Europe Day / Schuman Day

9th May is Europe Day, also known as Schuman Day because it’s the anniversary of the Schuman Declaration.  When I was a pupil at the European School Brussels II, we had a half-day holiday on Schuman Day, and FootFest (sports and cultural programme) at around this time.

I’m not sure if these temporary reprieves from the academic timetable alone turned me into a committed European, but I think a good deal of Marcel Decombis’ European Schools mission statement became part of my identity:

Educated side by side, untroubled from infancy by divisive prejudices, acquainted with all that is great and good in the different cultures, it will be borne in upon them as they mature that they belong together. Without ceasing to look to their own lands with love and pride, they will become in mind Europeans, schooled and ready to complete and consolidate the work of their fathers before them, to bring into being a united and thriving Europe.

Being European is important to me, and yet so little of why it matters to me is reflected in the current media “debate” ahead of the EU Referendum on 23rd June.

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Oblique Strategies

I recently learned about Oblique Strategies from Tim Harford’s TED talk on “How frustration can make us more creative”

Link to Tim Harford's TED talk "How frustration can make us more creative"

A transcript is available – helpful if (like me) you prefer reading to watching a video.

Oblique Strategies is a deck of cards created by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt in 1975.  On each card is written a challenging constraint, and they are used to help artists (particularly musicians) to break creative blocks by encouraging lateral thinking.  There are a number of sites offering online versions of the card deck, such as this one and this one.

As I explored these sites, refreshing the pages to cycle through the different constraints, it struck me that many would be relevant in the library/university context, such as:

  • The most important thing is the thing most easily forgotten
  • Go to an extreme, move back to a more comfortable place
  • Work at a different speed
  • Faced with a choice, do both
  • Listen to the quiet voice
  • Discover the recipes you are using and abandon them
  • Who would make this really successful?
  • Ask people to work against their better judgement
  • Use an old idea
  • Shut the door and listen from outside

Learn more about Oblique Strategies in this article from The Guardian (2009) and Wikipedia’s Oblique Strategies page.

The Legal Academic’s Handbook – now available

The Legal Academic’s Handbook, edited by Chris Ashford, Jessica Guth, has recently been published by Palgrave Macmillan.  It includes my chapter on Open Access Publishing (read my pre-print version) and I am thrilled to appear on this list of talented and experienced contributors – as Chris Newman said, “This book is our Woodstock!

Here is the complete list of chapters and contributors:

