Saturday, 29 October 2011

#cpd23 Thing 11: Mentoring

So, I haven't written a cpd23 post in about three millennia.  Thing 11 has been a real stumbling block for me (even worse than Thing 10, which was quite an effort, and for the very same reasons).  Formal mentoring is a part of the CILIP Chartership process, and I've been feeling very bad about how I've neither worked on my portfolio or contacted my mentor in months and months.

Good news folks!  Before starting this post, I emailed my mentor.  Hopefully this will get me back on track with Chartership.  And with that weight off my back, I feel a little more able to voice my thoughts about mentoring more generally.

Mentoring is, I reckon, a Good Thing. But the practicalities can be difficult.  Take Chartership, for example.  There's a big list of mentors, arranged by region, and with a few details of where they work or what they're interested in.  When you start Chartership you pick one of these, meet up with them, and you both decide if you want to keep each other.  Sounds OK in principle, but in practice, I think there's a lot of picking at random(ish) (you might decide for a different sector, or an interesting workplace, but you very little about the person really), and when you meet someone for the first time it's rare to take such a dislike to them straight away that you'd do the socially awkward thing of telling them you don't think it'll work.

This isn't to say that I don't like my mentor.  But I do wonder if whether, had I been active on social media at the very start of the Charterhsip process, I might have found someone there with whom I really clicked.  And being mentored by someone you're already in contact with probably means you'll be better at riding through, or getting help in, the times when you're not getting anything done...

The crux of mentoring issue for me is probably that the informal mentoring that develops all of its own accord when you're not looking is certainly easier to maintain, and possibly more useful.  I suppose that formal mentoring is handy when there's a specific need or goal to address.  And Chartership, for me, feels so damn nebulous that the formal mentoring can feel a bit directionless: is it aimed at career progression/training and development, or is the mentor there to help you through the writing up, or what?

So all in all, I'm a bit confused.  But I've always been a difficult person to please in the realm of teacher-pupil/mentor-mentee relationships (just speak to some of my previous cello teachers!).  When it works, it *really* works, but much of the time it leaves me flat.   I should work out how to work on that... 

Visit to Ipswich: three libraries

On Monday 22 August 2011 Abby Barker organised a visit to three Ipswich libraries for the CILIP East of England Branch.  I went along because I'd never been to Ipswich before, and because the libraries in question sounded pretty interesting and were from sectors I know little about : a private institute, a large FE college, and a new university.

These notes have been languishing, half-written, for months.  They're clearly never going to get written up in full, so I'm publishing this post in note form.

Grainy camera phone picture by yours truly
An entrance to a hidden world
Ipswich Institute

  • Founded in the nineteenth century for the purpose of educating mechanics.
  • Today it offers members a lending library, a coffee shop, space in the centre of town to sit down and read, and educational courses and talks.
  • It inhabits two historic buildings in centre of town. One has been its home for a long time, the other was acquired recently.
So what?
  • As with any organisation using historic buildings, the facilities aren't ideal. There currently isn't access to the first floors of the buildings (where many of the talks take place) for those who can't manage stairs, for example.
  • As a member organisation, everything they do has to be approved of by the membership. This means that innovation can be hard - things like using some coffee shop space for part of the library can cause upset. 
  • The Institute seems to function as a public library for some of its members. Obviously it's a tricky issue to wonder whether this library 'takes people away' the public libraries: they've paid for something, so why not enjoy it? But given the trouble facing public libraries this did just make me a little uneasy.
  • Several of the people on the visit were fairly local to Ipswich, and said that they'd seen the Institute doorway in the middle of town, and never really known what it was. I wonder how many other 'hidden gems' there are out there - and how much public libraries (or others) are like this for many people. To be fair, the Institute said that it's numbers were healthy and that they weren't particularly marketing themselves to get more.
Now what?

