Tuesday 6 November 2012

Library Camp 2012: 13th October, Birmingham

This guest post comes from Charlie Lythgoe (@maniccharlie), Assistant Information Specialist, NHS Blood and Transplant, Oxford, about her experience of the runaway success that is Library Camp UK, which took place last month.  All the more welcome as we had to cancel our November event. Over to Charlie...

On Saturday 13th October, I attended Library Camp 2012 in Birmingham. This is the second year a UK-wide Library Camp has been held, and there have also been smaller regional spin-off events. Library Camp is described as an “unconference”, which their website defines as an event where “participants decide on the programme at the beginning of the event, working on the principle that the sum of the knowledge, experience and expertise of the people in the room is likely to be greater than that of those on the stage at traditional conferences.”

This democratic, participatory approach was also evident during the planning stages, as a wiki was set up where participants could suggest ideas for sessions they would either like to present or to attend. Oh, and suggestions for cake too! Apparently, library camps are renowned for their cakes. Unfortunately, I didn’t have to time to bake anything but many people were more organised than me and turned up with an astonishing amount of whoopee pies, tiffin, brownies, cupcakes etc etc ...

The day began with people pitching ideas for sessions they’d like to lead. These were placed on post-it notes and a rough-and-ready programme was quickly assembled on a flipchart.

The first session I attended was on mental health in libraries, led by Penny Bronchia. This examined the language and attitudes we use in libraries to deal with mental illness in library users and colleagues. We discussed the way that mental health is still a taboo topic that unsettles many people, in a way that other issues (e.g. sexuality and race) largely do not. Should people with a mental health condition be “out” at work? While this may initially cause awkwardness, it can help raise awareness and tolerance among colleagues. Also, by not disclosing a mental health condition, it can be harder to access any support or assistance that the organisation can provide. We discussed how managers can best support employees with mental health conditions and we heard about schemes and reading groups some public library services run for their users.

For my second session, I chose to hear about free and open-source software from Liz Jolly and Andrew Preater. Andrew has already written a comprehensive blog post about this session, so I won’t write at length about it. We talked specifically about what OS software is and what roles it can play. But we also placed it in context by discussing why organisations may be resistant to OS software, how the collaborative mindset present in OS development can trickle in to other areas of work and what skills are necessary in the OS workplace.  I was struck in this session, as in many of the others, at the incredible depth of knowledge and expertise possessed and shared by those who weren’t leading the sessions. If this were a “normal” conference rather than an unconference, then these views would largely remain unheard.

Next, I went to a talk about classification. This session wasn’t as lively as the first two ... perhaps we’d all gone too long without a trip to the cake tables. We shared experiences of classification successes and failures, the pros and cons of in-house versus standard (e.g. LC or Dewey) systems, and the tendency for classification decisions to reflect the need of library staff rather than the need of the user. We wondered how libraries could go about systematically measuring the success of different classification schemes, in terms of how quickly users could find what they needed. We mused on how relevant traditional concepts of classification are for e-resources, especially since there isn’t the “I can only put this book in one place, even if it addresses two topics equally” mindset. E-resources can be “located” in as many locations as the user needs them to be (I recommend the book Everything is Miscellaneous for a good discussion of categorisation in the digital world).

Some participants felt there was a lack of sessions focused on academic libraries, so Christina Harbour squeezed a general academic libraries forum on to the flipchart. I feared that this was too big a topic to generate any meaningful dialogue, but we all had a very good attempt! I’ll just list some of the questions that were thrown in to the mix:

  • What impact will the rise in tuition fees have?
  • (How) should libraries ‘brand’ their e-resources, to demonstrate the link to the physical library?
  • How can we involve academics in the work of the library?
  • How do we demonstrate or quantify the value that libraries have?
  • Are converged library and IT services a good idea?
  • Does outsourcing work? If so, what services can be outsourced?
  • Should members of the public be allowed to use academic libraries?
  • How do libraries contribute to the employability agenda of universities?

