Monday, 30 January 2012

What I've been reading in January

Libraries@Cambridge Conference

Claire Sewell, Libraries@Cambridge 2012 - some thoughts (very interesting post from a cataloguer's perspective)

Katie Birkwood, #lac12, or The Libraries@Cambridge 2012: a special collections view

Meg Westbury, Dodos and Eagles (focusing on Deborah Shorley's keynote)

Library School

#uklibchat, Summary Part 1: 3rd November - Library School

#uklibchat, Summary Part 2: 3rd November - Library School


Erin Lee, Archives are not for the fainthearted 

Awards and recognition

Andy Woodworth, On Awards & Recognition

Katy Wrathall, Thinking (follow up to Andy's post)

Helping library users

Simon Barron, Help! How much help should libraries be? (there are lots of excellent comments on this post too)

Ned Potter, Spoon feed them, then give them the spoon , then chuck away the spoon

Andy Woodworth, A Reference Dilemna

By Felipe Morin on Flickr

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Caird Library at the National Maritime Museum

Inside the museum
Last week I got a rather exciting email from the National Maritime Museum, inviting me to a bloggers preview event for their new Caird Library.

This was the first time I'd been to the NMM, which is in Greenwich, and although I didn't have much time to explore the museum itself, I'd love to come back some time and have a proper look around at the exhibits.

When I got to the library there were already quite a lot of bloggers bustling about, armed with notebooks and tablets and signed photography permission forms. I hadn't given it much thought but had just assumed that everyone would be library bloggers and that I would probably know some people, but actually there were history bloggers, maritime bloggers, geography bloggers, museum bloggers... etc. etc.! Everyone was very friendly though, and it was an interesting mix of people!
The Caird Library reading room
Ship plan viewer
We were given a short introduction to the library's collections and the reasons behind the move. Previously most of the collections were offsite and had to be fetched for readers, the new library has 9km of shelf space to allow much more to be kept onsite, vastly reducing fetch times. The new library also has state of the art equipment, including a book scanner, and a whizzy ship plan viewer.

The collections are obviously of interest to anyone studying maritime history, but there is also a wealth of information for those studying their family history, as the library has thousands of crew lists and Ship's Master's certificates (each of which is kept with the application form, which lists all the ships the Master has worked on).

Aurora Australis

The library staff had got out several of their most interesting items for us to have a good look at, including a copy of Aurora Australis, the first book to have been entirely written, illustrated, printed and bound in the Antarctic, as something to occupy the crew of the 'Nimrod' expedition whilst their ship was trapped in ice.

Another interesting little book was A Narrative of the Loss of the Royal George, commemorating the loss of a ship which capsized whilst being worked on in the harbour. The book was bound with pieces of wood from the ship, which was eventually blown up after several decades spent unsuccessfully trying to refloat it.
A Narrative of the Loss of the Royal George
My favourite item was an illustrated diary written by Alfred Withers, whilst he was on a three month voyage from England to Australia. The illustrations were so detailed and beautiful, I would put the one below in a frame!

Alfred Withers' illustrated diary
Illustration from Alfred Withers' diary
The event ended in a trip up to the new archive store,which allows so much more of the collection to be held onsite. It was a lovely library and a lovely museum, and I will definitely be back. The library is open to anyone, you can register online here. Thanks to the library staff for a really interesting afternoon!

Other bloggers' thoughts on the event are linked to from the Caird Library Blog.

#libday8 next week

Next week is the 8th round of the Library Day in the Life project, and the third that I have taken part in. My previous posts are all tagged with Library Day in the Life.

This will be the first time I have taken part as a student, and while I hope to post some snippets here on this blog, I will also be posting on the UCL DIS Students blog, along with some of my fellow students. It should be a fairly normal week for me, I'll be at UCL on Monday and Tuesday, and then working at Newnham on Wednesday and Friday. On Thursday I'm doing something new though, I'm going to be co-presenting a training session for librarians on "Blogging for Absolute Beginners"! I'm a bit nervous as I haven't presented a training session before, but I'm my co-presenters are excellent so I'm sure it will be fine! I'll let you know how it goes, along with the rest of my week.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Placement: Cambridge University Library

The second part of my work experience placement was in the Music Department at Cambridge University Library.