    'Suffolk New College, Ipswich, Suffolk' by mira66 on Flickr
    The swirly  Suffolk New College logo
    Suffolk New College (Learning Curve)

    • This is the library for an FE college

    So what? 
    • Crowd control: the librarian said this was better than it could be, but she still had to work to get people not to eat, to behave appropriately, etc.
    • Getting the students to make the most of the resources
      • The librarian has brought material for particular courses together on the shelf, rather than sticking rigidly to Dewey.  All sizes are also together - no oversize shelves.
      • Trying to make stuff appeal
      • Success with some subjects in getting librarians into induction sessions - trying to spread this through subjects
    • Getting stuff back - only very few books at a time - many go missing
    • Wider responsibilities are being given to the library as part of the development/reorganisation of the College (it seems as though continual change is part of the furniture):
    • Uncertainty about funding/future - this year's intake only known at enrolment at the start of September
    Now what?
    •  Think about how HE institutions (or public libraries) can and should be helping students come from an FE background like this: the library was well-run, but small.  How can we mitigate the overwhelmingness of the libraries they'll face later on?

      'Ipswich Marina' by Martin Pettitt on Flickr
      The Waterfront Building
      University Campus Suffolk
      (The library's web presence is almost entirely via a VLE, with no outward-facing webpage, so sorry - no handy link!)

      • UCS is very new.  It offers HE courses validated by other local universities.
      • Most of the campus is housed in brand new buildings (such as the Waterfront Building, right). 
      • The library is in an old ('60s) building that has been refurbished.
      • The Library is in a separate building to the rest of facilities, across a road from the rest of the campus 
      So what?
      • As the institution's so new, there's no 'average' student yet - changing student profile(s) mean that the services required keep changing.
      • A new institution undergoes constant change: for example, initially there was a Learning Resource Centre (i.e. computer room) in the Waterfront Building, which was very popular with students.  This has now been removed to make way for a tiered lecture theatre (requested by the student body).
        • Another new innovation for the new academic year is the inclusion of the library in the 'infozone' in the lobby of the Waterfront Building: hope it will help people find out about the library and how to use it.
      • Students come from a lot of different backgrounds, often not 'typical' HE backgrounds, so there's a heavy emphasis in the library on the accessibility of resources
        • DVDs are interfiled with books, not kept separately
        • The journals archive is colour-coded according to broad subject areas, so encourage people to use it by browsing
        • There's an emphasis on making more time and space for learning support and info literacy teaching
        • The library offers taster study-skills sessions before courses start - these are popular with new students and they find them useful.
        • Students can book time with a  subject librarian
      Now what?
      • What can an 'elitist' institution like Cambridge learn from libraries like UCS?  They go all out on making access as easy as possible: what's the best way for us to do similarly?  What are the barriers to us doing this?


      Thursday, 27 October 2011

      Shameless publicity for Cambridge Library Group

      I suspect that there are few locals reading this who don't already know about the group, but I like to be thorough with publicity so here goes...

      Cambridge Library Group is a Cambridge-based independent society for anyone interesting in libraries, books and/or information.  The Group has roughly monthly meetings throughout the year that are usually some combination of talk, tour, visit or discussion.  Every meeting starts with drinks and nibbles and a chance to natter (you might also call that networking time).  We think that we're the only such group in the country (pitch in if you know otherwise!)

      Membership is open to anyone who's interested - you don't have to work for any particular institution or type of library (or indeed a library at all), belong to any particular organisation, or hold any particular rank.  Membership is £10 for the year (£8 for retired members) and that gets you free entry to all our regular meetings, exclusive entry to occasional members-only meetings (including a chance at some peaceful Christmas browsing in Heffers on 8 December, and the Twelfth Night party at the CUP bookshop), and a reduced price for the garden party in July.

      If you don't want to commit to a year's membership then regular meetings are £3 each.

      Either way, you can find this year's programme here, and details about how to become a member here.

      Our next meeting is on Thursday 10 November: a tour of the Scott Polar Research Institute with Heather Lane, Librarian and Keeper of Collections, starting at 5.30pm for a prompt 6pm.  Most events are 'turn up on the day', but owing to the venue and the nature of the tour, numbers are restricted at SPRI.  Places are going fast - please comment here pronto if you want a place!