Whew! I feel like we covered as much ground as I did in a whole term of the Academic Libraries module of my MSc, mainly because of the wide range of experiences and backgrounds that were shared.

I then went to a session about the logistics of lending out iPads to library users. Personally, I’d be concerned about the chances of loss or damage, but those sharing their experiences said that this was minimal. We discussed whether users should be allowed to use the iPads outside the library or off the premises, and what state they should be returned in (i.e. delete all photos and log out of Facebook and Twitter). The range of educational apps (for students, medical professionals, scientists etc) is growing all the time, but it can be hard to evaluate the quality of these, and whether they represent value for money. It seemed to me that any library wishing to start lending iPads or other tablets to their users could learn an awful lot from other libraries who’ve already taken the same step.

For the final session of the day, I intended to go to a session on open access. Due to my muddling up the rooms, I ended up in a session on Roaming Libraries. By the time I’d realised my mistake, I’d already got into conversation with the people sat next to me, so thought it would be easier to stay put. A fortuitous mistake! The speaker, whose name I didn’t catch, runs The Itinerant Poetry Library. The name is fairly self-explanatory - she travels all around the world with a poetry library, which opens up for a time (this time can vary) in bars, cafes etc. Depending on how long the library is in a city, readers may be able to take books away with them. They can then check on Twitter to see where the library will be over the next few days so that they know where to return the book.

 I learnt about Radical Reference, who are a group of professional volunteers working with political activists in the USA. Any questions that can’t be answered on the ground can be relayed back to a back-up team who will use their resources to find the answer. And then there’s the Mile High Reference Desk, who provide an information service to passengers on planes! Unlike in many other sessions, this was an area that very few of us had experience in. But it was the last session of the day, and I liked how everyone shared related experiences and anecdotes from earlier sessions they had intended. For instance, there was an earlier session about living libraries, so someone fed back their experiences from this and wondered whether a roaming library of people would be feasible. Once again, if this were a “normal” conference, this opportunity to share and synthesise ideas from other sessions may not have been possible. So, while I don’t know what I missed in the open access session, I do now know some of the amazing ways that librarians are challenging our ideas of what and where a “library” is.

There was a tremendous amount of energy and passion on display at Library Camp 2012, which was particularly impressive since everyone had given up a day of their weekend and many of us had travelled a long way early in the morning.  The conversations that started at Library Camp have continued on Twitter and blogs, and will hopefully generate some great new ideas and good practice.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Phil Bradley comes to the Thames Valley

As one might expect, the turn-out for CILIP President and internet search extraordinaire Phil Bradley probably exceeded that of any event we have had before. So much so that we had to up sticks to a different location, just next door to our usual haunt to one of the conference rooms in the Reading RISC Global Cafe. Phil started by telling us about what he does as the President of CILIP and the structure of the upper echelons of the CILIP hierarchy. Basically he acts as a conduit between members and the Council and looks at the way CILIP is governed and whether this could be improved. He is continuing as President for another year due to the Vice-President stepping down and therefore not able to progress into the President role. They are currently looking for new Vice-President candidates so if any CILIP member is interested, do contact Phil.

Phil then moved on to the endlessly interesting subject of social media, of which he is and expert. As an enthusiastic amateur I can only presume to try and outline what I learnt from his talk! He told us that social media is not a tool, it is a transition, and the internet will just morph into something else after web 0.2, and something again after that. Many people are scared of how the web is developing because they don’t understand it and know how to use it to their advantage. This can include institutions, with IT departments restricting the use of certain platforms because this is deemed easier than trying to make them work well for the institution. The spectre of an irredeemable slip-up looms too large. The fact that many institutions don’t use these technologies actually says more about them than if they did allow their use. They conversations on these platforms will happen anyway, including those about their institution and if they do not use them they will miss out on being able to influence this.