Working at the UL, everyone seems to agree, is very different from working at any other library. It is a legal deposit library, but unlike the British Library or the Bodleian which keep a lot of their material offsite, everything at the UL is onsite, and much of this is on open shelves.This does mean that the library is almost continuously being extended. In one of the most recent extensions, the Aoi Pavillion has sprung up on the side of the Anderson Room (the reading room for music) and so now the music office has windows on two sides, and the staff fetch books for both music and East Asian studies.
By TheRevSteve on Flickr
While I was there I did quite a bit of cataloguing of music (literature on music is sent the Cataloguing Department where there are sections for English and Foreign Language Cataloguing). I've done some of this before at Newnham but now had the very helpful Margaret on hand to tell me what I've been doing wrong, and to guide me through some of the things that are different about cataloguing at the UL.

At most libraries the books you receive are mostly things the librarians have decided they want, and have ordered. You get donations which are sometimes...less than useful, but you can usually either sell them or give them away or just not accept them if you don't want them. However in a legal deposit library there is a constant stream of sometimes strange things coming in which have to be kept, and dealt with! Some is academic literature and will be useful for the students, so gets catalogued and goes out on the shelf. Others, such as Aled Jones' Favourite Christmas Carols or The Very Best of Adele for Ukulele are classed as secondary literature and go down in the stacks. And sorry Mum, but we put Michael Bublé: Onstage Offstage down there too.

I was in the music office for the majority of the time, but I also got the chance to look around a couple of other departments too. I was given a tour of the Periodicals Department by Clive Simmonds, and had a really interesting chat with Patricia Killiard, head of Electronic Services and Systems. I feel like I've packed rather a lot into two short weeks!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Libraries@Cambridge Conference 2011 - the library users' perspective

I went to the afternoon session of the Libraries@Cambridge conference yesterday (and the lunch of course!) which was a thought-provoking set of short presentations by library users - academics, an undergraduate and a PhD student. Like Claire Sewell, I thought this was a brilliant idea, and wonder why this isn't done more often? Inviting library users to a library conference seems to make perfect sense.

I'd brought along my new tablet to take notes on and keep an eye on Twitter. This was the first time I'd tried taking 'proper' notes on it, and it worked very well. I was using Evernote which I fell in love with at Library Camp for how easy it made writing up my blog posts afterwards, so here's hoping this one will more or less write itself too!*

(Apologies if I've got anyone's name/job wrong, I didn't quite catch all of the introductions.)

First to speak was Anne Alexander, co-ordinator of the Digital Humanities Network. The network is funded by the University and brings together scholars from several disciplines, with a huge variety of research interests. 

The Digital Humanities Network promotes engagement between research projects and new digital tools. These tools are reconfiguring the relationship between experts and laypersons, and between users and editors. It was good to hear Anne recognising that libraries and librarians are playing a crucial role in debates about open access, the preservation of digital content, and the transformation of repositories and archives. However I was a bit disappointed not to hear a mention of user training and digital literacy, which I think a lot of libraries in Cambridge are doing rather well. 

Anne argued that the future of DH has to develop through dialogue, and that libraries will have to be at centre of this debate. The need for more dialogue between libraries and academics was a major theme of the afternoon, and Anne pointed out that before this can happen, academics and librarians may need to rethink their current impressions of each other. Anne ended by begging us not to think of her as just a library user, but as a partner and a collaborator.

Next was Mark MacGillivray, a PhD student from University of Edinburgh interested in open scholarship (he is involved in the JISC Open Bibliography project). 

Mark went to university in 1997 and saw the world wide web for the first time at the library. During his time at university he has used the library a great deal for the space to work, and for the internet, but has only borrowed a book about 4 times. He found that the best way to access information was online. Now that he is doing PhD he feels the same way but now has the internet at home so it is even easier. 

Mark argued that open access is the easiest way to do everything. If something is open access more people will know it exists. There are good reasons and bad reasons for this not happening, but a lot of effort is being put into into defining what constitutes "open" access, while all Mark wants is access.

The third speaker was Sylvia Christie, a 3rd year student at Homerton College, and I found her presentation the most useful and interesting of the afternoon. 

Thinking ahead to the future, Sylvia predicted that hardware issues will cause problems. Hardware costs money and still some students do not have laptops as they can't afford them. Kindles etc. are designed for reading for pleasure. There is no scholarly reading device. She moved onto the topic of 'Digital Natives', pointing out that most students are at the digital equivalent of "knowing how to make a cup of tea but they can't fix the kettle!" Digital literacy ironically needs face-to-face training to be fully effective. 

Sylvia emphasised the importance of having different spaces for differerent kinds of work (I believe one of the morning sessions was on the use of space in libraries). She pointed out that during her time at the conference she'd come across a lot of our somewhat strange terminology, which she was concerned may be increasing the divide between librarians and library users. Even using the word "user" is anonymising, and increasingly the person in question may be at the other end of a computer screen, increasing the sense of distance. Libraries should be about inclusion and promoting curiosity, there should not be a divide.

