Friday, 31 March 2017

A Return to the Lanes

Almost exactly three years ago I visited Melbourne for the first time. I'm back now to see my six week old nephew but I'm also having a well deserved break. 

I took the time today to revisit Melbourne's famous Lanes where graffiti is legalised and transcends the tags and vandalism seen elsewhere in the world. This is street art covering whole alley ways with layer upon layer of additions overlapping and interconnecting. 

Amidst the large scale work there were some smaller gems to be found, pulling from current affairs and containing their own messages despite the lack of context. As would be expected of street artists the trend was anti establishment and anti cataplism but it's the dark humour that I find most appealing

Monday, 20 March 2017

UX Readings - Libraries and beyond

After a recent plea forrecent articles of library UX I realised I probably had a list of fairly recent ones that would be of interest to others, although with hindsight many are about space and aren't necessarily true UX.

Bear in mind that some of these are pay walled and I accessed them through our University subscriptions, so availability may depend on whether you belong to an institution with access. 

My main focus when searching for these articles was to explore something I've started calling social independent learning - a phenomenon  which we see with our own UX work at  Southampton and which it turns out is recognised elsewhere under different guises.

Planning library spaces and services for Millennials: an evidence-based approach

EunYoung Yoo-Lee, Tae Heon Lee, LaTesha Velez, (2013),"Planning library spaces and services for Millennials: an evidence-based approach", Library Management, Vol. 34 Iss 6/7 pp. 498 - 511

A Really Nice Spot”: Evaluating Place, Space, and Technology in Academic Libraries

  Michael J. Khoo, Lily Rozaklis, Catherine Hall and Diana Kusunoki, (2016)

 "A Really Nice Spot”: Evaluating Place, Space, and Technology in Academic Libraries" , College & Research Libraries, vol. 77 no. 1 51-70.

User experience (UX) in libraries: let’s get physical (and digital)

 Appleton, L., (2016). User experience (UX) in libraries: let’s get physical (and digital). Insights. 29(3), pp.224–227.

 Collecting Space Use Data to Improve the UX of Library Space 

Gullikson. Shelley, Meyer, Kristin, (2016)  "Collecting Space Use Data to Improve the UX of Library Space" Weave: Jopurnal of User Experience, vol 1 Iss 5.

Those of yopu who are interested  may also like to follow up on the recent Northern Collaboration User UX Exchange - I believe many of the slides will be made available online and it was tweeted under # Or have a have a look at this blog post from York.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

True Colours, Silver Linings

This month I've been working to the brief of silver, a colour that has proven more tricky than expected. I thought that  metallics would give me lots of scope with reflection but I've been struggling all month to find inspiration or enthusiasm. 

So little to shout about with this post, although the month has brought a silver lining of a different type in the form of a new nephew. 

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Food for Thought

Something that probably hasn't come across on this blog before is my love of food, and more specifically my love of cooking. I thought I'd put that right by posting a couple of recent meals I've cooked. 

In the kitchen I'm an odd mix. On one side I'm a creature of habits, often returning to the same recipe time and time again. Such is my familiarity with some of these dishes, such as my anglicised Moroccan chicken  I can if necessary create it for forty, with no written instructions at all. 

On the other side I'm an experimenter, and even on the rare occasions when I follow a recipe, will tweak it and make it my own. Rarely do I have disasters and I like to think that I have a good understanding of how flavours work together. 

This weekend I tried two new recipes using up some meat from the freezer. I often have meat from the reduced section in the freezer and although my boyfriend does have a tendency to laugh at me when I scan the aisle for yellow stickers he doesn't complain when we eat as well as we do. 

The first was using up a rare luxury, one of two lamb shoulders. I didn't want to over complicate such a good piece of meat so I paired it with the old favourites of garlic and rosemary with an added burst of flavour from lemon. 

Lemon, rosemary and garlic lamb. 

You'll need a bulb of garlic, a good handful of fresh rosemary and a lemon. And a joint of meat. Mine was about 1.5kg.

Peel the garlic and slice each clove in half length ways.  Cut the rosemary in to inch long sprigs. Chop the lemon in to small 2cm pieces. 

Now take your joint and make incisions all over it, about 1-2cm deep. I find that the easiest way is to use a small sharp ended knife to make crossed incisions, creating the ideal pocket to stuff in a bit of lemon, rosemary and garlic. Remember to do both sides. 

