anyway, she has kindly provided a link to my blog from hers and I can see that her link (using Google Analytics - a tip from Katharine) accounts for about 3% of my visitors since 'going publilc' so thanks Katharine!

Monday, April 02, 2007


This is one of those things that I am quite interested in but know relatively little about. It seems to me that given my area of work tends to focus a lot on metadata, I should have a greater knowledge about folksonomies; we are, after all, talking about metadata (generally subject metadata) assigned by members of the public. As a result, I decided to do a bit of research on the web to learn more. One of the many articles that I came across was a literature review (opens in new window) carried out by an assistant librarian at the Royal College of Music. In her review, Edith Speller outlined some of the themes and provided a long and helpful list of articles for further reading (it was a lit review afterall!). I have picked a few of those articles out and had a look and below are what I have learnt and some of my thoughts:
  • I wonder how easy it is to get people to add their own metadata…if you look at the metadata assigned to music files, the data is partial at best and this is data that can be freely and automatically downloaded.

  • With potentially an infinite number of “taggers” how can we hope to achieve consistency and accuracy? For example, do we use singular or plural nouns and what about the use of capitalisation?

  • A major plus to this concept (over the dictated thesaurus or taxonomy) is that the terms that are used to describe or classify are chosen by the end users themselves and so, in volume, are going to be the right ones.

  • The fact that there are so many different people potentially tagging items, the basic level of variation comes into effect. This concept refers to the level of detail into which an individual will go to describe the subject or format of the item (e.g. personal music player vs. iPod nano)
    • The tags can be perfectly accurate and yet totally useless if they’re not at the right level for the individual’s needs

  • Folksonomies are flexible and evolve with time to match current terms and concepts unlike fixed systems like the DDC into which librarians are continuously cramming new concepts and terms.
    • The flip side of this flexibility, or the price of it, is that unless previously tagged items are reclassified, the items become lost and inconsistency creeps in making these items difficult or even impossible to find
    • It could be argued that it something can’t be found using current terminology, it is likely that the contents of that document have been superseded…

  • There is no active management of synonyms in folksonomies leading to reduced recall
    • To mitigate this problem, some sights (e.g. make all tags used visible

  • As for synonyms, there is no active management of homonyms (Apple the company vs apple the fruit) which leads to reduced search precision
    • By searching using more than one term (Apple and music vs apple and pastry) limited context can be achieved and search precision improves

  • My final thought on folksonomies is that users will need to ‘learn’ a slightly different vocabulary for each new database, at least initially. Over time and use, the differences could be ironed out and convergence could occur for those sights that appeal to a broad base of users.
I think that there could be a great deal of value in using a "folksonomy" approach to tagging content on the corporate Intranet. Rereading the points above, the benefits are ones that would be welcomed in that environment (e.g. terms chosen by ‘the people’) and the draw-backs are somewhat mitigated by the close relationship between the users (e.g. the use of synonyms and homonyms).

We are looking at our overarching IT, IS, IM, and KM strategy at the moment and attention will eventually focus on the very poor Intranet system that we are using. At that time, I think that I will suggest it!

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cilip Event: Chartership and Beyond

Yesterday, I attended an afternoon seminar/workshop that looked at Chartership and specifically, at the portfolio element. Basically, there were two parts to the afternoon.

Part 1
The first was a presentation from a Cilip representative (his presentation slides are available on the Cilip website – He looked at portfolios from three perspectives:
  • Why do we need them?
  • What should they contain?
  • How should they be organised?
Why do we need them?

The long and the short of this section was that it was a means of presenting evidence from the individual's potentially multiple jobs against the assessment criteria. He went on to present additional situations where it could be useful to have this portfolio (e.g. appraisals at work and job interviews).

