21 Aug 2016

Maynooth Students Union and Maynooth University Library supporting students during exam time

Guest post by Maureen Finn, Maynooth University Library

The library at Maynooth University is a hive of activity at any time but no more so than during exam time. With upwards of 3,500 patrons passing through the turnstiles on any given day during the busy examinations period, the needs of the students are many and varied. As many of them have travelled considerable distances to study in the library, they end up spending several hours here at a time in order to make their visit worthwhile.

As a means of better meeting their needs in a holistic way, and having reflected on what could help students by smoothing out the stress factor, Maynooth Students’ Union decided on a three-pronged approach. Firstly, they provided snacks and refreshments for students free of charge in the foyer of the library. A few times throughout the day during exam time, members of the Students’ Union set up tables in the open-plan library foyer and served up snacks such as pancakes, fruit, muffins, yoghurts and soft drinks. Needless to say, these were snapped up and are very much appreciated by the students.

Síona Cahill, Vice-President Welfare and Equality, Maynooth Students’ Union 2015/2016 & SU members distributing free breakfasts in the Library foyer
A second support implemented by the Students’ Union was the provision of small hampers of personal care and hygiene items such as deodorant, tissues, hand cream and so on, which were placed in the rest rooms during exam time. These were well received and much appreciated. A third strand to this initiative was the placing of posters at strategic locations in the library highlighting the helplines, supports and services available to students throughout the busy exam period as well as at other times.

Support posters displayed in the Library by MSU
When speaking with Siona, Vice-President for Welfare and Equality, Maynooth Students’ Union, regarding this student centred initiative, she had this to say:
“Our MSU #MayTheForceBeWithYou initiative was a collaborative partnership with Maynooth University to support students during a very stressful exam time. As student reps, we thought about what we would really have loved to have during that time, and we wanted to provide that to our students! It's all about creating a study environment that encourages looking after both your mind and body, by maintaining a positive attitude, supporting your friends and knowing what supports are available if you need help or are having any difficulties.”
#MaytheForceBeWithMU promotional poster on Twitter
Maynooth Students’ Union won the overall National Education Campaign of the year award at the Student Achievement Awards with the Union of Students’ in Ireland (USI) with their campaign entitled #MayTheForceBeWithMU from Christmas 2015 exam time. The awards ceremony took place in collaboration with the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) on May 26th 2016.

This significant achievement was made possible by the synergy and sense of co-operation that exists between the Students’ Union and the library at Maynooth University.
“I want to extend our genuine thanks on behalf of Maynooth SU for your co-operation with our work in the Library over the exam period at Christmas.We were judged by the head of the National Centre for Teaching & Learning, who praised the partnership with the library in particular, the focus on student welfare in our messaging, the supports being promoted, the ability to use Library spaces for both postering, tables for fruit/free items/info, as well as the use of the library bathrooms and doors for materials.”
Síona Cahill, Vice-President Welfare and Equality, Maynooth Students’ Union 2015/2016

19 Aug 2016

Soldat Heinrich. A German soldier’s past in digital form

Recently, I undertook a small-scale digitisation project, which converted a German World War II Wehrpass (military passport) and related official documentation into digital form. They belong to a 19-year old private and his sister, Gertrud Wolters. All materials originate from a larger collection
of original historical manuscripts and photographs. They were sourced from various family members in Germany who participated in WWII.

This project focuses on Heinrich Jakob Wilhelm Wolters, who was killed in action in the Kamyanets-Podilsky region, Western Ukraine, in 1944. Heinz died at nineteen years of age and was the only son of Anton Wolters and Maria Kouker.

Almost nothing is known about Soldat Heinrich’s brief life. All immediate and personally knowledgeable relatives are deceased. The selected source materials represent an attempt to create a digital snapshot of his life as a Gefreiter (private) in the Wehrmacht. Accompanying descriptive information was sourced either from related documents or directly taken from the materials.

