As part of the South West Newsplan meeting I was lucky enough to have a tour of Colindale

 British Library Newspaper Storage will soon move to Boston Spa There is no environmental control at Colindale and space is limited.  There is already 28 miles of shelving and 69000 bound volumes.

 It was interesting to see that volumes should be stored vertically as currently some of our bound volumes are horizontal in drawers.  This is due to space restrictions but in the future it would be advisable to store correctly.

 The bound volumes at Colindale are stored chronologically in the order they were bound, they are not stored geographically.  Each volume has a unique number.  This is very efficient but retrieval can be tricky as the same titles are stored on multiple floors.

 National newspapers are stored by title due to heavy usage.

 Researchers using the library only get the original bound volume if no microfilm is available.  Original newspapers are still collected and will continue to be at Boston Spa.  As publishers want income from digital newspapers only those out of copyright are being digitised.

 It was interesting to witness the microfilming process… newspapers are ironed before being photographed!  Retrospective filming is ongoing together with new papers.  Digitisation from microfilm costs £1 per page and is searchable.  However to digitise most papers have to be refilmed.

 Microfilms are stored in a temperature controlled environment on mobile shelving. 

 The British Library also has 80-90% of all free press and different trade magazines for example, Melody Maker and Radio Times.  The titles to be taken to Boston Spa are currently under review.

 The original reading room dating from 1932 is beautiful and seems an apt place to research and discover.  When reading is moved from microfilm to PC the papers will sadly not be browsable.


Not Museum Pieces

The Developing Role of Archivists and Librarians in Museums.

 London Museum Librarians and Archivists Group (LMLAG)

 This was a very inspiring and informative conference.

 Keynote speech:  New Roles New Partnerships, by Andrew McDonald.

 The keynote speech discussed the theme of COLLABORATION.  Collaboration is closely linked to workforce development.  For example IFLA champions professional training and development for GLOBAL CITIZENS rather than different disciplines.  This means that a common skill set and vocabulary are needed for all professionals.  As a librarian in a museum I can empathise with this viewpoint, and often question a need for a more joined up professional skills set rather than a focus on librarian or curator or archivist.

 A brand and purpose will need to be identified before collaboration can be successful.  Online opportunities can now offer exciting ways to collaborate.

 The second speaker was Gunter Waibel:  From Cooperation to Collaborative Transformation. 

 “The art museum library is a sideshow, a sideshow that serves to bring out the best of the main attraction.” (Ken Soehner Chief Librarian at the Thomas J Watson Library, Metropolitan Museum of Art 2005)

 This quote finally allowed me a context for my place within the museum.  Up until this point I had been thinking of myself as an isolated librarian trying to promote MY service.  This opened my eyes, I am part of a much larger whole and need to work to enhance the whole experience alongside promoting my services as indispensable to the museum.

 The museum librarian has to be efficient and inventive and make sure relevance is recognised in order to survive and flourish.  This is especially true for my role now as a few months after the conference I am heavily involved in researching text for a new exhibition and using the libraries resources to enhance this exhibition.

 Beyond the Silos of the Lams.

 This report shows the collaboration continuum.  To collaborate internally you have to depend on others and let others depend on you.  To collaborate externally you have to maximise input and reach.

 The conference was next treated to presentations about collaborative web technologies from the National Archives and the National Maritime Museum.

 Your Archives

 The National Archives have set up a wiki- Your Archives.  This presentation was very informative on the use of wikis for collaboration.  The positives are extra information and an open and collaborative relationship with users.  However negatives are the time needed to support the wiki and false information being given.  This is an important area to consider as eventually I would like to set up a similar collaborative site for the museum library.

 The National Maritime Museum make their images freely available on Flickr The Commons.   This provides enhanced access and greater cataloguing knowledge as people can share information.

 The National Maritime Museum have a digital strategy.  This is best practice and is useful to learn from.

 After some presentations about special collections the rest of the conference focussed on answering:

 Is Professional Training Meeting our Changing Needs?

 A representative from Sue Hill Recruitment stated that there is a gap between courses provided and the skills we actually need.  We often need to rely on our own Continuing Professional Development resources.

