Online courses: Don’t be a troll and be rude to your customers

trollsAs anyone who has spent time with me knows, I love to learn. I have taken countless courses over the years, some great, some not so much. I have done university degrees, specialist courses in library work, editing, web design and even a short writing course on the Isle of Wight. The latter wasn’t just great though, that was an amazing course. If you want to do a residential course I would check out Felicity Fair Thompson’s!

Anyway, I thought I would try out some of those online courses that you hear about. I’d tried Coursera in the past and that was actually very good but the course that got my attention was one where I would have to pay some money.

The course I was interested in was around $500. I think this is an inordinate amount of money for an online course. Now I don’t like to do anything immoral or illegal so I thought I might be disappointed in my desire to try the course. By the way I do not intend to say what this course was or what platform it was on. I don’t think that would be fair as I have a problem with the tutor not the course itself and definitely not the platform! The actual course itself was actually quite good, the tutor’s attitude however had a little to be desired. Although anyone could probably work out what the course was with a bit of searching! I’m not one to disparage other people’s skills.

So given that I won’t do anything dishonest or illegal what was I to do? What any cash strapped ex-librarian would do. I searched for a coupon. Lo and behold the tutor himself had put a link on to a forum with the course reduced to about £10. Awesome. So I bought it.

The course was about YouTube. The reason I took it was that I have very little experience of the service. Sure I’ve put up a couple of videos but it is years since I set up the account.

I watched a few of the lectures and there were a few times when I thought, “This guy’s a genius”. Other times, my brows would furrow and at others I just smiled and thought well, that’s obvious.

If you boil the course down, it’s basically informing you about the creative commons section of YouTube and how you can edit the videos on there to monetize them. It tells you to use Titles, keywords and thumbnails. There is some stuff about analytics but that’s basically it.

So you take those elements and you look at how much that applies to libraries and my other experiences. Well, titles and keywords relate to libraries in a big way. The library world (OK the IT world does as well) calls it metadata. There is a lot of information on that on the web and I have had a lot of experience using these. There is also a crossover to being an author. The guy waxes lyrical about thumbnails which are basically the book covers of the video world. As every author (should) know your book covers should be clear legible, eye-catching and make a statement. This is exactly what this guy advocates.

So my views at this point of having a quick pass through the course and skipping bits that I already know about was that it was useful, inspired in some areas but then I realised that it didn’t have some fundamentals like how to set up a new YouTube channel. I could work this out but I have paid for this course, not full price but other people have. So I ask a question on his forum:


I saw somewhere it said you can have more than one identity but nothing about setting one up. It seems to jump straight into descriptions and tags etc. I have to admit I skipped some of this. I spent 11 years dealing with titles and descriptions as a Librarian so I know a little about those.

As you can see I ask about setting up a new identity (channel) and I just explain that I skipped some of the course because I knew about the concepts because of my occupation.

Why did I do that? Well the lecturer bangs on about people not going through the course and not understanding because of it so I wanted to explain that although he could see from the stats that I didn’t go through those parts of the course (which by the way was irrelevant to the question anyway but he mentioned that he got annoyed about that in the course) but that I knew about them from prior experience. I would like to point I wasn’t being confrontational and in fact was trying to be helpful for other students. He did after all say he liked feedback in one of his courses.

His response:

You definitely need to fully study and understand titles, descriptions and tags, please – they are crucial to your success and have nothing to do with libraries.

Please see lecture 1.


So I’m starting to get annoyed here. “I need to fully study and understand titles, descriptions and tags?” Hellloooooo, I explained why I already understand them. His bit about nothing to do with libraries explains his ignorance of library work. Just in case though, I went through his extremely boring sections on metadata (boring, because I already knew about them), and yes, he didn’t teach me anything I didn’t already know. So I responded. I probably shouldn’t have though.

I beg to differ, I have a masters degree in metadata and information science as most qualified Librarians do (It’s rare to just have a BA degree). I have made websites and published books, inputting descriptions and tags using this information. In libraries we use catalogues (Library management systems) where you have to put titles, descriptions and keywords or the patrons do not find the books that you have catalogued. If you know nothing about library work, you really shouldn’t make assumptions. I did watch some of your video on the subject and it was really like teaching a proverbial granny to suck eggs. Although other parts of the course I did find extremely useful

I did finally work it out, I just thought you might have appreciated the feedback that some pointers for creating the channel in the first place would be helpful.

So there you have it, my full explanation, surely he would just let it be. I’ve told him how my experience related maybe not all of it but how some of my experiences relates. But no, wait, he says something else:

Oh dear!

You made me chortle!

