Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A Question of Vocabulary

When I tried to translate my Curriculum Vitae for the first time I got stumped. I think I'm not that bad at writing in English, but I then took the measure of a whole panel of professional vocabulary that I deeply missed. Though I read in English a lot, I had never had the occasion to really encounter specific librarianship vocabulary. I was at loss. So I scoured the Internet for help and here are the resources I found.

* The most interesting resource I found is this Multilingual Glossary for Art Librarians in the archives of IFLA. Even though it contains a lot of art-related vocabulary, it also gives good definitions and translates many useful librarianship words from English to French but also Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish and Swedish! It's really an invaluable resources and I can't recommend it enough.

* This one is a glossary in French with translated terms in English proposed by Geneva's university. It focuses more on reference research and it's less complete than IFLA' glossary, but it's more easily readable to French-speaking professionals and the definitions are clear.

* This librarianship lexicon is proposed by the French Bibliothèque Publique d'Information and proposes the translation of 1 500 words from French to English, Spanish, Catalan and Czech. The file is a bit heavy, resulting in some lagging, and I would emit some doubts on the translation of a few words. But it's easily searchable and it still is a useful resource.

* Finally, when in doubt for more general expressions, I've been using Linguee. Its search engine compares millions of bilingual texts like EU official documents or patents. I like that it enables us to see the translated words in context in both languages.

Finally, what is really helping me putting all this new vocabulary into practise is reading and interacting with British professionals. I've been reading Cilip Update with great wonder (and have been passing it around to my colleagues!) and have picked up many words while reading it (the "digital divide" will be forever stuck in my mind now! In French we call it "fracture numérique"). I've also now an enormous folder of RSS feeds pointing to British librarian bloggers that I began to find here and there. I've been systematically following all of them on Twitter and it's a pleasure to hear fresh library news from the other side of the Channel. I'm really grateful for being able to communicate with all of them, it's really a great pleasure and honour to witness from afar their interesting discussions.

Thanks to all of these resources, I certainly have become better at expressing myself professionally in English. But there are still many words on which I'm not certain. Maybe you could help me?
I'm in particular thinking about the word "veille" which we use to describe the action of watching closely certain resources so as to stay on top of information in a particular domain (as in following RSS feeds or using software as Website Watcher)?
What do you call it when library assistants put bar codes and anti-theft devices on documents (to us it's "équipement")?
And what about the process of "exemplarisation", when you signal different copies of a same document under its bibliographical entry?

If you have some answers to these questions or if you want to share your own favourite resources for librarianship vocabulary, please do post them in the comments!

Licence Creative CommonsThe above photo was taken by me in Paris, in April 2013.
This photo and text are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Re-Branding Gate vs Reindeer Gate: of CILIP, ABF and ADBS

When beginning to search for ways to find a job in the UK, I stumbled upon LIS Job Net early on but found out about CILIP and its relation to it much later. Finally arriving on the threshold of the CILIP website, I was amazed: everything seemed big and new and shiny. It made the previous professional associations I had met appear quite pale in comparison.

In France, information professionals divide up between two associations: ABF ("Association des Bibliothécaires de France" - literally: association of French librarians) and ADBS (which acronym, after many changes made, can't be developed anymore but is "L'Association des Professionnels de l'Information et de la Documentation" - association of information and documentation professionals). There is a real gap between those identifying as librarians and those that we call "documentalistes" (school librarians, some academic librarians, other information professionals). We don't mix. We're not even in the same category of public servants. So each keeps to its own association.

That's why I was very impressed to see that all of Great-Britain's information professionals seemed to be standing side by side under a single banner. I was impressed by what looked like a gigantic, sprawling association, doing so many things that the French associations, between the two of them, didn't seem to be able to pull out: awarding qualifications, providing career advice, supporting a parliamentary group, providing the mean of international exchanges... It's huge! It's so dynamic! I wanted so badly to get in!

Now that I've had the time to prowl over almost every pages of their website, to read a couple of CILIP Updates and to contact some of its members, my vision of CILIP is more nuanced of course. But it doesn't take away the awe of discovering such a powerful entity, thoughtful of its members and protective of their interests (I mean... a parliamentary group! Who does that?!).

Then the re-branding gate happened and I was floored. Sitting on the bench of my brand new Twitter account, I saw an army of librarians rising as one to take back into their hands the choice of their new identity, of which they seemed to fear they would be spoiled. The first survey and the names proposed were obviously an awkward move from CILIP (though I did like "The Knowledge People", but that's my bad sense of humour showing...). The event stirred the members minds: heated and salutary discussions arose. Even within the more aggressive campaigns, the unity, the care, the support of librarians and information professionals were laid before my eyes, and once again, I was in awe. CILIP is so important to all of you, it's such a part of your professional identity, that you were happily going to war to defend what it meant to you.

