Mid-year musings, at 40,000 ft.

Serious, unexpected illness called me back to Brisbane over June/July to nurse, to keep house, and to care for my daughter’s 2 babies.  There was seldom an opportunity to stop and think.  (Whoever scoffs at homemakers should try it and see how long they last!)

Allow me to share this pic…



life is so hard







…and this one… 😉



artist in the making







Four weeks later, while boarding the plane in Brisbane to return home, I had no inkling of the drama that would shortly play itself out, merely because I chose to drink the awful coffee served on the domestic flight to Melbourne (specially requested because it was cold on board; sending it back would’ve seemed ungrateful, or so I thought).  The rushed transfer to international departures consisted of an ungainly jog, long queues & just-in-time arrival at the gate.  Four hours later, at 40,000 feet, all I wanted was to lie down and die. Sick as a dog.

When you’re stuck on a plane for 10 hours, so sick that even a movie holds zero appeal and sleep escapes you, you think.  A lot.  Reevaluate. Take stock.  It’s amazing how priorities have a way of changing rapidly, as you face up to truths that you usually prefer to evade… like aging.  As an expat.  Like having the feeling of not belonging, to any country really.  Like contemplating the importance of family relationships and friends, and work-life balance.  Of realising that you were deluded in thinking that the immigration visa would take 18 months to 2 years, and hearing that it may take 3 years, or longer.

Facing up to truths…like not having a job. Of knowing you can’t afford to embrace the big R…Retirement. Of calling yourself a librarian and knowing it isn’t true in the world’s eyes, at least until that title appears on your name badge, officially.  Of knowing those chances are slimmer with each passing month which encroaches on 60 years of your walk upon terra firma.

Yet…there must be a way. To realise a dream.  To earn a living. To earn the title.  To exercise a passion. To make a difference. To do more than just survive!

Is it in trying to beat the 20-somethings, fresh out of uni, with a hit resume? No, especially not as a foreigner. (An ‘aging’ foreigner at that.)  Is it in the mastering of one particular area of librarianship?  I think not. Librarianship, in the true sense of today’s meaning, requires multi-disciplinary, tech-agile, super humans. (To stakeholders, preferably younger ones.)

Is it in volunteering for 5 years henceforth, with the hope of getting a toe in the door?  Nope! Firstly, volunteering won’t put bread on the table, nor pay the rent. Secondly, the age clock ticks on relentlessly…tick-tock, tick-tock!

Entrepreneurship? Now there’s a thought! Ah, but… this is not an area for just anyone to venture into is it?  And yet, for years now, the thought has held appeal. Could I pull it off? Mmmm… Yes!

Earning a living online is not easy. Earning a living online with information as a commodity is absolutely not easy! After all, libraries are there, for free!  I can only imagine that it would take dedicated input, continual marketing, versatility, innovative thinking and absolute integrity.  Knowledge of your subject. Knowledge of your environment and business competition. A good business acumen. A bulldog-like tenacity.

And experience!, I hear the sceptics shout.

On a side note: we all know that to provide value, (not only as a commercial resource), information needs to be organised, locatable, retrievable; utilisable; applicable to today’s dilemmas or needs; preferably connected and searchable in today’s user language.  Therefore, the drive to modernise knowledge organisation systems to those that encourage open access, shareable metadata, linked data, is vitally important.  To this end also revolutionary cataloguing, and catalogers like Alissa,  who question existing, often archaic, rules that no longer make sense.

On IFLA’s website I found the Statement of International Cataloguing Principles (ICP) 2016 .  Note no’s 10 & 11:

10. Interoperability. All efforts should be made to ensure the sharing and reuse of bibliographic and authority data within and outside the library community. For the exchange of data and discovery tools, the use of vocabularies facilitating automatic translation and disambiguation is highly recommended.

11. Openness. Restrictions on data should be minimal in order to foster transparency and conform to Open Access principles, as declared also in the IFLA Statement on Open Access.5  Any restriction on data access should be fully stated.

These combine to make one hopeful of even more ease in future data availability, access and retrieval, of global connectedness.  Okay, sorry, I’m rambling.

