Monthly Archives: December 2009

Dominate your market with Twitter has definitely been the year for Twitter in the Social Media world.

I have previously introduced how Twitter work (The Business & IP Centre takes on twitter), and how popular we have found it at the Business & IP Centre (Our Twitter followers go over 1,000).

Now I have been introduced to a short book with the catchy title Dominate your market with Twitter. Subtitled Tweet your way to business success, the book introduces what Twitter is, and how to use it to promote yourself and your business.

Chapter six, Twitter on steriods, explains how to extend the use of the service using applications such as Twitterholic, Tweetstats, Qwitter, Tweetbeep and many more.

If you don’t want to rush out to your local bookshop, or consult our copy (and there is something slightly slightly disconcerting about using the ‘old technology’ of books to promote cutting edge Social Media developments), here are a couple of useful links:

Karen Blakeman has made her slides on Twitter available on Slideshare, which – I noticed features some of the Business & IP Centre’s use of social media.

Twitter themselves have produced a useful set of pages on how using the service for business.

Visitors to the Business & IP Centre

CILIP HomeI recently enjoyed giving a couple of tours of the Business & IP Centre to groups from CILIP and the Embassy of Israel.

Yvonne Morris posted a nice comment on the CILIP Information and Advice Blog.

And I received a good old fashioned letter from the Minister for Commercial Affairs thanking me for the tour of the Centre, and to my colleague Ilana Tahan, our curator of Hebrew texts, who gave an impressive introduction to our collection.

Our Hebrew collections comprise holdings of material written and printed in Hebrew characters, ranging from manuscripts copied over 1,000 years ago to the most recent monographs and serials. They include around 3,000 manuscript volumes and about 73,000 printed book titles – mostly in Hebrew and in related languages that use the Hebrew script: e.g. Aramaic, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Spanish and Yiddish.

Maimonides’ Mishneh Thorah

Maimonides' Mishneh Thorah

My favourite Einstein quotes

A colleague has recently been using the following brilliant line quite a bit recently, with regard to people who keep making the same mistakes. It didn’t take much research to find it came from that wonderful scientist and philosopher Albert Einstein.

* Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Einstein also came up with quite a few quotable quotes on the topic of knowledge:

* Information is not knowledge.

* The only source of knowledge is experience.

* Imagination is more important than knowledge.

* The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.

The Brainy Quote website has a whole A to Z of Einstein’s one liners.

Librarians of the future discussed at the Online Information Show

My fellow SLA Europe Board member Marie Madeleine Salmon went to a lot of trouble to organise three international events during the recent Online Information Conference.

I spoke at the first of these on the Tuesday, and had been planning to write up a summary until time slipped away from me.

Fortunately an excellent summary was written by Penny Crossland, and appears on the Resource Shelf blog here. A longer version is published on the VIP LiveWire blog here.

What’s not to like about LIKE?

LIKEIn a year that has seen cuts in commercial library and and information services resulting from the UK recession, and the sad demise of the City Information Group in the summer (CiG – RIP), it is good to have something new and positive to talk about.

LIKE (London Information and Knowledge Exchange) is a networking group for Library, Information, Knowledge and Communication professionals, who meet on a monthly basis to share stories, learn and exchange knowledge in an informal and relaxed setting.

According to one of their fans: “The best thing about LIKE meetings is that they attract interesting and friendly people. It’s rather like a very good dinner party.”

They are already up to their tenth meeting, to be held on 28 January in The Perseverance in Lamb’s Conduit Street, featuring Liz Scott-Wilson Head of Information Management at Tube Lines talking about Information behaviour & culture change.

At their previous get together in December they looked forward to the coming year, and recorded some LIKE members’ New Year Resolutions.

SLA name to stay SLA

The last few weeks have seen what must be the most hotly discussed library profession related topics since the (UK) Library Association changed its name in 2002 to CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals).

The results of the electronic voting was finally announced on 10 December on the SLA Blog SLA Name Will Stay: Alignment of Association to Continue. The vote against the new name was fairly convincing with 2071 voting yes and 3225 voting no.

Although I initially felt a bit deflated by the result after all the efforts those in favour, I was all too aware that the proposed new name was not particularly engaging. Although I wonder if we could ever find one that would be. At the previous failed name change vote in 2003, the choice was Information Professionals International, which to my mind is equally anodyne.

Perhaps the biggest mistake in the campaign was to give the impression we were moving away from the ‘L’ word rather than creating a bigger ‘tribe’ (to quote Seth Godin) in which librarians would be a big and welcome part. Many traditional librarians in the United States seemed to feel it was something of an either or situation.

Also the heat of the discussion has shown that although the stereotype of information professionals is of a shy and retiring middle aged woman wearing a bun, if they feel strongly about an issue, they are prepared to ‘storm the barricades’. I am reminded of the acknowledgement from Michael Moore, after librarians saved his book Stupid White Men from being pulped in the wake of the 9-11 attacks in America:

“I really didn’t realize the librarians were, you know, such a dangerous group.
They are subversive. You think they’re just sitting there at the desk, all quiet and everything. They’re like plotting the revolution, man. I wouldn’t mess with them. You know, they’ve had their budgets cut. They’re paid nothing. Books are falling apart. The libraries are just like the ass end of everything, right?”

