Quick update/plug. After speaking at the annual conference of the UK Libraries & Archives Group on Africa (SCOLMA) in July, I was asked to submit a version of my paper to their journal, African Research and Documentation. This has now been published and an open access copy of my article on availability and discoverability though cataloguing, digitisation and digital repositories is available here.
This time last year we launched our institutional repository to an internal ‘audience’ of academics and research administrators, holding demos, leafleting and doling out cake all week. Since then we’ve created 6 new collections and uploaded over 350 new documents. In the second half of the year we clocked up over 18,500 downloads, thanks to Google indexing and a variety of sources (from Wikipedia to university reading lists) linking to items in the repository. Also this year we have linked repository deposit to our content management system, so items can be easily converted into entries on our main website.
BUT self-deposit rates are still low. Confusion over publisher policies and permitted versions is a barrier. Academics don’t have time. Their administrators don’t have time. Does it apply to them? What is it for? Why can’t they just list their publications on the website like before? So for Open Access Week 2013 we had another big push, with online communications, new posters and leaflets, prizes for deposit, and a big external splash led by central communications.
I was really pleased with our promotional strategy and materials, and the response from external users (see this Storify), but the proof of the advocacy is in the repository… and by Wednesday afternoon I was getting worried that I’d have to eat all the prize chocolates myself, because the deposit rate was even lower than in a normal week.
What could we learn from this? Maybe it was a timing issue – incentives are pointless unless people actually have content to contribute during the timeframe. Maybe the barriers still outweighed the allure of chocolate. Maybe I hadn’t done my job properly and despite all the training and documentation, people just didn’t know how to deposit publications.
By the end of the week, although submissions were still conspicuously lacking, I had received several emails and phone calls from people who intended to add something but needed a bit more guidance on the what and how, and the level of awareness generally seemed to have risen – so although some chocolates remain unclaimed at time of writing, I’m not calling it a complete failure (I might just extend the deadline…)
Also in Open Access Week I went to London for a conference organised by LSE and Sage, on Open Access Futures in the Humanities and Social Sciences, of which a little more over at the Impact and Learning blog…
A quick decor update for those who like that sort of thing. This is truly the low-hanging fruit of home improvement, since it’s the smallest space in the house, but I’m pleased with my progress anyway. Maybe soon I will actually sit down and write in it…
This Thursday (12th September) I’ll be on the bill at Poetry at the Crypt, a lovely event which forms part of the Seaford Live festival each year. There will be Sussex-flavoured poems from me, Peter Martin, Martin Myers, Felicity Pople and the late Pam Hughes (read by Ralph Taylor), plus open mic slots, all in the atmospheric surroundings of the Crypt Gallery. (The Crypt itself is a 13th century flint and stone undercroft, which has a church-like feel due to the vaulted ceiling but was most probably a really big wine cellar…) An exhibition of music-themed visual art is also in situ courtesy of Last Minute Artists.
Entry is by donation (proceeds to the Chestnut Tree House children’s hospice) and includes a glass of wine (not as far I know of 13th century vintage). 7.30pm start.
More details from master of ceremonies and organiser extraordinaire Tom Roper on his blog.
Some of the things I’ve had to do since taking on a more challenging role at work and trying to be more engaged with my profession have scared me. As an introvert the scary things tended to involve talking to people aka the general area of ‘public speaking’, but recently I realised that I’m not scared of that any more. I’m not sure when I lost my fear – I suppose that, like being able to run 5k, it was incremental. There wasn’t a sudden flash of brilliance where I delivered some piece of inspirational oratory and became supremely confident because of it. The confidence doesn’t come from any great faith in my ability, so where did it come from? (Nb the following points aren’t meant as lessons, just a bit of structured reflection on my own experience!)
1. Just do it/distant elephants
You can do a thing and be scared, and usually nobody else notices you’re scared, and it’s fine. ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ is a good approach for getting things done and progressing in your career, life etc, but after a while the fear is quite tiring. Finding a way to do the thing and NOT feel the fear is surely even better, in the long term. And it’s the long term that does it, really. The more times you do something, the less scary it is. Just keep doing it. I actively embrace the phenomenon of ‘distant elephants’ to make myself do things – basically accepting potentially scary opportunities that are so far in the future they seem manageable. Once the thing is upon me it’s massive and terrifying but by that time it’s too late to back out…
2. Reverse paranoia
Reverse paranoia is a state of mind where you believe that everyone is on your side. It doesn’t come naturally to most of us, but once I tricked my mind into it, a lot of my social/performance anxiety went away. Of course these people listening to me don’t want me to fail! That’s embarrassing for everyone! Of course they’ll think the best of me, not the worst! They’re not monsters! Reverse paranoia is related to battling impostor syndrome – making yourself believe that you do deserve to be where you are, that you do know what you’re talking about, that you aren’t the only one pretending in a room full of the real thing. Which brings me to…
Objectively, I’m very unlikely to be the worst speaker people have ever heard. Objectively, I probably do know more about what I’m here to talk about than the people I’m talking to (see point 4 below). And objectively, it doesn’t matter THAT much in the grand scheme of things if I screw up.
4. Knowing the subject
I know my job and my projects inside out and that means that even if people are judging my voice, my face, my hair, my shoes or my bad jokes, I won’t be faltering when it comes to the content. This applies to poetry readings as well (I suppose people might hate my poems but I don’t feel on uncertain ground reading them, because they’re mine and nobody else could have written them.)
5. Positive feedback
All the self-affirmation and deliberate reverse paranoia in the world wouldn’t be enough if I never got any positive feedback from my audience/colleagues. When I do, I don’t allow myself to second guess compliments or think ‘they’re just saying that’ (ie point 2 again.) If I’ve managed to get some information or ideas across or inspire a further discussion, then I’ve succeeded, and I’ve decided to focus on that rather than whether I had the wrong slide up or a red face or something stuck in my teeth.
I ran 5k! I know that for the marathon runners amongst you, this isn’t very far, but given that I had never even run for a bus before March this year, I’m pretty chuffed. I’d been following the Couch to 5k programme which coaches you through a 9-week regime of thrice-weekly outings (starting off with walking interspersed with short running intervals, and gradually increasing the running bits). I highly recommend it for anyone who’s ‘not a runner’ but would like to become one and doesn’t know where to start. Even in week 3 or 4 I was still sceptical that I could ever run for 20 minutes non-stop, but it’s so incremental that you hardly notice when you do. I must admit to being fairly flexible with the programme, since I didn’t always manage to fit in three runs a week, and had the occasional break for a week or more when I was ill or the weather was awful. I also stopped strictly following it at week 7, and just carried on doing 25-30 minute runs until one day I finally hit the magic 5k.
So of course the next logical step is to do it with a load of other women, in the dark, in a pink t-shirt, holding a glow stick – aka the Cancer Research UK Race for Life Twilight! You can sponsor me here, if you feel the urge.
I got a cat! He had a slightly dramatic arrival into the family because 2 days after coming home with us from Raystede, he stopped eating and drinking, and started puking and moping. The vet diagnosed a ‘fever of unknown origin’ (probably a viral infection) and kept him in for two days on a fluid drip, plus anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. Happily he got better very quickly and settled back down just as quickly once he got home, as you can see