The following equipment was used and as best as possible calibrated as part of all pre-scanning preparation activities. This also included the running of test scans to confirm appropriate image file structures.
  • Desktop PC: Dell PC OptiPlex 7020 Desktop / Windows 7 Enterprise
  • Monitor Model: Dell LCD Monitor 43cm(17-inch), Model number: E178WFPc / Monitor-inbuilt calibration options for image and colour display adjustment
  • Scanner spec: low-end Epson Stylus SX125 (printer/scanner box) / Epson Creativity Suite / Scan Assistant
    • Scanner type: Flatbed colour
    • Photoelectric device: CIS
    • Effective pixels: 5,100 × 7,020 pixels at 600 dpi. Scanning area may be restricted if resolution setting is large.
    • Document size: 216 × 297 mm (8.5 × 11.7 inches) A4 or US letter size
    • Scanning resolution: 600 dpi (main scan) 1200 dpi (sub scan)
    • Output resolution: 50 to 4800, 7200, and 9600 dpi (50 to 4800 dpi in 1 dpi increments)
    • Image data: 16 bits per pixel per color internal 8 bits per pixel per color external (maximum)
    • Light source: LED
  • Adobe Photoshop CS5: Photo editing software for post digitisation image processing.
    • Brightness/contrast
    • Levels (Histogram adjustment)
    • Curves Presets (tone correction)
    • Exposure, Offset, Gamma Correction
    • Modification of raw digital files (TIFF) was kept to a minimum and explicitly used to more accurately represent the source materials physical state.
Online Exhibition System
The Omeka open source web-publishing platform was chosen as a suitable online exhibition space for this project.

The project lives at soldatheinrich.omeka.net
 

8 Aug 2016

What is my impression of how the Library works?

Guest post by Blazej Kaucz, a PhD candidate at UCC in a broad field called Socio-Legal Studies.

The following post is about UCC Library. This should come as no surprise to those of you who have had the pleasure, or maybe not, of stumbling upon me on your life path. University College Cork is the place where I study (for a PhD), teach some of the undergraduate students in sociology and criminology, and where I work part-time in the aforementioned Library. The reason I am mentioning this is that I can share with you three somewhat different perspectives on the importance of the UCC Library to me from three slightly different viewpoints of professional life (my study, my teaching, and my work).

My professional life developed gradually, the studying came first, teaching followed later, and finally, the work at UCC Library. This sequence is essential as with these changes in my professional career transformed and influenced my understanding, perception, and appreciation of (and for) the project called The Library. The fact that I am discussing all of that right now, retrospectively, will obviously impact this description, but I will try to capture my thoughts on the subject from a specific period of my career at UCC.

Firstly, I started my studies in January (one of four possible times when Postgraduates at UCC are allowed to start along with October, April and July). The consequences of this are that, in general, most service providers at Universities tend to forget about people starting at any other give time apart from the September/October intake. Most of the initial introductions to services and transitory modules accommodate only the portion of people starting in the September / October timeframe. So, if one happens to be in the group of the rest, (the other three periods of intake) one will most likely be exposed to a lesser amount of introductions as to that of the September/October researchers. This unfortunately is often also the case with the Library service. This happened to me as a newcomer to UCC. Whereas, starting at other times other that September / October has its advantages, it does mean that one is on a quest to discover everything on their own. Having the above in mind, it is a daunting experience to enter a Library for the first time and trying to feel comfortable enough in navigating the shelves (more on that in a further post). The good thing is that if in doubt library staff are there to help, and I am talking from my own experience here (and not as a hidden form of flattery to my current colleagues) as I had few situations where library staff helped me out when I needed it the most - especially at the very beginning of my research. Nonetheless, being susceptible to buying my own books (knowing that in the course of my research some of them will be referred to more than once) I did not use of the library in the initial phase of my research as much as I could have due to purchasing the books.

Secondly, the period where I had the opportunity to tutor on the first year’s Introduction to Sociology module changed my perception of the Library and the services offered by Library staff. At one of the tutors’ meetings (at the beginning of semester one) one of my colleagues proposed that it might be a good idea to involve Library staff in introducing the UCC Library Website and research methods and techniques to our first year students. Such a request was accommodated in between the first and second assignment, and the staff from the Library spent fifteen minutes with each one of the fourteen tutorial groups providing a very quick introduction and explanation of the importance of the academic research process. The results spoke for themselves. The overall, marks from the second assignment increased in comparison to the first one, and the input offered by the Library staff definitely helped, if not partially influenced that situation. The surprise here was that there was no problem in organisation of these sessions, for students’ convenience, as part of the original tutorial schedule and venues.  On top of that, the scope of my research and usage of Library services would change as well, due to the need to prepare myself for the mentioned tutorials.