Returning to my musings at 40,000 feet…my thoughts went to freelancing. Could I pull it off? A domain where many have met their match.  Yet, no one knows where that might lead until one actually tries? Minute by minute, I felt my anticipation and resolve growing. By the time the plane had landed, my mind was made up. Without much to lose, but a lot to gain, I’d make it happen or die trying!  Libsandy. Infopreneur.

Two weeks later, having shaken off food poisoning, jet lag and the effect of a fall from standing (I’d fainted on board that damn plane), I have these in front of me…

… and exploring for more on the web, like Metadata for information Retrieval and Management, by David Haynes.  The knock to my head might’ve resulted in fuzziness for a while, but my resolve is unchanged…to offer a personalised info service! Librarian for hire.  Vitalis informatio facile.

Oh the dreams…of being on the move, a different schedule each day; meeting clients’, discovering needs; untethered to a desk, working with info across all formats; exploring across different sectors; perhaps cataloging, or indexing; possibly training; or interviewing folk, documenting stories, creating knowledge. So many possibilities.

It’s time! Rise up. Refresh. Review. Prepare. Equip. Move forward.

After a few years, when we arrive (God willing) upon the shores of our new country, I shall throw all I have into an infopreneurship venture. Until then, I’ll use whatever means I can to plan and to equip myself, not only for survival, but for successful survival!

My librorum journey is far from over. I am determined!


Gif: https://giphy.com/create/gifmaker

Images: public domain (woman in office and featured image) taken from unsplash.com


Studying online…a journey into two ‘dark ages’

Train track by unsplash 


What was supposed to be a monthly blog entry has seemingly turned into a quarterly one.  Two online courses captured not only my interest, but any free time I might have had a claim to.  One dealt with records of up to 1500 years old that are (in many cases) still well preserved, able to be studied and continuing to release their historical secrets – the world of medieval manuscripts, belonging to the so-called ‘dark ages‘.  The other looked at resources from a mere 4 decades ago up to the present, which were either already lost, difficult to preserve, or in danger of being lost forever – the digital domain, threatening a digital ‘dark age‘.

On a gloomy day in January, while picking myself up from proverbial rock bottom, I enrolled for both courses.  Initially unfazed by the thought of doing two simultaneously, I had felt that personal experience with studying online would be helpful.  I needed a challenge, after all, and I had time on my hands, so I’ll handle it!  Well, I did.  Just!  They overlapped during the final two weeks of the 7-week Deciphering Medieval Manuscripts MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), and the first two of the 3-week ALIA/TAFE course, Born Digital.

Tip 1: it’s unwise not to plan for the courses you enrol for…these two just grabbed my attention on the day, topics that have interested me for some time. They ended up taking a load of my time and leaving me frazzled on some days.

Some will say that’s a no-brainer, but it’s amazing what we can do on impulse. Avoid impulsive planning when it comes to online training. :/

Motivation was twofold… or so I thought. Firstly, to remain ‘in the learning zone’ (with LIS related topics) to avoid brain-rust; secondly, to maintain an ALIA PD portfolio, which, against all odds, I yet have high hopes for.  But as I started reflecting on this, other motives became apparent which, admittedly, I didn’t enjoy owning up to:

  • a desire to become ‘really good’ at some area of librarianship… so I continue exploring;
  • the nagging knowledge that joblessness equates to digital-skills-lossness! (Relax, that’s not a word, I know.) 😉  Digital technology is moving faster than  we frail humans can keep up with, so how could lil ol’ me expect to walk into the job market if I don’t make a personal effort to at least try to remain informed on current tech;
  • loneliness.  As an unemployed expat, in relative isolation (albeit due to personal circumstances), I seek like-minded company whenever I can…it is really rewarding to study and chat with people across the globe… to be skill-challenged, to practice new terminology, discussing newly-learned concepts.


It’s a week later as I continue writing at 35,000 feet above sea level, en route to Brisbane for 6 weeks, to welcome a new granddaughter into the world. This is a huge privilege as an expat, because so often we are separated from loved ones whom we seldom see. A privilege I would not enjoy, if I were employed. So, with every cloud comes a silver lining, although, oft times we are too wrapped up in the cloud to see the lining.  My January blog post drew an email response from a reader… a special person who always goes out of her way to encourage others … who cannot know the impact her comment had on me.  She motioned that many secretly long for what I had been griping (my word, not her’s) about. It made me sit bolt upright and opened my eyes to the positives of my circumstances.  For several weeks I wanted to respond, but felt that whatever I said would sound flat or patronising.  Thank you now, Cherie, for opening my eyes and changing my attitude.

