A change of format

video_cassetteOn a recent episode of the US show Elementary, a clue to a murder was contained on a video tape. “Where in Manhattan will we find a video player?” was the comment (or words to that effect).  Well, of course, Sherlock Holmes being who he is, he had one tucked away in a cupboard ready for when he watched old police interrogation tapes.  He was a course an oddity in this respect.  Well, I still have a video recorder, and plenty of old video tapes.  None of which are police interrogation tapes I hasten to add.  Admittedly in the last few months since upgrading to one of those ‘plus’ boxes I haven’t had occasion to use the old video.  Technology has moved on, I’m recording straight to disc, and rewinding and pausing live TV (which is still great fun and a novelty at the moment).   My husband keeps trying to make me throw away some of my old tapes (ones taped off the telly), I’m holding out for the moment. Partly because they are MY tapes, and you know, I just might watch them again one day; and partly because I think its a crying shame that they will end up in landfill.  We bury enough rubbish as a nation, are everyone’s video tapes now adding to that pile (ok, they have probably been adding to the piles for a good few years now, I’m a little slow on the new technology uptake).

mixtapeI still have vinyl records, and we do have a record player, not that it is currently set up, and not that I have listened to my records in a long time, but I am not going to get rid of them.  I also have dozens and dozens of tapes, and a couple of machines that will play them.  I loved the days when people made mixtapes for friends and lovers – a real labour of love, and a joy to receive.  I also have a lot of CDs – but of course, even here I am way behind the times as I’ve not embraced digital music really yet.  But I do now have duplicates of some albums – possibly even three versions of one item!  As on occasion I’ve preferred to buy the newer format to ensure I will listen to it more.

Are we supposed to throw away yesterday’s technology and format, and embrace tomorrow’s?  I am sure plenty of people do, but I just can’t bear to add more to landfill, and so my tapes sit gathering dust on the shelf.  I don’t think you can even give video tapes to Charity shops these days.

Libraries too often face these kinds of dilemmas, but they have to be a lot more pragmatic.  No point in holding on to video tapes when less and less people have the technology that will play them.  A video collection in our medical library had to be converted into DVDs by the media recources team to ensure that they could still be used; because despite not being current they still had use and value, but the students didn’t have ‘antiquated’ devices like videoplayers.

If I knew my old videos and cassettes (the bought ones not the home taped ones) would go to a good home then maybe I would weed my collections and make some space on the shelves, until then I refuse to put them in a bin bag.

As technology advances in leaps and bounds perhaps some thought can go on the items left behind; surely there is a social responsibility for ensuring our landscape isn’t left littered with the relics of our recent past.  And perhaps manufacturers could stop feeding us the ‘latest thing’ in dribs and drabs, conning people into buying the newest version which will be outdated almost as soon as you start using it.

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Private presses printer’s devices

Special Collections and Archives / Casgliadau Arbennig ac Archifau

At the end of the summer we completed cataloguing the Private Presses within the Cardiff Rare Books collection.  With a wide range of presses represented we also had a delightful array of (modern) printer’s devices.  Printer’s devices are symbols or vignettes that identify the printer or press, acting as their trademark.  Fust and Schöffer were the first to use such a device in 1462 and by the end of the 15th century the idea was firmly established.  Ranging from simple designs based around initials, to much more elaborate engravings, devices were useful and popular for several hundred years.  Originally conceived to help prevent against the pirating of books, the opportunity to produce ornamental designs was soon grasped.  Placed in the colophon or on the title-page the devices advertised who was responsible for the book.  In the modern period the printer’s device has mainly been replaced by publisher’s logos, and even…

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Celebrating librarians on the printed page

How, as librarians, do we measure the impact of the staff development activities we pursue? This is a thorny issue which we are always trying to resolve in our Staff Development & Engagement Group.  When people attend conferences they have to fill in a feedback form (although many forget to!), and they are invited to write about their experience in our SDEG newsletter.  So we have opportunities to feedback to our colleagues, and share what we have learned – but measuring impact? If anyone has any bright ideas on this issue I’d love to hear them, as asking people six months later how their attendance at a training session has improved their work doesn’t usually yield any useful results (if any results at all!). 