1. From Legal Practice to Academia; Karen Jones; University of South Wales, UK
2. Lectures; Anthony Bradney; Keele University, UK
3. Marking; Becky Huxley-Binns; University of Law, UK
4. Gender Issues in Teaching and Learning – difficult situations with students; Rachel Fenton; University of the West of England, UK
5. Research and Scholarship; Richard Mullender; Newcastle University, UK
6. Designing Research; Matthew Weait; Birkbeck, University of London, UK
7. Reference Writing; Gary Watt; University of Warwick, UK
8. PhD by Publication; Tim Connor; formerly of University of Bradford, UK
9. Work-Life Balance; Richard Collier; Newcastle University, UK
10. Wellbeing; Richard Collier; Newcastle University, UK
11. Managing Maternity, Paternity and Parental leave; Helen Stalford; University of Liverpool, UK
12. From Module Leadership to Course Leadership; Donna Whitehead; University of South Wales, UK
13. QAA and Validation; Graeme Broadbent; Kingston University, UK
14. Navigating University Management Committees and the Meeting Structures; Annabelle James; Teesside University, UK
15. Undertaking Peer Review; Nigel Duncan; City University London, UK
16. Open Access Publishing; Laura J. Wilkinson; University of Sunderland, UK
17. Taking on a Management Role (at another Institution); Mark O’Brien; Oxford Brookes University, UK
18. Gender Issues in HE Management; Rosemary Auchmuty; University of Reading, UK
19. Performance Review; Chris Gale; GSM London, UK
20. Being a Private University; Chris Maguire; BPP University, UK
21. Academic Dress; Jessica Guth; University of Bradford, UK
22. The Standardised Client and Clinic; Rory O’Boyle; Law Society of Ireland
23. Developing Clinic; Victoria Murray; Northumbria University, UK
24. Further Developing Street Law; Sarah Morse and Paul McKeown; Northumbria University, UK
25. Writing for a Professional Audience; John Hodgson; Nottingham Trent University, UK
26. Simulation and Legal Education; Karen Barton; University of Hertfordshire, UK
27. Large Group Teaching; Karen Devine; University of Kent, UK
28. Designing Out Plagiarism; Alison Bone; University of Brighton, UK
29. Student Feedback; Vera Bermingham; Kingston University, UK
30. Problem-Based Learning; Ben Fitzpatrick; University of Derby, UK
31. Reflection in Teaching, Learning and Practice; Richard Grimes; University of York, UK
32. Organising a Specialist Conference; Ben Livings; University of New England, Australia
33. Embedding Employability Skills (or helping graduates get jobs); Ben Middleton; University of Sunderland, UK
34. Teaching Distance Learning Students; Robert Hiscocks; BPP University, UK
35. Supporting Student Law Societies and Extra-curricular activities and students; Ed Mowlam; University of Bradford, UK
36. External Engagement – Enterprise; Christopher J. Newman; University of Sunderland, UK
37. External Examiners; Chris Gale; GSM London, UK
38. Facilitating Small Group Discussions; Francis King; University of Essex, UK
39. Innovation and the Use of Film in Legal Education; Hugo de Rijke; Plymouth University, UK
40. Approaches to Law (Socio-Legal, Black Letter etc); Kevin J. Brown; Queen’s University Belfast, UK
41. Teaching and Assessment can be Inclusive too; Jackie Lane; University of Huddersfield, UK
42. Using Animations with Students; Carol Withey; University of Greenwich, UK
43. Developing Students’ Legal Writing Skills; Lisa Webley; University of Westminster, UK
44. Working with the Library; Emily Allbon; City University London, UK
45. Engaging with Schools and Prospective Students; Jessica Guth; University of Bradford, UK
46. Building a Research Profile; Rosemary Hunter; Queen Mary University of London, UK
47. Post Graduate Certificates in Higher Education; Jessica Guth; University of Bradford, UK
48. The EdD Experience; Elizabeth Mytton; Southampton Solent University, UK
49. Social Media, Blogging and Tweeting; Paul Bernal; University of East Anglia, UK
50. Gaining Recognition For Teaching; Michael Bromby; Glasgow Caledonian University, UK
51. Legal Education Research; Fiona Cownie; Keele University, UK
52. Despite my Job or because of my Job: Impact and Research; Jane Ching; Nottingham Trent University, UK
53. Looking for an academic job? Wanting to develop your academic career?; Jon Reast; University of Bradford, UK
54. Applying for a move to a Research Intensive HEI; Jonathan Doak; Durham University, UK
55. Applying for Lectureship with PhD/Research Experience; Liz Oliver; University of Leeds, UK
56. Teaching from other people’s materials; Michael Jefferson; University of Sheffield, UK
57. Devising New Modules; David McArdle; University of Stirling, UK
58. Challenges of International Students; Deveral Capps; Leeds Beckett University, UK
59. Applying for Research Funding; Sally Wheeler; Queen’s University, Belfast, UK
60. Presenting at Conferences; Fiona Cownie; Keele University, UK
61. Preparing Journal Articles for submission; Philip A. Thomas; Cardiff University, UK
62. Book Proposals; Dave Cowan; University of Bristol, UK
63. Managing Research and Research Teams; Fiona de Londras; University of Birmingham, UK
64. Battling the Exclusive Research Culture; Chloë J. Wallace; University of Leeds, UK
65. Promotions in Higher Education; Jessica Guth; University of Bradford, UK
66. Editing Special Issues; Chris Ashford; Northumbria University, UK
67. Editorial Boards/Being an Editor; Chris Ashford; Northumbria University, UK
68. PhD supervision; Sally Wheeler; Queen’s University, Belfast, UK
69. The Law Subject Associations; Becky Huxley-Binns; University of Law, UK
70. Dealing with the Media; Paul Bernal; University of East Anglia, UK
71. Readerships/Professorships – How to Get There; Philip N.S. Rumney; University of the West of England, UK