Once you've used up your ingredients place the joint on a roasting tin, skin side up. Season well with salt and pepper and then place in an oven at 200c. I cooked mine for 30 minutes per 500g plus 30 minutes. This cooked it through, if you want it pink just reduce the time slightly. 

After an hour I checked on the joint and gave the skin a good lug of olive oil. 

I served ours as a full roast dinner but the lemon gives the meat a wonderful freshness and it'd be equally good served in a salad or in pitta with cucumber and yogurt. 

Sunday dinner was more frugal, using up some cocktail sausages in a quick and easy sausage casserole. For this I used:

300g cocktail sausages. (any sausage would do though) 
1 punnet of chestnut mushrooms, quartered.
1 onion sliced
2 large beef tomatoes (use a can of you prefer but drain the juice off) 

1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Zest of one lemon
Juice of half lemon

Large bunch basil
1 mozzarella ball torn into small pieces
Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.

Heat olive oil in a large oven proof dish. Add the sausages and onions and fry for a few minutes. Add the mushrooms, nutmeg and paprika. 
Roughly chop the tomatoes and add along with the lemon zest and juice. 

Place pan into hot oven for ten minutes. Remove and add basil, mozzarella and a drizzle of balsamic over the top. Return to the oven for five minutes or until sausages are cooked through. 

Serve with crusty bread or horseradish mash.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

True Colours 2017: Blue is the Colour

This year is my first ever attempt at a photo a day challenge. I've actually already failed as I missed a day mid month, but I'm not going to beat myself up about that. 

I'm following the challenge as set by a photographer friend called Jamie Stephenson. Every month is set a different colour and each day a photo is taken with that colour as a theme. January's colour was blue and I've very much enjoyed using the challenge to document the ongoing refurbishment of my flat, my love of all things retro and my life in general. Some things that appear here have great sentimental value, some are things I've created and some no longer exist at all. 

Every month I intend to post each photo for the month on this blog. If you reuse these photos please only do so for none commercial or educational use and credit this blog. If you want a copy of an original, let me know.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Here's to MicroAdventures!

First post of 2017 and the first for a very long time. There are a  number of reasons for this hiatus but two main ones. First my personal laptop died, a victim of old age rather than anything more malicious. Secondly I’ve been working to a stress risk assessment for the last year that requires me (for my own good) to leave work firmly behind me at 5pm. No evening working, no checking emails at weekends, no going anywhere near work stuff outside of 9-5.  And because I now rely on my work tablet for access to Word I have for my own well being avoided any professional activities other than those that fall within work time. I've now got to the point where I feel I don't have to be so rigorous with that separation.

I have of course continued to be busy. In June I attended the ARLG annual conference during which I managed to find some of my old enthusiasm for what I do, mainly thanks to the wonderful colleagues who reminded me just why I love working in libraries. I also organised cross service UX training and took the lead in a review of library spaces using UX techniques. I’ve been refining the library chat service and supporting other services across the university in implementing their own online chat. I’m also at the start of a number of interesting projects including introduction of the CSE standard and introduction of an enquiry management system. Throughout this all we are still continuously reviewing our services and processes, ensuring the teams have the training they need and identifying areas that can be refined or improved. 

 Outside of work it’s been a year of firsts. I climbed my first trad route in South Gower, I stayed in my first bothy in Scotland, where I also saw my first pine martin and climbed my first Ben. I bought my first property, held my first house warming and then adopted a beautiful ragdoll cat that has very much become part of the family. I learnt how to tile, created kitchen work tops from scaffold boards, demolished cabinets and have slowly started to create a home that reflects my style and personality.  And I’ve done nearly all of this with the lovely Ross supporting me and holding my hand.

This year will see more adventures to come. I hope to get fit, find solutions to ongoing injuries and start climbing again, stronger and better than before. I’m travelling to Australia to meet a new nephew, will see my twin for the first time in over a year and have plans to catch up on friends around the country. More immediately I’ve set myself the goal of improving my printing techniques and have already started with reduction lino printing using a home made printing press. (following Umbrella Studios instructional videos) I’ve set myself the goal of completing prints good enough to exhibit this year and hope to find someone willing to show them.  I’m also starting my first photo a day project, something I’ve never done before. I’ll post monthly updates of how I’m getting on with the months photos included. 