      Friday, 14 October 2011

      Digital humanities, music and the Material Text

      Yesterday's Seminar in the History of Material Texts was given by Professor John Rink under the title 'The virtual Chopin'.  I often go to the seminars, but rarely write them up here.  This time I will, because I'm on a blogging roll, and because I do after all have a degree in music and therefore actually understood the ins-and-outs of the talk and discussion.

      from Wikimedia Commons
      What's the issue?
      Editing the works of Chopin is a tricky business.  Each work is likely to exist in multiple sources, and these sources generally don't agree with each other.  Types of source include:
      •  preliminary sketches
      • reject public manuscripts
      • Stichvorlagen (copies from which music engravers created the plates to print from)
      • proof copies
      • 1st editions
        • These were usually simultaneously produced in England, Germany, and France, for copyright reasons.
          • Getting exemplars to three separate publishers happened in different ways through Chopin's life: sometimes proof sheets from one were sent to the other two, sometimes copies of one autograph MS would be made by an emanuensis, and at the end of Chopin's life he would make three copies of the MS himself.
        • They were printed in very small numbers at a time (25-100 copies), and corrections could be made after each run, so there are very many varying impressions of each edition.
      • Other autograph sources, such as music written in visiting books or given as gifts to patrons
      • Other non-autograph sources, such as pupils' annotations on printed copies.
      Why does that matter?
      The result of this multiplicity of sources are that it's not easy for editors and performers to determine what is the 'right' version.  If the French and English first editions have different notes in them, how do you choose which to print and which to play?

      Rink identified a few places where copying or engraving errors have serious aural and structural implications for the music, most notably, the mistaken placement of a repeat sign in the first movement of the B-flat minor sonata.  The standard reading has the repeat marked as starting from bar 5, but Chopin's MS shows only a double bar here (no repeat dots) - the repeat should start from the very beginning of the movement, which makes a lot more harmonic sense.

      A way through the thicket
      It will be little surprise to hear that there is no 'right' answer to the question. Particularly in the case of Chopin, whose compositional methods and style are heavily influenced by performance and improvisation, a single definitive version of a work simply can't be pinned down.  But there are ways of helping to decide what you should do:
      • no source should be considered in isolation
      • don't take the contents of the source at face value: interpret them in context
      • the 'law of averages' is likely to be inappropriate: just because 7 sources have one thing and 1 has something else, that lonely 1 might be more 'valid' than the others.
      • multiple interpretations may be valid, even though you can only perform one at a time.

      Editors vs performers
      The solutions will be different for editors and performers.  Performers can only play one version of any given bar (or beat, or chord) at a time.  They *have* to choose--and they generally don't like to, wanting to be able to play the 'right version--but are also at liberty, if they can justify it on musical and historical grounds, to choose as they please (and perhaps even different version at different parts of a work).  Editors, however, have a responsibility to give the full picture, as far as is feasible.  In the case of the multiple variants of Chopin, it's pretty hard to show them all on a printed score.

      The digital bit
      Digital technology obviously ways of presenting all the variants that cannot be allowed for in print publications. Rink leads two research projects with online outputs:
      The second allows the side-by-side comparison of individual bars from manuscripts and first editions.

      It's amazing, and somewhat overwhelming, for the lay (or lay-ish) person to be able to compare all these different versions.  But it's certainly a good thing.  Without being overly flashy, or getting caught up in theory or grand claims, this is a very useful thing.

      And that's pretty much all I have to say.
      Screenshot of opening of Ballade no. 3 in A-flat, Op. 47. Note that the first printed bar (1st impression of French 1st edition) has a missing flat in front the the second D, which is corrected in the next image, the 2nd French impression.

      Thursday, 13 October 2011

      #libcampuk11 session 4: using wikimedia to improve access

      (Library Camp UK 2011 home | my other posts about it)

      In this session Andy Mabbett introduced us to ways of using wikimedia (the parent organisation (owned by the Wikimedia Foundation) to Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Wikimedia commons, etc.).  Andy is a real evangelist for making the most of wiki* to benefit your own organisations or products.

      GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums)
      Wikimedia is actively seeking to encourage collaboration from heritage organisations, as you can see from the GLAM outreach wiki. Andy described a 'backstage pass event' he'd been to at Derby Museum and Art Gallery. Wikipedia editors had been invited along to a day's event, to have talks and tours about and around the museum, and a cup of tea and a biscuit, all with the aim in getting more coverage of the museum and its holdings.  Andy pointed out that by doing a little to make people special, they will do lots in return: 1,200 new articles (and translations) were created as a result of this one-day event (including this one about a racing pigeon).