While discussing performance metrics and the like at our last meeting we also touched on the issue of personal professional achievements.  Staff gain qualifications, present at conferences, and publish their work – but most of the time this passes almost unnoticed, except perhaps by a few colleagues or a line manager.  Surely these are the kind of things that should also be shared and be celebrated – they are steps on the way to ‘high visibility’ librarianship – but there are times when the wider world of librarianship might know what you have done, and yet the person sat opposite you is unaware.  Many of us don’t like to shout about our achievements, we are too modest/shy/embarrassed/don’t want to look like we are boasting/don’t think anyone will be interested etc etc. 

For the next issue of our newsletter the focus will be on celebrating achievements, and most specifically on those who have published in the last year.  A call out across the library service yielded several results (and of course we are still reliant on people letting us know), but hopefully we will be sharing details to a wider internal audience, and this may also encourage others to take steps to write up their projects too.  We are also trying to track down those who have gained qualifications and won awards – so many people seem to hide their light under a bushel when they should be proud of what they have achieved – and we should be proud of our colleagues too.

My own publications can be found listed on academia.edu

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CLIC social evening

We’re having a Cardiff Libraries in Co-operation (CLIC) social evening on Wed 24th October, 5.30-9.30pm at Barocco.  For anyone who works (or is hoping to work) in a library or similar environment,  come and join us.

http://kris-library.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/library-meet-up-in-cardiff.html

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Unexpected opportunity for a cataloguer: exhibiting Arthur

This week sees the ‘unveiling’ of an exhibition in SCOLAR our special collections department on the subject of Arthur: King of the Britons.  I’m really excited about it because I have had an integral part in the curating of it.  This is one of those ‘unexpected opportunities’ that I didn’t actually manage to talk about in my presentation at the CILIP CIG conference on 11th September because I over ran and had to skip it!

The opportunity came about for two reasons.  Firstly, my job now involves working on the Cardiff Rare Books Collection one day a week, alongside our Rare books cataloguer.  I was familiar with the collection anyway, due to taking part in the listing of material prior to acquisition from the public library.  Secondly, over the last couple of years I’ve taken a few evening classes with the University’s adult education department, purely because they sounded really interesting (one of which was on Arthurian myths and legends). In conversation with the tutor, Dr Juliette Wood, I’ve mentioned at times to her various items in the collection prior to them being catalogued, because I thought she would find them interesting or useful for her teaching and/or research.   She has a book coming out this autumn on the holy grail, and one way or another we decided it would be really great to have an exhibition on Arthurian material, and the head of SCOLAR agreed that we could do so.  SCOLAR has about four exhibitions a year, sometimes tying in with anniversaries or topics of current interest.

Arthur in the centre of his roundtable (from Malory, 1634)

Stage 1: We met up in SCOLAR to discuss what kind of themes we would focus on, and what kind of items we wanted to use.  I had identified some items that I thought might be relevant, and made a list based on our catalogue.  For me, one of our prize exhibits was going to be the 1634 copy of Thomas Malory’s Morte d’Arthur.  Produced by the London printer William Stansby (1572-1638) this version was based on the earlier editions by Wynken de Worde and William Caxton, and was the only edition available for two hundred years.

Juliette was able to suggest a whole host of authors, and books, that might be of interest.  Working with a specialist in the subject was really interesting, as she has such depth to her knowledge.  Yes, I could have pulled out lots of books about Arthur, but I wouldn’t have known any of the intricacies, the historical foibles, or the really pertinent texts to use.

Part way through setting up

Stage 2: Using my scribbled notes from the discussion with Juliette I was able to search our library catalogue and identify a further list of items of interest.  Next time we met up I had retrieved a large selection of items from the collection.  Using paper slips to indicated the seven themes we had decided upon (we had seven cases to fill) we were able to go through items and add them to our proposed cases.  Throughout this process we were trying to be aware of what would be visually appealing.  A book might be a key text but if it has no illustrations and a modern binding it risks being of little interest to the majority of observers.  Luckily we had a wealth of material to choose from in SCOLAR and could mine various collections within it such as the Cardiff Rare Books collection, the Tennyson collection, and the Salisbury collection etc.  At times we had almost too much to choose from and also had to be wary of being repetitive and not include too many examples by the same illustrator for example.