What should they contain?
I was reassured to see that what we were told our application should contain matched very closely my diagram below in my entry from 16 March. Rather than list those components again, here are the additional remarks that I felt were worth capturing:
  • The contents table is really important and must be easily navigable
  • Your CV can be up to 4 sides of A4 and is a good opportunity to present those things that have had to be culled from the portfolio
  • The PPDP is submitted both early on in the process and as part of the application as it is a living document and things may have changed; it can be backdated and it might be worth carrying out a lifeline exercise to help highlight the key events and themes
  • The evaluative statement discusses the criteria and directs the evaluator to the relevant pieces of evidence in the portfolio; it should be evaluative and NOT descriptive
We then looked at what goes into the portfolio itself:
  • Certificates
  • Staff reviews
  • Articles you've written / published
  • Project briefs / reports (include your contribution only if it‘s a particularly large document)
  • Personal reports on contribution (e.g. meetings, events, visits)
  • Training (and evaluation of it's effectiveness)
  • Evidence of work-based learning (e.g. enquiry replies, publicity done, letters/memos, guidance notes, testimonies)
  • Relevant our of work experiences
  • Webpages
  • A/V materials
  • Skills audit
How should it be organised?

This section didn't take long to cover and was really a reminder of how they would like it to be presented. The key points that I picked out were:
  • Divided into clearly marked sections
  • Comb binding is preferred
  • Write in 12pt font
  • Submission must be in triplicate but one copy can be electronic (I'm not too sure how that would work without scanning in quite a few things and even then, sorting out the pagination would be quite a challenge)
The presentation concluded with a few "words to the wise", the most useful of which I felt was to "think evidence" and be ruthless keeping it in relation to the criteria.

Part 2
The second part of the session was a more interactive session where we were asked to think about a few different questions, discuss them with our colleagues and then share them with the rest of the group (your good old "think / pair / share" format). I won't record my responses because it was just meant to be a session to get you thinking about the process and how you would proceed in the short, medium and long terms:
  • What do I need to do right now to progress my application?
  • List 3 or 4 items to be used as evidence and how they meet the assessment criteria.
  • Consider the gaps in your skills and outline the plan for addressing them.
  • What areas does your work fall into? Consider whether these could be used as a structure for your application that could be x-referred to the criteria.

So that is about it. I had a mixed response to the session. Much of what was discussed in the first part covered aspects of the process that would apply to someone just starting out and as I'm 6 months into it and have submitted my PPDP already, those bits weren't very helpful (e.g. how to register and how to get a mentor). I attended a Starting out on Chartership event about 2 or 3 years ago when I originally registered for Chartership but then had to put it to one side for a while. It is recommended (in fact, I think it used to be required) that candidates attend one of these sessions and that one 2 or 3 years ago counted so I didn't look for another one. I wish that I had gone to a session like this when I picked it back up again, though, as a reminder – it would have saved me quite a lot of stress.

On the other hand, some of the sections made me feel a better about what I was doing (e.g. the contents of the application, as I mentioned above) but more importantly, when it came to discussing what goes into the portfolio, two things really sank in as being important and relevant to me:
  1. It's a lot of work and I need to get on with some of the aspects, like library visits.
  2. I need to focus on being more reflective in my different documents and less descriptive.
So on the whole, I guess those two lessons being pretty valuable ones made it a good use of my time and I now need to show that I have learned from them.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Metadata: document- versus content-level

We have now created and agreed a working model (for lack of a better term) of a metadata schema. This schema has been integrated into our workflow software and it is this way that the metadata will be gathered. Clearly, as we use it, tweaks will need to be made and the workflow software is flexible enough for us to do so.

We are also trying to introduce XML content-level metadata and to date, we have managed to get a series of templates agreed. These templates are tightly controlled in terms of their structure so introducing XML from a structural perspective should be straight forward and we’re evaluating a couple of tools for ensuring that the XML tags are correctly applied.

Software Challenges
The biggest problem that we’re having with the software that will enable the move from templates in MS Word to XML encoded content is the fact that much of the writing is fulfilled by external suppliers and this raises licensing problems. They aren’t insurmountable but it will require a flexible software vendor, disciplined suppliers and fair bit of negotiation to agree something.