I've never witnessed such an uproar within the aforementioned French associations. Well, on a lesser scale, we could talk of ABF's really bad move on their 2011 Christmas card. Let's name it the Reindeer Gate. And here is why:

This is the image that greeted us on the ABF's website during all of December 2011. We didn't know whether to laugh or cry. We decided to laugh and Twitter librarians exchanged reindeer photos during all of 2012. There's even a Tumblr. About reindeers. And librarians. Yep, that's what we do for fun.

But what? Did I just compare the CILIP re-branding issues to our silly holiday card conundrum? Well, if I did, it's because I hope that CILIP can get by as well as ABF finally did. And I do think that they will, one step at a time.

In the end, here was ABF's Christmas card for 2012:

(Yep. If you click on the image, you can see that there's a tiny reindeer at the bottom. And it was made by a nice librarian blogger. Everyone loved it and the reindeer-gate ended in champagne.)

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Learning with MOOCs: what is it like?

A few months ago, while still waging my personal war for general knowledge, I stumbled upon the MOOCs. I had been following video courses on YouTube and lurking over other potential e-learning options when I discovered them - and it was love at first sight.
Friends on quest for knowledge, don't go any further: the greatest universities worldwide are opening their doors for us to trample through. They're the new cool kid on the educational Web and it seems like everyone's babbling about them... So I thought I would add my two pence and tell you what it's like from the inside, to learn with a MOOC.

If you haven't met them yet, MOOCs are Massive Open Online Courses, proposed by universities from everywhere (but mostly American). More than simple online videos, they want to get closer to a "campus" atmosphere, with a beginning and an end date, homework deadlines and a strong will to be as interactive as possible.

To get in, it's really quite simple: you just need an e-mail to subscribe to the course and access the lectures.
On a fixed day, the videos of the week's lecture - cut into little sessions of 10 or 15 minutes - are put online (and in HTML5, no less). Some little and fairly easy intra-video quizzes are there to check that you have understood the important concepts.
Some courses also require some reading, sometimes optional, sometimes compulsory (of course, if you're taking a literature course, you can expect to have to read a few books!). But often, the access to resources is made easy. For example, this leadership course enables students to access scientific articles which aren't in Open Access, either directly on the publisher's website, or through downloadable PDFs (and suspiciously, the teacher is often among the authors...).

Students can exchange notes and advice on the forums (but when you know that, at the beginning of a course, the number of subscribed students can reach 50 or 60 000... it's sometimes a bit hard to be heard!).
Apparently, teachers, their assistants, and Coursera's technical staff follow more or less what is said. Some teachers step in directly on the forum. Other multiply e-mail announcements to answer the most popular comments and questions. This psychology teacher seems very invested in this project and often creates new videos to address the debates roaring among students.

We also have some good old-fashioned exams, either in the form of quizzes or essays (or something less traditional as in the Songwriting course I took, where lyrics or music excerpts were asked each week).
Grading methods vary from course to course. For example, this management course values participation and asks to write a minimum of 20 posts on the courses' forum (with the excess you can expect: myriads of uninteresting subjects and the same themes repeated over and over, especially in the first weeks). Some essays only require a minimum of 100 words to obtain automatically the maximum grade. Other go through peer review: each week, the student evaluates at least 5 of her peers so as to be able for everyone to get some interesting feedback. I must confess that this is my favourite method: I really get the impression that it's while trying to assess the work of someone else that we really get the whole dimension of the notions we're supposed to have acquired. And I have received some really interesting reviews, full to the brim with wise advice.

In the end, we get a nice little virtual diploma vouching for our participation and success in class. Some courses even propose (for some sum of money) to validate more officially your participation so as to be able to bring it out in a professional context. But, in my humble opinion, the interesting part is really in the pleasure of learning new things, in a well delimited, interactive and motivating environment.

You've guessed right: I'm in love with MOOCs. If you've got a somewhat school-loving soul, or if you're just hungry for knowledge, you're in for a treat. So let me tell you that I immediately signed in for three new courses and that my schedule is full until next year...

In conclusion, here is a little collection of courses that you might like. Have fun!

Licence Creative CommonsThe above photo was taken by me in Paris, in February 2013.
This photo and text are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.