      There are all sorts of potential events that you can run to engage the local community, or the community of wikipedia editors, that will benefit your organisation in terms of improved visibility.

      Putting stuff on wiki*
      There are two criteria for including an article on Wikipedia:
      1. it must be about a notable thing - i.e. something that's written about elsewhere
      2. you have to cite what you say - you can't include original research or unsupported statements.
      This leaves a lot of scope for GLAMs to include articles about themselves, their collections and their notable holdings.  You can't have an article (or links to) every single hand axe in the country, but if you're is significant, or you have a copy of book that exists in very low numbers, than that's worthy of inclusion.

      You can also release images, video, audio and animations on Wikimedia Commons.  It's good to release material with a licence allowing reuse with attribution - and then your pictures can be used anywhere, and will link back to your organisation. 

      If you have a large volume of images, Wikimedia can help with batch imports, and they maintain their servers so that the images are preserved.  In addition, the pictures are now available to all sorts of people who'll be able to help identify them and items in them.

      QRpedia (intro | intro on GLAM wiki | actual site)
      QRpedia is a doohickey that makes QR codes to link to Wikipedia pages. When someone scans the code, QRpedia return the wikipedia page in the phone's language where possible (interesting discussion of 'difficult' languages here).  Why is this cool? It means that visitors can get information about things in your exhibition in their own language without you having to make three hundred different signs.  Obviously, if you link to a very specific page there will be fewer language options that a very general one, but translations are increasing all the time...

      We were encouraged to sign up for an account and to start editing Wikipedia pages, for example by correcting punctuation or by translating an article (e.g. into Simple English) (Andy suggested hitting the 'random article' button until you found something that needed tidying up).  I've set up my account, and have done my first editing (a very undramatic addition of a link at the end of an article).

      I found this session really useful.  Wikipedia is out there, and the very thing that means that some people view it as shady and disreputable is the thing that makes it powerful for us: we can edit it.  I think it's a great idea that organisations use Wikipedia to improve their online presence: people will be looking us up there, so why not give them good information, and decent links to our own sites?

      However, I can imagine that selling the use of wikipedia (e.g. via qrpedia as a help to visitors) might be difficult to sell to the organisation... or it might be seen as lazy.  Do other people think it's something they could get agreement to do?

      And finally...
      For those interested in that sort of thing, there's also a linked-data-y DBpedia: "a community effort to extract structured information from Wikipedia and to make this information available on the Web"

      Wednesday, 12 October 2011

      #libcampuk11 session 3: Enabling reuse of library/catalogue data

      (Library Camp UK 2011 home | my other posts about it)

      This session was facilitated by Owen Stephens, who does lots of digital library stuff, is involved in mashedlib events, and is lovely. (He could probably write a better bio than that, though.)  I'm really keen to learn more about the techy side of librarianing, so I was really pleased to see him offer this session.  It was very interesting - and I've come away with an idea for something that would made catalogues more useful for some rare books users, and lots of places to start finding out more.  My notes are a bit sketchy - a lot of links and a few ideas. Sorry about that.

      The issues Owen said he hope to discuss in the session were "How do places with data interact with people who want to use it?" and "How do we make data available?".

      Why do organisations publish data?
      • Accountability: by releasing data people can see what's been done and for how much money. Etc.
      • To increase the available services. 
        • People 'out there' will be able to do things that you don't have the resources to do yourself.
        • They'll also think of better things to do with your data, and by combining your data with data from other places.
        • An example that covers both of these is the public toilet map.
      • NB, the government is currently consulting on what data Local Government should release: Making Open Data Real
      What does this have to do with libraries?
      Library catalogues have imposed on them librarian- or supplier-made decisions about what can/can't be searched and in what way.  Some of these decisions are limited by current cataloguing rules, but not all; often the data is recorded, but not in a usable way, or is there but isn't tapped by the intereface.  For example, in most catalogues you can limit by publication type to newspapers, but you can't limit by frequency of the issues.  Releasing data means that people can start to use it in the way they want to.