Back to online learning.  MOOCs are a great way to spend (daily) free time if you have some that you can commit to.

Tip 2: The time factor varies from person to person and also depends upon the level of difficulty of the course, but roughly 6 to 8 hours a week should do it.

I have used Open University, Coursera, and Canvas.  Weak points will be found in all, but I am loathe to gripe about courses offered for free…these are institutions and individuals who give of their time, technology and expertise to help others and to spread knowledge. Certificates are available for some once the course has been paid for, but there have been a few that I have completed free of charge and received a certificate for.

Tip 3: Engagement is the key… forum discussions are a must to cement new learning. Engage, engage, engage!

I needed to ‘take the plunge’ initially, being part-introvert and often insecure in my own abilities.  It is especially challenging when the activity is mandatory, and contributions are only displayed once you have submitted yours.  I have cringed in embarrassment, but also floated on feelings of victory. Engagement makes for a more lasting learning experience.

Whether pursuing personal, or career, development, let me encourage you to jump in and try a course online.  If it is approached with an attitude of ‘let me make this fun’ half the battle is already won, and you are less likely to become one of the many who drop out and contribute to poor completion rates.

Tip 4: Do something outside of your field…aim for new knowledge.


Two months have passed.  The quarterly blog post has now morphed into a half-yearly contribution. Back home, with jet-lag finally shaken off and clarity returned to a rusty brain, I shall now attempt to complete this post.  The taste of life in Australia served only to make my mood more dodgy upon returning to the Middle East. (Suffice to say I’ve been like a bear with a sore head; or is it a mamma bear yearning for cubs!? Please don’t blame me, the Aussie granddaughters are sooo cute!)   heart

A few notes on the two courses mentioned above:

Deciphering Medieval Manuscripts was a journey of uncovered mysteries. Periodically I heard myself exclaim: “is that how/why/when it was done!”.  Absolute bliss, especially for those who, like myself, constantly desire a window to peer into the past!


Manuscript held by the Archivo Municipal de Burgos (Spain) catalogued as SJ-1/2


Well done to Coursera and collaboration between University of Colorado, USA and Universidad Complutense, Madrid.  The video lectures contained loads of information, illustrations and examples, often challenging in terminology, depth and detail.

sewing pic

Example of ‘couture à deux aiguilles’ – sewing quires together. (Image borrowed from the course)


I initially enrolled for the “free” course, thinking that if I don’t make it, I would not have wasted money.  But as each week arrived with new concepts in manuscript production I was enthralled and couldn’t wait to complete the module.  In the end I paid for the course, receiving a certificate as evidence of 7 weeks well spent.  Not being the artistic type, I avoided the hands-on practical, choosing the option to make story-boards on Pinterest instead.  At times even these were a challenge to complete before the given deadline, often taking longer than the suggested 2 hours. (Re-pinning someone else’s pin wasn’t an option for me, so I trawled through resources to find examples of the week’s concepts.) Here is the link to my Pinterest account where you would find story boards for the assignments.  If you’re interested, here is a great video to watch (6 mins) on the process of making a manuscript. Amazing! 😀

still from video lecture

Part of a still from the video lecture discussing exceptional types of MS illustration

Valuable knowledge was gained, even though I may never work with manuscripts.  I now look at these beautiful documents with different eyes and loads more appreciation. Sadly, the lecturer mentioned throughout that cataloguing records are not consistent and descriptive data is often shortcoming, making it difficult to search for particular facets of these primary resources, within online databases.  However, the chance to explore these wonderful  items up close from my home PC was amazing.  Kudos to wonderful efforts from many quarters (one of many sites available online) in getting so many of these resources into digital format, for more folk to study and/or appreciate them.

Here is a link to Medievalbooks, an amazing blog by Erik Kwakkel, a professor specialising in Codicology, Paleography and Medieval manuscripts.

Tip 5: Have fun, but approach online learning as you would a regular course – take notes, read from extra sources, meet deadlines, ask questions and study for quizzes (if there are any).

The second course I did was Born Digitalpreservation of digital information.

