Enbrook Park

Sixteen years ago I left Kent for the “bright lights” of city life.  A lot can change in 16 years, the area, the people and most of all, myself.  In light of this I’ve decided to explore the area anew, as both resident and visitor.Enbrook Park

Recently my exploration took me to Enbrook Park, the wooded grounds of the SAGA headquarters in Sandgate.  It’s easy to stick to the beach in Sandgate but Enbrook Park offers a change of scene that is relaxing and unexpected.  Enbrook stream trickles alongside Military Road and adds the delicate sound of running water to the birdsong of the park.  Formal planting and lawns around the offices give way to inviting woodland paths weaving up the hillside and rewarding your climb with views across the Channel. 

On my stroll I found a variety of different rhododendrons along with many delicate wild woodland flowers.  Remnants of bluebells hinted at the spring colour I may have missed this year and the shady paths promise a summer retreat from the heat of the beach to come.

Altogether a wonderful stroll in the heart of Sandgate that’s worth taking the time to explore and enjoy!

 

 

My New Patch

Sandgate is a bustling seaside parish on the western edge of Folkestone in Kent.  Growing up I knew it as “the road with the antique shops” and in some ways this is still true but now there is so much more on offer than just antiques.  As I type this I can see a small girl pushing her doll’s buggy into a small art gallery past a beautiful painted canvas of children playing in a river.  There are cafes, coffee shops and bars, an award winning pub with uninterrupted sea views from its roof terrace and even a tapas bar.  Naturally seafood is available everywhere from the irresistible fish and chips I can smell from my window to the full range of fish dishes on the menu of the local pub along the road.  Sandgate even has a local friendly dolphin (not on the menu!).  This may be a small parish but it has plenty of enthusiasm and personality, a strident parish council has recently reopened the local library as a joint library/parish office so I always have new books to read on the beach.  The library is used as a community space for all sorts of groups and events along with the larger Chichester Memorial Hall which plays host to the fortnightly Sandgate Farmers’ market.  While so many small communities have lost their post offices, Sandgate has recently regained one as the village shop has become a village shop/post office open til late with a friendly greeting and all those emergency products like loo roll and milk (or wine and chocolate depending on the emergency!).

Now before I start to sound like I’m being paid (or bribed) by the parish council I will admit to downsides.  The High Street is a busy ‘A’ road and the main route between Folkestone and Hythe.  Traffic is constant during the day and can be noisy at night especially when drunken revellers add to it, or wander in front of it.  Many of the buildings do have a run down feel to them and there are empty shop fronts at both ends of the road.  I have found it particularly difficult coping with the poor mobile coverage as neither my iPhone’s 3G or my laptop’s 3G dongle get any reception.  There are proposals to improve this in the parish plan but at the moment I can’t get online to read it!  On the positive side I haven’t been distracted by the internet once since I moved in.

So there are positives and negatives and I’m sure I will find plenty more of either.  For me though, any negatives can be outweighed by the one huge positive – the fantastic, pebbly beach!

Sarah’s Pebbles

pebbles by the beach

A newcomer who was local once and hopes to be local again. 

A few days ago I left my city life, my steady council job and my comfortable flat and moved to the seaside.  But this isn’t any old seaside, it’s my seaside.  The beach that is 90 seconds from my front door is the same beach along which I walked home from school when I wanted to spend my bus fare on something other than the bus.  It’s the beach I could almost see from my bedroom window if I stood on a chair and peered really hard around the house opposite.  It’s the beautiful pebbly beach of Sandgate, Kent and it’s home.

To reflect this move, and my chosen lifestyle change, I’ve renamed my blog from Info Junkie to Sarah’s Pebbles.  The title may change again, I guarantee nothing!  Since I still love collecting and sharing information I will still be sharing interesting websites and information resources but I’m adding my love of the seaside to the mix.  Hopefully this will include information about the local area, reviews and ideas for visitors, a taste of the reality of seaside life and more than a few photos of pebbles.

I hope you choose to join me on my new adventure and find something to interest you along the way.  If you’re really looking for more serious library and information blogging then I recommend heading to http://uklibraryblogs.pbworks.com/ and maybe you’ll pop back to relax at the seaside sometime.

Cultural Discovery

Last year saw the launch of Europeana, a fantastic collection of digital content from museums, libraries and archives across Europe.  It was so popular it crashed almost immediately and had to relaunch a little while later.  In addition to searching collections, users can also register and then save items, tag them and also save searches.  They are now encouraging people to share the content they find by creating communities, although there is only a demo version available at the moment it will be interesting to see how the communities idea develops.

