Tuesday, 28 June 2016

#ARLG16: Teaching electronic resources to students with computer anxiety

I'm just back from a short trip to Birmingham where I had the chance to do a workshop at the ARLG conference on my theme of predilection: teaching electronic resources to students with computer anxiety.

If you want to have a look at my presentation, here it is:

For a more detailed version, you can have a look at my -quite similar- presentation from LILAC. The main difference here was that we actually tried out some of the activities I proposed.

The participants kindly went along with my activities and completed some worksheets about the main problems they face with computer anxious students. If you want to have a look at what they came up with, have a look over here.

Finally, I put together a very complete handout including most of what I said out loud as well as many of the materials I actually use with my students (so you can use them too!).
You can download it over here.

Hoping you'll find all of those documents useful!

Monday, 23 May 2016

How to start sketchnoting

This article is a translation from Magalie Le Gall's article, published in French over here. Magalie is a French librarian in Paris, fan of Lego and visual mapping. (And she's awesome.)
Reading her article some time ago made me fall instantly for skechnoting... as you may have noticed from my recent notes from LILAC.
So I wanted to share her article with you, hoping that it will inspire you to try it out too!

On 25-26th January, I went to the workshop I had gifted myself for Christmas: the #visualmapping workshop by Philippe Boukobza (from the excellent blog Heuristiquement - in French) near Paris.

Besides madly hearting this workshop and intending to continue until I get certified, I have resolved sketchnoting my meetings, trainings, or study day reports. Anything coming my way, actually.


Because (I know you think so too) a report is usually effing boring. So there are good chances you won't ever [re-]read it again. And if you forward your pretty 15 pages long, 11 font-size Word document to your colleagues... ? In short, a lot of work for very little results.

Sketch... what?

Philippe Boukobza defines it this way: "Sketchnoting means translating concepts, process, ideas, conversations in visual thoughts, individually and as a note-taking technique." By putting forward keywords, expressions, relationships and pictograms, you have to not only really understand the content you're transcribing, but also simplify it as much as you can. Down with parasitic sentences that weigh your reports down!

Let's tackle the "drawing" issue

After talking about it with lots of people, I know we're touching a sensitive point. Seeing my sketchnotes, many colleagues or friends exclaimed "oh you're gifted, that's obvious, there's nothing crossed out, and you're a creative person. I wouldn't be able to do this, my writing's a mess and I don't know how to draw". I can tell you that this makes me mad. Like, for real.

I'm just a clumsy oaf as far as art drawing goes. It's true that I like for it to be neat, but I really don't care if it's "pretty" or not, I'm just having fun. And since we're on the topic, let me underline that a sketchnote is not destined to be pretty: it is destined to be understood, [re-]read and memorised.

Let's get back to drawing: we're all able to draw! I bet that when you were little you didn't even ask yourself the question. Paper, pens and hop! You were gone. You even did it for hours. Unfortunately school, negative judgements from others, the framework imposed by work, all these things had their effect. And that's just as true for sports, music, languages, maths, writing... You're amongst the gifted ones or you're not. And if you're not, then you're absolutely not touching it ever again. So it's not so much our ability to do this or that that is the problem, but the trust you have in your ability to do it. You're self-limiting yourselves, here, I said it.

Now, take a sheet of paper, a pen, and have a look at the following video:

See! You can draw too!

But it must take ages!

No more than typing up a report, re-reading it to complete it and tweak the layout. Of course, you need to take new habits and admit that you won't write everything down, instead only keeping key concepts from what's going to be said. That's also why your typography and pictograms need to be simple to do.

Let's try it out (yay!)

  • Just as Graham Shaw says in his video, you need to be open minded: let go from expectations, don't think about the results. Remember what Zohra Kaafar wrote in one of her presentations: "creativity is contagious, make it go round."
  • Do know that, the first time, your colleagues are probably going to watch you with a weird look on their face (but they'll soon be very interested!).
  • To start easy, you can sketchnote very short meetings or just your train of thoughts for a project or a training session you're going to give... [tip from Aurélie: you can also go online and sketchnote a TED talk, a MOOC lesson, or even a podcast - and remember: there's nothing at stakes and nobody needs to see it... just have fun!]

