Designing with minimal design skills: our #CILIPConf19 bursary winner recommends Canva

MmIT is delighted to announce that the bursary to #CILIPConf19 has been won by  Claire Back, Development Manager with Plymouth Libraries. Her role includes responsibility for marketing, communications and outreach. We asked entrants to draft a blog post about their favourite technology, and below we publish Claire’s blog post on her favourite tech tool: Canva.

Designing with little or no design skills using Canva

I’m not a designer, yet every day I have to provide content for the various websites, social media channels and newsletters that make up the digital marketing tools for my organisation. That used to mean struggling with Photoshop or speaking nicely to the corporate design team, but all that has changed since I discovered Canva. www.canva.com

Canva is an online graphic design tool that lets you create professional looking designs even if you have little or no design skills. In this post I’ll just be looking at what’s available for free as so far that’s been enough for my needs, but there are paid options available.

Once you’ve logged in, you can choose to search, or create a design. Canva has pre-set templates for almost everything you might want to design. I only use it for online content, but it is also possible to get print ready files.

Canva is useful when creating content for social media. As people scroll through everything so quickly now, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to grab someone’s attention and a well-placed image can make people take notice. Canva has templates for all the main social media channels and not just posts, it includes headers, event pages, covers and more allowing you to quickly create an image that will work across sites.

Once you’ve decided on a template you can start designing. If you’re happy using the pre-set templates, it’s easy to replace what’s there with your own images and text, download the image and you’re done. However if you have a bit more time, you can spend time exploring all the features. There are hundreds of elements including photos, graphics and backgrounds. Just use the search box to find what you want and add to your design. Adding text is easy and there are lots of different fonts to choose from. You have complete control over colours and placement and the drag and drop format makes it easy to move things around and try things out. Being able to add text and backgrounds using our brand colours is really useful. 

Canva will also let you upload your own images to use in designs and once uploaded they are always there, so you can go back and reuse whenever you like. I like this feature as I try to use our own images when I can.

Once you’re happy with your design you can download in PNG, JPEG, standard and print PDF. Canva also saves your designs so they are always available.

Another feature I like is the ability to create a design with custom dimensions, useful for our website, blogs and email newsletter.

There’s also a Canva app, and although it doesn’t have the full functionality of the website its useful if I’m out and about or don’t want to turn on my laptop. I can quickly make images the right size and post from my phone. I can also access all my previous designs.

Canva will never replace the talent and skills of a real graphic designer, but because of the ease with which I can quickly create professional looking content, it’s become one of my most used tools.

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Tabling Library Carpentry: talking data skills at #CILIPConf19

In advance of next week’s CILIP Conference, the purpose of this short post is to highlight a session that Jez Cope from the British Library will be delivering on the Thursday morning (with a little help from myself). The title of the session is Library Carpentry: software and data skills for library and information professionals, and may be of interest to MmIT members.  

For those familiar with the Library Carpentry moniker but less so with what it involves, Jez explains as follows:

Library Carpentry develops lessons and teaches workshops for and with people working in library and information-related roles. Their goal is to create an on-ramp to empower this community to use software and data in their own work as well as be advocates for, and train others in, efficient, effective and reproducible data and software practices.

This has been exactly my experience of engaging with the Library Carpentry Community, from learning about software skills through to using, sharing and teaching them (which I’ll speak about briefly in the session).  As my colleague Clare has written, the information profession needs Library Carpentry; the skills that it fosters can benefit us and those we support, it’s win-win.

However, like any emerging area of work, understanding the context and being able to decipher any mysterious new language makes it much easier to engage. Thankfully Jez’s introductory session should address both of these potential barriers, and you won’t even need a laptop! As he states in the programme:

This session gives an overview of the history and goals of the Library Carpentry initiative, followed by a little taster of their lessons and teaching style with a jargon-busting exercise.

So come along on Thursday 4th July to learn more, hopefully it will dovetail nicely with whatever else you have planned for the conference.