The model of search engine results being compiled solely of traditional websites is now fundamentally broken. Searches are increasingly recalling interactions from social media, because these are the opinions of customers and users, they say more than a static website could about any institution or service. Increasingly it is individuals that are adding credibility to what is on the internet, it is the value of the people that you follow and increasingly we will find our information in the realms of our own virtual networks.

You can find a Slideshare presentation very similar to the one he used at our event here.

Saturday 15 September 2012

National Trust Libraries

Yvonne Lewis is Assistant Libraries Curator of the National Trust and she came to help us see in September by talking to us at a very well attended event. She gave us a potted history of the acquisition of National Trust Libraries and told us a little bit of what they are doing now. This was accompanied by slides featuring images of some very beautiful books (the Huguenot binding was my particular favourite), all courtesy of the Trust’s photo library.

The National Trust was founded in 1895, their first sight being a hillside, but their first property being Coleridge Cottage. These early acquisitions were usually stripped of all contents by the owners before being transferred to the National Trust. As a result there were no libraries, at least none with any books in them. They often had to ‘dress’ the libraries in houses that had them, to make them appear to the visitor how they may have once looked. In some cases, like that of Osterley Park in Middlesex, acquired in the 1940s they were helped by having documentation, such as a catalogue which they could use to try to reconstruct the library contents. If a book or a collection comes up for sale that once belonged to the library of a National Trust property where they can they have been purchasing them to rebuild the original collection as much as they are able.

This changed gradually from the 1940s with the introduction of the Country House Scheme (which sometimes allows the owners to stay in the properties).  The affects of which began to be felt around the 1980s along with the help of laws such as Acceptance in lieu (see a good blog post about it here). This also means they can sometimes even establish which books were in the libraries, and at what point, by studying the paintings of the interiors of the houses and portraits of the inhabitants.  This was not the only detective work they were able to carry out. They can also study the collecting habits of various owners, such as moving the books of predecessors up to second level shelving to make way for their own, newer, books.

They started cataloguing all the books under their remit offline but now they are all online and through that they can connect the libraries of all the houses. As is mostly the case with rare books they these records are concentrated on the copy specific information. They have now joined Copac  and cataloguing activities are ongoing, including all the library objects - tennis balls in one case! The current policy is to look for grants or funding to look after a collection ongoing, before they take it on, so they can catalogue and conserve it in the future.

Many thanks again to Yvonne Lewis and National Trust Libraries.

Wednesday 29 August 2012

A summer slumber

But only on the blog! In actual fact we have been rather busy, with a very well attended meeting at the beginning of July, to hear Emily Goodhand (@copyrightgirl in the Twittersphere) to talk to us about the copyright landscape as it currently stands. As you can imagine, there were plenty of questions, thankfully we can rely on people like Emily to keep up with this rapidly changing domain, so we can draw on their vast knowledge as and when we need to. However, most of us should probably try to grasp the basics, so here are Emily's very complete slides which will better demonstrate what was covered than I ever could.

We also had an informal get together at the Catherine Wheel pub in the beautiful Berkshire village of Goring where there was much talk about what we could do in our upcoming events and meetings. This included the possibility of a CILIP special interest groups roadshow, to showcase what the special interest groups are all about. Hopefully we will get this off the ground so watch this space. Remember, if there is any event you would like us to look into organising then we would like to hear your ideas.

On the subject of future events, on 5 September in Reading we have Yvonne Lewis, Assistant Libraries Curator for the National Trust, giving a potted history of how the Trust acquired its libraries, its recent acquisitions, and the cataloguing and digitisation of documents. Then on 3 October we have CILIP President Phil Bradley (@Philbradley on Twitter, and this is his website), a popular and well-known speaker on the web, internet searching, and new technology matters. This event will be in a new venue RISC, and being a Reading resident I can vouch that it one of the most interesting bars in town.

Hope to see you at an event in the near future and I will be blogging about Yvonne Lewis's talk very soon.