Then we heard from another academic, Dr Jason Scott-Warren, a lecturer in the English faculty and dirctor of the Centre for Material Texts. This is an interdisciplinary field, and includes everything from manuscripts to digital media. 

Jason started off by saying he thinks libraries in Cambridge do a terrific job (woot!). They are coming to serve as information hubs and are adjusting well to this role. Jason himself has found he is using libraries far more as a digital user. There are two side-effects of this, which I certainly can relate to: "digital greed" (just wanting more, faster, better!) and "digital anxiety" (do I know about everything I have access to?). It is a challenge for libraries to try and advertise everything they have on offer in response to digital anxiety.

Other problems exist too. There is no agreement on standards for digital stuff. Interfaces are rather clunky and painful, and Jason is often driven into the library to look at a physical text because of frustration with the online digitised version. 

However one advantage of the digitisation process seems to be that libraries are (re)discovering items in their collections, and "blowing the dust off" the items and their catalogue records. Jason requested that more copy-specific information be added to the records at this stage, owners, donors, bindings, early readers etc. Many College libraries' special collections are relatively unknown, but digitisation could allow them to be publicised more. Jason suggested that it would be good to have intellectual projects based around library collections, and integrate them with teaching. Academics, librarians and students could be working together to create materials for courses, taking down the "walls" between the different communities.

Finally we heard from Dr Rob Wallach, a Material Scientist from King's College. 

To prepare for his presentation, Rob had asked some of his students about libraries and the future. 1st and 2nd years were bewildered by the amount of choice and confused about how to access materials. They lack information literacy skills and struggle to sift through information brought back from a Google search.  This is perhaps because students are being taught very rigidly in secondary schools, to pass exams. Universities want independent learners and free thinkers, but how can we help students to make this transformation?  We need to teach students how to organise their searching and learn what is to be trusted. We need to change the way we teach, the way we expect students to use information, move assessments away from rote learning and repetition. Rob would put librarians on teaching and research committees, and encourage more discussion and partnerships, and a change of roles for everyone.

This was followed by a question from an audience member. Throughout the afternoon everyone has been in agreement that we need more discussion and librarians and academics need to work closely together, so what are the barriers to doing this? Rob repeated his earlier suggestion to get rid of library committtees, and combine into teaching and research committees. Mark added in that fear is major factor, everyone is unsure of what is the best thing to do, but we have to continue the discussions we are having.

I'm very glad that I got the chance to attend the conference for the afternoon. The session gave a lot of food for thought, and it was great to catch up with friends over lunch and over coffee afterwards. Many thanks to the Libraries@Cambridge team for doing a great job of organising the conference.

*I'm trying out putting bits in bold that I found most pertinent so that I can easily find them later. Looks a bit odd, may or may not do this again in future!

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Placement: Pendlebury Library of Music

When we were told to start thinking about the work placement part of our course, I knew that I wanted to go to a music library (my undergraduate degree was in music). I was very lucky that the Pendlebury Library in Cambridge was happy for me to do my placement there, and even better, I was able to do half of the two weeks there, and half in the music department at the main University Library.

I've done my first three days at the Pendlebury Library, and now will be working at the UL for a week before returning to the Pendlebury for the final two days. There is another woman doing work experience in both libraries at the same time (she's over from Germany for two months) and the library staff have been really organised and lined up some interesting projects for us to do while we're here.

At the Pendlebury library, I've learnt how to catalogue CDs, which we don't hold at Newnham so I haven't had a chance to do before. There have recently been a couple of big donations of CDs, so I'm working my way through those (they're in alphabetical order and I'm up to D so far, I don't think I will get through them all!) 

The other project, was to make a floor plan of the library showing the shelves and the classmarks. When we covered Prezi in CPD23 I mentioned that I'd love to try making an interactive library map, inspired by this Prezi by Ned Potter. Luckily for me, Clemens and the rest of the library staff were happy for me to give it a try, and here's the result!

It's only my third ever Prezi so it's not majorly sophisticated, and I did need get stuck and have to ask Ned for help at one point! I'm pretty pleased with it anyway :) It's gone up on the library's facebook page, and I think will go on the main website eventually. In theory I guess the image could also be printed out and stuck on the wall too.

I'm looking forward to working at the UL for the next week, and will try and blog about that too when I get the chance. I've also got a bunch of notes from the Libraries@Cambridge conference today which will hopefully turn themselves into a blog post while I write an essay? It might happen...