File 11-06-2017, 09 29 07

Screen grab of the course’s home page


ALIA/TAFE courses are amazing, not least for the information and hands-on practical they contain, but especially for the helpful, knowledgeable instructors presenting their courses. I usually approach them with a mix of trepidation and excitement, but have always managed to hold my own. This time it was harder, though. The forum discussions, comments and suggestions from others were as much part of my learning as the course material was. Every so often I was ‘googling’ to find out more about a concept (…that effect of being unemployed).  Nevertheless, I seemed to know a little more than some…so found the ‘imposter syndrome’ start to wane after the 2nd week.

The curriculum began with a rather clear definition of digital preservation, working through relevant methods of preservation, hardware/software involved, conversion process, preservation best practice, to social media and what is on offer in the digital domain to save your Tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram pics, etc. Valuable knowledge that anyone working in the LIS sector needs today.  I’m thrilled to have done the course. However, after a year it will probably look vastly different due to the rate of change in technology.

Some vital points were stressed…

  • Digital preservation is a must! Preservation of everything – our ubiquitous mobile images, emails, social media chats, blogs, websites, forums, reports, diaries… whatever is comprised of those 1s and 0s, online and offline.
  • Our tendency to carelessness in ensuring the longevity of our digital data. How blissfully we create and delete;  we store info yet fail to regularly back up to current media formats. (Here is a handy how-to guide from OCLC.)  We relegate those annoying BU tasks to a day in the future when we may have both the time and the inclination, but which never seems to come around.  This results in a loss of valuable knowledge, frustrating for sociologists, historians, archivists yet to come.
  • Apart from a lack of backups, we are facing an unprecedented loss of data due to rapid changes in hardware and software, with no surety that even our best efforts at preservation will actually be effective a mere 10 years from now.
  • So another reality becomes increasingly apparent: paper is best! Yes…paper. If it’s something you really need to preserve, print it!!

print icon

Print icon image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net


This course made me view my personal digital activities with new eyes.  I began to make plans to save, store and backup my digital data. To buy cloud storage, to leave a digital legacy, and to backup on those pesky hard drives as well.  With it the realisation dawned that Flickr may not, after all, live in cyberspace forever.  Shock and horror! I may just have time to retrieve and save the most precious images I have so faithfully stored there for the past 6 years. Ugh!

Tip 6: Complete assignments. Do all the activities. Don’t quit.

This turned out to be a rather long read.  If you’ve read this far, thanks for stopping by. 😀

Happy blog-June to all who are partaking – I admire you, immensely. You rock!

What we want is not always what we get…

November and December were spent on cloud nine! The first because of a fabulous holiday and the other because our daughter and granddaughter came for Christmas, all the way from Brisbane.  January arrived and suddenly everyone was back at work except for me. The house was depressingly quiet and the dog and I were looking at each other equally as gloomy. My volunteering stint at the Museum of Islamic Art was over. With no job prospects at present, and my Australian visa application in a queue – a very looong queue – for the last year already, what was next?! I felt myself descending into the abyss of depression.


Reflection by Fumigraphik_photographist on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


Why can’t I get a job you ask?…the only job I honestly stand a chance of securing locally is as a school librarian. I feel uncomfortable with the level of censorship required in this country, so for this reason I do not apply for any. Having interned for +-320 hours in an American private school, I heard and saw much. I reached the final round of interviews for 2 teacher librarian jobs, was accepted for one, but declined at the end of internship, as I realised that the local school environment is not for me.

Other (academic) libraries, under the banner of a major local holding company, have a cut-off age of 55 years, unless you are already in a position of worth. I have received zero replies from the National Library’s HR. Without appearing to make excuses, 3 factors work against me – I’m Western, I don’t have a Master’s degree and am considered ‘old’. The majority of entry-level jobs are seemingly filled by Middle Eastern nationalities. I graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree…a late career changer, chasing a long-held dream. At 59, with no experience bar +-500 volunteering hours, not many are willing to consider me employable. (If only they knew what a good librarian I’d make!)

My home country? No, not possible. An entrepreneurial venture? This would be another way forward, but I do not relish local red tape, and besides, this culture is very much a ‘man’s world’. My hands are tied – not cut off – just tied. For now.