      Releasing data: issues
      Different uses will require different kinds of data release.  To work on the newspapers query above, a dump of all the MARC (i.e. cataloguing) information would be OK.  But for an app using circulation data you'd need to use a live API.
      Data protection is obviously a big issue for some kinds of data.  But it's not a deal-breaker.  You can base locations on postcode zone, not individual postcodes for example, or for course-based datasets (in a uni context), just not include data from very small courses.

      Useful links 

      Monday, 10 October 2011

      #libcampuk session 2: special collections

      (Library Camp UK 2011 home | my other posts about it)

      In my best spirit of 'things will just work themselves out', I pitched a session for special collections librarians and anyone else interested at which we would (and I quote) "talk about stuff". Aim low, I say, and you can't fail!  We had a session. We talked. I got some ideas. I hope other people did to - thanks to those who came for making it good.  In retrospect (and based on experience in later sessions in the day) I reckon I could have probably been more of a proactive 'session leader', maybe by asking a starter question to get discussion going, or by starting off my describing my experience and ideas. I really didn't want to come across as hogging the limelight, or as though I was just telling people what I thought - I'm no expert, and I wanted to hear from everyone else.

      Anyway, here's my write-up...  This is a combination of my notes from the day and my later reflections. 

      The session attendees fell roughly into three types:
      1. People with responsibility for special collections, but not as their main work, who are trying to work out what to do with them.
      2. People whose job is special collections who're looking for ways to make the most of what they've got.
      3. People who want to know more about special collections/special collections work.
      We started off with a quick, impromptu, round-up of Laura's MA dissertation research into exhibitions in libraries (the full dissertation will be online in due course).  Laura looked at the ways in which different institutions create exhibitions, and the feelings of those responsible for them about what training and support they needed in their roles.

      Outreach: some issues
      Special collections have been for too long treated as 'private libraries' and that's just not right. Very very few collections are of purely local interest - they are all relevant to wider research, history, stories, culture, etc. Special collections might even be one way of helping libraries in this time of peril - they are by their definition unique.  They're a way of demonstrating the value of libraries, or a unique selling point for individual institutions. (Whilst this is true to some extent, I'm wary of using special collections as a rallying point, as it might be seen to imply that all the other work that libraries do is obsolete, which I don't believe for one second.)

      But getting started with widening access can be hard: time, money, co-operation from the organisation, hidden-ness of some libraries or special collections departments (it's hard to increase access if visitors have to be individually signed in and given a badge!) are all problems.

      Which is better: physical exhibition or online?
      If you have limited resources, which should you do? Is it better to draw out the stories behind objects, or to allow people access to the magic of the real thing? Both are good. Either are good. Any kind of improvement to access is good.  Andy Mabbett plugged his afternoon session about using Wikipedia (and Creative Commons licences allowing re-use) to increase access.  Other image/digitisation projects mentioned were Culture Grid, People's Collection Wales, and Europeana.

      What if we become popular?
      In small institutions it's easy to get scared that if you start to promote your collections, perhaps online via digital reproductions/blogs/etc., you'll suddenly be inundated with real-life visitors wanting to see the originals.  It's true that if you have information about your collections available online then the number of people enquiring about them will increase.  But this really shouldn't stop you showing off a bit: there are various ways to cope with the threat of popularity:
      • you can state outright that you have an online exhibition for the reason that you don't (currently) have facilities for physical exhibitions, and have no visitor facilities.
      • you can formulate a policy about what sort of visitors/readers can be admitted (e.g. 'academic research' only), and either publicise it or use it in response to queries.
      • if you do receive increased in-person interest in your collection(s) its a good way to demonstrate your collection's value to senior management, and possibly to gain extra resources. 
        • Anne from Ulster cited the example of The Ireland Collection, developed by JSTOR in association with Queen's University Belfast, which has raised the profile of the university across the world, but has also raised the profile of special collections within the university.
      What are 'special collections'?
      A good question! And one that it's important to keep answering.  Those 'in the know' might realise the breadth of the field, but those with small collections of 'special' things might not realise that they fall under the umbrella - they might think that 'special collections' might just mean the 'jewel in the crown' items like medieval manuscripts.  Some ideas as to what counts:
      • old, rare, fragile, valuable
      • coherent - items from a person/place/institution/time/purpose
      • significant - local, has a story, belonged to a person...
      • archival material (I'm editing out the long discussion of the overlap and interplay between spec colls and archives. I can't face trying to construct the necessary Venn diagram...)
      Special collections aren't just 'piles of books'. It was interesting to hear tales of items being rescued from skips (things that others didn't value but that libraries do) vs donations that we wish we could put in skips - even a donation of books previously weeded from the same library!

