Looking back at Things 1, 2, 3 & 4

I am a moderator of the Rudaí23 course, and contributed some of the content too. I decided to wait until a few ‘Things’ had been published before putting pen to virtual paper to reflect on my learnings from the course to date.

I look back at the breadth and depth of what has been covered to date and despite being a big advocate of Visual Communications and being pretty immersed in it I have learned SO MUCH more about it, from the blog posts and from the participants reactions to it.

I set up a Feedly to see the new content that people are writing for each thing and have so far really enjoyed John Ryan’s post on Thing 3: Image Banks. Nobody really wants to talk about copyright but John presented some great examples of how it can impact on people’s daily lives. I also enjoyed Siobhán’s post about her trips to galleries over the summer, check out her ongoing Art and Art history blog.

So many new people have started blogging through the Rudaí23 course and forced the rest of us to up our game and get through the things, whether it is one by one or as a group on a weekend when we have more time.

My favourite tools so far are Pixabay and Quik, using both regularly now in my work so thanks to my fellor course coordinators for those tips. I only have the free version of Quik but I can see its potential especially as the files are automatically saved to my camera roll on my phone. Quik auto generated a short video for me using a set of photos from a trip to Columbia University earlier this year and this was so easy to save and share that it knocked my socks off! Quik_Mobile_thumbnail_headerMobile content creation is now the fastest and easiest way for me to make good content for social media channels so more tools like Quik can make my job easier.

I am looking forward to doing the screencasting tasks in Thing 5: Video Presentations and particularly excited about Thing 7: Online Exhibitions. All part of Communicating Visually and I will submit a Digital Badge application once I’ve completed my reflective blog post about these Things.


How to build a follower base on Snapchat

Last week I wrote a piece for the very popular LibFocus blog about how academic libraries can use Snapchat to have direct communication with students. Snapchat is now the MOST popular social network among under 35 year olds in Ireland. I received many queries as a result of my post and when distilled they essentially boil down to ‘How’; people want to know how to grow their number of followers so that their Snapchat account is more visible.  The steps below are not the exhaustive list of ‘How’ but I hope they are enough to give people ideas and get them started. Here’s what we did with LibraryUL, the Snapchat account for the Glucksman Library at the University of Limerick when we got started last October:

  • Printed SnapCode and displayed it in prominent locations
  • Student Peer Advisor team promoted it, mainly by word of mouth
  • Cross-platform advertising, on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram
  • Promoted by main student Snap accounts e.g. ULSU & First Seven Weeks
  • Advertised directly by email to students

Orientation option 1I don’t claim to be an expert Snapchatter, I am learning as I go along and am superbly supported in Snapchat by a student digital ambassador in our library.  There are many advocates of Snapchat at the University of Limerick and we are learning from one another and happy to help you out if you have queries like the one above.

Happy Snapping!

Rudaí 23 course will help you to create eye-catching content for the web

Over the summer I will be working with good friends and colleagues in the Western Regional Section of the LAI to fine tune our free online learning course for 2017/18. It’s called Rudaí23 and we are very excited to be running it for a second time.

Rudaí23 is an adaptation of the more widely known ’23 Things’ which is an online CPD course that teaches people new digital skills. 23 Things began in the United States in 2006 and it has been adapted and delivered in many countries since, and once before by the WRSLAI, in 2015.  We took a themed approach when devising the content for this course. Along with the inspiring Niamh O’Donovan, I will be leading the Visual Communicator piece. We have superb guest contributors like Sinéad Keogh from UL Library, an innovator in digital learning, and others who are lending us some of their expertise by writing modules and setting tasks for our course.

Rudai 23poster 2017Our Rudaí23 course is completely free, and we are awarding digital open badges to people who complete some or all of the areas, which along with Visual Communicator, include Critical Thinker, Engaged Professional and Online Networker.