Without cheating, by suddenly bothering to study the course, tell me how you would headline this video for YouTube, please. It’s currently called

“Understanding The Relativ Index”

[Name taken out to protect identity] – a relative of Mr. Dewey, incidentally … cousin on my Mum’s side of the family

So the guy had a family member who came up with the Dewey Deceimal system that died before the internet and therefore he knows enough about library work to assume that it is unrelated. I wonder if he knows about the Library of Congress cataloguing system? 🙂 Oh and he now wants to test me? Bleeding hot underworld, I have to respond. My husband is shouting, “Don’t do it he’s a troll!” from across the room, but he is really getting under my skin at this point. Should have listened to hubby!

Then you really shouldn’t insult librarians. There is more to knowing about library work than knowledge of the DDC. I understand that you might get frustrated with people asking questions. I once had to continually reply to emails about tags and labs on Gmail because they knew of my book on Gmail. I don’t believe we are getting anywhere with this conversation. I just expected a link in an answer. I wasn’t expecting a veiled insult on my profession as well. I shall of course let my colleagues know that they nothing of taxonomy and other metadata and they should resign from their positions in the government and business as soon as they can. Really, do people think that all Librarians do nothing but shelve books and say shhh! all day?

I do think those sections of your course is useful to those that have never studied or worked in information science but insulting the intelligence and knowledge of people who apparently deign to be your student is ridiculous. Your course is good but not everyone is a newbie to *all* the concepts you teach.

I believe your reply “bothering to study the course” rather than to actually just accept feedback is classed as trolling and I won’t be giving this conversation any more of my time.

Now I haven’t read his response, I read one line and he still won’t acknowledge that he is not the only person in the world that could possibly know about metadata outside of his course. He can’t seem to grasp that concepts are applicable across different fields and while he is obviously clever, he has a blind spot that makes him think that is applying wisdom that only he could possible know. Now there are a great many things I have no knowledge of (hence the courses I enroll on) but I have my experiences and I have my training and also his training now so I have a rounded picture of what he is talking about. He only seems to know what he has found out and doesn’t want to open his mind to find out how it can be applied elsewhere.

With regard to metadata, specifically keywords, I’m going to give a tip that I’ve known about for years and I won’t be charging $499 for it. You can find out what people are searching for in Google by using their keyword planner at Remember YouTube is owned by Google and videos will come up in Google searches. Applicable to YouTube videos, books and anything you sell on Amazon.

Find out what people are searching for and how many are searching for it. Use these words to plan your titles, your descriptions and your tags. See, it’s not that hard is it? Oh, but I forget I’m not supposed to know about it. Strike that last paragraph from your minds…

Recognition at last – pay rise!

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. Posts may be edited from the original blog. So this is part of a series from my old Batty Librarian Blog…

One of the major problems working in a school library is you don’t get the recognition for what you’ve achieved which can get a bit demoralising. My way round this is to write reports to the senior management telling them how great I am with examples.

It seems this has paid off along with some persistance from my colleague. My assistant is paid appallingly and she really needed a pay rise. She’s a great worker, really intelligent, goes over and above the call of duty and can keep the kids in line. What more could a school ask for!

Anyway she put a package together putting her strengths in, the recommended wages for an assistant librarian and a spectacular performance review from me. Turns out they are going to pay us BOTH more in September. Yeeha for the Librarians.

Another note, how do other librarians out there advertise their book fairs? I have spent the morning stuffing 100s of envelopes with an invitation, competition entry, World Book Day voucher and other blurb. My assistant created a poster for the competition – to be honest she created the competition too (I did one last year) and we’ve put up book fair posters as well. On the plus side I am going to be really muscular in my arms from filling envelopes by the time this thing is finished!


Current day note: Here’s something to think about, in my eleven year career in library and information, I have worked equally for public and private empoyers. I have always received pay rises from private employers but not public…

eww public libraries – just kidding!

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. May be edited from the original post. So this is part of a series from my old Batty Librarian Blog…

I visited my local public library and while its not as bad as the kids’ parents told me, there wasn’t a huge selection of fiction books on offer. We have more books in our spinners! Still I liked their what’s new section (had six books in it which weren’t actually that new), there was a book displayed there which looked quite interesting – I think I’m going to buy it.

I think they could’ve done more really. It was all a bit bland apart from the toddler reading bit which was basically a play area in the middle of it. There were no posters advertising forthcoming books or even what they have that might be interesting. I always insist on havin fresh displays every term in my library. it felt a bit oppressive to tell you the truth. It’s visits like that that make me appreciate how nice my library actually is.

It’s daunting seeing a lot of books with just their spines showing – you need to attract the reader – tease them with colour. Dare I say it – break it up a bit.

The staff were friendly and welcoming, I’ll give them that. They don’t give phone numbers out though – strange policy – do they think I’m going to sell it on the black market for library phone numbers?

hey ho

The Birds & The Bees

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. So this is part of a series from my old Batty Librarian Blog…


Thursday, 6 December 2007

The Birds & The Bees

It’s that talk every parent is supposed to dread, but what if you’re just the Librarian? Well, my assistant (Y) who used to work in a public library seems to have the perfect answer.