 However: “Diversity and opening up courses should not be a way to cut costs and create a de-skilled, de-professional workforce.” (Andrew Flinn University College London)

 After a panel discussion about professional training I reflected on how useful my MSc in Information Studies was and is.  Has it helped me practically at work and equipped me with essential skills?

 My MSc was a useful and fundamental overview of the profession and most importantly was crucial to me gaining my first and subsequent professional post.  However I feel that most essential skills needed have been learnt on the job through day-to-day training, organisational courses and specialist professional courses and conferences.

 The MSc was mainly theoretical, the practical aspects with hindsight seem more relevant to working in academic, not public libraries.  Skills essential to my work:








Enquiry Skills

 I have learnt and am still learning in the work environment.

 A more vocational MSc with opportunities to specialise would be an ideal way forward.

I’ve decided to add my story to the wiki- The Library Routes Project.

For as long as I can remember all I ever wanted to do was read English Literature at University.  After this the future was incredibly hazy.  I achieved this wish and spent an amazing three years reading books!!

By the third year friends were beginning to apply for jobs- in retail, engineering, teaching… but nothing really appealed to me and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do.  The summer I left I got a temporary job and saved money to fund a five week trip around Europe.  I arrived home after my extended holiday and wondered “what next”!?  I had a degree but not much work experience and at that point no real calling.

I saw a job advert for a Library Trainee position in Cantebury- this was a long way from home (Yorkshire) but sounded inspiring and would lead on to further study and a “real” career!  I applied and went to an interview but was told I came second.  This didn’t matter as I had discovered that I did want to be a Librarian!

It was too late in the year to apply for another Trainee position so I began applying for ALL jobs in ANY library in West Yorkshire and beyond.  I also volunteered in my local public library (where my mum has been a library assistant for 20 years!!) to gain valuable work experience.

After billions of applications and some interviews I was offered a job working part time in Wakefield Music and Drama Library.  On my first day the full time library assistant handed in her notice (she was recently qualified and had a professional post to begin!).  It was fate and I spent the next three years working full time in this public but very specialist library (I had to learn lots about composers, musicals and scores… a steep learning curve for an indie chick!).  My very supportive colleagues and line manager encouraged me to begin a professional qualification and let me have one day a week off for two years to go to Leeds Metropolitan University to study an MSc in Information Studies.

I applied for my first professional post within Wakefield Council before I had completed my MSc.  They were restructuring and needed someone to fill the role of Cultural Officer: Multimedia.  I was successful and after gaining my qualification moved again in the same organisation to Cultural Officer: Local Studies.

I love working in Public Libraries and have been lucky to work in specialist, interesting areas.  In January this year I accepted a job as Local Studies Librarian in a Museum on the South Coast.  I am enjoying the challenge of still working in the public sector but in a different discipline.

On the 20th July I embarked upon a Chartership visit to two university libraries.  I have been a user of academic libraries but always worked in the public library domain so was very interested to see how things were different or similar.

The University of Southampton Library was the first.  We arrived at the Hartley Library and I found the reception area very imposing and spacious.  There was an area for social study with flexible furniture arrangements, however this was quite uninspiring.

The Library is sprawling and set over five levels.  Each level has a floor plan and currently a lot of change is happening so there were empty shelves and a great deal of movement.  There are study rooms available and a good balance of social and quiet study space. 

A special visit to the Archives and Special Collectionshad been arranged.  This was especially exciting for me due to my background in Local History Librarianship.  It was incredible to see the special collections all correctly preserved with climate control and in-house digitisation and conservation.  The Hartley Library also houses BOPCRIS the digitisation centre which contains an impressive robotic Digitising Line book scanner from 4Digital Books.

Finally we got a chance to speak to the stock department.  In public libraries the move has been towards smaller stock teams with electronic ordering and supplier processing.  This was very much in contrast.  Orders begin on paper and this same request goes through a number of people and the paper request ends up with the book.  This probably highlights a funding issue, the University Library can still afford the bigger stock team.