EnterQuest’s business support survey – the results

The wonderful people who produce our COBRA (Complete Business Reference Adviser) have started surveying subscribers to their free EnterQuest weekly tips and ideas bulletin for startups and small business owner managers.

Their first one was designed to gauge their opinions and levels of satisfaction of business support services they had received or experienced over the last 12 months:


The results of the survey were in certain respects rather surprising, and in other ways quite predictable. The survey asked readers for their views relating to sources of support received, ie from Business Link, enterprise agency, local council, and Chamber of Commerce. They were quizzed about what satisfied them the most, what was most disappointing, and asked for suggestions for improvements.

The most striking result was the performance of Business Link, with two-thirds (65%) of respondents satisfied with the support received (43% were very satisfied), but with over a third (35%) not very satisfied or totally unsatisfied. General satisfaction levels were very similar for support from local enterprise agencies, but fewer of these (only 35%) were very satisfied.

While there are encouraging signs that things are moving in the right direction with attitudes towards Business Link,it still remains a stark fact that one out of three businesses were still not satisfied with the support they received, and 44% were not satisfied across all types of local business support provision.

Overall, survey responses from recipients of business support across all providers are summarised as follows:

Very satisfied 26%
Fairly satisfied 30%
Not very satisfied 22%
Totally unsatisfied 22%
So in aggregate the results are 56% satisfied with support received and 44% not satisfied. Survey respondents were located in all regions of the UK.

In terms of the specific questions asked in the survey and qualified answers given, the responses were varied and in certain cases quite animated. The following is a summary of some of the typical responses given for three of the main question areas.

What disappointed you the most?

– lateness of the adviser, lack of respect shown
– e-mails and phone calls unanswered/ not returned
– the adviser did not understand my business or my industry
– lack of clear written steps for funding applications
– no new advice given, I knew what was said already
– excellent support programmes stop when their funding is withdrawn or ends
– lack of understanding of local business needs

What pleased you the most?

– quick response to grant application, given answer in five days
– the adviser understood our business model
– we got what was written on the tin, and in good time
– excellent training sessions from Business Link
– free Business Link support
– wealth of free information provided by adviser
– good follow-up range of courses available

What do you suggest that would improve the service you received or would like to receive in the future?

– the adviser should have real, practical experience of business
– specialist rather than general help and advice is needed
– more empathy with first-timers
– more long term funding for successful support programmes
– more local services and resources available
– loans available for true micros
– more interest in customer needs than in ticking boxes

Key likes – courses, free services, local support and advice.

Key dislikes – supplier driven (need to tick their boxes), exclusion of micros and sole traders, general rather than specialist advice.

Hazel Hall wins Information World Review Information Professional of the Year 2009

Dr Hazel HallAs the fortunate recipient of this award in 2003, I was very pleased to see it go to Hazel Hall this year. I have known Hazel for many years and always been impressed by her support and enthusiasm for her students, and at promoting the potential of the information and knowledge profession.

She has published and presented widely in international journals and at conferences including keynote presentations, plus numerous publications in the professional press and books.

She has also been in the vanguard of adopting social media activities such as Twitter, and trying to persuade  resistant information professionals of their benefits.

Hazel is Director of the Centre for Social Informatics in the School of Computing at Edinburgh Napier University. She is also leading the implementation of the UK Library and Information Science Research Coalition.

The awards are organised by IWR magazine and Online Information Conference organisers, Incisive Media.

Peter Williams, Editor of IWR magazine, described Hazel during the presentations as an energetic and enthusiastic information professional whose work invigorates the professional landscape, both within and beyond the UK.  2009 has been an outstanding year of achievement for her and one on which future success will be built for the profession as a whole, as well as on a personal level.

More Asian and African surprises from the British Library collections

Another year on and another show and tell from the idiosyncratic Hedley Sutton with more Asian surprises at the British Library. This time he added a few African ones to boot.

Hedley started the show off with an exotic quiz in the shape of a black and white photo of a European looking woman wearing a belly dancer’s outfit. After a short pause while the audience considered their options I blurted out, “is she Mata Hari?” I was rewarded with a knowing smile from Hedley and the appearance of an original letter from 1917 from an agent of the French secret service to their British equivalent. The letter identified her as a double agent for the Germans. Soon after in October Mata Hari (which was Indonesian for ‘eye of the day’), was executed by firing squad as a spy. It turned out she was in fact a Dutch subject and her original name was Margaretha Zelle.

Pat Shipman one of her biographers argues that Mata Hari was never a double agent, speculating that she was used as a scapegoat by the head of French counter-espionage. The fact that she was seen by some as a ‘wanton and promiscuous woman, and perhaps a dangerous seductress’, may not have helped her case.

International Dunhuang ProjectNext Hedley showed off what appeared to be an ancient religious text hailing from the famous Dunhuang Archaeological Sites in Xinjiang China. In fact it turns out this was actually a sophisticated fake, and part of a cottage industry which flourished in that part of China around the late 1800’s. The items were produced in response to an invasion of European collectors eager to get hold of historical documents from the area preserved for hundreds of years by the desert conditions.

