Sunday, November 20, 2011

Databases- the health food of the information world?

We had another session led by Alistair Allan this week. He introduced features of various databases. He also compared search engines to databases with the analogy of fatty junk food vs. more nutritional fare- basically, quantity over quality. It was a very interesting analogy connected with information obesity. I was very naive, but the most surprising thing to me was the very tiny overlap between databases. I thought that most academic papers would be on nearly all major databases, but am pleasantly surprised that there is a lot more 'out there' than I had previously imagined.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Polite Interrogation Techniques

Today we learned about reference services and the information interview. We were tasked with interviewing each other and had to both learn how to express our information needs and 'extract' the request from another. We found face-to-face interviewing much easier as we were able to gain further information and feedback. Effective communication is crucial, especially as we have to understand the scope of the query and deliver relevant information to the client. This was a practise exercise for future coursework. It is useful if you are able to give specific responses such as '5 people' and 'no shellfish please due to allergies' in connection to a restaurant recommendation. Vague questions are more difficult to answer. It's important not to make the interviewee uncomfortable. You are there to help them and sometimes must lead, sometimes follow, in order to fulfil their needs.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Information Literacy in Our Future Careers

Over the last week, we have been exploring the idea of our future careers in relation to information literacy. In our team, we each wanted to pursue a different route - Anna is interested in public libraries, Melanie would like to investigate the architecture of libraries, Nancy would like to work in an art library, and I'd really enjoy a career in archiving. We wanted to ensure that we illustrated everyone's ambitions, and we designed a concept whereby we would link the SCONUL Pillars of Information Literacy with the types of services we felt we would be providing as information professionals in our future careers: to manage space, to scope resources, to plan the future, to identify users needs, to present tools for searching, to gather information, and to evaluate our own service provision.

Nancy led us with her creative flair, but Anna and Melanie had some hidden artistic talents, too! I think we really enjoyed the opportunity to get creative, and to get to know each other a little bit better.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Web 2.0 -

While considering this post, I realised that I do in fact use web 2.0 applications more than I had initially thought. One example, for leisure purposes, would be, a music website that profiles and archives the user's musical taste by recording ("scrobbling") details of what is being listened to on their computer or via the website itself. There is also a social networking dimension to the site; I tend to use this less, but one interesting feature is the ability to check my musical compatibility with other users. I find it fascinating to check my personal listening statistics and see how my musical tastes have changed over the last weeks/ months/ years. The recommendations feature is also an excellent way to discover new music, events in my area, and articles or blog posts about music I like.

An Web 2.0 Application----Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a typical application in Web2.0 environment. It is a free, web-based, multilingual encyclopedia which is written collaboratively by largely anonymous. Usually, I use it as a kind of reference book, encyclopedia. Sometimes, it is also being treated as a writing samples database for English learner. A lot of people choose Wikipedia because of its high-quality content. Some academic institutions, however, do not recommend Wikipedia as a sort of research recourse, especially in term of articles about history. In fact, the figures from Nature and First Monday show us that Wikipedia does a good job in information diversity, reliability and accuracy.

Web 2.0 Services and Applications

This list of web 2.0 services is a little out of date now (2006) but is a very helpful starting point.

If anyone can find a more up-to-date list, please do post it!

What a Wicked Web We Weave 2.0

I must admit I have not used a lot of Web 2.0 applications. This is due to my being an antisocial Luddite- well, not really. And now that I've seen a comprehensive list of Web 2.0 applications, I have realized I utilize more than I realize, and boy, could use even more. Some of the apps sound like amazing timesavers, (such as Auctionmapper to collate auction results), whereas of course, some are designed as timewasters, (you know who you are). When not living in a cave eating what mushrooms I find, I use Etsy. I have yet to buy anything, but I really enjoy seeing the trends out there in graphic design and illustration especially. It has a great function that allows sellers and buyers to speak to each other and 'favourite' each other's items and get a more personalized view of their overall style sensibility. My favourite however is the 'search by colour' function. For some reason, I greatly enjoy seeing items sorted that way and it's amazing to see how disparate things can be linked based on that one characteristic.