The University of Portsmouth Library was the next stop.  This Library has recently been redesigned and I think it is a really great space.  The idea of the Library and Street as the same place is visible here.  A central walkway opens up the library and floors are visible from other floors.  This creates an open and inviting space.  The library is lit up and the community can see students studying all night.  This very public profile has raised the opinion of the students as their hard work is visible.

We heard about a very successful staff training programme where library staff were given a topic and had to create an informative poster.  This led to staff realising that academic liaison librarians had to have a visible presence for students and led to the University Library staff winning a prize at the Umbrella poster presentations as they had learnt how to design effective posters!

The University Library has a Facebook and Twitter presence and has recently redesigned the website.  All of these are working well.  Web 2.0 presences for establishments was recommended as effective and the new website seems very usable.

The Changing Landscape of Libraries- Tim Leach  BPD

Underlying presumption that change in library design is needed.  Need to create places for people to meet, converse and COLLABORATE.  Spaces need to be inspiring and uplifting and old buildings should house modern library environments.  Design has to be a collaborative approach with staff, users, designers and suppliers.

  • SPACE should be inspiring, accessible, intimate and communal.  There should be interaction between spaces.
  • FACILITIES should be flexible, adaptive, interactive.
  • ACTIVITIES the design should support a 24/7 environment, need an ambiguous barrier between the library and the street.
  • ENVIRONMENT needs sustainable lighting and ventilation.
  • TECHNOLOGY should be present but not overwhelming, very flexible space.
  • IDENTITY the library has to be personal and humane, a collective memory of identity, communal and civic.

A changing landscape means progressive facilities and traditional values.

This presentation was illuminating, it is refreshing to hear about library design from a professional who recognises the intrinsic values of the library.  I was especially interested as we are thinking about the design of our library and how it can be made more welcoming and in harmony with the museum.  This is difficult as it is housed in a 600 year old building which very much dictates the style- it is very beautiful but we can use the space more efficiently and be more flexible and communal.

The Great Good Place- Andrew Cranfield

Too often libraries reflect political vision.  Are libraries an anachronism?  We no longer have the monopoly on information.  Are value adding ideas more important than collections?  It is important to have a strong brand, identity and romance your user.  Andrew showed examples of some of his favourite libraries:

  • Idea Store a great example of BRANDING and a non-traditional style, but still traditional services.
  • Library 10- Helsinki this is a small library with many users.  The focus is on learning and visual communication
  • Hjorring Library- Denmark A red line runs through the theatrical library bringing everything together.

Libraries Change Lives Awards

A rousing speech and moving poem from Andrew Motion followed by three very worthy projects and Leeds Libraries announced as the winner.  For more info see here

An evaluation of academic e-book accessibility in a diverse student population- Dr Laura Muir Robert Gordon University Aberdeen.

Dr Muir presented the initial findings of a study to explore the behaviour and attitude of students using e-books for study.  The context of the research is the culture of lifelong learning and increased access to higher education.  Diverse students have diverse needs and expectations.  E-books have great potential to increase access.

Key research questions:

  • How do students use academic e-books?
  • Do academic e-books meet their study needs?

Previous research on attitudes found barriers to e-books- difficult to read, no ownership, difficult to browse and annotate.  There needed to be a move towards “monitoring the actual online seeking behaviour of their users” (CIBER 2008).

Therefore this study is a qualitative study of behaviour and experience.  Here are the stages of the study:

  • Design an e-book task- relevant and beneficial
  • Pre-task questionnaire showing information needs and attitudes
  • Direct observation and recording during task- screen capture, video, audio capture.
  • Post task interview

Initially the study found that students were more positive about e-books after the session.  They were reading up to 60 pages alongside keyword searches, highlighting, scanning, taking notes and paraphrasing.  However they were frustrated by a poor search display, a lack of seeing obvious progress and having to scroll.

This is a very valid study.  Students study needs are changing and it is important to recognise this and also work with them to assess how they can use new resources and gain benefits.  I have never used an e-book but the reader passed around the session was very accessible.  E-books and use in Local Studies Libraries is something for me to consider!

Just one world or is it? Information skills for the small museum.  Dr Diana Dixon Southwold Museum.

Dr Dixon came from being a Local Studies Librarian to managing a small museum.