Written by guest writer Antony Groves (@AntonyGroves)

How Libraries can support Digital Humanities: reflections on #GaleDHDay

By Antony Groves (Learning and Teaching Librarian at the University of Sussex) @AntonyGroves

At the beginning of May, Gale organised their first Digital Humanities Day at the British Library. The event brought together a diverse range of speakers from around the world who spoke about different aspects of Digital Humanities (DH) scholarship; from infrastructure through to research and teaching. This post will draw out three themes from the day in an effort to better understand how we can support this growing area of work:

  1. Collaboration in DH research is key and libraries can play a role within these collaborations. 
  2. There are many different datasets, techniques and tools being used yet a common approach we can take to developing training.
  3. We should work on our own data projects if we wish to really understand what is needed to support the academic community.

Collaboration in DH research is key and libraries can play a role within these collaborations.

In the afternoon session, Dr Sarah Ketchley stressed that “Digital Humanities projects are inherently a collaborative undertaking” and the earlier presentations of Professors Mark Algee-Hewitt and Joris Van Eijnatten highlighted this. The work done by Prof Algee-Hewitt and others at the Stanford Literary Lab has involved a number of ‘distant reading’ projects where participants have used a variety of computational techniques to analyse large collections of digital texts. Looking at grammar and language respectively, Prof Algee-Hewitt’s research involved digital novels whereas Prof Van Eijnatten focused on newspapers using The Times Digital Archive; both resources that libraries can provide.

Throughout the day, flags such as these indicated potential roles for libraries in DH collaborations. For example, Dr Julianne Nyhan reflected on infrastructure and the challenges to researchers of obtaining data in a format that can be ‘mined’ – in one case having to obtain a hard drive from a provider. This is somewhere librarians can help and Lisa Mcintosh, Director of Access Services at the University of Sydney Library, shared an impressive list of services offered by their library in support of digital research:

  • Provide content for text and data mining
  • License permission and copyright support
  • Recommending tools and TDM (Text and Data Mining) resources
  • Integrating text mining into Information Literacy classes in the Humanities
  • Assisting humanities teaching staff to integrate text mining in the classroom
  • Getting started with data visualisation training • Data analysis and visualisation guide

There are many different datasets, techniques and tools being used yet a common approach we can take to developing training.

For those wondering which students this area of scholarship might appeal to; the answer is all of them. In an inspiring talk about introducing DH in the Undergraduate Classroom, Dr Sarah Ketchley showed that her 2018 ‘Introduction to Digital Humanities’ module was full, with 35 students from 21 different departments across campus. Not only is this type of scholarship appealing to students but it is also invaluable to them. For one reason, as explained by Dr Melodee Beals, “evidence is merely data with a direction”. If we want students to critically engage with evidence-based research, helping them to analyse the underlying data is of great importance.

The tools that students use in Dr Ketchley’s class have included OpenRefine, Voyant Tools and more recently the Gale Digital Scholar Lab – a cloud based platform containing a range of software that can be used with Gale databases to which the institution subscribes. This cloud based approach avoided issues encountered by previous cohorts where a whole lesson had to be dedicated to downloading and installing the required programs. Dr. Tomoji Tabata also introduced an open source tool called Stylo to be used for ‘rolling stylometry’, a technique to detect stylistic changes in passages of text.

Throughout the day, reference was made to many different techniques (e.g. topic modelling, named entity recognition, sentiment analysis); tools (e.g. Gephi, Google Fusion Tables, MALLET); and data sources (e.g. TROVE, Hathitrust, Gale Historical Newspapers). With so much out there, it can be hard to know how best to start providing support. Thankfully, Associate Professor Ryan Cordell brought clarity to this undertaking by proposing four steps to teaching humanities data analysis:

  • Start with creativity 
  • Teach using domain specific data 
  • Foreground corpus over method
  • Foreground mind-set over method (‘programmatic’ thinking more important that programming’)

We take a similar approach to developing our Information Literacy training sessions and find that it works well. In the short amount of time that we often get to see students in workshop, making the content of the session as relevant to a given cohort as possible increases engagement. In addition, focusing on how to approach searching (as opposed to how to use a particular tool) means that they can apply this learning to a range of tools that they may encounter not just the one or two included in the session.