 So generally I'm positive about the year to come despite the challenges I know are still to come  and happier in mysefl than I have been for a while. Things are still difficult at work but to mitigate that Ross and I are planning adventures (#microadventures - sorry private joke) and I'm focussing on the things that make me happy. This year I hope to fill the blog with these things so hopefully many more posts to come.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Lessons Learnt - Webchat (Part One)

What seems like many moons ago I wrote two blog posts on setting up a new chat service at Bath Spa University. You can find them here and here.

Since then I moved to a new role at the University of Southampton and in doing so took on another chat service, one which was also still in relative infancy. I was tasked with making the existing chat a sustainable service in light of restructures and an evolving library service. Hard in any organisation but difficult in one as large as University of Southampton libraries. Very difficult in light of the fact that chat was popular, incredibly popular, compared  to most other libraries I know of. 

We are still moving through this process of change and while I have struggled with the task at times one thing I am certain of is that with chat we are offering a valued service that picks up questions that might otherwise never have been answered, or even asked.
During this time I have been approached several times by other libraries interested in setting up a chat service and have always been happy to share what I have learnt. I often point them towards my original blog posts and recently realised I should probably add a more updated version.  So here it is. Lessons learnt after over two years of working with online chat services. (Part 1)

First off technology.  I covered this in much detail during my first blog posts. Obviously things have changed. Some services have disappeared. Some have sprung up. Libraryh3lp, the chat service I’m most familiar with is still out there and has recently had a refresh with new features.  It’s also the one we use at Southampton. We see glitches with it, odd behaviour and delays in chats appearing that no one can explain but generally it does the job. If we were a smaller service with only a few users I suspect we wouldn’t even notice these bugs but with multiple staff logged on and sometimes fifty chats a day we do indeed see problems arise, even if our users never realise.  I still recommend Libraryh3lp to anyone wanting to start a chat service because generally there isn’t much between most of the library focused chat services. Libraryh3lp stands out in that it is cheap and in the two years I have been using it have always provided prompt and helpful responses to any questions submitted to their support team. Aside from our unexplained glitches the area it still lacks is in-depth reporting, making it difficult to gain anything other than basic reports. On the plus side the refresh did give us the ‘conference room’ an area on the staff side of webchat where the team can ‘chat’ to each other when logged on. If I was talking to my boss I’d say that it had enabled peer-to-peer support. In reality it has allowed a sense of community to grow between teams that are based across multiple sites, mainly supported by the swapping of envy inducing cake stories.

So with hindsight I would say that the technology is the least of your problems. The only thing you need for sure is permission to make edits to your website, a helpful IT support team and someone within your library service with a little bit of web knowledge. Yes, your chat box may not be the prettiest of things but actually getting things working is only the start of the battle. 

The  next issue I’ll look at is opening hours and staffing. I won’t go into the intricacies of our new staff rota, the difficulties of maintaining this across sites and teams and the challenges of engaging staff for whom chat is a new or relatively small part of their roles. Wherever you pull your staff resource from you need to bear one important thing in mind. If you are going to advertise chat between set times than you will save yourself a lot of bother further down the line if you consider it in the same way you would a new service desk. So that means not just considering a rota, but also, cover for breaks and absences, both planned and unplanned, and someone to manage all of this. Chat may never be big enough to be someone’s entire job but it will need resource just like any other forward facing service. It may be ok to rely on the good will of a few enthusiastic and willing team members but sooner or later you are going to find that this isn’t sustainable, normally around the same time you are under pressure for other reasons. 

If you don’t think you have the resource to advertise opening times then I’ve always believed it’s perfectly acceptable to provide a service ad hoc, as long as you manage expectations and make it clear that chat will be available on an ‘as possible’ basis. It may not be ideal but the nature of a chat service does mean that it’s very much a ‘here and now’ service. People like chat, but won’t necessarily miss what they’ve never had. What you don’t want to do is offer a service which you may have to reduce or withdraw. 

It could be that you have a team who log on when possible, or you could use one of the newer features we are seeing in chats – the ability to instigate a chat with a user browsing specific webpages. You often see these sorts of chats appearing when browsing commercial websites and they do offer an interesting way of offering a proactive chat service without the need to advertise ‘opening hours.’  We quite liked the idea of this but felt that given we do offer advertised hours and have an established and well used chat service we would need more resource to go down this route as an additional feature.
In Part Two I’m going to explore training and common problems we see in handling chats. Hopefully you’ll find it useful!