Friday 29 June 2012

Charting the Chartership Process

Our first guest post is by Georgina Tarrant, Information Manager at Yell Group Ltd., who spoke at our June Chartership event in Oxford and kindly volunteered to report it for us. Many thanks to our organisers, and to the other speakers at this very successful event. Over to Georgina...

On a humid evening at the beginning of June, around 30 dedicated CILIP members gathered in the Kings’ Arms in Oxford to hear about trials and triumphs they may face as part of the Chartership process.  Drink in hand, I found a seat on the table where the majority of speakers were sitting and nervously shuffled my papers.  Looking around the room, I could see a sea of young and serious looking faces.  As normal for this kind of event, I wondered how much I would have in common with them as I don’t actually work in a library.  My job title is Information Manager and I create and maintain taxonomies and ontologies for use on Yell.com. 

The evening was very informal.  There was no ‘death by PowerPoint’ to contend with just enthusiastic people who wanted to share their experience of Chartership with others.  The first to speak was Franko Kowalczuk.  Franko is a Candidate Support Officer at CILIP with a decade’s worth of experience mentoring Chartership candidates and assessing submissions.  He took us through the familiar CILIP Chartership and Certification guidelines as well as the more unfamiliar Qualifications Board Assessment Panel interviews that reminded me a little of a PhD viva.  Fortunately, Franko was suitably reassuring - candidates are only called to a panel interview when the assessors want to expand on a particular topic in their submission.  Questions are sent to candidates in advance of the interview so the candidate has time to prepare and it is almost impossible to fail at this point.  The bottom line is that CILIP wants to support every candidate and help them to succeed.

Next-up was Laura Wilkinson, Librarian at St Hugh’s College Oxford.  Laura has already chartered therefore she was able to share hints and tips including how to get the most out of the initial CILIP Chartership seminars e.g.
·         Read the Chartership Handbook before the seminar
·         Make a note of anything you are unsure about and ask questions
·         Take the time to read through past submissions
 The part that I found most interesting (I am a bit of a geek) was Laura’s description of her e-portfolio.  She created her submission as a Word document with hyperlinks between her personal statement and her evidence so the assessors did not need to scroll down.  Having done that, she was able to submit electronically (using 3 CD-ROMs).  This appealed to me as I am trying to collect all my evidence in an electronic repository on Dropbox.com.  My portfolio of evidence is accessible from wherever I am and from whatever device I am using (desktop PC, laptop, iPad or HTC Smartphone).  I am also trying to avoid filling my home with paper!

Chartership can be something you decide to pursue immediately after library school as part of your career progression in your role, something you do after a few years in a post (like me) or something you put off doing for many years.  It can also be something that you start and do not finish.  The next speaker, Tessa Shaw, Reader Services Librarian at Queen’s College Oxford was a mature candidate with 25 years library experience.  She can tell you how to deter snakes from entering your Malawian library (I sincerely hope Tessa comes back and talks about that at a future event) and she has lots of experience of supporting members of her team through their Chartership.  Tessa has watched those people move onwards and upwards after chartering so she has decided to join them. 

Tessa’s experience matched mine in that the Chartership process has changed her attitude to work.  With her new perspective, she has sought out new opportunities to develop and progress in her career.  Tessa, Laura & I all stressed the importance of recording the details of all the development activities that you undertake at the time as if you leave them to the end of the month, you will inevitably forget.  That is also the time to reflect on those activities.  Most importantly of all, they advocated “getting the thing done”.  If you make a start on writing your report and personal statement, you will finish it.  There may be a few iterations along the way but it is the only way.  You can’t reach the finishing line if you don’t get off the starting block.

My own talk focused on how I am getting on so far and what benefits I am getting from the process.  Chartership has given me a much greater enthusiasm for learning, developing and networking: I haven’t felt this motivated since I left library school back in 2004.  I have been fortunate enough to have a very supportive line manager who has allowed me time to attend events and to be an active member of the Library and Information Research Group (LIRG) committee.  In my mentor, I have found a good friend, a wealth of experience and an objective voice to help me to develop a more strategic view and a greater awareness of the broader professional context that I need to progress in my career.