“Work on your own data projects to understand what is really needed to support your academic community”.

This is a direct quote from the final presentation by Lisa Mcintosh, which was the perfect way to finish the day. While listening to the research presented throughout the day was fascinating and certainly highlighted areas where we can support this scholarship, managing our own data projects and facing the same barriers that our researchers encounter is what will really help us to understand the support that is most needed.

This may sound daunting but hopefully this post has shared at least a few resources that can be explored further, and take encouragement from Prof Van Eijnatten who asserted that “if I can write a few lines of code anyone can”.

Recording of “Mindful Tech: balancing work and life”

MmIT Committee member Antony Groves has kindly recorded his talk on Mindful Tech: balancing work and life (originally given at MmIT’s MindfulTech19 event in January 2019). In an MP4 recording (just under nine minutes long) he shares his own story about why he brought mindfulness practices into his own life and recommends books and tools that have helped support his practice. We share this during Mental Health Awareness Week.

Many public and academic libraries now contain curated collections of self-help books from the Reading Well initiative, which supports individuals to understand and manage their health and wellbeing using helpful reading. In addition, the Mental Health Foundation offers a range of helpful online booklets, including a guide to How to look after your mental health using mindfulness.

Exploring information literacy pedagogies through sonic objects #MmITsonic

Join us at Central Saint Martins for this interactive workshop. Participants will be encouraged to experiment with sound, then relate these experiences to teaching practices, strategies and approaches to learning within a context of teaching information literacy. Themes will be emergent on the day, but the workshop design encourages exploration of the following: assumptions about group learning, group dynamics, lived experience of teaching and learning, session design and digital learning.

Anyone who works with students supporting information literacy/academic support or has an interest in pedagogy will benefit from this workshop. Come along and put yourselves in your students shoes for an afternoon and remember what it feels like to be learning something brand new, reflect on your own learning habits and how group dynamics can effect your own experience of learning.

The workshop is on Thursday 6th June, 2pm-5pm at Central Saint Martins, Granary Sq. Kings Cross, London

Book here and follow us at #MMITsonic

MmIT bursary for Cilip Conference 2019 #CilipConf19

 

The CILIP Conference takes place in Manchester from 3-4 July. It’s the annual flagship event for CILIP, the library and information association and one of the biggest events in the calendar for UK library and information professionals. The conference brings together delegates from across the sector to meet, learn and share knowledge. It’s a great chance to catch up with colleagues and make new connections. The conference aims to leave you feeling inspired and passionate about the work that we do as professionals.

MmIT are delighted to be able to offer a bursary place. If you haven’t attended the CILIP conference before, this is a great opportunity to listen to the excellent key note speakers and to network. To apply, please email treasurer.mmit@cilip.org.uk by end of day Friday 19th April 2019. Please tell us who you are, where you work/study, and provide us with a draft blog post about your favourite technology (between 400-1,000 words). We will confirm who the bursary will be awarded to by end of day Friday 3rd May 2019, and subsequently publish the winning blog post (we appreciate that the application time is limited so we will give the winner the opportunity to edit the final version of their blog post during the month of May).

Travel expenses are not provided with the bursary place but accommodation is included. This bursary place includes access to both days of the conference, lunch, refreshments and all sessions. We would expect the bursary winner to proactively promote both the conference and MmIT before, during and after the conference using social media.

To keep up to date on conference developments, follow @CILIPConf19 and #CILIPConf19 and visit the website cilipconference.org.uk.

