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Picture of flowerOK, so it’s the time of year to reflect back on the last year and look forward to the new year.

I’ve definitely blogged less (24 posts in 2013 compared with 37 in 2012 and 50 in 2011), [mind you the ‘death of blogging’ has been announced, and here and there seem to be fewer library bloggers than in the past – so maybe blogging less is just reflecting a general trend].  Comments about blogging are suggesting that tumblr, twitter or snapchat are maybe taking people’s attention (both bloggers and readers) away from blogs.  But I’m not ‘publishing’ through other channels particularly, other than occasional tweets, so that isn’t the reason for me to blog less.  There has been a lot going on but that’s probably not greatly different from previous years.  I think I’ve probably been to less conferences and seminars, particularly internal seminars, so that has been one area where I’ve not had as much to blog about.

To blog about something or not to blog about it
I’ve been more conscious of not blogging about some things that in previous years I probably would have blogged about.  I don’t think I blogged about the Future of Technology in Education conference this year, although I have done in the past.  Not particularly because it wasn’t interesting because it was, but perhaps a sense of I’ve blogged about it before and might just be repeating myself.   With the exception of posts about website search and activity data I’ve not blogged so much about some of the work that I’ve been doing.  So I’ve blogged very little about the digital library work although it (and the STELLAR project) were a big part of some of the interesting stuff that has been going on.

Thinking about the year ahead
I’ve never been someone that sets out predictions or new year resolutions.  I’ve never been convinced that you can actually predict (and plan) too far ahead in detail without too many variables fundamentally changing those plans.  There’s a quote attributed to various people along the lines that ‘no plan survives contact with the enemy’ and I’d agree with that sentiment.  However much we plan we are always working with an imperfect view of the world.  Circumstances change and priorities vary and you have to adapt to that.   Thinking back to FOTE 2013 it was certainly interesting to hear BT’s futureologist Nicola Millard describe her main interest as being the near future and of being more a ‘soon-ologist’ than a futureologist.

What interests (intrigues perhaps) me more is less around planning but more around ‘shaping’ a future, so more change management than project management I suppose.  But I think it is more than that, how do those people who carve out a new ‘reality’ go about making that change happen.  Maybe it is about realising a ‘vision’ but assembling a ‘vision’ is very much the easy part of the process.  Getting buy-in to a vision does seem to be something that we struggle with in a library setting.

On with 2014
Change management is high on the list for this year.  We’ve done a certain amount of the ‘visioning’ to get buy-in to funding a change project.  So this year we’ve work to do to procure a complete suite of new library systems (the first time I think here for 12 years or so), in a project called ‘Library Futures’ that also includes some research into student needs from library search and the construction of a ‘digital skills passport’.  I’ve also got continuing work on digital libraries/archives as we move that work from development to live, alongside work with activity data, our library website and particularly work with integrating library stuff much more into a better student experience.  So hopefully some interesting things to blog about.  And hopefully a few new pictures to brighten up the blog (starting with a nice flower picture from Craster in the summer).

I haven’t blogged for a few weeks so it was a bit of a surprise to find that has had a bit of a makeover when I logged back in to it today.  Wordpress screenshotIt’s got a bit of a fresher feel with new colours and fonts, although stuff seems, so far, to mainly be in the same places it was before.

As far as I can tell most of the options and features seem to be the same, but they just look a bit different.  I’m sure I’ll find a few subtle changes, but probably within a few days I’ll have forgotten what things used to be like before.

It reminds me of a comment made by one of the presenters at FOTE last year, that ‘when was the last time that amazon sent someone round to your house and said: ‘sorry, we’ve changed the interface a bit, would you like some training?”.    I don’t recall seeing a message, other than one from WordPress pointing out I’d been blogging for four years (although a bit erratically – in time terms or in terms of content and style maybe?).  But it doesn’t really matter to me that I haven’t read a set of release notes, gone through a training session, or spent time trying stuff out.  Try it out as you go, learn as you go along, dive right in.  As someone who as worked with IT systems for years that’s a bit of an IT trait, but it looks like something that is now a mainstream expectation.  Don’t expect me to learn your interface first, expect me to try it and learn as I go along.  If I don’t like it, I might tell you, might live with it, or might switch to an alternative.

Wordpress encouragement message Just recently has started to flag up the number of blog posts that you’ve published with the sort of message you see on the left.   As well as telling you how many blog posts you’ve published you also get a target generated by wordpress.  When I first saw it I thought OK, so there’s a goal I wonder what’s at the end of the goal.  Well, actually, nothing, other than a seamingly random quotation, Oh, and another target.   So I’m really not quite sure of the point of it.  Done 101 blog posts, well, why not aim for 105.  Well, I will write more if I’ve something I want to say, but I’m not sure about an artificial target that has no objective other than achieving the target. 

Now I realise that is free at the point of use to the blogger, so maybe you shouldn’t expect anything extra for nothing, but blog more just to reach some arbitrary target doesn’t seem like much of an incentive. But maybe the prize is the little quotation and I’ve missed the point entirely?

It’s strange how easy it is to get out of the habit of blogging.  I’ve just realised that I haven’t blogged anything since June and for some reason it’s surprised me how easy it is to stop writing blog posts.  Now I could make the excuse that ‘well, it was the summer, and I’ve had some leave, and there were other things to do… projects to finish, new ones to start, and catching up with email backlogs etc etc’  But it wasn’t a conscious decision that I wouldn’t write anything.  Thinking about why I decided to have a blog … it was to track a personal journey into academic libraries – and that hasn’t changed – I’m still findng out about the domain, there’ s still new and different and interesting things happening. 

So if I think back to the things I’ve been blogging about over the last year and a half.  Have there been fewer things going on to blog about?  Well – maybe a few less things – some of the staff development sessions have hibernated over the summer – no coffee mornings, podium sessions or Staff Development Hour events to blog about – so that takes out a chunk of potential topics – and thinking about it a fair few blog posts were about those sorts of topics either directly or triggered off by them.

But, that’s not the whole story.  I was at the JISC User Activity Data workshop back in July and haven’t blogged about that.  And I was reminded of it by the article in todays CILIP Gazette on the fantastic work being done at Huddersfield relating student achievement with library use  I’ve been involved in a JISC-funded linked data project at the OU called Lucero and went to one of the Talis Platform days (highly recommended by the way) and I haven’t blogged about that. Neither have I blogged about the new aggregated search system that we are implementing or the Telstar developments that we’re rolling-out.

So, there’s been enough to blog about.  And I’ve drafted a blog post – but not committed it to screen.  Well, was it boredom with blogging ?- no I don’t think so – I’ve found it a useful way of being more reflective, and I’ve had a bit of feedback.  Am I doing something else with the time instead of blogging?  Well, yes I suppose so, but not anything conscious.  So is it a mental discipline thing?  Maybe…?   I’ve never kept a diary so don’t have a habit of regularly committing thoughts to paper or screen.  So maybe it’s an add-on activity – something to do when I’ve the time or particular motivation to write something. 

But I want to carry on blogging stuff – and I suppose academic libraries go a little bit quiet over the summer and now we are in a new financial year with a new set of plans, new projects and staff development session timetables are out, and I’ve still got my notes from the events over the summer and have had some time to think things through and put them into some form of perspective.  So, there’s really no excuse is there?

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April 2020

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