The penultimate speaker was Barbara Moye, Healthcare Librarian at Prospect Park Hospital in Reading.  Barbara has already chartered and I was interested to hear about her experiences because she has succeeded in moving sectors.  Barbara also managed to keep focused on Chartership despite changing jobs and experiencing organisational restructure during her period of reflective practice.  I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to keep going.  Barbara said she managed to keep on track by booking a meeting with her mentor before taking a 3 month break while she got settled in her new job.  As the meeting was already booked, she had to keep it.  Mentors are not there to badger candidates or drag them through the process.  If you miss the targets you set yourself, you are letting yourself down.

The final speaker was Lesley Kumiega, an experienced mentor and member of the Qualifications Board.  Lesley provided the mentor’s perspective – all the pain and excitement but no certificate at the end.  The mentoring relationship is formalised at the beginning of the Chartership process but sometimes deteriorates.  If this happens, don’t just let it slide, tell CILIP.  The mentor/mentee relationship should meet both of your needs.  I was surprised by how common it is to have a mentor that you never meet in person.  It is possible to have a mentor that you only ever contact by telephone and email.  Mentors will listen, give impartial advice and help you to review your progress however you decide to communicate with each other.

Looking through the past submissions, I felt that Chartership is not “rocket science”.  Every portfolio was surprisingly individual considering that everyone is working to the same criteria.  Each piece of evidence had been carefully chosen, organised meticulously, related to a specific assessment criterion and reflected upon rather than merely described.  The aim of your submission is to guide the assessor around your career, making it easy for them to see which assessment criteria you are addressing.  Getting the odd document number wrong is embarrassing but not fatal!
The evening gave me some comfort that I would be able to succeed and that the process is worthwhile.  Thank you CILIP in TV for organising such a great get-together.

Georgina Tarrant BSc (Hons) MSc

Friday 8 June 2012

Thames Valley’s got talent!

CILIP in the Thames Valley is calling for content for our newborn blog. We have reluctantly admitted that the world would rather not listen only to what us committee members have to say; you folks are much more interesting and make information profession in the Thames Valley the vibrant scene that it is. So if you are an information professional, a librarian, or a shambrarian in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, or Oxfordshire and want to shout about what you do then we want to hear from you. Anything goes (well almost, we are librarians after all), be it library school research, an interesting project, an issue that affects your job, or even just recounting an average day at the office. If you feel you would like to contribute please contact Louise Anderson on the email address list on the CILIP Thames Valley website

Wednesday 16 May 2012

CILIP HQ go back to the floor

Mark Taylor, of the CILIP external relations team, talked at the May meeting of CILIP in the Thames Valley about the initiative that saw everyone at the CILIP Ridgemount Street HQ work shadowing information professionals of all varieties, in an effort to reach out to members and potential members of our professional body.  This push to gain insight into what members do on a day-to-day basis and how this may affect what they want from CILIP comes in an effort to better represent all CILIP members after a major re-structure at CILIP HQ with everyone’s role changed or re-evaluated in some way.  As you may have noticed this was only a part of the wider effort, with other measures including a survey of members and non-members and CILIP staff getting attending many different events and using it to inform their work.

From the CILIP HQ side of thing the work shadowing programme was deemed a success in that (at the very least) valuable contacts were made within the industry on which they can draw in the future, and vice versa. One of the most important lessons Mark felt had been learnt was the failure thus far to reach out to those information professional that have no physical ‘library’ space and tend to be loan working – really those that no longer see themselves as ‘librarians’. This kind of exercise may be a good way to reach them. Going forward, all new staff will be encouraged to go on a work shadowing placement. As of yet there are no plans to repeat the exercise on a Ridgemount St wide basis, at least not annually.