I don't really use a lot of Web 2.0 applications. I tend to browse various Blogs for pleasure, and I use search engines, etc. for work and study, but other than that, I rarely use Web 2.0. However, I do use Skype. Last year, I had a number of friends who were studying abroad and it was a great way to keep in contact with them. When I was feeling particularly lazy, I also used it to contact my housemates. It's free and unlimited, providing you have an internet connection. You can instant message, video call, or conference call. You can also attach documents and share information. I avoid putting too much information about myself online, hence my limited use of Web 2.0 applications, but I think Skype is fairly safe and secure.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Information Literacy & 信息素养

I am very pleased to get the opportunity to share something about information literacy in Chinese.There are some websites below focusing upon the research and practice on information literacy.

  • Information Literacy Association of Wuhan University

  • 武汉大学信息素养协会

  • Information Literacy Association of Wuhan University, which is the first student league with substance of information literacy, was found in June of 2006 by more than 30 graduate and undergraduate students, and was established formally in September of 2006. The association is instructed professionally by the School of Information and Management of Wuhan University. Professor Ma Feichen, the chef of the information resource research center of Wuhan University, is the chef academic director of the association; moreover, the international counselor of it is Professor F.W.Horton, the senior counselor of the information resource management committee in U.S. From this page, we can get information about recent activities and recourses about information literacy. Also, people can discuss their opinions in the BBS of the website.

  • Information Literacy Teaching Platform

  • 信息素养教学实验平台

  • This teaching platform is produced by Management School, Shandong University. It aims to help users deal with Information barriers appearing in their life, study and research, and promote their capability of information acquisition and use, learning and research. There are four parts for learner to choose: teaching, communication, examination and tutorship.

  • Information literacy Training Course

  • 信息素养培训课程

  • Information literacy research team developed this website for people to understand information literacy standards, and also to improve their ability of information selecting, information retrieval and information evaluation. The course consists of four parts including introduction to information literacy, information resources, information retrieval and information evaluation and use. If the user is beginner of information literacy, they are recommended to start from the introduction to information literacy.

Information Literacy: The Global Picture

The American University Library's information literacy tutorial takes users through five stages:
  1. Choosing a research topic
  2. Identifying what information is needed
  3. Search strategies
  4. Evaluating information
  5. Citing information
It is particularly targeted at those using the library for research, and is quite specific in parts, but the general principles of IL that it covers could apply to a wide range of information seekers.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Information Literacy- Global Context

We were asked to find an item on information literacy in our native language and post it. I really enjoyed the link below! The author does as she claims. I never really considered 'information literacy' except as a subset of library knowledge previously. That viewpoint seems really limited now. I.L. seems a much more sweeping concept that everyone should grasp and can enrich all lives. Is typing just for administrative assistants? Cooking just for world-class chefs? No, no, and heavens above, being able to understand, evaluate and explore knowledge really expands horizons. Check it out yourselves below:

Sophie McDonald, you rock!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Google Secrets

In China, we often search information by instead of So in class, I found an interesting function only provided by Users can control the reading level by choosing three different options including basic level, intermediate level and advanced level. I think it is quite convenient for users with various need. Because a language beginner might need some simple reading while an expert may want to limit results to those at advanced reading levels.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

To Go and Google Forth

Professor Allan gave a very thought-provoking speech this week on Google secrets, particularly with the Scholar function. The session was chock-a-block with solid content, and we were simultaneously trying to write notes and practise his tips. My favourite was just to adjust the reading level of the work involved, though it was also great to understand that different file types would result in certain documents. It's odd to think that there are secrets surrounding such a massive brand name, but I suppose it's similar to the ingredients of Coca-Cola. We are perfectly willing to ingest, even if we don't understand the constituent material.

Information Literacy for Children on the Autistic Spectrum

Following the lecture from Alistair Allan about the secrets of Google, I decided to experiment a little when looking for an article to read about information literacy that was in my own language. This was the first article I came across in my first search of Google Scholar, and although it was not the only article I found, it was very interesting.

The article described Bilal's research into the specific needs of autistic children, specifically in relation to their digital information literacy. Her research was carried out through interviews with the parents and carers of autistic children, and (although on a small scale) creates an interesting starting point for further exploration.