Sketchnoting, how does it work?

  • In order to represent visually an idea or an abstract concept, think of shapes (square, circle, rectangle...) or of the image it makes you think of. Here are a few examples:

  • Use arrows, banners, different typographic styles in order to push the main ideas forward. Visually, it changes everything. And it's really easy to do!
(source) [tip from Aurélie: I've printed this reminder and glued it at the end of my notebook... so useful when you're trying to think of a different bullet point idea in the middle of a sketchnote!]

  • Make sure you have a good balance between pictograms and keywords: your sketchnote needs to still be understandable several weeks / months later.
  • In one of his articles (French link), Philippe Boukobza reminds us of the main principles for a good sketchnote: use space to let the note breathe, accentuate keywords by playing with typography, insert very simple illustrations to strengthen the message and, finally, stay simple as far as colours go.
  • And, let me repeat this to make sure you got the message: don't try and make something "beautiful" and compete with Leonardo da Vinci. For example, I like to say that I'm "scribbling" my meeting report. That helps getting rid of inhibitions.

Advice regarding stationery...

(NB: I'm going to let you know what I'm using but any kind of paper / pens would do the trick. Personally, I think that the quality of the tool and the pleasure you get from using it are important, but it's really up to you.)
  • Being a Moleskin addict, I recommend their sketch album, their new collection of Volant journal, or their digital covers compatible with tablet covers. Whichever brand you choose, make sure to get a notebook with blank pages (or with a dot grid that will help you calibrate your outline).
  • Work on only one side of the page (in portrait or landscape - doesn't matter).
  • In order to play more easily with the width of lines, you can use black pens having tips from 0.05 (very fine, perfect for the face of your little people) to 0.8 (very wide, perfect for separations, banners, or arrows). Personally, I like Staedtlers pens very much, or Micron pens.
  • For finishing touches, you can shade your drawings. Ideally, use a brush pen in a lighter colour (I'm using Pitt Faber-Castel pens in blue or grey shades. You also have the ArtMaker from Neulands which are just crazy good. 

You want to sketchnote form your tablet / smartphone?

Download the free (in its lite version) app Sketchbook Pro. Having tested it, I do recommend to use a smartpen if you want to sketchnote a full report, that's much more practical than with your finger.

And lastly I'm recommending THE book on sketchnoting: The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde. He's a specialist on the topic and also the author of a workbook (with more advanced techniques) as well as a series of videos.

(yeah, the lego book has nothing to do with it, it's just that it came in at the same time as the other two...)

I hope I've got you to want to try it out!
If you do, let us know and post your own creations online!

Friday, 1 April 2016

Sketchnoting my way through #lilac16

I enjoyed Lilac way more than I should admit; it was such a blast!
I got lucky to have my own session out of the way quite quickly so I was set free from worry early on.
Lots of lovely people came up to talk with me - which is really perfect when your introverted self has a hard time going towards people you don't know. I'm very grateful to everybody who came by and said hi!
But aside from the social side, I also enjoyed all of the talks I went to wholeheartedly.


So, let's reflect a little on the actual content of the conference.
(That's a lot of text down there, but if you scroll down a bit you'll find pictures!)
  • I loved learning about teaching students how to create better research topics. That's not something I've taught before, but now I really want to pitch it to the tutors I'm working with!
    • Anne-Marie Deitering explained that if students seem to be lacking curiosity in their choice of topics, it's because they tend to go for the "safe" option. It's hard to be adventurous when what you do is going to determine your grades!
    • Mason Brown came up with a great program to teach pre-freshmen how to ask good questions, and it's all based on panels from comics. It's such a great idea and he seems to have had a lot of success! I would love to try it out on my students...
  • Innovative systems for iSkills programs:
    • Librarians from the University of Liverpool came up with an innovative way to organise all the different workshops that were being proposed throughout the university: by managing it as if it was a start-up.
    • The IDEA model demonstrates how to merge instructional design with information literacy to create bespoke iSkills training for a specific course.
      1. Librarians tend to create games that teach mechanics or test knowledge. But it's actually better to just use game mechanics to frame your normal content. It was great to see how Catherine Fahey and Marcela Y. Isuster have successfully been doing it for a pre-freshman course.
      2. Using the actual standards of the profession your students are going to integrate is a great way to drive home the point that information literacy is for life, not just for university. And that they will be expected to use the skills you're teaching them during their professional lives.
    • Avoiding to do the same thing over and over... 
    • Training other professionals

