SSNaP Assisting Remote Users: 20 November 2019

On the 20th November of last year we held a SSNaP on the topic of ‘Assisting Remote Users’, very kindly hosted by the Supreme Courts Library. With eight members in attendance we were looking forward to a session exploring different types of software currently in use for remote working and discussing the pros and cons of each.

Beginning with Microsoft Jabber, the SCTS library team described the benefits they’d found in the software which their institution recently installed. As the Sheriff and Supreme Courts are required to work across a large geographic area the ability to screen share for demonstration has been a incredibly helpful to their training provision, and the quick chat functionality has allowed for coworking with ease from different sites. However a lack of clear guidance during the initial roll out period meant that much of the setting up of meetings relied on the team’s own ability to troubleshoot for their users before the content of courses was begun. Although they felt that these teething problems were frustrating, the SCTS library team acknowledged that the implementation of the software had been a massive step forward for such a traditional workplace.

Colleagues from the Scottish Government gave us a quick rundown of Skype for Business and WebEx, highlighting how compatible online meeting software has been for the hotdesking and flexible working model that SG have been utilising. Although the issue of individual licenses and cost have been raised, generally it is felt that the functionality to open ‘rooms’ and to leave them open, to pop in and out as necessary, and to share screens, documents, polls and chat have been very helpful in managing their workload remotely. It was noted that when using meeting functions it’s often better to have a separate microphone than to rely on the internal ones on laptops or devices, though Skype and WebEx allow for you to use your phone as a microphone which can be helpful.

Our third platform under discussion was Collaborate Ultra, which is the service used by the University of Edinburgh to present and provide training, as well as holding video and voice meetings. When training is conducted in this manner one person presents and another moderates the chat box so that links and responses can be provided in text in addition to the verbal commentary. Recordings are possible using this software meaning that sessions can be recorded and uploaded for reference later, and it is also possible to submit recordings for subtitling using transcription services, increasing accessibility for any recorded material.

After demonstrations of each platform we discussed what we thought to be the main highlights and issues:

  • Most seem to have very similar functionality, but can be applied differently depending on the need of the organisation.
  • Firms and small organisations will be restricted by finances as to what kind of package they can afford.
  • Using these to create short videos or recordings can be beneficial, but hosting and storage space can be restrictive.
  • Video conferencing etiquette and moderation can be difficult to get the hang of, but when they are put into practice by everyone they help make the tool more effective.
  • Other departments (e.g. training teams) can conflict with the needs and requirements of library & information service teams, which may lead to some internal gatekeeping of resources.

We discussed some other tools which could be used to offer assistance remotely, such as Slack (a team working app), Zoom (videoconferencing software), Slido (a tool for conference audience interaction), and Prezi (a presentation platform that allows the hosting of short videos). While each have their place, it would be unlikely a company or institution would purchase licences for or be able to support every one.

We discussed how to manage without the support of the institution and the difficulties this presented. Examples of database training videos being provided but having to be transcribed manually and hosted internally seemed familiar to most and unsurprising to others. For law firms it’s possible they would call in contractors to deliver training rather than expending resources on developing users internally. While there are benefits such as reduced workload to the library team if contractors are used, it can clip our wings with regards to the added value we can get from these platforms if we’re not allowed to explore their uses.

By the end of the meeting most members were in agreement that it would be very worthwhile getting to know how to use the tools available to us a little better. Of course, at that point none of us could have forseen that six months later the vast majority of the country would be working remotely and using the very technologies we were assessing!

Attending this SSNaP was very helpful in reminding me personally that information professionals are endlessly creative when it comes to utilising new technology to assist them in their work. We’ve seen nothing but adaptability from individuals across the sector in altering their services to suit the needs of their users over recent months. I feel privileged to work in information provision at this critical time, with not only the tools but also the collective experience of my colleagues in SLLG to help shore me up through this uncertainty. I hope that the more we use these technologies the easier and more accessible they will become, and I know that in the mean time our community of legal information professionals will continue to adapt, learn and provide our services as best we can.

I’d like to extend my thanks to the SCTS Library Service for hosting this SSNaP and to Kayleigh McGarry and Jennie Findlay for demonstrating.

SarahLouise McDonald

SLLG Edit-a-Thon: 18 January 2020

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In July 2019 I attended the “Introduction to Wikipedia for Librarians” event organised by SLLG.  I was interested to read about the January 2020 follow up session in the form of a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon focussing on Scottish Law.  This event formed part of the Wikipedia Campaign “1lib1ref” that runs twice a year, and is designed to engage more librarians with Wikipedia.

This event was marketed at any SLLG members:

  • With an interest in Wikipedia
  • Who use or are interested in quality Scottish Legal Information.
  • Who had a few hours that could be dedicated to CPD
  • Who had a liking for cake

As I ticked some of the boxes I decided to be a participant in what was a highly informative and interesting afternoon.

Dr Sara Thomas, Scotland Programme Coordinator for Wikimedia UK, offered us an enthusiastic and informal re-introduction to some of the basics on Wikimedia, an explanation of what information can be found in a Wikipedia entry and how anyone can edit Wikipedia.  Sara explained the basic guidelines behind creating and editing Wiki pages such as the need for a neutral point of view, the use of reliable sources for your information and that there is no conflict of interest.

The training venue at Central Library, Edinburgh offered a friendly relaxed environment. Both representatives (and organisers) from SLLG, Katharine and Kirstie, ensured there were plenty refreshments available throughout the day.  Sara had constructed a dedicated Wikipedia page for the event.

