26 May 2016

Different types of doctoral theses - a follow up

In April this year I published a blogpost comparing the different forms of publishing for doctoral theses. My assumption was answered, there is an increase in the choice to publish a comprehensive summary thesis instead of a monograph.

Me and some colleagues have discussed the matter and it is inevitable not to mention different publishing patterns among different subjects. Therefore Ulf-Göran and I went back to DiVA ("DiVA portal is a finding tool and an institutional repository for research publications") and choosed to do an exact similar analysis for, as we consider monograph dependent subject - humanities - to see if, and if so how, it differs.

First of all, it differs. The relationship between monographs and comprehensive summary is more or less the opposite compared to the earlier selection of all subjects, monograph theses is predominant for humanities! But if we look closer, the ratio between the two different publishing formats have been very stable, at least up until 2015. For 2015 there has been a dramatic change and we can see that comprehensive summary takes shares, the gap is decreasing. I consider this a quite interesting development.

Posted on Thursday, May 26, 2016 | Categories:

23 May 2016

The Library of the Future, the Future of the Library

Guest post by Marie O’ NeillHead of Library Services & Information Services,  DBS Library
The Library of the Future, the Future of the Library symposium was held in Trinity College Dublin’s Science Gallery on the 19th May. After the recent A&SL Conference on Smashing Librarian Stereotypes, a symposium exploring future possibilities for libraries and librarians felt timely. Now that we as a profession know what we don’t want to be, how do we reimagine and describe anew the modern day library and librarian?
The symposium was one of a series of lectures that has been hosted by TCD Library on topics such as TCD’s Library Strategy, the future of monographs in a world of open access, memory in a digital age and more. The full line up of lectures can be seen here.
During the symposium, there was much talk about the ‘outward facing’ library. The hosting of a series of free talks on librarianship by TCD’s Librarian and Archivist Helen Shenton fully embodies this concept. Moreover lecture series on librarianship such as this raise the bar for Irish librarianship. We should as a profession and discipline have academic lecture series to explore and critique pertinent issues in the way that other disciplines do. 
Throughout the symposium Helen Shenton displayed an endearing professional generosity. She appears to thrive on knowledge sharing. It was clear that the line-up of presenters had been informed by contacts that she had acquired during her extensive library career. The presenters comprised library world heavy weights such as the Chief Director of the British Library, the University Librarian of Stanford University, the, Librarian of the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford and Jeffrey Schnapps, Founder/Faculty Director of MetaLab at Harvard University. One symposium tweet referred to the line-up as follows:
When I and another delegate thanked Helen at the end of the symposium for a really exciting event, she cheerfully asked us if we felt ‘fired up’ and was genuinely delighted when we said that we were. 
It was also apparent that the genesis of the library lecture series lay not only in a desire to showcase activities at TCD Library but also in a desire to contribute to the wider professional library dialogue here in Ireland.  The symposium certainly achieved this. The coffee and lunch break conversation as well as the tweets that the event generated were vibrant and lively.  At one point, the event trended number one in Ireland on Twitter, higher than the Twitter coverage of the EgyptAir flight 804 air crash which had occurred that day.
It is not possible to do justice to the detailed content of each presentation. Do consult the slides when you have the opportunity. There were however powerful takeaways from each presentation. 
Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library was compelling on the potential of big data to empower researchers to get more from digital collections. He also highlighted that libraries have power in numbers, evocatively describing the universities and libraries that exist around the St Pancreas area of London as a ‘knowledge quarter.’ 
Mike Keller, the University Librarian of Stanford University described new forms of peer reviewed online scholarship. He also advocated that librarians embrace the ‘digital mashup,’ describing how disparate digital maps could be overlapped to generate ‘new hypotheses. ’Keller also demonstrated a new conceptual search engine called Yewno charmingly using the 1916 Easter Rising as an example. 
His most powerful takeaway however was his focus on talented staff as being integral to the library of the future. When he mentioned that he had obtained half a million dollars in salary bonuses for library staff at Stanford University there were audible gasps in the audience. Many Irish library staff haven’t seen a whiff of an annual salary increment for many years let alone a bonus nor have we ever conceived of looking for bonuses even in the good times which begs the question why not? What better way to smash librarian stereotypes than to be a profession that receives bonuses in the way that other professions do.  
Richard Ovenden, Librarian, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford spoke about the high density off-site storage facility in Swindon. Off-site storage of print collections to make way for more value added library spaces and services was a recurrent theme throughout the symposium. 
Ovenden also spoke about the highly successful remodelling of the drab Weston Library building (it was once described as a ‘dinner jacket made out of Harris Tweed’) designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1930s. The building was so non-descript that members of the public often mistook it for a public swimming pool. He was also insightful about the need for imaginative and modern marketing. The Bodleian libraries now advertise library events and resources on train station ticket turnstiles as thousands of commuters pass through them daily.  Genius! Ovenden like Keating highlighted the importance of library exhibitions describing them as powerful shop windows to collections. They also drive engagement.
There were yet more gasps from the audience as Ovenden revealed that the remodelling of the Weston Library was funded through eighty million pounds worth of philanthropy. New chairs in the Library were funded by alumni of the college for 500 pounds a pop for which the name of the donor would be printed on the back. Ovenden unashamedly joked that apart from the toilets there was very little space or furniture in the Weston Library that didn’t display visible evidence of philanthropy. Bodleian libraries also have coffee shops and other businesses that generate five million pounds in revenue.
Jeffrey Schnapps, Founder/Faculty director of MetaLab at Harvard in his thrilling talk appeared to develop a new nomenclature for librarianship comprising terms such as the, ‘library laboratory’, ‘programmable stacks, ‘books with memories’, ‘the awesome box’ and much more.  His talk generated stunning sound bites:
‘The reference desk as we know it is dead.’
‘Special Collections should be at the centre and not at the periphery.’
Schnapps was one of the most richly descriptive presenters that I have ever seen with a powerful, evocative turn of phrase. He has authored a book called the Library Beyond the Book which I will be rushing out to buy next week. Schnapps’ vision for the library of the future was that it would be a space devoted to knowledge creation and as well as preservation. All speakers described the future of the library as being a hybrid of the analogue and the digital.
During the symposium coffee and lunch breaks much conversation and debate ensured. Some delegates griped that it was okay for these particular librarians as they had budgets in the millions and sometimes billions. A few women and one man asked where were the female librarians in the line-up? Another delegate countered this by saying that they thought that there was a female head of library services in Harvard University and that she was also Irish. One public library delegate felt that the presentation on the British Library could have referred to what the British Library do to engage with poor local communities and with children. Other delegates found the talks to be uplifting in the context of recent public library closures in the UK. One thing that all the delegates were in agreement with was that they were awe struck by the quality of the event, of the speakers and of the library developments they described. Superlatives flowed like, ‘amazing’, ‘incredible’ ‘mind blowing’, ‘inspirational’ and more. I was also impressed with the way library staff at TCD worked together during the event and the welcoming and inviting manner with which they greeted delegates. Shenton also thanked them at the end of the symposium. 
What was clear from all of the presenters’ talks is that the future library is already here. Additionally it has been fuelled by new library funding models as well as new technologies. Librarians don’t always like to talk money. At times we can be shy about courting industry and philanthropy but all of these speakers spoke about relationships with the corporate sector and philanthropy with ease and confidence. Ovenden has also been at the forefront of the partnership between Oxford University Press and Google for example which has resulted in the digitisation of thousands of the Library’s unique collections.  
It was rapidly becoming clear that the librarian of the future needs to think outside the box in terms of the financial management of the library. We as librarians could learn so much from the presenters in this regard. In fact during the symposium, I started to have a flight of fancy where I envisaged a jointly written book by all of the speakers entitled New Funding Models for Libraries. The book would contain chapters on corporate partnerships, a chapter on philanthropy, a chapter on how to get a bigger piece of the financial pie in your institution (Keller was unequivocal that as Stanford expands academic programmes they must expand the library budget), a chapter on the librarian as entrepreneur (how to incorporate book shops, coffee shops and other businesses into your library etc.), a chapter on consortia etc.  Equally new funding models for libraries would make a great PHD thesis topic. 
Another symposium tweet reflected on some of the negative talk by delegates re: the large budgets that speakers had to play around with in their respective institutions. 

