I have been regrettably most quiet on the CDP23 front for quite some time now. As a result, I think that my first use of Google Calendar for CPD23 Thing Eight really ought to be setting aside time each week to work on CPD23. I am now eleven things behind. Eeek. But the reasons – which are threefold – are good, so I will catch up as I can.
When I started University as a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young fresher, I quickly got into the habit of using a diary, and it’s a habit that I’ve never lost, for all that I occasionally misplace the diaries themselves. Happily I always find them again; the older diaries are now kept in a drawer in my desk and it’s rather entertaining to look back at my daily appointments, at the events and people that seemed worthy of mention. As time went on, as my income grew, and as life got bigger, I bought nicer diaries, with a full page for each day – such a luxury! It was a new phase of a lifelong love of stationery. For similar reasons I like printed calendars, and always have at least three on various walls; thus I follow both parts of the doctrine of my high priest William Morris. “Have nothing in your house you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”. And here Google Calendar falls down for me – it is eminently useful but I do not believe it to be beautiful.
Of course, the downside was that other people could only find out what my plans for any given day were if they were with me, so that I could consult my diary there and then, or if they mysteriously ended up in possession of said diary. The main problem using diaries from our choice of University Union – the Glasgow University Union or the Queen Margaret Union (the Sharks and the Jets of Glasgow University life, but with less – as far as I know – doomed love affairs and dancing on rooftops) – was that everybody in your social group tended to have the same diary. Customisation was the key to keeping your own.
In my first few jobs after graduation, we worked primarily with rotas sent out by email, held on an Excel spreadsheet and often printed out. When I went back to university for postgraduate studies, I continued to use printed diaries and calendars as my main organisational tools, in addition to VLEs such as Moodle. Since coming to work at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, however, I have become a faithful believer in the Outlook calendar. It is used across the company, at our London and New York campuses, and the majority of staff freely share their calendars with colleagues. In the London campus Library, one of our library assistants uses our calendars to make up the Excel spreadsheet rota for the following week to make sure that all library desks are staffed.
When I first moved to London, my social calendar was very quiet, but as I began to settle in, life became busier. Having set up a new Gmail account, I decided to try using Google Calendar to organise my life as I used Outlook Calendar to organise my working life. Looking at the official Thing Eight blogpost, I have only been using the more basic functions of the calendar. I have not integrated it into my iGoogle page – perhaps fortunately, as iGoogle is rather annoyingly set to disappear next year – nor into my blog. I had not considered doing so, but am now contemplating the potential value of adding it to my in-the-making website. I would use it to post events that I would expect to be of interest to my readers, as opposed to making my own Google Calendar public.
I choose not to make my Google Calendar public because of the way in which I use it. In addition to posting appointments of various kinds, dates of training courses, calls for papers, and so on. I use it to make notes of a more random kind. It reminded me when a new series of Dr Who was due to start. It includes details of Christmas and birthday presents for people – to avoid spoilers, these in particular must remain secret! Looking back through my calendar entries, on Friday 12 August, I had the following:
• 9am: Cancel Shoppers’ Discount trial
• 1.30pm: Place British Library requests for books to use on Saturday 13 August
• 3.30pm: Print out Tate Library registration form
• 9pm: Remember datastick for British Library on Saturday 13 August
Looking back further, my notes for one day in June consist of reminders to collect a parcel from the Post Office, to phone and email particular friends, to make a donation to the Save Wilton’s Music Hall campaign, to phone different members of my family and to make a complaint to my bank. Samuel Pepys, I clearly am not, but then that’s another form of diary, and one that I need to start keeping. As my research commitments, which took up the greater part of my time around the official working day, grew, I began to use Google Calendar more seriously, storing links to articles, ideas to pursue as they occurred to me on the bus on the way home, lists of books to renew or request, and so on. I have copied in whole sections of my own papers that I have excised from the main document, as I don’t want to lose them completely. I wonder now if I could use these entries to write an account of the research process, of my research techniques to develop my user education scheme at the Institute (note: when I say the Institute, I’m talking about my current place of work, Sotheby’s Institute of Art), in addition to evaluating my own research practice to improve my methods in future papers.
The buying of a shiny phone with Internet access, apps and all such gadgets, increased my use of Google Calendar. It is possible to add your mobile number to your profile; this means that my calendar sends free SMS alerts to my phone automatically, for each item on the calendar. It’s a great way to remember to pick up milk, or return books to the public library that doesn’t involve me having to write notes all the way up my arm.
Over the past few months, I have not been using Google Calendar at all, and it’s only when I came to writing this blog entry that I realised that this was the case. I’ve reverted to using a hard copy diary and a wall calendar, and I’ve been getting along comfortably with this way of working. The main change that this has brought is my habit of carrying a notebook with me at all times – in the family, we call these our brains – and it is home to all sorts of scribbles. Thursday 15 June 2012 contains reminders to go to the bank, to buy birthday cards, send an email to my lovely website designer, book a restaurant for a family birthday, and to write a blogpost. It also has a plan of said blogpost, some notes from a book I was reading and several doodles. A quick flick through the current volume of my brain shows that I seem to enjoy making lists. I didn’t know when I started writing this post if Google Calendar has a “list” functionality; I wondered that it may simply be unwieldy. It seems that it is possible to keep task lists in Google Calendar, but these instructions suggest that the list as ephemera will not be preserved beyond 90 days.
As I said above, I have never used Google Calendar as part of the running and organisation of any library in which I have worked. Aaron Tay‘s various examples thereof have inspired me to give it some thought as a tool to use in the future. I am responsible for our year-round user education programme at the Institute, which includes group sessions with students – in lecture theatres and in the Library – and individual sessions with students, for reference interviews to help them get started with their dissertation research. I have also been working on the redesign of the Library website, and I think it could be a worthwhile experiment to embed Google Calendar within the website, that we may post up dates of the group sessions and allow students to check staff availability for individual appointments, and to book these appointments. We currently create our weekly staffing rotas – to ensure fulltime cover on the issue desk – using Excel, and it can be unwieldy. Only one person can edit it at any one time, and said editing process is rather finicky; Google Calendar would overcome that issue. I will need to look into trialling Google Calendar as a rota over a few weeks to see how we all found it.
This post finally written and published, I will be starting to use Google Calendar to schedule in time each week to work on CPD23. Obviously, the first few weeks of that project will be more intense as I catch up with fellow CDP23ers. But for real life reasons, there will be at least another week’s pause before I can do so.