        Hidden special collections - some possibilities
        The part of the session that I found most interesting was a discussion spurred on by a librarian who works in a private company library - not your traditional special collections hunting ground. But it turned out that they have a small-ish collection of company archival material, including auction records, house plans, and other lovely things.  They get about one reader for it a year - which to my mind isn't bad for something so hidden away (there's a brief listing on their main library catalogue, which is a good start, cataloguing wise).  But it sounded like a collection that has huge potential - for research, for public engagement, and to enhance the prestige of a long-established company.

        Some of the problems I saw for institutions holding collections of this type were:
        • people don't know what their stuff counts as - special collections? archives? local history? none of the above?
        • they don't know what the audience for it is
        • they don't know how best to store it
        • they don't know how to promote it
        • they don't know who can help them with it
        And so it languishes in a store room, costing money in storage costs...

        What to do?  The one sentence answer (to my mind) is: find a partner institution, to help with storage/care/cataloguing but also access/promotion/development. Many libraries and archives will accept donations or deposits (the terms of deposits vary individually, but there are ways of entrusting a collection and the care of said collection to an institution whilst retaining ownership by the origination company) from outside bodies, according to their existing specialist areas, collection strengths, and collection development policies.  The same, or other, institutions might be able to help with getting the collection used - with research projects, with community projects, with all sorts of things. If I were a better librarian I'd add links here.  Comment if you have good examples!

        And finally...
        Not mentioned in the session but probably useful:

        Sunday, 9 October 2011

        #libcampuk11 session 1: cataloguing and classification (#hvcats)

        (Library Camp UK 2011 home | my other posts about it)

        I suggested this session in advance on the wiki. Adrienne stood up to pitch for it on the day - thank you!  The session pretty much ran itself - after intros (some 'expert' cataloguers, some who 'only catalogue to in house rules', some who 'will have to start cataloguing soon and haven't much experience yet', some systems folk and some just interested) various ideas and problems were discussed by the group.  Here are my notes (I've removed identities to protect the innocent...):

        We started with a comment inspired by the introductions: "Lots of people say that they 'don't follow a proper standard'. So what is the point of major international standards? Maybe it's only the national libraries that need/want to follow such standards.  Perhaps RDA moves some way, with the idea of 'cataloguer's choice', towards allowing greater freedom for individual organisations to creat their own scheme."

        "Maybe the most important thing is to get the data in in some form or other - 'mark it and park it'.  We need to ask what the motivation is for creating 'beautiful' records using loads of different obscure fields and all the right punctuation."

        "Some places aren't doing that now. [E.g. libraries in private companies] But there is value in big institutions 'doing it properly'."

        "But what is 'doing it properly'? Different users have different needs [example given of a researcher wanting to look at e.g. female authors of poetry in a given century, but we don't currently record genders of authors.] MARC is difficult to use - it's hard to meet the users' needs with it."

        "It's hard to meet user needs because cataloguers don't get much feedback about how their cataloguing is used.  [Example: not having it explained that the date in the leader is what's used for date-limited searches, so it's really important that it's there... There are lots more examples like this]"

        "Do we have feedback buttons on OPACs so that users can report mistakes in records? Are we keeping our user data and actually examining it meaningfully?"

        "So how to standards fit into this? Do we want standards or not?"

        "We want good standards. Web-friendly standards, e.g. URLs  for authors (i.e. linked data).  That's a different issue to on-the-ground cataloguing issues which are about how to identify which author a given work has, for e.g. (matching to authorities)."

        "How good/useful is Dublin Core in this context?"

        "There are lots of things available (Dublin Core, SXML, JSON...?) - stuff that helps cataloguers.  But some people (e.g. rare books) nee more fields/more granularity than available in DC."

        "Dublin Core, or whatever, won't be the solution if we just use it in the old way - with a reliance on punctuation, not separating components of an author's name, etc."

        "What about classfication? [Insert institution name here] has a frightful mess."