Jargon vs vocabulary

Librarians are often advised not use technical library words (e.g. catalogue) when talking to students1.  However, I think it is important to introduce new vocabulary (with definition or explanation) to someone who is learning to navigate the information environment, just as we would do when teaching them about their subject in a study context.  Giving the student some understanding of how they can interact most effectively with the computer interface or card index will empower them to become an expert user of the library’s search and retrieval tools.

Perhaps the difference between jargon and vocabulary is the ease with which one can discover the definition of a word.  To facilitate this, introduce new terms in context, with explanation.  If the word appears on a webpage rather than during a teaching session, link to a definition.  Here’s a comprehensive list of library jargon from Oxford Brookes uni library (and there are many others) – though I would argue that by defining the terms, they are no longer jargon but vocabulary.

I recently read Randall Munroe’s book Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words.  This book covers “all kinds of neat stuff” (mostly scientific topics) and the titles, labels, and descriptions on each diagram are all written using only the thousand most common English words.  Some reviewers who gave the book a poor rating seem to have confused “simple words” with “simple concepts”, and I would not consider this an entry-level book.  I found it much easier to understand the diagrams with whose topic I was already familiar.  The “simple words” concept also shows how important specialist language is – without it, “water” can mean virtually any liquid, and does not differentiate between H2O, blood, and cytoplasm.

Extract from "Thing Explainer" by Randall Munroe

Extract from “Thing Explainer” by Randall Munroe

Once a teacher, always a teacher… and I found myself pondering how such diagrams could be useful in a lesson to reinforce learning of specialist terms and the importance of being able to distinguish between them.

I wished that Randall could have included a key – a way to find out which terms/keywords I would need to know in order to find out more about a topic.  And that brings me back to students and academic libraries – if students know the names of and some of the basic differences between our search tools (e.g. catalogue, discovery, repository), they will be better able to choose the most appropriate one for the task they need to do.

1 Meredith Schwartz ‘Users Don’t Know What Libraries Are Talking About, Studies Find’ (Library Journal, 15 March 2012) <>

A book… is a book… is a book?

What’s a monograph?

I remember wondering about this when I was new to academic libraries (and at Oxford, it was often used!).  Many of my library colleagues had read a humanities subject at university, and had become so comfortable with this term that it took them by surprise to be asked to define it.  Following my recent post about the OAPEN-UK project report into open access monograph publishing, perhaps this is a good time to present an introduction to specialist terms for different types of books:

  • Codex (plural codices) – a book made of several sheets, handwritten, and bound
  • Incunable ‎(plural incunabula) – book printed (not handwritten) before 1501, in Europe
  • Manuscript‎ – any document written by hand. If the text is decorated, it’s an illustrated manuscript
  • Monograph – a specialist written work on a particular aspect of a subject, usually written by a single author
  • Textbook – a manual of instruction in a specific subject, often pitched at beginners’ level

I find the distinction between textbook and monograph useful, and I teach this to students to help them choose a book that it suitable for their level and purpose of study.

Different types of books exist in a variety of formats, which include:

  • Audiobook
  • E-book
  • Folio
  • Hardcover
  • Octavo
  • Paperback
  • Quarto

The format normally relates to a physical dimension or print/digital instance of the item, with the content remaining the same from one format to another.  This distinction is becoming blurred as digital technology allows the inclusion of content and links in an e-book that would not be possible in a print edition.

The term “folio” has a number of meanings:

  1. method of arranging sheets of paper into book form;
  2. general term for a page in manuscripts and old books;
  3. approximate term for the size of a book.