Document- and Content-level metadata: relationship
So if the XML metadata is focussed mainly on document structure (e.g. this content is the Introduction, this content is the Methodology, etc.) how does this relate to the document-level metadata which looks at subject, relational and bibliographic aspects of the document? The two are mutually exclusive to some extent but how relevant is the document-level metadata to the content? Should it be captured and accompany the content? I don’t really know the answers to this these questions and they’re the easier ones!

At the moment, I think that the best solution would be to include within the content-level metadata a reference to the document(s) of which it forms part. Someone could then move from content-level to document-level metadata if they wanted to see subject, relational, or bibliographic data. Of course, the minute you reuse some content, say a “Findings” paragraph in an “Introduction” paragraph, that structural element changes. So the structural element needs to exist within the context of a document of origin / reuse. But wait, because here is where it starts getting really tricky…

If we want to assign subject metadata at the content-level will we have to double our work? I can’t think of any other way...the subject of a particular paragraph will not be the same as that of the document as a whole.

Also, how do we manage bibliographic metadata at the content-level? For example, the first time a paragraph is written (probably as part of a larger document), the author associated with the paragraph and the document are one and the same and is probably pretty easy to establish. What do we do when the paragraph is combined with paragraphs that are also taken form other documents and ones that are new? I think that one can argue that the author of the individual paragraphs is clear but who is the author of the document?

Conclusion (resignedly)

The more I think about it, the more I think that we are just going to have to manage two levels of metadata. At the point of creation, the content- and document- level metadata are the same but as content is reused, two distinct and different levels of metadata emerge. To be honest, it would be a big step forward if we were to introduce structural metadata at the content-level and as this presents the fewest or simplest (not simple, mind you, simplest) challenges, I think we will pursue this objective and reassess where we go from there.

Friday, March 16, 2007

March mentoring meeting

Last night we had our monthly mentoring meeting. This was a bit of a regrouping and reassessing meeting having been focussed on finishing and submitting my PPDP.

Agreement review
The first thing we did was to review the mentoring agreement. As per our originally submitted agreement, we reviewed it at the six-month mark and agreed that it still reflected the way we were working and that we were both happy with the way it was going. This whole conversation took about 10 minutes but it was useful as a prompt to make sure that the relationship is working out from both perspectives.

PPDP submission acknowledgement
We then had a little chat about acknowledgement from CILIP on receipt of the PPDP. Not too long after Karen sent in the PPDP, I received a letter from CILIP acknowledging the PPDP and the mentoring agreement (which had been submitted some months earlier – I was a little surprised to see that in the same letter, but there you are!).

Library visits
With those two items on the agenda ticked off, it was on to the library visits that we had discussed. This was a slightly embarrassing topic for me as of all the actions agreed around these visits (identifying libraries, actually arranging and attending the visits) that remain outstanding are mine – [awkward/guilty feeling]. Reminded by Karen (and still feeling guilty), I committed to getting those all at least arranged by the next meeting.

Action: D – arrange library visits by 19/04/2007

Our final item was one that we both had put onto the agenda – the portfolio. I was keen to run through the different components of the portfolio and talk about formats. Karen was keen to discuss the contents and find out how I was doing with assembling materials. This one is a lightly less embarrassing topic for me as I have actually made some, albeit tentative, steps towards pulling things together. I have created a table of the different sections of the portfolio (which match the different sections of the PPDP) and started to record evidence items against each. The idea is to help me identify gaps early-on. I have created a file of course certificates and have set aside copies of relevant documents that I have created in my current role that I will include. Where I am overdue is on the review of materials from previous jobs. I have always kept copies of pieces of work that I was particularly proud so will be able to pull a few things together but there are some pretty minor things that might be a little more difficult.