    My Notes

    A foreword before the actual notes:

    I've always loved taking non-linear notes... But the week before Lilac, I learned about a technique called Sketchnoting, and decided to try and use it throughout the conference. 

    I'll tell you more about how it works next week... But for now, I just wanted to warn you that my notes look a little different that what you're probably used to. And they're not typed up. But I hope you enjoy them anyway!

    21/03/2016 – Publication without tears: tips for aspiring authors, by Emma Coonan, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Information Literacy. Link to abstract.

    21/03/2016 – Peer Support for the Development of Information and Digital Literacy Skills at the Institute of Technology Tallaght, by Philip Russell and Dr Gerard Ryder. Link to abstract.

    21/03/2016 – Copyright Literacy in the UK: tackling anxiety through learning and games, by Jane Secker and Chris Morrison. Link to abstract.

    22/03/2016 – Playing for Keeps: Game Design and Implementation for Long-Term Learning, by Catherine Fahey and Marcela Y. Isuster. Link to abstract.

    22/03/2016 – Keynote by James Clay

    22/03/2016 – Great IDEA: An Instructional Design model for Integrating Information literacy, by Kimberly Mullins. Link to abstract.

    22/03/2016 – Masters of the UniVerse! By Holly Singleton and Phil Jones. Link to abstract.

    22/03/2016 – Does the research paper kill curiosity? Collaborating with faculty to support learning and exploration, by Anne-Marie Deitering. Link to abstract.

    22/03/2016 – All you need to startup is KnowHow: creating a scalable information literacy programme at the University of Liverpool, by Nicola Kerr and Zelda Chatten. Link to Abstract.

    23/03/2016 – Is it a bird? Is it a plane? What can students learn asking questions about comics? By Mason Brown. Link to abstract.

    23/03/2016 – Using professional standards to inform information literacy work, by David Bedford. Link to abstract.

    Thursday, 24 March 2016

    #lilac16: Teaching electronic resources to students with computer anxiety

    Lilac went by so fast... and it's already over!

    On Monday, I presented a short paper to an impressively packed classroom...

    Picture by Heather Dalal.

    As promised, here is my presentation, with added notes so that you get what I was talking about...

    Note that lots of the active learning activities I mention come directly (or after modification) from this book (aka: the Bible).

    I will try and post "how-tos" for some of the activities I adapted on this blog later on.

    In the next few days, I will also post my notes from talks I attended... Stay tuned!

    Friday, 18 March 2016

    #Lilac16: preparing for it!

    Let's revive this blog from its slumber...

    Just a short word to say that I'm very much looking forward to going to #lilac16 next week.

    I've been preparing the best I can: being an introvert at a conference is not always easy!

    So far I have:
    • Booked a hotel room near the conference venue so that I can retreat for quiet times if need be. 
    • Printed all of my itineraries, plane tickets, coach tickets, hotel bookings... And also saved everything on Google Drive...
    • Studied the program and booked the talks I want to go to.
    • Tweeted to all the presenters of those talks to say hi. 
    • Looked up some "escape routes": if I go to the networking event / conference dinner, I need the reassurance of being able to leave without having to wait for the official coach back. Big events like that are always very stressful for my little introvert heart!
    • I also printed some little handouts with most of the content of my talk + references, just in case anybody wants one (come and ask me!).
    • And finally, I followed this useful webinar on getting the most out of the conference (and practiced my sketchnoting at the same time...)