Bilal, D. (2010). "The Mediated Information Needs of Children on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)". Towards Accessible Search Systems: Workshop of the 33rd Annual International ACM SIGIR Conference on Research and Development in Information Retrieval, pp. 42-49. Geneva: SIGIR, [Accessed 12/10/2011]

The Secrets of Google

In researching the Test Essay for the iSchool, I have found out a lot about Google's darkest secrets. However, the lecture from Alistair Allan explored the more positive aspects of what Google doesn't necessarily tell you - Advanced Search. I had used this tool a few times in my undergraduate degree, but not to the extent that Alistair showed us in class. I think the most interesting thing I found out was that you could set up email alerts with Google Scholar, so that links can be sent to you when new documents are published and added to Google's repository.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Google Secrets

I have used Google's search facilities (simple and advanced) in my previous work, but was less familiar with Google Scholar. I was particularly interested to learn that it is possible to link an account with an institution's own resources -- so by selecting the University of Sheffield, search results include material that is then accessible through the university's online subscriptions.

Indicative abstract

Erdelez, S. (1999) "Information encountering: it's more than just bumping into information." Bulletin of the American Association for Information Science [Online], 25(3), 25-29.

This article introduces the concept of information encountering and relates it to the wider context of information acquisition. Participants were asked to recall information encountering experiences. Four categories of information encounterers are identified and issues of timeframe, user needs and practical implications are addressed, including emotional and cognitive changes. The author concludes that information encountering is an important area of information acquisition and should inform future consideration of user behaviour.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Abstracting to Distraction

We were tasked this week with abstracting from an academic study. As with a lot of summarizing writing, it turned out to be harder than it looked.

Indicative Abstract
Erdelez, S. (1999) "Information encountering: it's more than just bumping into information." Bulletin of the American Association for Information Science [Online], 25(3), 25-29.
The author seeks to define and raise awareness of information encountering. Erdelez feels strongly that it is a previously underreported area of research that has great potential. Her exact methodology is unclear; however, solicited subjects were interviewed on their experience of random discoveries of data. (Previous research has focused on guided data seeking.) Her results reinforce her thesis of the validity of serendipitous knowledge. She outlines four categories of information seekers: non-encounterers, occasional encounterers, encounterers and super-encounterers. Erdelez discusses the emotional effects, and how needs met further develop information encountering. Training IT professionals, adapting IT software and explaining so-called irrational information behaviour would all be potential routes for further study.

Analysis of Abstracting
I feel our example is more mainstream or even journalistic in style, simply giving an overall view of the work. Too much focus was perhaps given to the possible future follow-up, and criticism of methodology should have been omitted. It seems difficult in abstracting to balance the need to provide information for future database users with promoting the study. I guess one just has to focus on giving what information is crucial in determining a study’s relevance to a potential researcher.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The New Information Universe

A key part of my job as an Acquisitions Editor was to research, develop and present proposals for new books. This required planning a research strategy, identifying and evaluating many different sources, organising the information, and presenting it for maximum impact. Some sources, such as industry white papers and magazines, were particularly relevant when I was undertaking market research. Others were more valuable when it came to the strategic side; for example, in-house data tools and my company's private library of previous proposals and research. Throughout the process, I made extensive use of people as an information source: colleagues and industry contacts were able to pass on relevant data, offer their opinions or anecdotal evidence, and suggest other appropriate sources or searches.

  • Industry reports and white papers
  • Magazines and newspapers (particularly industry magazines)
  • In-house data (e.g. previous proposals, sales data)
  • Proposal reviews (sourced from industry contacts)
  • Anecdotal evidence/ interviews
  • Websites (corporate, commercial, government, personal)
  • Social networking sites
  • Online discussion forums
  • Blogs
  • Print books
  • e-books
  • Industry journals

The Information Universe

Like my fellow Shush This! bloggers, part of the reason I am on this course is my love for learning new things. I particularly love the way that finding one piece of information leads the the discovery of so much more. Information retrieval occurs in all aspects of life, from academic to work-related to personal. My list of types of information may somewhat overlap with that of my colleagues, but I think that just reflects the common interest in information literacy that we all share:
  • books - including fictional, academic, handbooks, etc.
  • journals and academic articles, both online and in print
  • newspapers and magazines
  • websites - including news, corporate, government, commercial, gossip, blogs
  • search engines and online databases
  • television and film
  • teletext and 'the red button'
  • radio
  • social networking - both in reality and online