This led on to a discussion about the the International Dunhuang Project, which is an international collaboration to make information and images of all manuscripts, paintings, textiles and artefacts from Dunhuang and archaeological sites of the Eastern Silk Road freely available on the Internet.

szyk-haggadah-family-at-sederNext we were shown a surprisingly recent publication, which turned out to be a new (and limited print run) version of the Szyk Haggadah.

The Szyk Haggadah is a Passover Haggadah illustrated by Arthur Szyk in Poland in the 1930s. According to the The Times it is ‘worthy to be placed among the most beautiful of books that the hand of man has ever produced’.

What makes the beautiful illustrations so unusual is Szyk’s approach of portraying contemporary political issues in medieval style. His first set of illustrations were clear and unfavourable references to the Nazis, including such detail as Nazi armbands on the Egyptians oppressing and murdering the Israelites, and the faces of Joseph Goebbels and Hermann Göring on two snakes.


TFPL Connect International – Monday 30 November

I managed to force my flu wracked body along to this Monday evening pre-Online Exhibition discussion organised by TFPL. As well as the impressive panel listed below, I noted the room was full to bursting with 80 of the great and good of the information world. Many had flown in early for the Online show from the United States and Europe to be able to attend this event.

As something of an old stager at these kinds of events, I recognised quite a few faces around the room. These including three previous winners of the SLA Europe Information Professional Award (which was previously called the European Special Librarian of the Year); the current holder Gimena Campos Cervera , Annabel Colley and ex-Surrey Policeman Kevin Miles who I nominated for the award way back in 1999.

Natalie Ceeney

The panel consisted of Natalie Ceeney (NC) the CEO of The National Archives, Doris Springer (DS), Manager Information Services at Bain & Company in Germany, and Morten Nicholaisen (MN), the Executive Director of Dialog.

Although I enjoyed the evening, somehow it didn’t quite live up to it’s billing. I think part of the problem may have been that it was a Monday night. Also, although Natalie was as controversial as her reputation predicted, the other panellists were not able to match her, and so the sparks did not fly.

The questions for the evening included:

How can we improve Britain’s economy?
NC. By making more effective use of knowledge. We should treat it as the third big asset after money and people. We should encourage mashups and innovation, and allow public access to the data and let them work out what to do with it, and to question its accuracy. She pointed out that the Welsh government already has a policy covering every document and how which element they will make available on the web.
MN. We should encourage better and more creative use of published information.

How can we improve personal use of information as exemplified by the Scandinavian countries?
MN. Recent surveys have shown that part of the reason why Scandinavians are statistically some of the happiest people in the world, is because they are happy to share personal information. The older generations do not understand how the younger generation think and works with online information. For example the fact they don’t look beyond Google when searching for information. He finds showing a product like Dialog to young consumers is difficult. It does not look cool compared to free web products. And this is coming from the boss of Dialog.
NC. Felt the culture was different in Britain and the public would not accept sharing of personal data. We draw the line between private personal data and public access much closer to home in the UK to compared to Scandinavian countries. She thought that UK citizens are coming increasingly concerned about how much personal information is open via social media sites such as Facebook..

Victoria Ginnetta – we have seen much more flexible working as a way of responding to the recession likely. How likely is this approach to carry on in the future?
DS. Full time workers are still key to Bain in Germany.
MN. This recession has been the worst he has seen in forty years. 2010 will be better, but perhaps not by much.
NC. The UK public sector will see a delayed response to recession, they are now heading towards a spending recession. The result will be more outsourcing, the growth of long delivery chains. We won’t be able to rely on long term employees.

Liz Blankson-Hemans – What attributes does the profession need to help break out of traditional roles?
MN. Info pro’s in corporates need to be better at sharing critical information with more people in their organisations. Desk top info does solve this problem as it leads to information overload. An info pro can determine what information is critical.
NC. By being the people who are best at getting the most out of information.
DS. Info pros have not been good at internal marketing.

Steven Philips – Given the pressures on publishers income streams can we expect to see a divergence in Business to Business (B to B) and Business to Consumer (B to C) revenue models. Will the B to B begin to subsidise consumer access?
MN – Not much experience of publishers selling directly to consumers. Currently very protective, but need to be less risk averse.
NC. Admitted she had not successful when at The British Library, but felt it is happening in Government publishers such as in Met Office free public information is used to get people to trade up to charged content.
SP. Publishers may have shot themselves in the foot by giving too much away for free. This makes life difficult when trying to charge corporates.

Is Stephen Fry a social media saint or sinner?
None of the panel are users of Twitter and admitted that they didn’t really get it.
Hazel Hall felt they were missing out on something important and explained how it took her eight weeks to really get Twitter. If Facebook is suburbia then Twitter is the city centre. She reminded the audience that when email first came along we had much more time to get used to it than with these new social media technologies.
Mary Dee Ojala pointed out that even if you don’t Tweet you must be monitoring what people are saying about your organisation on Twitter.