There are a few items that I might have to go through archived emails from previous jobs to find (not entirely sure that I should have copies of these archives but let’s just move on!). For example, in my current role, I don’t take meeting minutes. In my previous role, I used to have my team rotate chair and minute-taker at our meetings and so had plenty of examples. Another is personnel reviews to show line management experience. At the moment, the one position that reports to me is filled by a temp so no personnel reviews. In my last role, I had five direct reports so had many personnel reviews to write. Hopefully, a deep trawl of the files that I do have from previous roles will turn up some good samples!

In terms of components to the portfolio, I wanted to be clear in my mind what they were so here is the list with which we came up:
  • Portfolio Table of Contents
  • Evaluative statement (<1000 words, check formatting requirements)
  • Detailed CV
  • Organisational charts from all previous jobs
  • Personal Professional Development Plan
  • Personal Professional Development Log
  • Weblog
  • Portfolio evidence:
    • from first job (1999 to 2003)
    • from second job (2003 to 2006)
    • from third/current job (2006 to present)
  • Evidence of participation in mentoring scheme
    • x-references to blog entries
    • copy of mentoring agreement
    • copy of scheme evaluation
I will also need to submit alongside my portfolio:
  • An application form (must request this from CILIP in late August)
  • Mentoring scheme evaluation form
I think that what I will do is base the submission on the sections identified in the PPDP and for each of these, provide the PPDP parts, the PPDL parts and the evidence. At the beginning of this ‘book’, I will have a ToC, followed by the evaluative statement, the CV and the org charts and at the end, I will have the evidence of participation in a mentoring scheme section.

So that’s it. For the sake of a challenge, I’m going to try to create a diagram to represent the contents and see if I can upload it to the blog…hopefully there is a diagram below!

Hmm - having some trouble with that...I think that worked...did that work? It would seem so!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Copyright statements

Currently, all of the publications that our Research and Development team publish carry a copyright statement that allows readers to reproduce the publication free of charge as long as it’s for research, private study or internal circulation within an organisation. It goes on to stipulate that the subject needs to be reproduced and referenced accurately and that it must acknowledge the company before finishing by directing enquiries for any other uses to the Head of R&D.

I’d quite like this copyright notice to be on the web as well and it is proving quite a struggle to get it hosted there. Within the metadata structure that we are implementing, there is a copyright element and I would like this to have to contain nothing more than a URL but there is resistance and I can’t get anyone to articulate why – I think that it just hasn’t been done before and the reason for doing so isn’t sufficiently obvious. One option for getting around this point is to go down the route of a Creative Commons (CC) licence . Doing so would enable us to mark our publications, record our CC licence in the metadata and be able to point to it on the Web. The question is, though, what is the difference between using a CC licence to protect our IP and the copyright statement that we currently use? Surely what I have described above would be defined as ‘some rights reserved’ rather than ‘all rights reserved’…? In fact, a quick bit of surfing leads me to believe that what we are after is a ‘Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License’.

I think that a little more investigation is probably required and probably a quick call to our solicitors to verify things before we commit to making this change but to be honest, the threat of pushing for a CC licence might be so much change that ‘they’ concede on the hosting of the existing notice and that would at least get me where I want to be.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Receipt of PPDP and Mentoring Agreement

A little more than six months after the date I registered my mentoring relationship with CILIP, I have received confirmation of receipt of the mentoring relationship form and my PPDP - I guess the PPDP submission stimulated that letter. The good news is that I won't need to chase it up with CILIP.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Modular Railway Induction