    Are you going too?
    How have you prepared so far?
    Let's meet!

    Wednesday, 3 December 2014

    Inter-library loans - a French fairy tale

    Here is the post I had submitted for the CILIP Blogger Challenge. If you haven't yet, you should go and have a look at the highly commended entries, they're really great!

    [EDIT:] If you want to go further, here is a page in English about Sudoc by Émilie Liard (who I mention further down this post). And here is the page (in French) where she links to all her posts on the subject (she published a couple new posts since I wrote this article).

    I’d like to tell you a story. It involves a charming prince, a troublesome monster and an army of determined villagers. It's also about inter-library loans.

    Our story begins in France. As a French librarian, I'm well placed to tell you that libraries there are rarely praised for anything. We look over in awe at the UK’s 24/7 opening hours in university libraries, your idea stores and how you’re ready to fight to keep libraries open despite budget cuts. But I also think there might be a thing or two you could learn from how things are done on the other side of the Channel.

    When I started my first library job in London, I was shocked to discover that librarians here weren't participating in a shared catalogue with other HE libraries – something I’d taken for granted while working in France. So how, I asked, do you fulfil inter-library loans? Well, "inter-library loan" often seems to be a synonym for "asking the British Library if they have it". I learned about SCONUL and its access scheme, and about getting records for documents from other sources. But, to me, it still felt like something was missing.

    Nostalgia overwhelmed me, and I began thinking of le Sudoc...


    Once upon a time, in 1994, on the sunny shores of the Mediterranean Sea, in the lovely town of Montpellier, was born l'ABES.

    This elegant acronym stands for Agence Bibliographique de l'Enseignement Supérieur, France’s bibliographical agency for higher education. Its first aim was to create Sudoc, Système Universitaire de Documentation (universities system for documentation), which it did in 2001, after a seven years of incubation.

    Le Sudoc grew up fast. It's become a giant of a catalogue, to which over 1400 higher education and research libraries contribute. Today, it hosts over ten million records of documents, with their exact location (down to the shelfmark) all over France. Its OPAC is easily searchable, and there’s a mobile version proposed too. Through its network of libraries, users from everywhere can access a fully integrated system for inter-library loans, which is called PEB (for Prêt Entre Bibliothèques) in French.

    Also, having this huge shared catalogue allows HE librarians to spend a lot less time cataloguing: on a good day, this means checking that your document already exists in the database, that the record contains no mistakes and then just adding a mention at the bottom basically meaning "we have it too!".

    It's an amazing tool and treasured by students, researchers and librarians alike.


    But le Sudoc has a dark side. Behind the princely, charming exterior, lurks a fanged beast from a bygone age, ready to thwart many a noble quest.

    Its main problem is its back end, which is not quite as handsome as its friendly user interface.

    The database is accessed through a software right out of the 90s, called WinIBW (or, once you're acquainted with it and it’s just died in the middle of a two-page long record losing the information forever, you're more likely to call it "Putain de Bordel de Winnie de Merde!" – a phrase that’s a little too indelicate to translate here).

    You can have a look at its interface here to get an idea: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWIS-1855kc

    WinIBW is ancient. It's unintuitive and crawling with bugs too.

    One of my favourites is "le bug de la ligne 16", which occurs because, in an earlier version, lists used to appear in pages of 16 items. So now, once in a while, when you click on an item past line 16, it will display the record corresponding to the one on line 16. Charmingly eccentric, perhaps. But it quickly becomes tiresome.

    The records are displayed in UNIMARC, a 1977 version of MARC mostly used in France. The data capture area is basically a blank screen where you can write your record entirely by hand. Not super-helpful when you're new to cataloguing. It's been made slightly better by the creation of helpful macros that will automatically add the fields most often used for the type of document you're creating. But if the field you need doesn't appear, you're on your own.