Lastly, when I have begun working (in March of this year) in the UCC Library I was offered an opportunity, as part of my initial training, to visit and spend some time in each one of the sections which greatly improved my understanding of the services offered in here. But even at this point my work was not entirely associated with the usual work of the librarians. It was just recently during the summer months, when I had agreed to work as part of the Collection Development & Management section of the Boole, when I was fully exposed to the array of task as faced by the librarians on daily basis. It was, and still is, an exciting time (if moving books can ever be exciting, or perhaps moving books for prolonged period of time alters one’s perception of reality to such an extent that the world looks a bit more exiting afterwards) where I have learned to appreciate some of the necessities of the library work, namely, hated by most service users and providers, the book weeding.

On one occasion my two professional career path intersected. It was when I was asked to coordinate a donation of books from the Discipline of Criminology (a part of the Department of Sociology, UCC) to the Boole. The level of interdepartmental and interpersonal cooperation that this process requires allowed me to appreciate even further the work taking place in the background, which rarely is observed by the service users themselves.

UCC Library is this one building in the heart of UCC with a crucial importance (in terms of services it offers) to the running of the entire UCC community. Being firstly the service user, and then secondly, a member of the services provider’s team, influenced my perception of the Boole Library and the services offered by it.

Here, due to the tyranny of space, I was able only able to present glimpses of my experience of UCC’s Library.
Posted on Monday, August 08, 2016 | Categories:

18 Jul 2016

Getting Started with Digital Preservation

Guest post by Simon Perry, Systems Librarian at Institute of Technology Carlow

The Getting Started with Digital Preservation event took place at the National Archives in Dublin on the 18th May and provided an extremely informative briefing on the topic. As someone who has had the idea of digital preservation in my mind for a long time, it offered a very timely introduction to the basic concepts of how to manage what can be a complex area which we are all increasingly having to face.

My own awareness of the need to actively manage the preservation of digital media goes back many years – as a postgraduate student at Aberystwyth University in the late 1980s, I recall attending a seminar presented by the BBC which showcased a new project for electronic storage of community information. Known as the BBC Digital Domesday project, this comprised a set of optical discs, (effectively the forerunner of the DVD in 12” LP record format), on which data about localities in the UK had been encoded. Unfortunately by 2002, as this article from the Observer newspaper illustrates, the discs were already unreadable and the stored data was effectively lost. A classic example of how a digital format can become rapidly obsolete.

In the current information environment where the proliferation of digital material in a bewilderingly wide range of formats has become a matter of fact, the need to manage this stream of information and to try to identify and preserve has become paramount.

This event, presented by Sharon McMeekin and Sara Day Thomson of the Digital Preservation Coalition, gave a comprehensive introduction to how to develop a preservation policy.

The presentation began with some fundamental but essential concepts which govern the need for preservation:
•    Traditional media is far more robust than digital.
•    Digital material is dependent on the accessibility of its format and the media on which it is stored.
•    Rights issues may impact on the need to preserve material

The event then focused on both the managerial and technical considerations. Drawing up a digital preservation strategy may seem at first to be a both daunting and expensive prospect, but the presenters continually emphasised the wide range of documentation which is available to assist in this process, (such as the Digital Preservation Handbook, produced by the DPC themselves), and highlighted the use of standards, (ISO 31000 Risk Management), and technical specifications, (OAIS Functional Model for Digital Preservation), which can be used to underpin a preservation policy.

Subsequent sessions raised several significant issues which need to be addressed in the formulation of a preservation plan; these can be broken down into management issues:
•    The need to assess an organisation’s ability to develop and undertake a preservation policy.
•    Creation of a clear statement to champion the need for digital preservation within an organisation.
•    Creation of a digital asset register.
•    Risk assessment.
•    Development of a rolling cycle of monitoring digital assets and continued updating of awareness
     of technological developments which may impact on preservation.

And technical ones:
•    Ensuring that several copies of important digital assets are held – preferably in different formats.
•    Monitoring of digital media to ensure that file degradation does not occur, or is remedied if it
     does:  alarmingly, bits within a digital file can degrade over time causing corruption but several
     tools are available to monitor file integrity.
•    Ensuring that hardware for storage, playing, viewing etc. of digital media does not become
     obsolescent.

Ultimately it is essential that I.T. Departments take ownership of the technical aspects of digital file monitoring and provision of appropriate hardware to store and retrieve digital media, moreover, close and continued collaboration between those responsible for formulation of a preservation strategy and technical experts is crucial to the success of digital preservation.

The day offered a thorough and thought-provoking overview of the challenges associated with digital preservation, and despite the potential complexity of the task, the presenters stressed that with the wide range of available support resources and documentation, creation of a successful preservation policy is an achievable goal.