To be away from this particular expat situation and to be in a country where I feel I could belong is my dream. Someplace where I can become involved in community projects, volunteer freely, join librarian meet-ups, feel that life has a purpose, and to be able to possibly find a job. However, what we want is not always what we get.

longingDry Pots by Mirjana Veljovic on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Recently I began to think…perhaps what I want is not where I’m supposed to be? Have I another task to perform? Listening to the two people I live with (hubby and son) I began to see that my role had huge value.  I realised just how much they need me to keep things going so that they have a measure of support and sanity after crazy days in their respective working environments (you’ll only know to what I refer if you’ve been an expat in the Middle East). The mundane, unglamorous, task of running a home (which the world largely holds to scorn) acquired a new sheen. Added to that, a new granddaughter will arrive in April, in Brisbane.  Once again I’ll be required as home-carer-cum-babysitter for a good few weeks. (Not that I’m complaining, since I’ll be in Brissie! Yay!)

And so, resignation dawned – stop fighting the urge to escape, to build a new profession, stop the striving. Support those you care for most. This is a season in which they really need it. With that decision made, I felt at peace.alone

Pto. Madryn by Christian Ostrosky on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

So where does that leave my ‘librarian’ aspirations? Either I throw in the towel or I plod on.

Well, since retirement is not an option I am not about to cast myself aside as a ‘hopeful wannabe’. I choose to plod on! I will walk through PD opportunities that come my way, keeping my eyes fixed on that distant goal of ‘librarian’ position.  I will think positive, stay fit and healthy. I will not accept defeat and I will put my hope in the right place – in the One who can make all things happen.


Beginning by Aftab Uzzaman on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

One morning a few weeks ago, I read an article that inspired me to keep my dream alive. I sprang into action and signed up for a MOOC through Coursera, Deciphering Secrets: The Illuminated Manuscripts of Medieval Europe, and enrolled for ALIA’s Born Digital course. I felt my spirits lift because some great learning would be coming my way soon. Simultaneously, I learned of another volunteering opportunity – a very exciting one – that may be available once I return to this ‘land-of-sand’ in May. I do hope it materialises.

What we want is not always what we get. For me, serving my family while waiting for the right time to realise a dream, feels like the right thing to be doing just now.

Here’s to you librarians everywhere…you rock!  I really envy you, but in a good way. 😀 Keep up the great work!

“Good librarians are natural intelligence operatives. They possess all of the skills and characteristics required for that work: curiosity, wide-ranging knowledge, good memories, organization and analytical aptitude, and discretion.”

Marilyn Johnson in This Book is Overdue!: How Librarians and Cybrarians can save us all.

curly1 vector



Thing 23: Bringing it all together

Once a day I endeavour to check my Twitter feed.  For me, it’s the most important time of my day, as it is the source of the majority of my library-related information and PD.  I click on links, read about new ideas, new technology, library life, it’s struggles and victories, and engage with blogs via links that are posted.

I try to log in to LinkedIn once a week.  This gives me a chance to catch up on the groups I follow and to find new contacts. I don’t have a large network on LinkedIn because I choose not to link with people I don’t know. Many whom I do know, are not on LinkedIn. Especially enjoyable are the posts from individuals, groups or companies I follow.


Social media and donuts by Photo Giddy on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Pinterest is a social platform that I engage with when I have time, or when specifically looking for ideas on a topic.  Of course, once you start on Pinterest you need to know that you have, at the very least, an hour to spare.  It is the greatest visual fun and a real eye-opener to the innovative nature of humans.

Instagram – well, that’s a different story…I began my account as a public one, hoping to soon be in a library job, where I could share books, events, ideas, news etc., along with personal bits along the way.  However, that has not happened, so I post things of interest to me, now and then, but more importantly, I use it to follow librarians, libraries, museums and topics of interest in the GLAM sector.  In this way I get to see campaign ideas, displays, makerspaces, new books, and more.  I love it! For this, I log on probably every other day.

But, here is a secret…I operate another Instagram account, with which I engage VERY frequently every day…and were you to stumble upon it, you would shake your head with pity, and declare that that woman is touched in the head! It is my dog’s account…yes, you heard right, my dog’s account.  If you haven’t yet discovered the ‘doggie world’ on Instagram, or indeed, even the ‘kitty world’, I suggest you take a look at the #dogsofinstagram or #catsofinstagram hashtag and go exploring.

