10 Tools To Survive Your MLIS

logo of Doodle - blue text reads "doo

If you remember nothing else from this post remember Doodle. The number one thing I found most difficult during library school wasn’t the course-load, the growing mountain of assignments and reading or balancing college and a social life – it was trying to find a time to have group meetings. Seriously, when you’re taking five modules but are somehow doing six group projects it’s a nightmare trying to find a time that works for everyone, especially as we all have commitments outside of college and more and more students are in employment while studying. So, forget the unending messages in the group chat and just use a Doodle poll. It’s simple, just input your available times for a meeting and invite everyone to participate in the poll, then you can quickly see the time that suits you all best. Doodle will also sync to your calendar. There’s no need to go for the Premium account, the free version will cover everything you need.

logo of skype - white "S" in blue circle.

Remember, not all group meetings have to happen in person! Remote meetings are great if you have a long commute into college that you don’t necessarily want to have to do every day. If you’re camera-shy you can do voice-only calls and you can also share your screen over Skype, which is handy for group projects and presentations. Facebook messenger also has a group video chat option.

Google Docs

There are numerous benefits to Google Docs as an alternative to the more traditional Microsoft Office. Firstly, it’s free! Secondly, it’s really easy to collaborate on group reports with Google Docs as multiple users can simultaneously edit the same document. This ends up being so much easier than trying to combine four different Word documents.

Thirdly, as Google Docs is stored in the cloud if you lose your USB drive you won’t lose the paper you just spent 5 hours finishing. Side note: so many USB drives are lost in the library year and it’s really hard to get them back to their owners. Would you recognise your USB in a box of pretty identical looking USBs? Do you have 30 minutes to look through all of them? My advice is to both make a physical mark on the outside of your USB drive (permanent marker or nail polish should work for this) and create a simple “If found please return to” text document to keep on it with your contact details. Better still, stop relying on them fully and have at least one backup with a cloud based solution. Microsoft has cloud storage with 365 but you still have to pay for it. Evernote is popular for taking lecture notes and it has an option for sharing notes including a live chat function.

If you’re not into Google Docs but still don’t want to shell out for Microsoft then there are a number of great open source alternatives like Openoffice and Libreoffice that do everything you need them to.

Google Drive logo - a green line a yellow line and a blue line form a triangle.

When it comes to storing and sharing files I recommend using Google Drive or Dropbox (see USB horror story above for reasons why). Another alternative is pCloud, it works just the same as Dropbox but has the option to upgrade to pCloud Crypto for the extremely security conscious among you. pCloud are so confident in their security that they offered $100,000 to anyone who could hack their system and nobody has been able to (and at least 2800 people have tried).

Citation management

When it comes to essay and dissertation writing, using a citation manager can save a lot of time and headaches. Endnote, Mendeley and Zotero are popular choices. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses depending on your particular needs. Different universities and colleges usually recommend and support different software. If you’re unsure what to go for, try out Zotero – it’s free and open source.

Stop paying for photocopying

As long as you don’t mind reading from screens you won’t need to pay for photocopying anymore if you use apps such as Scannable (made by Evernote) or Adobe Scan. These apps allow you to take photos of documents, automatically rotates, crops and adjusts them and saves them as PDF or JPG.

Presentations

If you’re looking for a free alternative to PowerPoint, look no further than Google Slides. Google Slides offers everything that PowerPoint does with the added benefit of cloud storage and simultaneous collaboration with other users (seeing a pattern emerge here?). There are loads of great resources out there with free Google Slides templates to play around with like Slides Carnival. Another alternative is Canva. Canva is great for designing posters, images and infographics and now they also offer some pretty great presentation templates. Presentations can be shown native on the Canva website or downloaded as a PDF.

Getting Organised

There are lots of great “To Do List” apps, I recommend Any.do which allows you to collaborate with others and share tasks.

If you’re prone to procrastination you might find this desktop Pomodoro timer helpful. The Pomodoro technique uses a timer to break work down into 25 minute intervals with 5 minutes break in between. There’s also a web based timer here for concentration on the fly.

If you need a more extreme method of preventing procrastination, when the siren song of Facebook is calling (or literally anything other than work is calling, let’s be honest) maybe you should go Cold Turkey and download a desktop distraction blocker.


So, there are 10 tools to help you survive the MLIS! Have you found any of these tools helpful? If you have any tips or tricks that help you leave them in the comments below or join in the conversation on Twitter and Facebook using #SLIPIreland

About the authorimage of Clare Murnane

Clare Murnane is one of the founders of SLIP Ireland. She graduated with an MLIS from UCD in 2015 and now works in UCD Library. If you would like to write for SLIP you can contact Clare on Twitter @SLIPIreland or by emailing clare@slipireland.com.