    If, as I explained above, le Sudoc has made it quick and easy to catalogue new, commonly used documents, it loses all its advantages when you have to retro-catalogue older items. Yes, some of your 19th century books might have been catalogued already by someone else, but for most of them, you're going to have to create your record from scratch, taking your chances with the temperamental WinIBW interface.

    Also, as is bound to happen when you've got thousands of people working on one common tool, there are lots of duplicates. Once in a while, campaigns are led to remove them, but a week doesn't pass when you have to send messages to other libraries asking them to check if they're sure that their new record isn't really a duplicate of an existing one. And you can expect to receive your fair share of the same kind of requests, of course.

    Finally, not everything's rosy on the users' end either. To get a loan, you must be affiliated to a library. The book you ask for will arrive to the library, not on your doorstep. And it can take quite some time to arrive, since there's usually only one ILL officer per library, to take care of all the requests and scan them or send them by post. And it can be a laborious task. ILL officers have to keep up with the loans by hand, and since it's a library-to-library service with no direct contact with the end user, sending reminders for late documents can be a challenge. Perhaps inevitably, there’s unrest…


    For years, the library villagers lived with le Sudoc’s half-prince, half-beast nature. They nurtured it the best they could. But back in their homes, in the dead of night, they would talk. Had the time come to slay the beast within? Or could it be tamed?

    Has the story so far convinced you of how impractical and complicated this all is? Have you pictured thousands of French librarians pulling their hair out in despair after falling victim to another of Winnie’s bugs? Do you wonder why they haven’t tried to escape??

    Well, the answer is, I think, there’s an element of Stockholm Syndrome. We wail and whine and despair, but we go back to the task. We find the ancient interface "charming" and "vintage" – in many ways, we truly are captivated. We often just laugh sadly when the next bug strikes. The adversities of the system have actually brought us together in a community of traumatised cataloguers.

    In French university libraries, when you arrive on your first cataloguing job, you're sent on a three-and-a-half-day course to be introduced to the great Winnie. You come back, now an official member of the WinIBW's cult, with a folder full of documentation and a new mantra: "F1 for help". From now on, you're going to hit the F1 key approximately every five minutes to get to the online help and check all the crucial information on the various UNIMARC fields and subfields that’s missing from the software.

    If F1 is not enough, you can then ask on the (also ancient, but still very active) "Sucat" mailing-list. But even better than this, is the Twitter community of French librarians. Over the years, I’ve submitted dozens of weird cataloguing questions and got an immediate answer almost every time. We also got into the habit of live tweeting some of our cataloguing sessions. This is a great way to share professional practices and stimulate discussion on some particular cataloguing points.

    Tweeting librarians are also very often blogging librarians, and they like to share their tips and tools. For example, Pierre Marige created an online tool to check some key points of new records and shared it on his blog. There’s also Emilie Liard, who, earlier this year, stirred up ideas for how to improve WinIBW in one of her blog posts. She then submitted the suggestions to the ABES group she works with, which is now thinking about what to do next.

    So will there be a happily ever after? WinIBW won't be around forever, but le Sudoc hopefully will, and it will get bigger and better. The French library folk are stuck with their charming beast for now, and will treat it with as much patience and good humour as can be mustered.

    Of course, the scythes and pitchforks are kept nearby just in case, but the day to use them hasn't arrived yet. And they know that if they keep talking, keep working, they’ll be stronger for sticking together. The le Sudoc story is far from over and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter will bring...

    This blogpost has been kindly edited by the fantastic Anthony Farthing.

    Creative Commons License
    The above picture is by Pier-Luc Bergeron. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.

    Wednesday, 26 November 2014

    Rebus: Tutorial - Creating online tutorials for you own resources

    Earlier this month, I went to a Lib Tech Meet at Cilip's. An array of different people did three or seven minutes presentations on topics relating to the use of technology in libraries.

    So here is the three minutes presentation I did (slightly re-arranged for Web use - the initial one had much less words on it!).

    If you want to have a look at Guides on the side, here they are.
    And here is where you can get more info on Rebus: Tutorial.