As an aside, it has opened up a world that, I believe, can only exist virtually in the social media realm!  One where people regardless of colour, nationality, culture, religion, geographical confines, age, interests, status in life, or whatever, can connect, challenge each other, support each other, chat, share tips, mourn and laugh together and love each other, unconditionally.  All through the name of the dog, or the dog’s account. No stigmas, no expectations, no mockery, no bullying…only fun and unconditional acceptance.  It is wonderfully therapeutic, brings a smile to one’s face every time, creates happiness and disperses loneliness.


Dog by Rodrigo Monteiro on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

I use Facebook to follow library-related accounts and pages of interest, and to connect with a few family members afar off.  For me, the most beneficial page to follow has been the ‘Troublesome Catalogers and Magical Metadata Fairies’ group…I have learned quite a bit in the month since I have joined this group. Because I find that Facebook can quickly become addictive to me, I have confined use of it to my iPad, and do not log in on my PC or my phone, so that it is not constantly intrusive to my daily routine. I take a moment over a cup of coffee every other day, to catch up on the newsfeed.

The ‘Reader’ function on WordPress is a great way to keep up with other bloggers, and those I follow are all wonderful library blogs. Blogging on WordPress has been somewhat of a challenge since I created my first blog in 2010.  I discussed my lack of ‘blogging drive’ before in a previous post, but Rudai23 has put paid to that. 🙂  Posting once a week over the last 23 weeks proves that it is indeed possible, even when you don’t feel like it. Of course, from now forward, it would also mean finding content or a topic to write on, but it won’t be weekly for me. 😉  However, I am more encouraged on the topic of blogging, and have lost most of my fear of ‘being out there’ in case the grammar police are on patrol, or the syntax is incorrect.


Hootsuite by Wes Schaeffer via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The  above 6 accounts are the main social media accounts I engage with.  After signing up with Hootsuite, I decided to link only 2 – Twitter and WordPress.  I did not agree with the App’s permission requests for Instagram or LinkedIn, for privacy reasons, and so cancelled those.  Here is a snapshot of my dashboard from this morning…


I found Hootsuite easy to use, although I worked through the tutorial at first.  I can see how it will help to bring social media accounts under one umbrella for ease of monitoring.  I look forward to using it to monitor the hashtag of the next Twitter chat I attend.

It must be super helpful when used within a library situation, where many social media accounts are monitored and regularly posted to, specifically because of the time constraints of a busy workday.  I love that Tweets etc. can be drafted and scheduled to be posted at different times, so engaging with different users/followers throughout the day.


Content curation: how does it build value by Stefano Maggi via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

At this point I’m cracking open the (virtual) champagne bottle, and getting out the crisps and dip.  CELEBRATION time, as I come to the end of Rudaí’s 23 Things! Thank you to the team who developed this programme – it has truly been a beneficial learning experience.  A time of personal and professional growth.


Champagne by CycloneBill on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

As always, thanks for stopping by.  😀


Featured image:  Embracing social media by RDECOM on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)



Thing 22: Mobile Things

“…did you know that in just one hour mobile users will have carried out 68 million searches on Google, generated $3 million worth of ad revenue from Google ads, and made 8 million purchases through their devices with Paypal? In the same time mobile users open 2 billion emails, send 1 billion WhatsApp messages and 768 million text messages, while 29 million will have accessed Facebook .”                                                                    (Dealsunny.com 2016).

The use of smart phones and other mobile technology for seeking information is growing. To illustrate, take a look at this real time graphic  on mobile usage statistics shared on Stephen’s Lighthouse blog, from Dealsunny.com. 😮  It will blow your mind.

“Nearly two-thirds of Americans are now smartphone owners, and for many these devices are a key entry point to the online world.”

“More than half of smartphone owners have used their phone to get health information, do online banking.”                                                          (Pewinternet.org 2015)

The above quotes are from a 2015 Pew Internet Research study of American smartphone usage.  I would confidently say that the trend may be global.  This book review provides a look at new research on children’s and adolescents‘ info behaviour.  And in developing countries smartphone usage is rising rapidly, increasingly being used to access information, especially health-related information.


