A network for new and aspiring library professionals

MMIT 2016

After successfully applying for the CILIP North West Member Network’s bursary, I attended this year’s MmIT conference, “Digital Citizenship: What is the library’s role?”, held in Sheffield. The conference, through the keynotes and parallel sessions, explored several digital citizenship themes including the role and responsibility of the library and the librarian in supporting citizenry in the digital world. Below are my highlights from the two-day conference.

Dr Chris Stokes (Joint Director of Digital Learning, University of Sheffield) provided the first keynote covering his team’s process to make the University of Sheffield’s first MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). MOOCs were adopted as they were considered new technology with the ability to provide change with a focus on digital delivery for teaching.

Chris informed us that consideration must be paid to the platforms used in terms of accessibility and interactivity. iTunes U was initially chosen due to its international scope and academic credibility; as opposed to YouTube which allows user to converse (iTunes U doesn’t) but doesn’t have academic credibility “you’re only one click away from a skateboarding cat”. Sheffield initially experimented to see what worked and in doing so created eleven MOOCs with a further three in creation. The Discover Dentistry course was put on the FutureLearn platform, providing an international audience with scope for interaction.stokes

Chris developed the Discover Dentistry course to widen participation in Sheffield’s ADOPT scheme[1] by increasing access to the course amongst higher education students. However, the audience also included those with phobias of dentists and dental nurses refreshing their knowledge. This online community facilitated peer-to-peer learning and support. Thus in addition to consideration for the platform, attention needs to be paid to the course structure, which needs to provide scope for peer-to-peer support. In this vain, Chris stated that it is important that further reading was open access so all participants can access them; they turn academics away who don’t have open access materials.

Benefits of using MOOCs:

  • they let you experiment outside the classroom
  • they enable lots of feedback
  • multiple runs lead to quick improvement
  • they raise the profile of the university – MOOCs at Sheffield had 267,000 course joiners from across the world
  • the library was at the centre of MOOC creation, thus facilitating cross department work within the university
  • they can help the open access agenda – steering academics in the direction of open access publishing
  • promote postgraduate study, as they typically attract graduates (however, in contrast they aren’t just for graduates or a specific age range – they can be all inclusive and empowering if designed to be interesting with interactive content simplifying the subject)

Challenges with MOOCs:

  • they generate very little income
  • it is hard to quantify the benefits to the university (however, citations of the dental course on UCAS applications were used to capture the impact for the individual)
  • they are not always completed
  • content is generally at postgraduate level therefore the demographic of users is postgraduate students

My takeaways from this session were: what MOOCs could my institution provide? How can the library get involved?

The first two parallel sessions I attended focused on privacy. The first was delivered Paul Pedley who began by asking whether librarians have a mission to educate users about digital literacy including privacy. He purported that librarians are not able to provide an absolute guarantee to protect the privacy of their users, but that is not a reason not to try. We have to assume that any information transmitted between devices will be intercepted and use encryption methods to combat this e.g. using HTTPS. In libraries, print items are protected, however, digital privacy is lacking: “97% of research library searches leak privacy…72% let Google Analytics look over the shoulder of every click”. These statistics show data breaches are becoming more important[2].

There have been a number of privacy breaches with vendors e.g. Reed Elsevier (owner of LexisNexis), Bloomberg, Adobe, Overdrive/Amazon, Bibliocommons. As such, digital literacy classes must include privacy, helping users to protect their privacy online. So what can we do?


For number 9 these were suggested: Pedley Clean Slate or Deep Freeze restores computer to clean state. For number 11 Paul suggests privacy impact assessments should take place before any changes/updates. In addition, to the points raised above, we can protect privacy by providing a dedicated area on our website; a great example of this can be found here.

Paul also talked about the effects on behaviour of people being watched and how that inhibits their behaviour e.g. not borrowing LGBT material if not able to borrow via self-service machines, not printing out information if had to collect from enquiries desk.

Questions this session raised:

  • Is your library catalogue delivered over https?
  • How many people/institutions conduct privacy impact assessments?
  • Do many libraries use clean slate or equivalent to return library PCs to their native state?

Ian continued with the theme of digital privacy and also looked into citizenship. He began his talk by talking about the threat to libraries by the government via a new law where libraries may have to hand over customers data. Surveillance is a threat to the work of libraries as it undermines the concept of the library for freedom, discover & learning. Therefore we should reject this in line with our ethical principles (outlined by CILIP and IFLA).