The author of this tweet is absolutely right. Yes we can think outside the box re how we fund the library of the future, but there is still an awful lot that you can do on a small budget particularly in the era of open source software and creative commons materials and more. 
I would have liked to have learned more not just about the library of the future but also the librarian of the future and the skillset that this librarian would require and then I realised that throughout the symposium I was actually looking at the librarian of the future. All four speakers were erudite, visionary, energetic, confident, eloquent, humorous and inventive, not a single librarian stereotype in sight. They were scholars, publishers, leaders, managers, public speakers, collaborators, event and PR managers, project managers, and IT, design and marketing savvy.  One computer science lecturer from TCD in the audience (it was great to see non library professionals in attendance) asked Mike Keller a question after his presentation prefacing it with one word ‘wow’. 
Did the Library of the Future, Future Libraries symposium have the wow factor? Hell yea. Were we all fired up after it? Absolutely, in spades. I couldn’t wait to get back to my library desk. The Careers Development Group of the Library Association of Ireland also hosted an incredible Library Camp on Saturday of the same week. It’s been a fantastic week for the Irish library profession.
My key takeaways from the Library of the Future symposium is that the library of the future must collaborate more not only with other libraries but also with industry and alumni. In fact it is essential. Impact statistics like the ones that Ovenden displayed are also critical.  One symposium tweet correctly asserted:

But most importantly I came away with a sense that with the right mindset, the right skillset and the right technological tools, the library of the future will be more important and dynamic than ever. In fact it doesn’t matter whether your library is big or small, what matters for the library of the future is that we as librarians think big and that we let nothing hold us back in this regard. 