Part of the ‘Arthur and local archaeology’ case

Stage 3:  I wrote up a list of all the items we had chosen, assigned to their particular themes, and ensured I included full details of each book, especially classmark and location, in order to make it easier to retrieve them when we wanted them.

Stage 4: We met again to look at all the items and to doublecheck which illustrations, or pages, we would be displaying.  At this point we also chose a key image for each theme/case which would be used on the SCOLAR website, and I scanned these illustrations.

Stage 5:  Juliette took responsibility for writing all the captions – so I was let off the hook at this point! As she had the expert knowledge it made sense for her to do so.

Stage 6: With some proofreading and tweaking from all parties the captions were ready, and thanks to Alison Harvey, the archivist in SCOLAR who is used to curating the exhibitions and helping others do so, they were set up in text boxes that were the correct size for the plastic caption displayers.  Thus ensuring a unifying harmony in the display.

Arthur doll amidst ephemera

Stage 7: The setting up!  I don’t think either of us was quite prepared for how difficult or challenging we found this stage (even though we realised it wouldn’t be easy).  I’d expected this to be one of the fun bits (although I’ve enjoyed all stages); and it was fun and satisfying  but needed quite a bit of thinking too, as you can’t just plonk the items down randomly in the cases.  We had to assess how all the items in each case would relate to one another.  We also had to ensure that the books were displayed in a manner that wouldn’t damage them; some were more fragile than others.  We had a variety of foam wedges, snake weights, and plastic stands – but there were several occasions when we didn’t have quite the right size or type of stand that would have been ideal, so we had to be inventive!  In all, it took us about 4 1/2 hours to set up the seven cases and to do a bit of tweaking after asking the opinions of Alison and Ken (the rare books cataloguer).  Its really quite thrilling to see an exhibition come together in the flesh, after all the preparatory work.

Guinevere figurine

The exhibition will be running up to December and can be viewed 9-5 during the week; you can also see an extract on the SCOLAR webpages.  The books used are predominantly from Cardiff special collections, although Juliette supplemented the display with a few items, including some ephemera from her own collection.  Hence, we also have a lovely Arthur doll and an exquisite Guinevere!

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Smug tweaking, shrinking cataloguers, and the corridor of uncertainty: CILIP Cataloguing & Indexing Group conference 2012

Although I am sure others will blog about #CIG12 in a more indepth manner*  I just wanted to express my delight about the excellent conference that took place earlier this week in Sheffield.  Two days packed full of thought provoking presentations, 25 speakers and just over 100 attendees; at times my brain was hurting, and I felt weighed down with concern about the things I didn’t know but really should; whilst at other moments I felt proud to be a cataloguer, and inspired to tackle new things.

There were four themed sessions spread out over the two days; Working with new standards, Working co-operatively, New challenges for cataloguers; and Developing working practices.  RDA, as to be expected, was a key issue to be talked about.  Celine Carty brought us updates from the ALA conference, and managed to succinctly condense 5 days into one talk.  It was extremely useful hearing about the view from across the pond, and she also gave us a great handout of links too!

There was quite a contrast between this conference and the last CIG conference in 2010 with

Keen attendees ready & waiting

attitudes to RDA, from what I can remember of two years ago, most people in the room weren’t really sure about how they would be tackling RDA, and were waiting for guidance from someone else.  This time round a good 50% of the audience were actively preparing for RDA, were devising training sessions for their staff (or looking for online material they could use), or were very aware of what work they had to do.  I also don’t think that anyone in the room was thinking of it as ‘Retirement Day Approaching’.  Celine Carty passed on some take home messages; things like “its now when not if” and “evolution not revolution”, she also commented that actually it can be quite good not to be the trailblazers.  While the rules are still being refined, and problems still being ironed out, its quite nice to be able to learn from what is happening in the US.  Stuart Hunt also gave us some food for thought in his session on ‘Implementing RDA in your ILS’, and pointed out that as well as us cataloguers having to get our heads round RDA, that we also had a lot of communication work to do – we need to talk to system vendors, and record supply agencies, colleagues who work on the front line and those who are library management.  We also need to consider whether our systems are ready for RDA, there are new fields, will they display or be indexed, will there be problems loading data into the system etc etc.  Anne Welsh & Katharine White also reminded us that there is always change, and we already have hybrid systems.  We need to accept that there never was a better time to embrace RDA, although we should question everything; and that standards, materials, and even students are always evolving.