As a new technology emerges, the first reaction is how it can be used for control with examples of surveillance in history given e.g. suffragettes, Martin Luther King Jr. The ability to critically reflect on ideas is essential to a democratic state; however, when being observed we censor ourselves; confirming what Paul had said in the previous session. This fear of surveillance can prevent people fully informing themselves on key issues and inhibits true democratic debate e.g. searching for information on the Taliban. Ian spoke of how surveillance comes in different forms:

  • Corporate – whereby data is a commodity, there are more surveillance technologies and more sophisticated ways of collecting data all in the aim of profit
  • Liquid – data flowing easily between corporations and the state e.g. Operation Mickey Mouse a relationship between Disney and the state sharing techniques
  • 21st century – for the purpose of national security e.g. The Five Eyes, Karma Police

The Investigatory Powers Bill refers to the retention of Internet connections records by Internet provider, which could include libraries. Libraries would not be allowed to inform users if their data has been handed over to the snooper charter; thus undermining our ethical principles.

So what can we do? Encryption is a key tool, it’s not just about protecting privacy but fundamental to the world economy (and your online banking!). Additionally, you need to be using the right tools e.g. Tor browser, encrypted email (we were told that encrypted email takes a lot of effort, which is a barrier), Apple phones which are encrypted by default (Android are not – this generated talk of the price of security) and instant messenger applications. The role of librarians is to empower users and help extend digital inclusion e.g. Newcastle Libraries CryptoParty.

Another parallel session I attended, led by Virginia Power, highlighted useful tools/technology for those working with people with ‘hidden’ needs in order to provide them with a voice. We were informed that digital citizenship is about appropriate and engaged use of technology and that we need to be aware of the users’ agenda and not our own.

The tools/technology mentioned by Virginia included:

  • The Xerte Project – a tool for creating online learning content where the user has control e.g. changing font/background colour
  • Jisc support for learning providers to create an accessible teaching and learning environment
  • Pictello – a visual story creator (iOS)
  • Mobile Sign app to communicate with people who use British Sign language
  • SMOG calculator -determines reading level of your writing e.g. child, teenagers, adults
  • TechDis advises PDF versions should be produced as they are more accessible than PowerPoint presentations (highlightable, screen readable)
  • EduApps– open source software you can have on a USB stick, that helps dyslexic people using a computer e,g, enables user to control more i.e. backgrounds
  • Chrome Speak is a free plugin where you can select the text to be read
  • Screencast-O-Matic – creates free screen recordings
  • RoboBraille – will convert your file into an alternative, accessible format
  • PenFriend labeller – allows recordings to be embedded into labels

The first parallel session I attended on the second day, led by Scott Hibberson, was more activity based than previous sessions I had attended. In groups, we discussed/answered three questions:

  1. What are the key aspects of digital citizenship? Ethical behaviour, appropriate attribution, digital literacy, evaluating information, access to technology, inclusivity, ethical considerations, scalability, empowerment, accessibility, awareness, privacy, collaboration, democratic, cost, knowledge, safety, confidence.
  2. How do you currently support learners to become capable digital citizens? Research skills, empowering users through information literacy, short videos to put ideas quickly and build interest, embedding skills support in the VLE, through the Tinder foundation’s learn my way online resources, not making assumptions.
  3. What next steps will you take to support learners? Ensure staff have the right skills, use a buddy system to support staff and students, add MOOCs or specific Lynda guides to libguides e.g. MOOC of the month, provide flowcharts (JISC example) for students to assess learning.

The final keynote of the conference given by Dr Kevin Curran focused on hacking. Kevin described the phenomena of Google Dorks exposing sites with insecure logins, explained how the Dark Web can only be accessed through specific browsers e.g. Tor, and about how Bitcoin and ransomware have changed cybersecurity with the introduction of cryptocurrency. Kevin provided the following tips/advice:

  • not all passwords are equal! Make more stringent efforts for those that are most important e.g. online banking, PayPal
  • when creating passwords put the numbers at the start, then the first three characters of the site, ideally 12-14 characters in length e.g. 1912ebamanchel (for an eBay password). Don’t use Klingon phrases – these are known to hackers!
  • password managers are ok to use and generate different passwords for every website e.g. LastPass
  • find out if your email address has been breached or be notified in future here
  • treat wireless networks with care e.g. do your online banking at home and not on another network
  • look out for SSL and https for secure transactions
  • always update software when prompted
  • don’t pay for virus software Windows Defender is enough if you practice safe computing


    There have been a number of security breaches, as shown above, however we haven’t seen an ISP breach yet.

The conference provided a great overview of digital citizenship from a number of angles – public libraries (Madeleine), from an academic viewpoint (Chris) and as citizens (Ian). For details on elements of the conference I have not managed to fit in please see the Storify I have created. If you’re interested in what MMIT do check out their blog and have a look at Siobhan’s write up of last year’s conference.

[1] ADOPT was an outreach scheme designed to give 16 to 18 year olds the knowledge, information and guidance to make a competitive application to the University of Sheffield’s Dental School. More information can be found here:

[2] Lightbeam for Firefox shows all the third party sites you are sharing your data with when you visit them.

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