Monday, 23 December 2013

Festive London and Hint Hunt

Hares made from Hair Dryers

Turkeys made from Towels

We were really looking forward to spending a day in London just before Christmas. Nathan had booked for us to have a go at Hint Hunt - the most popular attraction in London at the moment - according to Trip Advisor. The idea is that you get locked in a room and you have 60 minutes to get out. You can only get out though by solving clues leading you to finding a way out.

They understandably don't want us to reveal too much detail - as it would spoil the experience for everyone else. Basically, we were in the "John Munroe Room" - which belonged to a private detective, who had himself been murdered.  It is great fun  and quite pressured - and the 60 minutes absolutely fly by! We were told that only about 50% of the groups who try actually manage it - and the record time was 53 minutes. Our team consisted of Martin and Tama (whose wedding we attended last year in Slovenia) their friend Jodi and Nathan and myself.

The Baku Bandits :-)
Tama, Martin and Jodi all work together in Baku, Azerbaijan - but are back in the UK for Christmas.

We were so ecstatic when we actually got out - with 3.45 minutes to spare. It was a great feeling and the guy in charge said that we were very calm and collected - unlike some teams who rush around like crazy! The escapees get their photos taken - so here is ours!

It was so good we want to go back again some time and do the more difficult Zen Room. We would all recommend it to anyone - good fun for friends, family or work teams!

Oxford Street
Before we did that we had a lovely time walking around London, looking at the festive lights and the shop displays. John Lewis's windows were especially inventive! We also had a good time sampling spirits in Selfridges.:-) They had a bottle of rum - in it's own cupboard for £699! We didn't buy any - but we had a taste of another one a little cheaper.

John Lewis Window - Polar Bear made from Wii fits
We had lunch at The Phoenix - a pub we'd tried before. After the Hint Hunt we had time to have an evening meal with the other bandits before we had to get our train back to Stoke.

It's great now that Virgin have a later last train back - it used to be 9-something. But now there's one at 10.50pm. Much better - as we couldn't stay over as I had to be at work the next morning.

 It worked out perfectly and we were back in Stoke by 12.30am.

Owls made from Kitchen Utensils

Work has been pretty quiet in the run-up to Christmas - so me and Eeyore are managing okay so far. He doesn't chat as much as Tracy :-) - but at least \I don't have to talk to myself! He has been sitting under the \Christmas Tree with his present - a balloon in a jar. Not sure if he likes I - but he doesn't look too unhappy.

We only have half a day to work tomorrow - then it's Christmas!! Hope you all have a very \happy Christmas and a Wonderful New Year. Here's to a Fantastic 2014!!

Eeyore with his balloon

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Embrace the little blue bird!!