Now, thanks to a post on Lorcan Dempsey’s weblog I have discovered a similar project in Australia.  At the moment it has the not so catchy title of SBDS Prototype but don’t let that put you off.  Much like Europeana this is a fascinating project bringing together content from different sectors and in a variety of formats including digitised newspapers, maps and even archived websites.  They are currently encouraging people to have a play and give feedback on the prototype so why not have a try.  Both Europeana and SBDS Prototype are great examples of different organisations working together to make their collections accessible online and, although there are some UK resources on Europeana I’d love to see something similar for the UK bringing together all the fantastic collections we have here.

Anyone know of any similiar projects out there?

WebJunction Webinar

On 28 January I attended my first ever WebJunction webinar.  This was a free online training/learning session that anyone with internet access could join in.

The session was called Staff Training in Tough Times and it was an excellent opportunity to share ideas and concerns with library folk from across the US and beyond.  As far as I know I was the only one participating from the UK and I did wonder whether non-US participants would be allowed.  Not only was I allowed but I was made very welcome and it was great to have an opportunity to ask about how library staff are being trained in the US.  The session was very well organised and the team at Webjunction worked very hard to keep track of both chat and audio participation.  The only difficulty was keeping up with the conversation in the chat room at the same time as listening to the audio and again the Webjunction team did highlight issues as they were raised in the chat room and try to keep us on track!

A full archive of the session is now available via BlogJunction including the 14 pages of chat!  It was a fantastic experience and one I would certainly recommend.

Free training/networking is great but not always well publicised.  From mailing lists to webinars, what would you recommend??

#3 & 4 Blogging

Time to blog about blogging!  Things 3 and 4 are all about blogging as the original Learning 2.0 programme used blogs as a way to track the progress of participants and encourage them to reflect on their learning.  All participants were required to create a blog and register it and all participant blogs were listed on the main blog to encourage participation and support.  Bloggers were allowed to be anonymous as long as the programme administrators knew who they were.  For me this is a fascinating part of the learning 2.0 programme as reading these blogs is a great insight into what participants felt while actually participating.  I’m sure this was much more valuable than trawling through piles of evaluation forms at the end of the course!  There is an obvious downside in that many people feel as uncomfortable about ‘public writing’ as public speaking and making that writing compulsory, even anonymously, could be very intimidating.  I came across at least one programme that made the blogging optional and used commenting on a main blog as a record of progress.  Much as I have enjoyed reading the blogs I think I’d be tempted to go with the optional blog and use commenting more.  I can see the value of using blogging as an assessment but if participants only have a limited amount of time to complete each task there could be a danger that more time is spent writing and rewriting the blog post than playing with and enjoying the tasks.

But what has blogging got to do with libraries?  Explaining blogging is never as difficult as explaining the value of blogging.  As always, the CommonCraft team have a great video on blogs to help  but I think many people still view blogs as slightly dodgy amateur ramblings that are only read by people with far too much time on their hands.  The only way to get past this has to be by demonstrating useful blogs full of great content.  The Orange County Library System were able to use their own blogs for ‘Introduction to Blogs‘ including their Library Director’s blog ‘Library Leader‘ but there are plenty of great library related blogs out there to choose from.  For anyone talking about public library blogs in the UK & Ireland I’d recommend The Manchester Lit List or the Galway Public Libraries Blog as good examples of sharing ‘official’ library blogs. But although news blogs are great for sharing information they can be nothing more than an easy way to produce an RSS feed and may be best kept for the RSS section of the programme.

My favourite blogs are the ones that challenge me to think and participate in the discussion.  Since I’m interested in libraries and technology they tend to be library related blogs but now that blogging has been around for a while there are blogs to interest everyone and the Technorati Blog Directory can be useful for demonstrating this.  Discussions can be difficult to demonstrate as they can take place over a number of blogs as writers link and respond to one another.  Gaming in libraries is a great topic for provoking debate so I’d have to recommend The Shifted Librarian for examples of blog commenting and discussions.

Finally, what do you do when you have too many blogs to read?  Start writing a blog weeding policy?  I don’t think there’s an easy solution to this one although it certainly gets regularly addressed as a problem.  Library and Information Update now has a regular column called ‘Blogwatch’ providing a summary of some key topics from library related blogs but I’m not sure they’re still hot topics by the time the print copy of Update comes through my door.  I’d love to hear if anyone has come across an online equivalent, a blog that summarises what’s hot in library blogland?  Or if you only had 10 minutes a day, what key blogs would you choose to keep up to date with library issues?  Hmmm… off to think about that one!