Some debate ensued about what CILIP is doing to help libraries, and particularly school libraries, to demonstrate their worth.  Mark entered into this agreeing that it was difficult to prove this by comparing performance in the national landscape as there are no nationally agreed measures by which to do this. CILIP are trying to develop dialogues with the institutional decision makers, such as school headmasters to try to discover what they would count as evidence. Further along, we all decided mystery shopping was probably a bad technique in trying to establish the performance levels of a service(!)  And of course #UpdateNichols featured.  Otherwise there was some discussion about how CILIP HQ view us the members, some taking umbrage with the word ‘customer’, when the relationship is perhaps more reciprocal than a basic transaction. If anyone wants to comment further on that or any of the above then please do so below.

Monday 14 May 2012

Calling all Berks/Bucks/Oxon HE and FE Library staff...

Do you work in HE or FE in Berkshire, Buckinghamshire or Oxfordshire? Would you like to  get out of the Library a bit more, keep up to date with current Library issues in FE and  HE, network with colleagues from across the sectors, and give your professional development a boost?

Then read on...

The CoFHE (Colleges of Further and Higher Education) and UC&R (University College and  Research) groups of CILIP are merging to form the Academic and Research Libraries Group,  ARLG.  In the Berks/Bucks/Oxon area, this means CoFHE Mid-West and UC&R BBO are  dissolving, and re-forming as ARLG BBO. And we want you!

Even (especially) if you've never been involved in a professional group before, this is  a brilliant opportunity to get started. In the past CoFHE and UC&R have organised local  training events on many themes, from diversity in libraries to e-books, from managing  difficult customers to libraries and Web 2.0. But it doesn't all have to be conferences  and events - would you benefit more from a blog, a mailing list, Twitter feed, informal  evening get-togethers? We want your ideas - and your participation. Being part of a  local group is a great (and inexpensive!) way to broaden your perspectives, boost your professional development, get involved in activities beyond the scope of your day job  (marketing, budgeting, chairing seminars...) and enhance your CV - all while getting to  socialise and network with other local librarians.

We're holding an inaugural meeting/round-table discussion, for all interested education/research based librarians working in the region, on: Tuesday 29th May 2012, from 2 -  4.30 pm, in the Board Room at Oxford and Cherwell Valley College's Oxford campus (Oxpens Road, OX1 1SA - see http://www.ocvc.ac.uk/info/Find_us/Oxford.aspx ). The College is a short walk from the station and from city centre bus stops; there is a public car park at the Oxpens ice rink opposite the college.  There'll be refreshments, so please email Rob Collier from this list: http://www.cilip.org.uk/get-involved/special-interest-groups/c-of-he/circles/mid-west/pages/committee.aspx.

Thursday 10 May 2012

That's just what we do

This is the first post of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in the Thames Valley (happily shortened to CILIPTV!) sub-branch blog. This opening post is just by way of an introduction to who we are and what we do. As a sub-branch of CILIP South East, which is in turn a regional branch of CILIP, we represent librarians and information professionals on a very local level, hopefully providing members with networking opportunities regularly and on their doorstep.  
The Great Expectations pub in Reading
where we hold our monthly events
We hold monthly meetings (so far usually in Reading, but our first in Oxford will be June 6th) where there tends to a core crowd of very friendly faces working and/or trained in all branches of the information profession. At these meeting we have talks by professionals with varied experiences and specialities so that members benefit from a wealth of knowledge from across the profession. For those of you working towards a CILIP qualification we even provide a handy-dandy certificate to go in those portfolios!

We hope to post reports on our monthly events so that those who can’t make it know what they missed and also serve as a basis for discussion - CILIP members are welcome to comment! Perhaps after the event thoughts may occur to those present which they want to share with other info people rather than boring the socks off their loved ones.  Guest posts from info professionals around the Thames Valley about their work are also welcome so if you feel the urge to shout about what you do then please be in touch. Contact details and further information on events and the committee can be found on the website. We are also on Twitter and Facebook. Watch this space for the low-down on the 5th May event when Mark Taylor from CILIP HQ spoke to us about staff experiences when they went 'back to the floor'.