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I hadn’t been to a staff conference for a couple of years – I think the last one was when R J Ellory, the crime writer, attended – so I was looking forward to this one. Mainly because of the theme – Changing Opinions: Using new media to challenge old perceptions
I love social media! I couldn’t wait to find out how people are using it to make libraries in particular, more relevant to modern life. I have been dying to have a Silverdale Library twitter account - but we are not permitted to do that.
The conference was opened by our MC, Andrew Baker from Stafford. He introduced Janene Cox, our Commissioner for Tourism and Culture at Staffordshire County Council and also President of Society of Chief Librarians. She stressed the importance of our services contributing to the three main outcomes that SCC is committed to -which in a nutshell are health, wealth and happiness.
In these tough economic times, which are likely to get worse over the next few years, it is vital for us all to make sure our work contributes to these outcomes for our customers.
Our keynote speaker for the morning was Nick Booth, a former BBC political reporter and now owner of Podnosh an organisation that wants to change the way the public and the public sector talk to each other. They offer social media surgeries and encourage groups to get together and change things.
He talked about building a “stockpot of social capital” by building communities of bloggers, doing podcasts, creating groups of like minded citizens who want to change things and help each other. He gave a fascinating example of how one group, by using the website which is a platform for crowdsourcing investigative journalism – managed to get Birmingham City Council to admit that their eagerly awaited new website had taken 4 years and cost £2.8m – and still wasn’t ready. They did say that when is was unveiled it would be worth it – but when it was revealed many people were not impressed. So, they arranged a “hackathon” where several of them met up for one day and made a website for BCC. The results can be seen here: It is a much clearer site and easier to navigate and only took one day and a few volunteers!
Nick was then joined by his colleague Steph Clarke, and the theme turned to the “hyper-local” This is the part I found the most interesting as I could see how it could be used by individual libraries to build on social media (and other) communities in their immediate vicinity.
He showed us a series of hyper-local websites, such as the very successful which Nick helped Jamie Summerfield to set up. Steph has helped set up a local website in her area – Wednesfield. She shared her favourite story with us, about how there was a house fire that destroyed the home and possessions of a family. After an appeal on their website they were inundated with people offering everything from accommodation to school uniforms for the children.
The basic rules for a successful hyper-local websites are:
v     Be useful – e.g. show school closures for snow or local road problems
v     Be open
v     Share
v     Collaborate
v     Relax and empower – people may use you site/group for other things – let them!
v     Nurture niches
After the coffee break we played the Social Media Game. Using various methods, Facebook, Twitter, Websites, Local Groups - we were encouraged to build a campaign to solve a problem. In my group’s case it was how to get more 13-21 year olds into libraries. Another group looked at getting more people into libraries. We decided on using Facebook, free WiFi, Blogs and Listening i.e. checking other groups/Fb pages/blogs and linking to them from our own sites. I tried to argue that Twitter is far more relevant to young people than Facebook, where their parents and grandparents can see what they are up to  - but was over-ruled!
The other library group identified the need for culture change within the organisation that would allow more library staff to have their own library Facebook pages and twitter accounts as, at the moment, there was no local feel to the social media we have. It is all done at a corporate level, individuals have to submit material to the designated person in their area – and the stuff may not appear for a week or more. It needs to be immediate and spontaneous!!
If we could make more local sites we could link in to other media in our area to create a community and take part in all that is happening locally. We could also put online some of the leaflets and posters we have displayed in our library as well as linking to other professionals and departments. We need to promote each other! Maybe a little relaxing and empowering may need to happen before we can use what we have all learnt today. As Nick said “It’s a conversation – you can’t control it!”
We had a lovely lunch followed by the first of our chosen workshops. My first one was E Services with Ease starring Tim Keeling of ACL. This was an enjoyable romp through downloading e-books, audio books and e-magazines through the library web page. We all need to be completely clued up about how this works in order to promote these free services to our library users. I had emailed Tim many times before – but had never met him in person. I never realised how funny he is – he really should have a side-line on the Comedy Club circuit. He had us all laughing as he showed us how easy these resources were to access. Click here if you fancy having a go! 
The final workshop of the day was from Lynda and Wendy from Devon Libraries with the intriguing title 50 Shades of Devon Libraries: the potential of social media. This was the one I had been really looking forward to!
They decided to try a Twitter campaign last February with the aim of:
Celebrating libraries
Encouraging people to join
Experimenting with social media.
They launched on National Libraries Day with the intention of trying to get 1,000 new people to join the library on the day and 3,000 over the month. They had very clear aims:
They wanted it to be a conversation (something Nick had also emphasised during the morning session) not just a series of press releases banged out one after another.
They wanted to evolve a tone of voice that was fun and quirky – not corporate.
They wanted to drive people to the website
They wanted to showcase their services
They wanted to get more staff to use social media
They did this by linking to influential tweeters both in the library realm and celebrities and by having fun hashtags such as #funnythingsusedasbookmarks
#strangebookrequests and #howmanyunclaimedumbrellas and encouraged people to join in! They used it to promote free WiFi, Ancestry websites, e-books and magazines.
The results were amazing! They got local media asking to be involved when they tweeted about the popularity of 50 Shades of Grey – the local BBC Radio station wanted to know which area of Devon borrowed it the most (Tiverton!) They had a one of their councillors on the radio to talk about it – and it was great publicity for libraries.
They had well over a million impressions on Twitter and they were trending nationally. Over 1000 joined in the first week. Over the month there was a 30% increase on last year. They are being asked by other councils to come and talk to staff at conferences like ours.
They stressed the importance of your campaign having clear aims and evaluation, having a national hook (e.g. World Book Day?) Having a clear call to action and the skills and confidence in your staff. There has to be commitment as many of these social media interactions happen after hours. They were wonderfully enthusiastic and gave us all a lot to think about. I would love to be involved in something similar!  
It was a really well organised conference and the theme was very timely and the speakers and workshops complimented each other perfectly. Congratulations to all the staff behind the scenes who organised it. I really enjoyed it and am buzzing with new ideas!
Lost Eeyore
Even cake doesn't cheer him up
Steph Clarke did say that if we are not yet allowed to officially do our own thing yet - there are other creative ways around it. I have been giving this some thought. maybe I could set up a Twitter Account for  the sad Eeyore, who got left behind in my library years ago.
Watch this space :-)


Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Don't feed the Trolls!!

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Wow all kinds of changes happening recently.

The biggest of which was that Tracy, my colleague and friend who I have worked with at the library for six whole years has gone on to pastures new. She has got her dream job - and from this week is driving M1 - that mighty purple beast, around the villages of Stafford and beyond. She loves it!

Our last day together was Saturday and I have to say there were quite a few tears! We have been through a lot together. The customers are going to miss her too. I know it won't be the same without her - I shall have to try to keep everyone's spirits up.

Listen to Snow Bunny!
 It's almost Christmas and I have some brilliant books on my festive displays. I just love new Christmas books. The one below comes with a QR code inside which downloads the book onto you phone and reads it to you! It is very cool! I love technology!!!

Librarian - the original search engine!
Tracy has promised to pop in every three weeks when she is on the run going to Keele, and have her lunch with me. I'll be able to keep her updated with all the latest library gossip news!

I was very happy that she liked the clock I bought her for M1. Maybe it will remind her of happy times :-)

This first week of being singled-staffed hasn't been too bad so far. They are easing me in gently! On Monday I had the lovely Jo for the whole afternoon. Then tomorrow I am going to the Staff Conference in Stafford. I love our conferences - a few years ago we had the crime writer R J Ellory, who was totally inspiring. This year the theme is social media - which is going to be fascinating. Not only is it useful for work - but also I'll be able to pass on their wisdom to Nathan for his businesses.
Can't wait!

Also, in this very same week, I handed all the Parish Council files over to the new clerk. Our home office is suddenly very empty. It's brilliant - we can get our own stuff on the shelves now. Nathan is very happy. More room for Interference and Jigsaw School Apps I had some very nice flowers from the council - and a card. I did the last meeting on the Thursday night. It was nice that they got me a card too - and some of them even signed it!

With my spare time, now that I don't do clerking - I can help out a bit more with being a Moderator for Interference. We've had a problem with trolls recently - not sure whether there were several or if it was the same person with multiple accounts. It was horrible though and they really upset some of our players. You may know - the game involves drawing things that you see a written description for. I am sure that you can imagine the sort of things a puerile troll was drawing instead!  They did take some tracking down and stopping. They were very persistent

Why do some people just spend so much time and considerable effort ruining things for others? They could be using all that talent for the power of good! He/she/they were a pretty talented artist!

I am quite excited also to have been invited by Nathan and his business partner Darren to come along to the Bett Show 2014 in January. They are going to showcase their newest school app with some revolutionary new features - don't want to give away any industrial secrets here. It is going to be great though! I shall be making myself useful by handing out leaflets and enticing people to their stand. Hopefully! I like doing new things :-)

Our other office :-)
Meanwhile,  today we walked into town and set our laptops up in our alternative office for the afternoon - the Lymestone Vaults. They had a roaring log fire and some very festive decorations. Nathan tried the newest beer from the team - the very hoppy Abdominal Stoneman. A little too bitter for me - but he liked it. It is pretty strong at 7% though.

I like Wednesdays!! :-)

Best place to be on a cold December afternoon.