        "[Company library] has a bad classification system because it's not fine-grained enough.  There are lots anf lots of not very similar books all at one number."

        "What the point of classification? Why not just label the shelves?"

        "If it's done well, classification marked in the catalogue can be used to subject retrieval."

        "Does anyone actually do that?"

        "Perhaps it could be done retrospectively for closed access material - classify, and then extract textual subject information from the class no. and display that on catalogue.  Then shelve by running nos, etc. as is more efficient."

        "[A library] use complicated UDC but isn't browsed much - a mis-match of effort vs use."

        "OCLC are using DDC for book recommendations.   But what is the point of DDC?"

        "A legacy of the physical library. Class at the shelf is useful in a physical library for browsing.  The OPAC/online world hasn't yet replicated this yet, and that's a big issue."

        "Also an issue for e-books."

        "[A question from a systems librarian:] Do we enjoy cataloguing?"


        "We need to see more of the systems people so that we can collaborate and explain our side of the story."

        "Cataloguers make good systems people - if you can write an all-singing, all-dancing MARC record, you can probably code just fine!"

        "So how do we get a systems job?"

        "Go to a mashlib event!"

        "Learn and practice in your own time. Try building something! Fashionable programming languages are: python, php, perl [and one that I wrote so poorly I really can't decipher it... sorry.] [ETA Adrienne has identified it as ruby]"


        Conclusions: we need to re-evaluate what we're doing and how in collaboration with the people who have the data about what people are doing and trying to do with our catalogues, and can build the systems we want.

        Resources (plugged at the end of the session):

        #libcampuk11: an unconference to remember

        I'm just back from the UK's first Library Camp: an unconference for librarians held in Birmingham and organised by a team of wonderful, hard-working people.  People were *really* looking forward to it - it seemed like all of Twitter was going to be there - so I was a little concerned in advance that it might not live up to the hype.  I needn't have worried: it was superb.  Even getting up at 4.15am (and not getting home again until 11pm) and two visits to New St station didn't put a damper on it.

        'Night Light' by avhell on Flickr
        I took part in the following sessions, and will write about those separately soon:
        My opinions and thoughts on the event as a whole:
        • Everyone was very friendly.  At the intros at the start lots of people said they were there to meet people, so that shouldn't have been a surprise, but it was really very, very nice.
        • I think there was a good balance between organisation and chaos.  
          • Having people pitch their session ideas ended up with a wide range of different sessions, which seemed to fall into a few vague 'streams' of  related topics.
          • The timings were pretty good, everyone seemed to respect the balance between enjoying the current activity and getting on to the next. Unlike a 'proper' conference there was no slow by steady creep of everything getting later and later as people keep on talking to their slides past their allotted time...
          • Not only was there cake, there was plenty of tea and coffee and a nice coffee area to sit and talk/eat/rest.
          • I was a bit dubious about giving everyone there a chance to introduce themselves (with name, where they're from and why they've come), but think it was a good idea.  It did take a while to do, and there's no way you can remember everyone there, but it's a nice way to identify a few people you'd like to speak to later, and to break the ice.
        • I only went to 4 of 5 possible sessions - decided to bunk off the last (nothing in particular attracted my attention, and I was pretty tired) and sat around with other crafters having #knitcamp instead.  All lovely people, and no feeling of guilt that I wasn't 'getting the most' from the event.
        • Sorry to people I didn't say hello to, or whom I only said hello and nothing more to. Would have loved to have time to talk to more of you!

        Saturday, 1 October 2011

        Can you help? British library history 2006-2010

        I've been invited to write the chapter on 'library history' for the forthcoming British librarianship and information work 2006-2010, edited by John Bowman.

        Obviously, I'm be scouring the literature myself to determine trends, significant publications, events of note, and suchlike.  But I would like to hear from others, too.  I am particularly keen to hear about:
        • conferences whose proceedings have not (yet) been published, and that I might otherwise miss
        • online projects, resources and databases that might not be mentioned in the traditional literature
        • any particular trends that you have noticed in recent years and think are worthy of note (ideally with supporting evidence!)

        The scope of the book is work in the UK from 2005 to 2010. You need not mention the Cambridge History - that will be getting a section all of its own.

        Please pass this message on to anyone you know who may have an opinion to share.  Thank you!