#2 Lifelong Learning & L2

‘Thing’ number 2 on the original PLCMC list is “Discover a few  pointers from lifelong learners and learn how to nurture your own learning process.”  This is a deceptively simple task that asks people to think about why and how we continue to learn throughout life.  The exercise is to view an online tutorial about the 7 ½ habits of highly successful lifelong learners.  The reflective part of this exercise is deciding which of those habits is easiest and hardest personally.

I highly recommend viewing the online tutorial.  It’s just under 15 minutes long and is designed to make you think about learning goals and obstacles.  If you’d rather just skip to the list of habits, here they are:

1. Begin with the end in mind

2. Accept responsibility for your own learning

3. View problems as challenges

4. Have confidence in yourself as a competent, effective learner

5. Create your own learning toolbox

6. Use technology to your advantage

7. Teach / mentor others

7½. Play!

The tutorial goes into these habits in much more detail.  For me the hardest of these habits is number 1 – begin with the end in mind.  I love learning and playing but have a tendency to flit from subject to subject.  The internet is often my downfall here as I will read something intending to find out about a particular subject and then a phrase mentioned will prompt me to search for new information or click a link to another page.  Before I know it I’ve started down a new path altogether and the original subject has been abandoned.  I find blogging a particularly useful tool in tackling this problem.  A goal in your mind, or scribbled on a piece of paper is easily abandoned.  A goal that you have stated to the world online in writing… not so easy to forget, especially if people read and comment on that goal!  Maybe I should create a blog for all those tasks that get easily abandoned, does “Sarah’s housework blog” sound tempting?

Deciding which habit was the easiest took a little longer, but I think ‘accept responsibility for your own learning’ just about wins although ‘play’ comes a very close second.  When I train people I always find it most difficult to train those who want to be spoon fed information.  Not because I resent doing the feeding, it’s usually easier to give simple step by step directions than to answer the difficult questions and challenges that more active learners can come up with, but because it’s so different to the way I learn personally.  If I want to learn how to use something I will read the instructions and play.  If there are no instructions or they don’t answer my questions I will then ask specific questions, usually by searching online!  I’m the first to admit that this makes me an impatient learner.  As any of my music teachers or driving instructors can testify, I am not a fan of practising and learning practical skills that do not come naturally.  This means I have great respect for people who spend a lifetime perfecting a particular skill… and a certain amount of envy for everyone who has passed their driving test!

On a less personal note here are some other thoughts from the tutorial.

“Take pride in your learning or accomplishments”.  At school we had a ‘record of achievement’ that we were encouraged to fill with certificates and other records of academic accomplishment.  Achievement records are often used in formal learning to track goals and results but how many people have a lifelong ‘record of achievement’?  Carrying out staff appraisals every year it is surprising how often people will say that they haven’t really achieved anything or learned anything just because they haven’t been on a course.  Once we start to talk about what has happened generally in the department or service they start to realise how much they have actually achieved and having those achievements written down and recognised can be really encouraging (I hope!).  Unfortunately these formal records tend to be filed away and forgotten.  The original Learning 2.0 programme asked participants to start a blog and write posts about what they had learned and how it affected them.  Blogging can be great way of recording achievements, simple and life-changing, and sharing those achievements with the world.  Although many of the blogs started for Learning 2.0 programmes seem to be abandoned after (or even during) the programme I’d be interested to know how the process of charting and sharing achievement helped people to feel proud of that achievement and encouraged them to go on learning.  Every year we see a huge number of children enthusiastically take part in the summer reading challenge.  What makes this challenge more appealing than just borrowing books from the library?  Recording every book read and having that achievement acknowledged by others and being encouraged to take pride in that achievement.  If libraries are expected to take a lead in encouraging lifelong learning then could they have a role to play in helping people to record and take pride in that learning whatever form it may take?  I sense a whole new blog post coming out of that idea…

“Determine a goal and develop a plan to achieve that goal.”  I’ve already mentioned that this is the habit I find most difficult.  There are so many things to learn and if you’re not doing a specific course it can be difficult to take a goal through to completion.  The tutorial recommends writing a learning contract which seemed a little OTT to me until I looked at what they included in this contract and why.  The contract included ‘obstacles I may face and how I will overcome them'; things needed for a personal learning toolbox; details of people to ask for help and finally a signature.  The tutorial pointed out that we sign ourselves over to many different things but never to ourselves and by signing something we represent the fact that we are making a commitment.  Not sure just clicking an ‘I agree’ box can replace a signature on this one!  But certainly making a goal public and signing a name to that goal could be a way of making a public commitment.

A short tutorial has triggered all sorts of ideas and challenged me to think about my own personal learning style and habits.  Why not watch it and see what learning habits you have?