Local Studies is at the cutting edge of library and information work and needs many skills and techniques.  Unfortunately it has been discontinued in Library courses and has suffered.  Libraries, Museums and Archives are driven by a demand stimulated by programmes such as Who Do You Think You Are? and customers have very high expectations.

Local Studies Group- Key skills for Local Studies Librarians:

  • Management Skills– Customer care, marketing, promotion, fund-raising, people management, project management
  • Preservation– Crucial skill on Museum courses 
  • Communication Skills- Outreach, education, community profiles, Local Societies
  • Local History Knowledge- Have to live in local community and be willing to absorb information.

Dr Dixon spoke of managing her 70 volunteers who are stewards, indexers and cataloguers.  She has training for specific tasks and handbooks.  She also spoke of the difficulty of cataloguing books onto the museum system.

Ruskin University has an innovative multidisciplinary course for Libraries, Archives and Museums.  Dr Dixon spoke about the importance of transferable skills, courses, teaching qualifications, managing and marketing degrees.

I found Dr Dixon’s talk very interesting especially as I am a librarian working in a small museum.  I also utilise volunteers so her comments were very useful.  Transferable skills are important when working in this environment.  It is useful to know about books and objects and also be up to speed with IT- for websites and digitisation.  Marketing my resources is an area I want to explore.  I found it reassuring that Local History Knowledge was last on the list of essential key skills for librarians as I have only lived in this area for 8 months but it is true that an enthusiasm for history and learning means that you can learn lots, also making good contacts with local people is incredibly useful!

Some brief notes and thoughts about the four lectures I attended at the conference. 

The Information Society: Does it need the information professions- John Feather

 CILIP’s Body of Professional Knowledge (BPK) underpins the claims of our profession.  However Cilip’s strapline:  

“CILIP: the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals is the leading professional body for librarians, information specialists and knowledge managers.”

juxtapsoes professionals and information specialists.

The Information Society today is a golden age for access to information and “a library is no longer first choice gatekeeper of information”.  Therefore why do we need professionals?  A professional is more efficient with a greater knowledge of searches and systems and deeper than this, a professional has the ability to help identify a the needs of a client and satisfy them.

The core schema in CILIP’s BPK is generically applicable to other professions and acknowledges overlaps with other professions.  However we have a unique roll in relation to other professions.  Information Management Programmes don’t seek CILIP’s approval but should they?

The EPSRC website Digital Economy programme does not acknowledge the existence of an Information Profession.  The research agenda crosses out boundaries.  The Information Society needs the insight, knowledge and skills of the professional BUT we cannot bemoan deprofessionalisation as reconfiguration leads to no boundaries which is the defining characteristic of the Information Society.  The focus should shift from qualification to application of professed knowledge.

The World Wide Web has made everyone into an information manager and our knowledge and skills are being lost in a larger domain.  We have a unique contribution to make and need to reclaim the domain in an open-minded way.  We need to project more about what we can bring to the Knowledge Economy.  Research is needed to place our profession within the wider context of society. 

The Value of Collaborations and Partnerships: An International Perspective- Maria Cotera and Shane Godbolt

“Africa has a key role to play in the development of the world” Barack Obama 11th July 2009

Maria and Shane talked through their projects in Africa which fall under the strategic context of “Make Poverty History” and the Librarians contribution to international development in the key areas of EDUCATION, HEALTH and INFORMATION.  IFLA and Phi are doing some inspirational work through collaboration and partnerships.   These projects such as Training Trainers in Africa and the African Prisons Project are innovative, inspirational and allow those involved to gain a wider understanding and context of issues.

These projects illustrate the value of collaboration and emphasise the what is needed to build successful partnerships:

  • Appraise local situation and context
  • Needs assessment
  • Realistic aims and priorities
  • Build on what already exists
  • Consider culture and religion
  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Need to work together, value each other and have a positive attitude
  • Funding and resources- sustainability
  • Advocacy, evaluation and outcomes

When working in collaboration you need to:

  • Be flexible
  • Locally tailored solutions
  • The West can learn from low income country solutions

How can we help?

