How to be a good online networker: Reflective practice for Rudai23 MOOC

I began the Online Networker part of the Rudaí23 course on a Saturday afternoon, having completed my first badge (Visual Communicator) over a month ago. Some call it cramming, I call it ‘fitting it in’ so here goes.

I’m glad that Face 2 Face networking was included at the outset in Thing 10, it’s a great skill to have, to be capable of small talk that gets a conversation started with a stranger.  I have had a Facebook page for a long time and have been active on Twitter since 2007,  you can check your own Twitter age on sites like Twiage.  Getting started on Facebook was easy, everyone I knew was on it. Twitter was less easy, it involved a lot of lurking at the beginning, following interesting people and eventually liking and retweeting, before moving on to writing my own tweets to have my say on topics. So learning how to engage, and who to engage with applies as much in a face to face setting as it does on social networks. I do a lot of networking on LinkedIn. Before I set up this blog I used it as a sort of blog when I had something long I wanted to write. I use it to share events and news too and have joined some really interesting professional groups on LinkedIn and on Facebook, and appreciate recommendations from colleagues to alert me to new groups, such as the Irish Librarians Community of Practice that was recommended in Thing 10.  I really enjoyed the SLA article that was shared in the post too, Network Like Nobody’s Watching: Demystifying Networking as a Skill for the Librarian and Information Professional Community. Networking might not come naturally to everyone but I think it’s a skill we can all work at throughout our careers and aim to get better at.

Put a l ens on yourself
Put a lens on yourself through an incognito search                                (Image from

The fantastic Jane Burns wrote Thing 11 for the course, and who better to get Professional Brand advice from. I’ve learned a lot from people like Jane over the years and some of the ways that I manage my brand is to keep a short bio on file so that I don’t have to start from a blank sheet whenever I have to submit something for a conference, a publication or a funding proposal. As Jane says, your biography is evolving all the time and it’s so true, I don’t think I’ve ever used the same bio twice.

Regularly Googling yourself in incognito mode is also a good check on your public profile, do it once and you might be surprised at what you see. If you have a name that also belongs to someone famous, or more high profile than yourself, you may have to work harder at being found or seen online so think of ways to differentiate yourself, e.g. your post nominals from the LAI when you become an Associate (fingers crossed, application being assessed at present) and always remember to use good photos, and if you update it in one place, think about all the other places you will need to update it too. Don’t create confusion for people online by having several different photos of yourself.

The Collaborative Tools Thing was a particularly interesting one for me. I am working on several projects at present that involve partners at different locations, including the Rudaí23 team. We have a lot of collaborative tools on the go. One thing I’ve learned is the need to be able to switch quickly from one tool to another if you find that the tool is no longer meeting our needs. Even within my own workplace when co-authoring a paper this year, we needed a collaborative workplace where we could share files and we turned again to online tools for this. In my ANLTC Research Award project Johanna and I of course have face to face meetings but we also use Freedcamp to share files and I can’t recommend it enough as a collaborative tool. It is a comfort to know that the files we need are not just stored on one of our computers, that they are ‘safe’ in the cloud too.

ELEarningThe VLEs that are used in online learning are often described as cumbersome but I guess that on the scale that these are offered there are going to be issues for some users. From being an online learner, and educator, I can appreciate the challenges involved for both sides when it comes to collaborative online workspaces. With OneDrive being available in Higher Ed libraries it is ironically the tool I use least, with Google Drive being a preferred option as our projects often involve people outside the Higher Ed world.

As the landscape with these new tools is always changing it is great to see a tool that has lasted as long as Doodle. It is amazingly simple to use and everyone should use it as a meeting planning tool, no subscription required, just go to the site and schedule your meeting.

This was a very practical section of the course, and beautifully short. Thanks Rudai23, and thanks too for giving people a much needed break for Christmas.


Seeking re-election as a UL Governor

Campaign flyer 2017Elections will take place at UL on November 27th for staff governors. I was elected to the UL Governing Authority in 2015 and served on what I deem to be the most important committee for staff that work at UL, the GA HR Committee. My membership of this committee means that the perspective of the support staff is presented and recognised. When I campaigned for election in 2015 people told me that that once Governors were elected you never heard from them again. I promised to change that if elected and I committed to keeping people updated throughout my period as Governor.

It is vital that we elect strong staff Governors during this period of change in UL. Staff have a genuine interest in knowing what’s happening in UL and having someone you can talk to that understands staff issues and how these intertwine with the University’s strategy is critical.

I urge voters to consider giving me your Number 1 vote on November 27th.

Applying for my first open badge for online learning

It’s the end of the first section of the Rudai23 course, Digital Skills for Information, or Information for Digital Skills, or just Digital Skills. Any combination of the above will explain to you what the course is about and I am delighted to be able to be a participant in addition to being a course creator and moderator.

I looked at all of the Things in the Visual Communicator section but I am focusing on Things 3, 4, 5 & 6 for my badge, this is Thing 6, my reflective blog post about the tasks I did for the other 3 Things.

The biggest takeaway for me from Thing 3: Image Banks was the range of free resources there are when looking for free to use images online. I now go to Pixabay all the time and have started to use RawPixel that was recommended by someone else doing this course. That’s one of the great things about online learning, people sharing what they know with others, through their blog posts or via our Twitter by just tagging us @Rudai23.

I really believe in the power of visual communications. In everyday life aren’t you drawn in by a strong image more often than you are by a text heavy ad or poster? I am. In Thing 4: Communicating Visually we introduced some visual communication apps. We know people that don’t have smartphones struggled with this one but the reality is that many of the apps like Quik and Photofunia, with which people had a lot of fun, just aren’t designed for the desktop. I use Photofunia a lot and have a subscription to RIPL at work and really can’t recommend these highly enough, even for non creative sorts like me, just load a few images in to the app and it sort of does the rest for you. Most of the creations I do on RIPL are shared on UL Library social accounts including Instagram.

Video presentations are things I used to do when I was a faculty librarian, when there was more teaching in my role. The chance to revisit the up to date tools in Thing 5: Video Presentations was therefore a good refresher. Powtoon seems to be a popular tool in libraries but does anyone else get annoyed by the little jingle ‘Created Using Powtoon’ that’s embedded in the free version? I’ve done screencasts in the past too but they’re nearly always really home-made looking and amateurish so I am slow to share them publicly. I worked on a Take 1 Step project within the Shannon Consortium a couple of years ago and we used a lot of short videos to promote the project and reflect on it, videos were loaded to our YouTube Channel at the time and we used Moovly, with a subscription to create some of our videos. So if you’re in a teaching role now these are worth experimenting with.

So even though I was a content contributor for some of these Things I really learned a lot by doing the tasks in them too. Online Learning It wasn’t kids play (see what I did there) but I hope everyone else found them useful and manageable. (Image courtesy of Pixabay)

Now I am going to clap myself on the back and go forward with my badge application. Wish me luck.

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 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,