When I had my interview for this role, I made it clear that I had no knowledge of the railway industry beyond that acquired as a consumer. This, I was assured, was not going to be a problem. Aside from speaking to relevant people, I requested, and was registered onto, an industry familiarisation course at the end of November (2006). This turned out to be a two-day course aimed at giving participants an introduction to the different aspects of the rail industry and how they work (and the terms used to describe them). The course consisted of the following sections:
  1. The Structure and Operations of the British Rail industry
  2. Railway Documentation
  3. Permanent Way
  4. Structures & Clearances
  5. Signalling & Telecommunications
  6. Overhead Line Equipment & Third Rail Electrification
  7. On-Track Plant
  8. Planning Engineering Work and Line Blockages
  9. Railway Safety Legislation
In addition, we were given a glossary of railway terminology. I was sorry that it didn’t include a section on Rolling Stock (along with its associated topics such as Vehicle/Track Interaction, etc.) as this would have rounded out the course to provide a complete introduction. Having said that, I think it would have to have been a three-day course if it were to include Rolling Stock because, as it was, we ended up running short of time and having to skip the On-Track Plant section.

The course consisted of a great deal of lecturing at the beginning and to be honest, I don’t really know what other way there is for covering those first two topics. I found the next four sections really interesting (sections 3 to 6), but then I have always been interested in how things work. Our instructor had set up at the front of the room a pretty large and comprehensive working model and we used this to illustrate the rest of the sections.

On the whole, it was a really good course and it was certainly very useful. I understand a lot more about the company’s role in the industry and how it relates to the rest of the industry organisations. I also understand the content of our research a great deal more and know what most of the terms and acronyms that are used mean (and for those that I don’t know, the glossary is proving pretty useful.)

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Rail Industry Metadata Standard (RIMS)

Having done some research, it looks like there isn’t yet a metadata standard that is either designed for use or in common use by the rail industry. Although it wasn’t a surprise, it was a bit of a set back as it meant having to assemble a proposed metadata schema for the description of materials within the rail industry, engage in consultation starting with the R&D senior managers, and testing to validate it.

Building the metadata standard: the birth of RIMS
I have chosen to draw from the Dublin Core Metadata Standard (DCMS), and the Dublin Core Terms (DCTerms) to flesh it out a little. I have also drawn from the e-Government Metadata Standard (eGMS) to ensure that any public sector aspects are also covered. Now, the eGMS is based on the DMS and so far, what I have described would pretty much describe the eGMS. The rail industry, and our R&D work in particular, requires a little more granularity than the eGMS currently provides, something the Cabinet Office acknowledges by encouraging enhancement and refinement to suit different contexts. So I have also added some additional elements that are specific to the rail industry (e.g. asset type) and to our organisation (research topic). The complete picture is what we will consider to be the Rail Industry Metadata Standard (RIMS).

Identifying, assembling and building controlled vocabularies
Once I had a proposed set of elements, I set about sorting out the required controlled vocabularies. In my, albeit relatively limited, experience, this is the most difficult part. For many of the fields drawn from established standards, it was pretty straight forward (e.g. date formats us the W3C-recomended date-time format). For some of the elements that I had to create (e.g. research topic), it was also pretty straight forward because such lists were specific to the company and, in many cases, already in current use. Others from both established standards and the new set, however, were much more difficult. One such example is the asset type element – how granular do you go? For most of us, the term ‘locomotive’ is sufficiently descriptive but for our engineers it’s just too broad. My approach to these controlled vocabularies has been to put together a starting point and seek input and comments. So far, I have only engaged the R&D team and the lists have been heavily refined and accepted by them.

My other challenge has been sorting out a subject matter controlled vocabulary and it is proving to be a somewhat daunting task. The Integrated Public Service Vocabulary (IPSV), recommended as the controlled vocabulary for DCMS Subject, treats everything to do with the rail industry as ‘Rail Transport’. Clearly, this isn’t going to be sufficient for our requirements. I started to have a go at this task in the same way as I approached sorting out some of the other controlled vocabularies but it has proven to be too big. At the moment, it’s on hold while I move the rest of the project forward with a space reserved for subject tags and start to look for other initiatives both here and around Europe that are working towards creating a controlled vocabulary of some sort for the rail industry.