  • Spread the word
  • Start collaborations
  • Become a friend of Phi
  • Become a member of CDG/ ILIG
  • Help fundraising
  • Become a volunteer host

I found these two talks inspiring.  The first made me think- a lot about the different ideas.  I do value my Library qualification very highly and am currently going through the Chartership process so I like to believe that these have a worth and contribute to professionalism.  However I can fully understand that the boundaries of the job are blurring and we do need to rethink and shout up for our position in this ever-changing Information Society.

The second talk was for me something completely different.  It was inspiring to hear about the projects and the work going on internationally.  I would highly recommend everyone looking at the websites and thinking about small or large ways to help.  Additionally the comments and lessons about partnerships and collaboration were insightful and can be applied to all work daily.   Many of the traits listed for a successful partnership are skills we need to employ everyday, for example in partnership with our managers and clients.

Poster Presentation
Poster Presentation

Presenting my poster at Umbrella was tiring, interesting and rewarding. 

I had to be near my poster throughout all conference breaks, ready to discuss the project and answer any questions.  The poster sessions were busier than I imagined, many conference goers were genuinely interested in viewing all the posters and commenting on exciting new projects.
Personally, presenting my poster on MENTOR represented a HUGE step forward in my professional development.  I had to know the project inside out and prepare myself for any unknown questions.  I also had to leap out of my comfort zone and interact with peers, answering questions and accepting comments and constructive criticism.  Finally I  had to talk to two judges about my poster.
I am excited and passionate about MENTOR and used to working with the public on a daily basis, therefore I did not find it too difficult to be an (hopefully) informative and friendly presenter.  People asked me insightful questions and I was able to engage in professional discussion ad also offer my advice on the use of volunteers.  Volunteers do not seem to be utilised in other library sectors such as academic and health.  However they are common in most public libraries, archives and museums.
Presenters were entitled to also produce an information sheet about the project to hand out to interested people and I believe my weak point was the quality of my information sheet.  Having taken the time to design and print an eye-catching, professional poster I should have done the same for my hand-out.  Instead I typed an A4 sheet of information in Word.  If I present a poster again I will ensure that my hand-out is equally well designed, well thought out and attractive.
I would definitely recommend taking a poster to a conference.  It is great for:
  • Networking
  • Gaining valuable feedback about a project
  • Personal Professional Development

However I would strongly advise having a team of at least two people to present the poster, otherwise it is very intensive and tiring!

There were 16 Posters on display at Umbrella 2009.  Some of my favourites were:

  • University of Portsmouth Are e-books taking off This was an eye-catching, precise and very informative poster with a great information sheet.
  • Liverpool John Moores University Learning 2.0 @ LJMU Again a very well designed poster, based on a monopoly board.
  • Northumbria University Turning Point for Evaluation A well designed poster, interesting handout and helpful and engaged presenter.


Full of enthusiasm for chartership and my continuing professional development I decided to apply to present a poster at Umbrella 2009.  To my delight and terror I was accepted and began thinking about a poster to explain MENTOR- the Museum’s Electronic Navigator To Online Resources.

I had never seen or prepared a poster presentation before so initially turned to Twitter for advice.  This led me to looking at examples of posters on Flickr.  I then sketched out a poster design which consisted of a variety of text and images on separate sheets of A4 paper.

My chartership mentor constructively suggested that this initial approach was too  busy.  She took me to see some different examples of posters within her organisation.  We discussed why some were effective

  • less text
  • clear points
  • attractive images
  • simple colours-

and why others had little impact

  • too much information
  •  low res images
  • clashing colours

I became inspired by a few of the different layouts.  My mentor then introduced me to two of her colleagues who were very helpful and gave me a guidance sheet on how to produce a poster in Powerpoint.

After this meeting I was enthused and able to condense my ideas and text into a short list of bullet points with striking images and clear headings.  The poster looked more professional and hopefully more attractive.  This process was a huge learning curve and aided my development even before attending the conference, therefore it is worthwhile to apply to present a poster!  I have since discovered these helpful examples.

I will write about presenting at the conference in my next post!

Wordle: Library Stuff

Some word fun… words I associate with my library and what we offer.


girl from the north country on Twitter