Advertisements

Connecting Libraries to the Semantic Web

After finishing my MLIS in 2015 I briefly worked as a research assistant in the area of Human Computer Interaction at the iSchool in UCD. This experience, in addition to my love of libraries, inspired me to pursue a PhD in Computer Science, with a focus on the use of Linked Data in the library domain, with the ADAPT Centre in TCD.

In this post I’m going to give a (very) brief introduction to the Semantic Web and Linked Data, and discuss how these technologies can be used for the benefit of libraries. I’m then going to discuss my research in the hopes that it may inspire some of you to participate in my research and also to collaborate with a computer scientist near you!

What is the Semantic Web and Linked Data?

The Web contains a vast amount of information presented in the form of webpages linked together via hyperlinks. In order to find specific resources on the web, search engines are used to rank webpages based on relevancy via keyword searches. While this is done to great effect, unlike humans, computers have very little understanding of the meaning of data on the web, nor do they understand the relationships (links) between them.

The Semantic Web (SW) is an extension of the current web in which information is given well defined meaning, e.g. person’s name, book title. Linked Data (LD) involves creating identifiers for web resources and then linking them together by meaningfully describing their relationships, e.g. author of, in a common machine-readable format. Therefore, the sentence ‘JK Rowling (name) wrote (author) Harry Potter (title)’ is not only meaningful to a human reader, but also to a machine. This data can then be linked to endless amounts of other related resources, e.g. publisher, year, illustrator, other works – thus creating a Web of Data!

In essence, the vision of the Semantic Web and Linked Data is to transform the web into one large interlinked and searchable database rather than a disparate collection of documents.

Why Should Information Professionals be Interested?

From the perspective of a library, participating in the SW could greatly enhance information discovery. By freeing metadata from library databases and sharing it on the SW, libraries could make their resources more visible on a global scale. Publishing to the SW would also allow libraries to share their metadata with greater ease which could lead to a reduction in time spent cataloguing, reducing library costs. In addition, the process of interlinking LD resources with those emerging from other cultural heritage institutions would allow researchers to be directed to a web of related data based on a single information search.

Despite these benefits, relatively few libraries are participating in the SW. In my view, one of the main reasons for this is that current LD technologies are not designed with the workflows, needs or expertise of librarians in mind.

My Research

One of my research goals is to explore how LD technologies could be made more engaging for librarians, with a particular focus on the process of interlinking LD datasets. I decided to focus on this area due to the fact that, although increasing numbers of libraries are publishing LD, few have successfully interlinked their data with other LD resources – a central aspect of the SW.

I’m currently in the process of collecting data from information professionals in relation to their views on LD for libraries, archives and other cultural heritage institutions. I’m also gathering data on the types of interfaces information professionals like to use. I’m doing this so that I can design an interface that is easy to use, and that will also meet librarians’ requirements in relation to interlinking LD datasets. If you would like to participate in this research, I would be most grateful if you completed my questionnaire at https://goo.gl/gbGZ1v.

Finally, another one of my goals is to inspire future collaborations between computer scientists and information professionals. I believe that both these groups have so much to offer each other in terms of ideas, expertise and data, and that there is huge potential for some really interesting and unique research. So please, get collaborating!

Sources

  1. Berners-Lee, T., Hendler, J., & Lassila, O. (2001). The Semantic Web. Scientific American, 284(5), 1-5.
  2. Bizer, C., Heath, T., & Berners-Lee, T. (2009). Linked Data – The Story So Far. International Journal on Semantic Web and Information Systems, 5(3), 1-22.
  3. Hastings, R.: Linked Data in Libraries: Status and Future Direction. Computers in 
Libraries, 35, 12–16 (2015)
  4. Gonzales, B. M.: Linking Libraries to the Web: Linked Data and the Future of the 
Bibliographic Record. ITAL, 33, 10–22 (2014)
  5. Ryan, C., Grant, R., Carragin, E., Collins, S., Decker, S., Lopes, N.: Linked Data 
Authority records for Irish Place Names. IJDL, 15, 73–85 (2015)
  6. OCLC: Online Computer Library Center, (2017), http://www.oclc.org/ 
 research/themes/data-science/linkeddata.html
  7. Hallo, M., Lujan Mora, S., Trujillo Mondejar, J. C.: Transforming library catalogs into Linked Data. ICERI (2013)
  8. Mitchell, E. T.: Library Linked Data: Early Activity and Development. Libr Technol Rep, 52, 5–33 (2016)

About the authorpicture of lucy mckenna

Lucy McKenna completed her MLIS in UCD in 2015 after which she worked as a research assistant in the area of Human Computer Interaction with Benjamin Cowan of the UCD iSchool. She is currently a student in the ADAPT Centre, Trinity College Dublin, where she is working towards a PhD in Computer Science.

@lucymckenna89

Email: lucy.mckenna@adaptcente.ie