Handling the metadata
There are basically two different ways of managing document metadata: you can hold the metadata in a table which includes the location of the document described and then use this table to search and retrieve documents or you can embed the metadata into the documents themselves and search that (In reality, the search software or engine will most likely create its own table of metadata as in the case of the first method but this is a temporary table that is understood to need regular updating so is not the source of the metadata). Each method has its strengths and weaknesses (e.g. the table is quicker and simpler to deliver while the embedded data means that when someone downloads the document to a local space, the metadata travels with it and isn’t lost).

At the moment, we are also in the process of introducing a business process management system (we are calling it the Research Management System or RMS). The RMS will allow us to store documents as well as manage their production and approval. As a result, it makes sense that we piggy back the metadata assignment on the RMS work meaning that we will be going down the table route. This isn’t my preferred option but it is the one that will mean that we get metadata gathered and stored sooner. Once that process in embedded, we can look at technologies that will enable us to embed that gathered metadata into the files so that users downloading them from our website take the metadata with them.

One challenge that remains, and for which we have a few options but haven’t decided on any one yet, is what we do with the legacy collection. It has been decided that past projects and their associated documents will not be uploaded into the RMS. So the RMS presents us with the solution for future publications but it doesn’t deal with the existing collection. It is most likely that we will upload the previous publications to a separated segment of the RMS which will store the metadata in the same way but there are a couple of alternatives solutions…more on this as it develops.

Where from here?
The next thing to do with this standard is to confirm that it works in practice which will be part of the embedding process for the RMS. We will then look to consult the rest of the organisation on the suitability of the metadata schema and its associated controlled vocabularies for wider use in the company. I guess you could think of our work as a bit of a pilot for the rest of the company.

I’d like to publish our schema and controlled vocabularies under creative commons and invite other organisations to comment on it or use it in their organisations.

Monday, February 26, 2007

PPDP on its way to CILIP

Karen has confirmed today that she has signed and sent over my PPDP to CILIP - yay!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Personal Professional Development Plan Submitted

This morning, I finalised my PPDP, bound it, signed it, and sent it over to Karen for her to sign before she sends it in to CILIP.

It feels quite good to have that first 'assignment' completed and submitted. Neither Karen nor I are sure whether there is any feedback or acknowledgement of it so in a couple of weeks, if I haven't heard anything, I might give them a ring to check that they have receiwed it and that they are happy with it.

Friday, February 16, 2007

February mentoring meeting

Although it hasn’t been long since our January meeting, Karen and I met up last night in order to go through the personal professional development plan (PPDP) draft that I had sent over to her earlier in the week. This thing needs to be submitted in the first six months of the process and my six months are up in a few weeks so it was important that we get together to go over it. Aside from a few changes to the content and layout (and shamefully, a couple of typos), it looks about ready to go.

I have used the CDL PPDP for CILIP Chartership Candidates document as an outline for the different categories in my PPDP. At first, I found creating the PPDP quite daunting. With nothing more than a pretty generic template to guide me, I was struggling to get my head around how to structure it and what to include in it. The CDL document, though, provided me with a structure and some description around the sort of thing that should be included under each heading and sub-heading. This really helped to focus my effort and to generate the content. I haven’t followed the CLD document completely; I have left a couple of sub points out, mainly because they just didn’t apply to me.

One of the most (worrying?) glaring blank spaces in the document is under the ethics heading. I just couldn't think of anything that I could put under that heading that fit with my role. We had a lengthy discussion about ethics in librarianship in general and then talked a bit about how that might apply to my current role. In the end, it looked like with the exception of anything particularly out of the ordinary occurring, I would need to fill that space with actions to the effect of discussing it, reading about it, and abiding by CILIP's code of conduct. That code states that CILIP will pursue disciplinary measures against professionals acting in breach of it. I'm not too clear quite how that would work and one of the actions for me coming out of our conversation was:

Action: D - to post a question about ethics and CILIP's disciplinary actions

So the plan is for me to make the changes that we talked about, agree the final version, print it out and sign it before sending it over to her to sign and submit to CILIP. I’ll feel a lot better once this first ‘assignment’ is completed!