Picture the scene:

It’s lunchtime, you have a room full of teenagers, chattin’ away and reading or doing homeowork. A group of the gigglers (Year 8s) have just come in from a ‘Biology’ class. They want to find a book on reproduction.

“Fine,” you might say, “just this way” and lead them to the human biology section. They take the book and disappear into the corner.

The next five minutes are taken up by loans and requests for help on homework and then they come back.

“Miss, I don’t understand?” one of the girls say.
“What don’t you understand X” asks my assistant.
“I don’t understans what this page means” she replies.

The assistant has a quick look look to see what she is referring to and hides a grin.

Oh OK, read out to me what you don’t understand and I’ll try to explain it.

The girl starts to read quietly.

“I’m sorry X, I can’t quite catch what you are saying, can you say it a bit louder please?” My assistant asks with a deadpan expression

The girl glances around, no-one is looking at them so she carries on louder. “…and the man puts his thingy in…”

“What was that?”
“His thingy.”
“It doesn’t say that surely.” Y picks up the book and takes a closer look. She turns it back round and hands it back to the girl.
“No it doesn’t say that, you need to say the words or it won’t make sense”.

A look of panic crosses the girls face “He puts his penis in…” Her friends let out a peal of laughter and they all ran out of the library.

Funnily enough they’ve not asked us to explain it again…

Five Reasons Why I Loved/Hated Being a School Librarian

I have decided to repost some of my old blog posts from the distant past when I was working as a School Librarian. Kids do the funniest things and I really enjoyed working in a school. So this is part of a series from my old Batty Librarian Blog…

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Five Reasons Why I Love/Hate Being a School Librarian


I’m finding writing this blog quite cathartic, so I thought the next thing was to write about five reasons why I love and hate being a school librarian.

Why I absolutely love it

The children
The children do make it worthwhile. I love the way they think, the enthusiasm and the way they seem to appreciate what I do for them.

The challenge
Every day is a challenge. From the moment you unlock the library to the time you leave, its non-stop. Remember at those job interviews they ask you about prioritization? Well, if you are rubbish at it then you’d have to resign the next day! There’s so much to do the time just flies by. …and don’t get me started on multi-tasking…

The books
Well this was an obvious one – who’d become a librarian if they didn’t like books! There’s always the thrill of spending someone else’s money on books, but most of all I love the smell of them as well. mmmm, Bisto

The creative side
Where can I get started on this one. From the creation of leaflets, posters to computerising the accounts and arranging the furniture. If you want to use your creative side then this is the job to do it!

The quiet!
When break and lunch ends and its just the sixth formers quietly studying I almost think it is heaven…

Why I hate it

The Library as a dumping ground
This means the naughty children who get sent in because the teachers don’t know what else to do with them to being the place equipment gets dumped because we happen to be open all the time. My favourite is laptops and cameras. We only hold them because no-one else wants the responsibility and the reason mentioned before. I love the way teachers come in to book the laptop and expect me to know a) what software is precisely on the thing and b) to know how to fix it if it goes wrong. If I wanted to be an IT bleeding consultant I would have done an IT qualification not a MSc in Library studies! …and then the idiots go an lend it to another teacher without telling me and the others expect me to know where the stuff is at all times. I’m stuck in the library – I can’t go chasing after errant staff members all the time! Grr.

Looking after 50-60 children on my own after school ends. I’m not trained in childcare and I dread that something bad will happen. Unfortunately it is the one thing I really do not like about my job. It is impossible to control that many children but I am expected to. If I complain then I am told that is what the job entailed and they explained it in the interview. I never dreamed that I would be expected to look after that many though and I’m pretty sure that it would scare a lot of other librarians as well!

I am in charge of the library but still have a line manager, which made sense when I was new to the job. However what is the point of a line manager who does no personnel reviews, doesn’t make decisions or give important information when needed? For example, if something is arranged for the library we don’t always get told. Just the other week a meeting was arranged in the middle of baby-sitting duty (Prep) one night and the first we found out about it was when the canteen staff delivered the drink for it around mid-day. I had to chase my line manager to find out what was happening!

Lack of Communication
Unfortunately the library staff is neither part of the teaching or admin staff. we are classed as other and get forgotten. I have to constantly chase people to find out what is happening. I also have to take every opportunity to collar teachers to find out what they are teaching and what kind of resources they need for the library (They never turn up for meeting – they forget).

The hours
I work part-time as a lot of school librarians do. It is very difficult to get the work done in the time allocated. I know I criticise CILIP a lot but they do acknowledge that a full time librarian is needed in schools which includes working in the holidays. I work approximately 75-80% of term-time. Personal development has to be done in my own time. fair enough I do that anyway – Its just annoying.