This last meaning is often used to indicate an oversize book, or shelf where such items are kept, so you will sometime see “Folio” or “F” in a shelfmark.

Further reading – here’s a great summary of book sizes just waiting to be turned into a quiz… And enjoy exploring this page about different types of books.

Reminiscing about “23 Things”

Ahhh, nostalgia – it’s not what it used to be…

23 Things Oxford (2010) was the first “23 Things” program in the UK, run by a team of 5 and initiated and led by me back in the days when we started to use the term “social media” instead of “Web 2.0”, and spent a lot of time trying to find out what Web 2.0 meant (if anything).  It was followed by 23 Things Summer Camp, an article in SCONUL Focus, a poster at a conference in Finland, and the 23 Things Team won an OxTALENT Award.

A recent discussion prompted me to wonder how far the 23 Things concept (link to Helene Blowers’ original) had spread in the UK after 23 Things Oxford.  Here’s a list of what I’ve found (and inaugural years) – please let me know if I’ve missed any:

  • 23 Things Cambridge (2010) – “23 Things is a self-directed course designed to introduce University of Cambridge UL, faculty and college library staff to Web 2.0 technologies.”
  • 23 Things Warwick (2010) – “23 Things is an online learning programme designed to introduce library staff at the University of Warwick to web 2.0 technologies.”
  • 23 Things for Professional Development (2011) – “23 Things is a self-directed course aimed at introducing you to a range of tools that could help your personal and professional development as a librarian, information professional or something else.”
  • 23 Things for the Digital Professional (2011) – “Welcome to 23 Things for the Digital Professional, the online learning programme for research staff and students at the University of Warwick. Over the next 10 weeks we will be posting 23 things on this blog introducing participants to a range of online tools for maximising your impact, research and teaching.”
  • DH23Things (2012) – Digital skills development programme for Researchers in Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Cambridge University: “23Things for Digital Humanities (DH23) is an online, self-directed, peer mentored reflective programme to help researchers in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at Cambridge University to explore digital technologies and the ways in which they impact on various aspects of their working lives, and thereby to develop their own strategic approach to engagement with digital technologies.”
  • 23 Things UK (2012?) – 23 Things is primarily an informal self-taught course designed for those working in Public Library Services.
  • Sot23 Things Southampton (2013) – “Sot23 Things is a self directed online learning programme designed to introduce library staff at the University of Southampton to web 2.0 technologies”
  • 23 Things York (2013) – “The current 23 Things programme is aimed at Information Directorate staff”
  • 23 Things for Research Surrey (2016) – “23 Things for Research Surrey exposes you to a range of digital tools that will help you in your development as a researcher, and a professional.” Happening now!  Give them a wave on Twitter with #23ThingsSurrey

What I like most about this list is that you can see how the idea spread across a network of people, including many people who knew each other primarily via Twitter.

Beyond UK – some other interesting “things”

  • 23 Things @ UL (University of Limerick) (2010) – “23 Things @ UL, an online learning discovery programme about Web 2.0 tools that encourages exploration and learning about new technologies. This programme is for faculty and staff at the University of Limerick”
  • 23 Mobile Things (2013) – “Exploring the potential of mobile tools for delivering library services” (based on Danish 23 Mobile Ting) “offers library workers the chance to build their awareness, knowledge and skills at their own pace is a fun professional development tool”
  • 23 Research Things at University of Melbourne Library (2014) – “23 Research Things is an online learning programme for university staff and graduate students, showcasing a range of digital tools that can support research activity.”
  • 23 (Research Data) Things for 2016 (2016) – “If you are a person who cares for, and about, research data and want to fill in some gaps, learn more, find out what others are thinking… then this may be for you!”
  • 23 Teaching Things (2016) – “For students at The University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education and Social Work – Each week we will share a few ‘Things’ about digital tools. Your goal is to spend a little time trying them out then reflecting on how they may be useful for your teaching.”

And there’s Helene Blowers’ megalist of all 23 Things programs inspired by her original idea.  That’s quite a legacy.