SLLG Edit-a-Thon Event Page

Katharine and Kirstie had invested a great deal of time and effort in gathering books and information that could be used to edit and improve existing Law related Wikipedia pages. These were included in the dedicated page link shown above.

After an informal morning of instruction the participants set about working individually and in small groups to create some new pages and edit existing pages. The topics created or edited were: Delict, Lady Paton, Lady Rae, Kirsty Hood (still in draft) and Women in Law in the United Kingdom.  In total the small group completed 56 edits to 5 articles, totalling 605 words added, and 10 references. Within one week of the event  2200 people had looked at those articles since we improved them.  So it most certainly was worth the effort of those that attended on a Saturday.

Some of the attendees intend continuing to practice what they learned. On a personal note I valued the time spent with the trainer and the other attendees. Thanks to Kirstie and Katharine for their efforts.

Sharron Wilson


SLLG Avizandum Christmas Social – 3 December 2019

Avizandum are once again kindly hosting our annual Christmas social event with mulled wine and mince pies. Drop in to the bookshop for some festive cheer whenever you finish work.

**Christmas Social**
Tuesday 3 December 2019, 4.30-7.30pm
Avizandum Law Bookshop, Candlemaker Row, Edinburgh

If you’re interested in attending please let us know for catering purposes (incl. dietary requirements) email: Kayleigh.McGarry@gov.scot

Introduction to Wikipedia for Librarians: 24th July 2019

Last month the Scotland Programme Coordinator for Wikimedia UK, Dr Sara Thomas, came along to the MacKenzie Building in Edinburgh to talk to members of the SLLG about Wikimedia. Most of us had no idea about the breadth and depth of their portfolio – for example did you know that Wikipedia is only one of fifteen different chapters of the Wikimedia Foundation? Sara briefly introduced us to all of them, including WikiBooks, WikiSource and even WikiSpecies, explaining the aims and features of each. She talked broadly about the aim of the foundation – empowering and engaging people around the world to develop educational content which is open and freely available to anyone with an internet connection – and talked enthusiastically about the huge benefits to open source information, specifically about the wonder of shared knowledge and hundreds of thousands of people contributing to help each other learn and record information collaboratively.

The session was based around convincing us that librarians could and should be contributing to Wikipedia to help make it as reliable and accurate as possible. As professional information finders, we are brilliantly placed to add citations and edit articles for accuracy in line with Wikipedia’s standards:

  • It’s an encyclopedia
  • It has a neutral point of view
  • The content is free for anyone to use, edit and distribute
  • Respect and civility are key
  • There are no firm rules

As librarians we’re pretty keen on signposting reliable information, and many of us confessed that we didn’t think Wikipedia was that reliable particularly because of editable nature. Sara quoted some very interesting stats about how quickly erroneous information gets weeded out, and in fact the Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2010, found Wikipedia as accurate as Physician Data Query – a professionally edited database maintained by the National Cancer Institute. She also mentioned the politicization of articles – often opinions get added from left-leaning viewpoints, then they get changed to right-leaning, then eventually they even out right down the middle. Articles rise in popularity in line with current affairs (for example, Boris Johnston is right up there at the moment.) Wrestling is inexplicably always in the top results, and unfortunately Wikipedia found that searches for articles relating to the EU Referendum spiked right after the referendum took place!

Sara highlighted that really, this model of information provision shouldn’t work. The very fact that it is editable by anyone suggests that vandalism will happen, and that inaccuracies will creep in and problems will arise. However community moderation is a powerful tool. Vandalism of pages is obvious and there are editors across the world (normal internet users who care about sharing information) who volunteer their time to correct pages which feature deliberate misinformation. For example, Boris Johnston’s page was edited to include a comment on his personal character but it reverted to the original copy within a minute of changes being made.

So far, so impressive. So how can we, as librarians or lovers of information, help further the open education cause? All you need is a user account and a little bit of tuition which can either be found using guides hosted on Wikipedia itself or by going along to an in-person event. Wikipedia edit-a-thons happen often around the country where groups of volunteers get together and get editing, often focusing on one topic at a time, finding reliable sources and citations, correcting grammar, editing tone and all-round making the internet a better and more informative place to be.

Did you know the University of Edinburgh hosts a full-time, permanent Wikipedian-in-Residence post? Ewan McAndrew was named the UK Wikimedian of the Year in 2017, and the University won the award for UK Partnership of the Year 2018 as the institution which stood out as ‘the most effective Wikimedia and Open Knowledge Advocate’. As part of this work they hold regular edit-a-thons and are involved in many other projects; one of which is the Women in Red group. This initiative started when it was recognised that only about 15% of the English Wikipedia’s biographies were about women. Founded in July 2015, WiR strives to improve the figure, which has reached 17.93% as of 12 August 2019. Obviously there is a lot more work to do, so you can find out more about them on the WikiProject page and also their twitter feed (@WikiWomenInRed).

If that has whet your appetite for a wee wander into the world of Wikipedia you might also want to have a look at #1lib1ref, an event which runs annually to encourage librarians to get into adding references to articles by just making one change and seeing how easy it is! It currently runs twice a year and you can visit 1lib1ref.org for more information, or check out the hashtag #1lib1ref.

The session flew by and we left enthused, better educated and encouraged to get editing, with plans afoot for more SLLG events around Wikipedia. Watch this space for an edit-a-thon near you soon! We’d like to extend our thanks to Sara for coming to talk to us, to Katharine Calder for organising, and to the Faculty of Advocates for allowing us to use the MacKenzie Building for the event.

SarahLouise McDonald

SLLG Committee