Conference venue – Halifax Hall

Although RDA was casting a big shadow over us, there were plenty of other topics to discuss too.  Deborah Lee introduced the idea of the proposed UK NACO funnel, a project to collaborate on creating authority files.  Traditionally a funnel is managed by one person which is a huge commitment, and there can be delay in training new members to join; this current project however is aiming for a cascade of training  and aims to get as many participants acting independently as soon as possible with a critical mass of people who are happy to train others.  It will be a great professional development opportunity for anyone who gets involved.

As we are probably all aware we are in the midst of a time of many challenges for cataloguers, as Heather Jardine noted – ‘change is the new normal’.  We are having to face restructuring and streamlining, changes in roles, as well as changes in rules and materials.  There were several presentations demonstrating how various cataloguers are adapting  to these challenges including Helen Williams’ overview of ‘transforming a bibliographic services team from copy cataloguers to metadata creators’.  Her team have had a growing involvement in their institutional repository LSERO; with a review of workflows, additional training and comprehensive documentation the team have become multi-skilled, and better future-proofed.

Shelf-ready reared its ugly head towards the end of the conference (sorry, I admit I am not a fan!).  What still stood out for me, (and is one of my biggest problems with the whole shelf ready thing), was the standard of records being supplied – the poor quality, wrong classmarks, e-book records for print records, etc etc and even some poor processing.  What kind of service do vendors think they are providing?  And since so many of us are guilty of ‘smug tweaking’* why aren’t there more ‘good’ records available?

CIG do great bags!

I haven’t mentioned everybody who talked, but would like to say I gained something from every speaker; I’m not a fan of cricket but really enjoyed hearing abut the Marylebone Cricket Club library courtesy of Neil Robinson, and the challenges he faced with revamping a bespoke classification system (and his corridor of uncertainty); and even though I’m not a fan of shelf-ready I appreciated hearing about experiences from Sheffield with Emily Bogie, and Warwick with Christina Claridge.  And I really should mention the High visibility cataloguing blog and Cat23 –  a project I’m keen to hear more about.

The conference was great, the people were great, and as a tiny aside I was extremely pleased with the range of cold/soft drinks available at break times!  I don’t drink tea/coffee, and wouldn’t expect more than a glass of water to be offered (don’t even get that sometimes), so a multitude of fridges with a variety of beverages made me very happy!  The cakes were good too…

I also really liked that there weren’t any parallel sessions – so I got to hear everybody; and the concept of having lightning round talks was good too.  Ten minute snippets of projects and ideas, although shame-facedly I over ran in my own sessions and got flashed the ‘red card’.

Break time

My only regret is that I didn’t get to talk to some people who are Twitter contacts (we need Twitter icons/names on our badges!); however, I did talk to people who I didn’t previously know, and that is always a good thing.  I’m looking forward to the next CIG conference already! 

* See for example @archelina (Rachel Playforth) and @stjerome1st (Lynne Dyer)

* Can’t remember who coined this phrase at the conference, so apologies are due!  However, I do have to put my hand up and admit that I indulge in this practice.

All the presentations are due to be added to the CIG website soon.

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Together we are stronger: attending the CILIP Career Development Group national conference

 I’d never been to a CILIP Career Development Group conference before this summer, probably because I’m not a member of CDG so hadn’t paid much attention to their conferences before now; but this year their call for papers really resonated with the work that CLIC (Cardiff Libraries in Co-operation) does, and so in conjunction with Kristine Chapman from National Museum Wales I put in a proposal which was accepted.

The theme for the conference was ‘Together we are stronger’ and focussed on looking at opportunities for partnership and collaborative working.  Collaboration could be between different sectors, within the same sector, between new and experienced practitioners, or working with academics, for example.