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Information Resources_Anna

When I was an undergraduate student, I read academic books and journals to prepare my essay, read novels for fun, and watched BBC news to improve my English and know the world. However, since I came in Sheffield, map becomes increasingly important to my life. I take it to attend class, go shopping and visit friends, otherwise I might lose myself. What’s more, it is quite different between the teaching methods in England and that in China. Chinese students often use a main textbook for a course, and almost every student has one. In contrast, in British, there are a lot of materials, including print and electronic books, journals and websites which people have to study before class for preparation and after class for review. Fortunately, libraries here are brilliant with comfortable sofa, rich collections, bright space and friendly service so that I can get information freely and effectively.


Dictionary (online, print)

Encyclopedia (online, print)





News website



Conference Paper



Community-based answering site (Professional, free)

Social networking sites

Online academic discussion forums

Friday, September 30, 2011

Variety is the Splice of Information Synthesis

I love the fact that information is absolutely everywhere. Sometimes we make concerted efforts to discover data, and sometimes it is the force that acts upon us, smacking us into a new realization. Putting disparate information together in new combinations can create fantastic new patterns and data. The quirkier and more eccentric the information, the better for me.

I've been fortunate enough to have positions in the media that require some offbeat inquiries. Unbelievably, I only yesterday realized that I have specialized in image retrieval without even knowing it. I particularly liked the wardrobe and hair/makeup queries, although there were also ones from props, set decoration, straight fact-checking and others. Working on a topical comedy show, information was very time-sensitive, and we had to keep abreast of the political situation in Iran, the currency conversion rate with America, and the latest haircut Lady Gaga was sporting. As you can imagine, this changed daily, if not hourly, right up to our deadline. I really liked the wide variety of queries I was given, and felt a bit like an 'information concierge'. I might have had videotape out from Parliament, CDs from the music library, art books from the visual library, biographies from the regular library and archival footage- all from in-house sources, so it was sometimes a task to juggle returns.

"How do you pronouce the Latin phrase...?"
"What`s the middle name of the opposition leader?"
"When did Angela Merkel first get elected?"
"Where is Nauru?"
"What size crinoline would an 1870s dress have?"

Sample List
-telephone directories and reverse phone look-ups
-professional photo websites such as Getty
-museum and gallery websites
-auction catalogues
-press releases
-Clarence House
-DEFRA and other government agencies
-official websites of MPs and other public figures
-major news websites
-gossip websites for joke fodder/paparazzi shots
-advertisements and physical products in stores
-corporate websites
-union documents
-personnel in legal and other specialized department
-my mother for agricultural issues, aunt for medical, etc.
-trivia quizzes and contests
-academic experts in particular fields


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Pillars that will not fall...

As a team we feel that our strongest pillars are Gathering and Presenting. We have all, in our academic and personal lives, enjoyed gathering data and recognise the value of that information. We all have previous experience of presenting information in a higher education context: speaking, formatting, and writing academic assignments with confidence. The process can entail not only sourcing existing material, but synthesising this information to create and communicate new knowledge.

Cambridge 23 Things

The Cambridge 23 Things initiative is upgraded each year with 'Extra Things' -- so in the first week the basic Things are creating a Google account and a blog, but these are then supplemented by an Extra Thing of "Ways to make blog look awesome".

We are impressed by the plethora of computer programs listed, and the detail in which they are explained. The blog is laid out well with good integration of images and video. Professionalism is displayed in the clarity of writing and consistency of format.

We did question the inclusion of Richard Nixon but highly approve of the reference to Cookie Monster.


We are a group of four MA Librarianship students, with varied experience in academia, publishing and media. We believe strongly in empowering people through information and sharing knowledge. We want to make the best of people, whatever their background and interests. Our thirst for knowledge is what led us to this programme.

Part of our learning is to use this blog to explore information literacy and information behaviour, and we will be structuring this around the 23 Things system.

We hope to break through the stereotype of the "silent library" and give people a voice through access to information.