Public Domain Image by Olu Eletu via Unsplash.com

As librarians we need to be on top of our game as far as mobile apps are concerned.  We should not only be seen to be using them, but we should be able to confidently teach people how to use the popular ones.  It is therefore important for us to remain abreast as best we can.  Articles such as this one I saw shared on Facebook a few days ago – Librarian Approved: 30 Ed-Tech Apps to Inspire Creativity and Creation – are a huge help.

After reading Rudaí23 Thing 22, by Wayne Gibbons, I was interested in finding out about the Gum app, since I had not heard of it before.  It was quick to locate on the App Store, simple to activate, and really user-friendly. I scanned the barcode of one of my favourite textbooks, and left my first comment, or ‘gum‘.


Looking at their website, they’ve used a clever marketing strategy…alliteration…  “conversations on comics”, “poems on products” and “notes on novels”.  😀  That says it all.  The  potential for library users’ to converse about books internationally, right there on Gum, is huge. This article from a blog ‘The Library Voice’, shows how it was used successfully within a library situation. (Thanks to the author of Thing 22 for sharing this link.)

Gum is a super user-friendly, free app. There is no need to first enter an email address and create a password or user account.  It loads, requests access to the phone camera, and you get scanning.  To leave a ‘gum’ the app asks to create a user name. Once you create your comment, you ‘stick’ your ‘gum’, and it appears on your ‘wall’.  Gums can be managed, edited, deleted, and products unfollowed.  Apparently new gums on the same products create an ‘alarm’ that rings on your phone.

If we were to promote this app by means of posters in the library, or even face-to-face, it could really take off within a library community or reading club.  The apps for Goodreads and LibraryThing etc., are fantastic, but a user account is required. Also, Gum is not restricted to books only, so we can get info on popular household products, food items, PC games, tech tools and more.  There is a 12+ age restriction to the app, because, besides the user T & Cs,  there is little control of who posts what. So teachers beware.  However, there is a reporting tool, that, when activated, opens a ready-to-send email, guiding you on specific info sought regarding the product or comment.


Another app that I personally enjoy is Adobe Spark Video. It is one of the trio belonging to Adobe Spark – Spark Post, Spark Page and Spark Video.  Admittedly, it is only available on Apple products, (sorry Android users …) but oh my!…it has never been easier to quickly create interesting presentations, lesson aides, info slides, portfolios and more. *shows thumbs up* 😀

What better way to use that old iPad or tablet, lying around in the library…set it up as an info display.  iPads are increasingly used in classrooms worldwide; teacher librarians can utilise this app to create interesting lesson segments.  Public librarians can have presentations which they all share to guide or instruct on certain topics upon request from users. Voice-overs are easy to record, as long as you know what you want to say.  I created this presentation on Information Literacy for a MOOC that I was doing a while ago.  It is far from perfect, but was fun to make. The target audience was a year 11/12 group of school children; please, academics, be forgiving as you keep that in mind. 🙂

When you’ve tried Adobe Spark Video, do let me know how you feel about it via the comment box below. Most of all, have fun. 🙂

I am super excited to know that I’m on Thing 23 of 23 Things next week.  Woohoo!! Really looking forward to ‘Making it all work together‘.  Until then, thanks for stopping by. 🙂


Featured image by Frederic Koberl via Unsplash.com (Public domain)
Clipart used from clipart.com




Thing 21: Infographics

Well, that was fun! 😀 I have always loved looking at the wonderful infographics one can find on Pinterest and elsewhere, but have never sat down to explore methods of making one.  Thank you Rudai23 Thing 21, for requiring me to do just that.

I was at a loss to know what topic to cover, not having time to research one.  As I was reading an online newspaper a few days ago, my eye fell on an article The Nobel Prizes in numbers.  Interesting facts that few of us know or recall.

I signed up to a free account on easel.ly.  I found it user-friendly, especially if you are acquainted with desktop publishing. The graphics available on the free account are limited, so I used  images  from Clipartpanda.com. I needed a little extra info which I found on Wikipedia. I have cited my sources on the infographic itself.

Admittedly, it would take some practice to make a really good infographic that is eye-catching and informative.  That said, I’m quite happy with my first effort.   I used as much as I could from the article, without cluttering the image to death.