More than half of the world’s population are ‘visual learners’. This means that you can get your message across to these people more effectively by using some type of ‘visual’ in your blog post, web page, poster or social media post. Evidence from social media platforms tells us that posts with visual or multimedia content engage more users than ‘plain old text’ so the modules in this section of Rudaí 23 are designed to give people the skills to be a competent visual communicator.


We are thrilled to be delivering the course a second time and look forward to learning side by side with all of you that register on August 28th 2017. Good luck with the modules and be assured of our commitment to helping you if you encounter bumps along the way.

Follow Rudaí23 on Twitter for updates and breaking news on the content that we will cover in the course.

Help yourself and help someone else to be more secure on the web.

Last month, without being entirely sure what I could do about web security within my own role, I attended a half day workshop with Brian Hickey from the Dublin Business School. Brian is a senior lecturer in IT and I bet he has his students quivering in their boots when he points out all the security flaws he sees around him.online security

Brian covered many aspects of security in his talk, from the ubiquitous internet router to the more advanced topic of mobile security. The simplest of intrusions and the elaborate scams all prey on people’s negligence with their personal data online.

Brian’s practical advice spurred me on to create a short list of MUST DO items that you and anyone you know can and should do without delay to ensure the safety of your data online.

  1. Change the default password on your home router
  2. Encrypt the hard drive on your computer so that you have first line protection from a cyber attack, using something like Bitlocker.
  3. Don’t put an external facing out of office on your work email, would you put a sign up at your house saying you are out of the country for 2 weeks?

Brian’s session was pitched at a general library audience and I certainly came away with a greater awareness and some practical solutions to help me improve my own online security. Everyone, no matter their role, and those with no formal ‘job role’ at all can do a little something immediately to make themselves more secure online.

Thanks Brian! And thanks to the LIR Committee for having Brian speak at UL and at their annual seminar earlier in the year in Dublin. If you want to learn more about cyber security Brian references this excellent TED talk by James Lyne, definitely worth a watch.

Libraries, providing sanctuary to all

As the University of Limerick has been designated a University of Sanctuary in recognition of its initiatives welcoming asylum seekers and refugees, I reflected on the role played by libraries in offering sanctuary to learners.

Fundamentally, libraries offer a safe and inviting space in which people can read quietly or work collaboratively. Librarians encounter and solve complex queries, establish connections between learners and the services that can best benefit them. These professional attributes place librarians at the centre of many inter-agency initiatives to welcome and assist people from new communities to Ireland.

The Library Association of Ireland’s Western Section held a seminar on ‘Diversity in Libraries’ in Co. Clare this week. Welcoming migrant populations is nothing new in Ireland’s western counties. The Shannon resettlement programme in the 1970s and the housing of Syrian families in Co. Roscommon demonstrates the welcome that the West extends to migrants.

Galway County Council’s library service is one initiative described at the LAI Seminar .

Western Regional Section of the Library Association of Ireland

Among other professional attributes, a librarian’s project management and communications skills made Galway’s library staff crucial partners in the Syrian refugee resettlement programme. From conducti

ng research to support the committee running the project to establishing links in the community, providing internet access and English-language learning material, the library played a central role in the successful rollout of the programme. On a continuing basis, the library provides cultural information and offers space for people to meet.  Irish people interacting personally with the Syrians has given everyone that most critical of perspectives; understanding.

Today belongs to the 17 refugees from direct provision in Limerick who will get scholarships to study at the University of Limerick. Our campus library will welcome them and be a sanctuary and a lifeline when deadlines approach. I look forward to learning from the experiences of these students, to deepening my understanding of their culture and their backgrounds, so that we can go from strength to strength in supporting diverse learner needs.

Making Every Seat Count; dealing with desk reserving in an academic library

At the QQML Conference in 2017 I presented a paper describing an innovation put in place at the University of Limerick’s Glucksman Library to counter the student practice of reserving library seats by depositing their coats and bags at or on a desk or study chair, before exiting the library to participate in other activities.  This paper describes the impact and effectiveness of an intervention put in place to alleviate the Every Seat Counts 2017space constraints caused by the practice. The data from focus groups and surveys provided an understanding of the problem before and after the intervention.