The event was held at a conference centre in Birmingham, and as to be expected from the theme, attracted attendees who were a mixture of new and experienced library and information professionals, and who worked in many different sectors. Librarians from the health sector were particularly prominent, alongside many from the usual higher education sector.

The conference was a mixture of plenary and parallel sessions; though with such a tight coalescing theme it felt a shame to have to miss sessions, as all sounded particularly relevant and interesting.  The key note speaker for the day was Liz Jolly from the University of Teeside.  Her presentation was entitled: ‘Developing our community of practice: learning together for a stronger profession’ and emphasised that professional practice needs to be underpinned by learning and research.  She believes that we should all be life long learners and reflective practitioners; and noted that the more senior one gets one should still remember to ‘give back’ to the profession.  Other tips she gave included the idea of networking with people who are different from you, and embracing a combination of continuity and change.

The first parallel session looked at ‘Sharing knowledge and experience’ and I chose to attend ‘Producing the evidence for effective evidence-based librarianship’ by Karen Davies (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee).  She introduced the topic of evidence-based librarianship (EBL) by explaining that in many ways it had emerged from the concept of evidence-based medicine – something which I expect all the health librarians were aware of, but which many others weren’t. 

EBL is about looking at the best level evidence to inform decision making practice in librarianship.  We should also critically evaluate and appraise the evidence we have.

If we can’t immediately find any relevant evidence we should try looking outside the traditional LIS area, for instance education, management, and marketing are three areas where we might find comparative research or ideas which could be applied to librarianship.  If we need to carry out the research ourselves it is also worth considering collaboration – with someone from a different library, a different institution, or someone who isn’t working in a traditional LIS role (ie look again to education, management etc).  You may want to utilise a student (someone who wishes to do some research for their dissertation), though be aware that their aims may differ from your own, and it is always worth consulting with their supervisor about the project.  Even if you are doing the research yourself consider contacting a possible mentor, someone who is more used to the research process than you might be, and who can perhaps cast a more critical eye over your prospective survey or research plan, and offer you advice.

Davies also mentioned the Evidence Based Library and Information Practice journal, which is an open access, peer reviewed journal, and a good resource for research that has already been completed.

The next session was on the ‘Wider professional outlook’, and as one speaker had had to cancel we were all able to attend the presentation by Patricia Lacey (Dudley PCT) & Emma Gibbs on: ‘Developing your own skills network’ . Their talk was about the West Midlands Health Libraries Network which has a learning and development group who put on one day ‘Knowledge sharing’ events (ie staff development/training days).  They have a wide pool of hospital libraries based in the West Midland, and are able to utilise a variety of staff to run these event, with sponsorship to cover refreshments and venues.  They also have job shadowing opportunities available on their website – this is a list of libraries that are willing to participate, individuals make contact and arrange placement themselves.  In addition to the main Knowledge sharing events they also have a paraprofessionals group which focuses on training that is practical for the job.

The following session was the first of the ‘Collaboration & partnership’ sessions, and I attended the ‘Collaboration to show impact of information sharing skills training’ by Stephen Ayre (George Elliot Hospital NHS Trust).  His presentation was about a collaboration of NHS libraries in England (mainly Midlands) who have pooled together to create an impact survey which can be used across all participating libraries to create a larger pool of evidence.  They have been looking at the impact of education training on NHS staff, based on the Kirkpatrick Hierarchy; and have developed an impact assessment tool.

The second of the ‘Collaboration & partnership’ was where myself and Kristine gave our presentation on CLIC and highlighted the benefits of cross-sectoral staff development events. 

In the third and final session I listened to Rebecca Dorsett  (Royal United Hospital Bath) talking about: ‘Shelving together: collaborative working through different library environments’.  Her key message seemed to be that we should be aware of different practices in different sectors that could be used cross-sector. With her top tips being that we should explore other library environments, be willing to share resources, and work together to create unique projects.

In addition to these presentations there was also a workshop session, and an update on the CILIP future skills project.  Overall it was a very interesting conference and left me with plenty to think about.  I will certainly watch out for CDG events in the future.

All the presentations are now available on the CDG website

 

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