You can also register for the conference. Don’t worry – if you receive a bursary place, CILIP will refund you. You can still book delegate places at the Early Bird discount until 17th May 2019.

Art library problems, tech solutions

We are delighted to introduce another guest post, this time from one of the MmIT committee. Rowan Williamson is Learning Resources Manager at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London.

I have worked in Art libraries for many years and I always think nothing else our students do will surprise me…and then it does.

That’s what makes it so interesting. ‘Studio’ and workshop activities often creep into the library, and whilst they are often fascinating and are being done hand in hand with more traditional research, they can present a whole range of challenges in terms of health and safety, mess and damage to furniture and environment. Some are a straightforward headache to keep up with the cleaning but it struck me recently that as art librarians we have to be just as creative as our creative students in dealing with the after effects of these activities.

Some Universities are introducing full blown ‘maker spaces’ but that’s not always an option, so if you are stuck with a library moonlighting as an art studio think about the following tips:

  1. Dress makers dolls in the library, bit of stitching and sewing? Unusual but Mannequin, desks and shares in a pop-up maker space in a librarywhere’s the harm? It’s in the dropped tin of pins that are strewn across half the floor. Top tip for an efficient clear up? Get your magnetic DVD unlockers and wave them over to suck them all up!
  2. Hot glue spilt on your tables? You need an iron. Every library should have one! Just add a tea towel and you have a dried glue removal kit.
  3. Spray booths. Spray painting in the library is not what you want because of the toxicity, and it’s fairly likely the smell will alert staff to what’s going on so you can prevent it. However some sprays are only problematic because of the mess, and you may only find out they are being used when you find spray mount all over your tables (yes, glue again!) So a cheap solution you might want to consider, is buying a spray booth. They don’t take up much space (a table top) and can be placed somewhere visible for monitoring, and they might just discourage those secret sprayers from hiding in the back destroying your carpets!
  4. Light tables – Light boxes and tables are very popular with students. Some use it for drawing and tracing as you would expect but I have seen a whole load of activities on there, building models, stringing beads, painting and even using scalpels. Use acetates and clear plastic coatings to prevent the worst. Failing that, take the bulbs out and ‘issue; them to their library account for accountability! (Note; not always that easy depending on the make, your staff time and expertise!
  5. Flip top tables. A simple, flexible space saving solution you would think. But potentially a major health hazard in an art library where I found our fashion students parading up and down on them doing ‘catwalk’ practice! Avoid trouble, don’t buy them. If you need flexible space go for the study chairs with flip side tables, or keep unattached table tops to lay on the floor for them to spread out work!
  6. Are your massive Art books damaging the photocopiers? Are they suffering broken spines from being crammed down on to the glass multiple times daily? Try investing in a professional book scanner that scans from above. Zetech offer a range. They are not cheap but you might save the difference in binding costs!
  7. It may seem obvious but a really powerful little hand held hoover is a must Scraps of paper scattered around a photocopier with the paper drawers openif you have regular wood shavings on your floor. No wood shavings? Bet you have bits of cut up paper. Look out for powerful suction, wall mounted and rechargeable with different nozzles for those art materials you never even heard of before that are littering your floors and getting inside the printers!
  8. Shelfmark challenges. Got someone good with tech/programming/apps? How about you try an Augmented Reality App to create a virtual map of your library shelf locations. Art students browse, and many struggle with classification systems. Dyslexia rates are higher in art school populations, and many students are visual learners. Ditch the classmarks and create an app that pops up images of the subject areas as you point them at the shelves. For a lower tech solution you can use QR codes.
  9. Buy a good camera and get on Instagram. It’s the perennial problem for librarians, which social media platform are the students on, and will they still be there by the time we catch up? Well maybe will always be behind the curve but we prioritise Instagram and a well-chosen image over the pithy 140 characters!
  10. Have a good supply of noise cancelling headphones. And earplugs! Artists are digital too.

Got any more tips? Share them in the comments below!

Rowan Williamson