Michelle Breen talk at QQML 2017 Making every seat count

The desk clearing initiative described in this study was successful in reducing the practice of seat reserving and thus increasing the availability of seats for use.  This research gives library managers practical advice about how to tackle the problem of seat reserving in libraries.

If you would like to know more about how it works please leave a comment below or email me, michelle.breen@ul.ie

When you don’t have time to read

Who among us could honestly say they’ve got loads and loads of time on their hands at the moment? When I think about the conditions I personally need in order to be able to ‘reaaudiobookd’ I think about a quiet, comfortable space, free from human or technological distraction. Where I’d find places like that right now with 2 young children is just a mystery to me.

What I have, and cherish, every day is a 48km commute to work. It’s in a private car as the public transport simply doesn’t support the route in any sort of efficient way. Up to last month I’d listen to the radio or make a call on the phone . . . Bluetoothed of course. But since I discovered Audible I have been able to start ‘reading’ again.

It started after a Ryan Tubridy book recommendation for the JD Vance book Hillbilly Elegy. Following Ryan’s tip off, I went to Amazon to download the book and discovered an audio version. I signed up for Audible’s trial and have now become a monthly subscriber. I have found a way to keep up with my reading, and another great way to pass some time on the commute to and from work.

If you’re wondering how you can get more books ‘read’ then maybe it’s worth checking out Audible, even if it’s just the trial.

Getting your creative juices flowing

A good poster is certainly a thing of beauty, and something that catches our eye and our imagination when information is presented clearly in a visual way. Academic and research conferences usually have a poster strand built in and it is a powerful way to engage non-presenters in the conference’s theme. This year’s CONUL conference has a broad theme of ‘Inspiring and Supporting Research’ which allows a wide range of relevant topics to be submitted.

Inspired by the fantastic Laura Connaughton’s talk at the WRSLAI Winter Networking event in December, I will lead a band of merry poster makers on a posters journey in the coming months. Having to get down to brass tacks with novice poster makers has made me consider all the skills that are now required of our library workforce.

Selecting a suitable project that fits with the conference theme forces us to be critically reflective of our everyday work. Setting work deadlines to one side for an afternoon is a liberating way to tackle what will hopefully be a creative and enjoyable experience for us all. Thinking about representative images, deciding on layout, font, title and all of the other elements that make a successful poster are only the first steps. The analog bits. Of course the poster will be created digitally, albeit for a printed final product and this will be another learning opportunity for us as we choose a suitable infographic software and source copyright free but high resolution images.

We want to have an impact with the audience at CONUL, emulating last year’s posters. Perhaps we are setting ourselves an ambitious target but we’re hoping to have a lot of fun along the way.

Reddit, liked it.

In December I contributed to a 12 Apps programme at the University of Limerick. The University’s Ed Tech team coordinated this and tapped in to their strong UL network of tech tools advocates. I initially selected Basecamp as the app I would write about but midway through the course the tool became a paid one so I decided I would change to the very useful Reddit.  reddit

Reddit is a social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion app (and website).

 What can Reddit do?

Reddit’s registered community members can submit content, such as text posts or direct links. Registered users can then vote submissions up or down to organize the posts and determine their position on the site’s pages. The submissions with the most positive votes appear on the front page or the top of a category.

Content entries are organized by areas of interest called “subreddits”. The subreddit topics include information on many of the subjects we teach at the University of Limerick.

As part of the course we had to give people a task to do,  here is what I asked people to do, to get you started.

  1. Open Reddit and search for World War 1.
  2. Choose a subreddit that you want to view information about e.g. https://www.reddit.com/r/ww1/
  3. Then search within that subreddit for Ireland.
  4. You will see an entry about UL’s World War 1 project ‘Long way to Tipperary’.
  5. Perform a new search about any topic you are researching to identify online experts.