On second thoughts, it is a bit cluttered, but hopefully easy to read.  When I signed up to easel.ly I was mailed a link which I thought I would share on this blog: A complete guide to Infographics. There are some great tips which I would have to incorporate the next time.

These, from the writer of Thing 21, Michelle Breen, are just as important to remember:

  • Create an attention grabbing headline for your infographic;
  • Know your audience and tailor the content like you would do in a presentation;
  • Keep it simple – highlight key items in your data rather than displaying everything;
  • Cite the sources of the data used in the infographic and check your facts;
  • Keep it fun by using distinctive colours and illustrations.

Talking about gorgeous infographics…look at this: The Benefits of Handwriting vs Typing, via Stephen’s Lighthouse.  Oh my! I love it. And then of course, there are the wonderful infographics that are made by the talented Sylvia Duckworth…they must adorn many a classroom in schools worldwide.  I also stumbled upon this article claiming to present The 100 Best Infographics.  It targets North America, but has some amazing examples, with only a couple that I recognise.

Because of the visual learning experience I would imagine that, depending upon the space available within a library, it would be great to have infographics up on display, covering many different topics, throughout the year. They are adaptable to young and old, informative and decorative. A really valuable form of information presentation.

Until next time, when we discuss ‘mobile things’.  😀   Thanks again for stopping by.



Thing 20: Presentations


Presentations by Russell Davies on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

I enjoyed reading through Rudaí23, Thing 20 by Liz Keane Kelly. What she says is true: “presentations are as normal as meetings nowadays…”. If only most people who are presenting would remember that it is only a tool used to clarify your idea or information. Just recently I was in a 3-day workshop where the slides used were packed to capacity with information, hard to read, and where the presenter read each and every word from the slides. Yikes, that sends me over the cliff of boredom!

My own efforts at presentations have been few. I once prepared for a Book Talk presentation aimed at a group of children in a private school. They would have been aged between 9 to 11, an international group who mostly use English as a second language. To keep both boys and girls engaged for the 10-min talk, I decided to present Diary of an Ugly Sweater by Cassie Eubank. Christmas was approaching and the book had been released earlier that year.  It was my hope that it would engage the children in a lively discussion around feelings.  Also that they would enjoy reading this delightful book, finding its value as well as theirs. Well, the book talk never happened. Long story. However, the presentation can be viewed here. Needless to say, my presentation could have been improved upon, since it was one of my earliest attempts. To engage the children I used a few more ‘bells and whistles’ than I would normally like.  I planned to use the notes panes to prompt me on what I wanted to say with each slide. The presentation is set to progress with mouse-clicks, to control the timing and the discussion.

Just recently I undertook a presentation for a library when the library manager (where I volunteer) mentioned that the overhead TV needed a new info display. At the library we were all under pressure, with about 10 days’ notice before an IFLA committee viewing of Qatar’s libraries in order to consider Qatar as a potential venue for an annual IFLA conference. At home I had time on my hands, so I tackled it and was humbled when they decided it was good enough to be used as a permanent info display.  With this kind of presentation, which you don’t get to present, as it were, the vital info must be imparted to the viewer with a comfortable time-based scroll, so that they have time to assimilate the info in passing, but without getting bored. This (museum) library has a lot of walk-in visitors, both residents and tourists, who often don’t know that the library even exists.



A few years ago, as an English teacher at the British Council, the classrooms had smartboards for us to use.  I would imagine that giving a presentation is not much different.  We all know there are rules out there to come up with amazing presentations, and having read many over the years, I would be inclined to follow these six that I remember easily, and which are common sense really:

  1. KNOW your audience; create a presentation to keep them engaged, within the time allocated. Otherwise you’ve lost them, period! meeting-giphy
  2. Don’t overdo the text. (I’ve heard it said no more than 6 words per slide. Extreme or correct? What do you think?)
  3. Not too many fancy bits, simple is always better (and safer!).
  4. Know your subject; don’t rely on the presentation to get you through. (What if the power is off and you have to talk anyway?) 😮
  5. Give credit where credit is due! All the material used – images, clip art, ideas, text – should be referenced.
  6. Create a handout for AFTER the presentation. Not the entire presentation – you can put that up on Slideshare.net – just the most important points.

Moving on to Thing 21, Creating Infographics. Fun! Thanks for stopping by. 😀

Boring presentation giphy from Giphy.com