20 May 2016


For many LIS graduates, up until now the idea of an entry level job unfortunately often meant an unpaid internship or Jobbridge position. A quick Ctrl+f of "library" on this spreadsheet shared by Third Level Workplace Watch indicates the prevalence of such jobs in the recent past. However, after several years of scant pickings, the past few months have brought quite a number of library vacancies - and not just in the usual places like academic and public libraries, but also in smaller and special libraries. It has been particularly interesting to see 'new' non-traditional library and information-related posts emerging also - job titles such as engagement librarian, data technologist, digital learning librarian, and information and communications coordinator among others.

Thinking back to when I finished my MLIS in 2009, at the time my job search mainly involved a weekly trawl of all the University websites, localjobs.ie, publicjobs.ie, and a few other recruitment sites (I had pretty much given up on newspapers by that point though it seems they are making a comeback!). At that, I still felt I was possibly missing out on a few places, as library positions can often pop up under the radar and in unusual places (though this was not so much the case in 2009 when library jobs were not really "popping up" anywhere:().

Fast forward to today, and there is really only one place I would check for job opportunities now: Twitter. Thanks to the hard work of a large community of tweeters (too many to name everyone, so sorry if I have missed you out) including @LAICDGroup, @ASLibraries, @libraryjobs, @LAIOnline, @AnnieOSullivan, @JMBurns99, @curiousfee, @BowsBooksLooks, @shinyshona and many more, the #LISjobsIE hashtag has become the place to find Irish LIS vacancies. If you are a recent graduate or current MLIS student who is not on Twitter yet, there has never been a bigger incentive to join.

But I didn't write this post just to highlight the value of #LISjobsIE to those who might be looking for a job. To me, it is yet another example of why Twitter can be such a remarkable and important tool. I can't think of many other platforms that would work as effectively or organically in bringing together a community, and connecting information and people. It is not just a case of people posting vacancies from their own organizations (though this certainly makes a very significant contribution), but also those who are job seeking or who might come across a position through another channel, actively opting to share this information with others. At a time when library jobs are still very much hotly contested with extremely high numbers of applicants, the idea of sharing information about vacancies - especially lesser-spotted, hidden roles - is also testament to the openness, generosity and supportiveness of the LIS profession and those who work in it.

Thanks to all who have made #LISjobsIE such a great resource for the LIS community, and long may the jobs continue :)

16 May 2016

Some notes on difference: beyond a deafening silence

Guest post by Kevin Sanders, radical librarian, miscreant and Research Support Librarian at St. Mary's University.

Like many of you reading this, for sins unknown, I'm a librarian. Like a sub-section of you, I'm also involved with a few initiatives related to librarianship.

I do tend to get involved in things. This is not, I hope, because I have a strong commitment to my professional development nor a masochistic approach to work. In earnest, it happens because I'm not exactly shy about running my mouth off. I am sure that some of you spotted this trait when I met some of you at this year's really fun #ASL16 conference.

At this conference, I spoke about librarianship, DIY culture and alternative structures and practices that the profession could utilise. It was here that Martin O'Conner asked whether I'd like to write a blog post for Libfocus, so I can only offer both him and you a sincere apology in dragging my heels in getting around to this!

In some defence, immediately following #ASL16 back in February, I had the small task of moving my life over to London to undertake a new role at St Mary's University, Twickenham as the Research Support Librarian. Anything for an easy life...

For all the stresses this has entailed, this move has opened up certain possibilities for me in terms of my professional practice due to the sheer scale of the city and the opportunities it can offer. Just as importantly to me, it really opens up the liminal spaces between our profession and the ethical aspects of our politics in a much more overt way.

By being in greater proximity to my peers in the RLC_SE branch of the Radical Librarians Collective (RLC), I have far greater access to a range of colleagues engaged in activism within the context of libraries, information, and society. When I was based in the highfalutin tourist-trap-cum-life-trap of Bath, we previously connected primarily through digital means - a lifeline for me in many ways! But access to social meetings and direct action away from the monitor offer qualities that I often fall foul of omitting in the ubiquity of digital information sharing.

Of course, there's no right way of doing things, and different things work for different people at different points and for different reasons. This idea of difference in relation to our profession is something I'd like to take the time in this blog post to discuss for a little bit. The idea of difference actually picks up from a theme I raised during at #ASL16 insofar as that across our professions, "there is a plurality of resistance, each of them a special case" (Foucault, 1978).

Political difference
I consider myself to work within the ideas and practices of radical politics. In spite of how popular discourse frames radicalism, it important to be aware that it "is not a synonym for extreme or extremist, much as the media would have us believe it is, through ignorance or design" (Gelderloos, 2007). Rather, I use it to refer to a politics of "critique, action, or [a] person that goes to the roots of a particular problem rather than focusing on the superficial solutions placed on the table by the prejudices and powers of the day" (Gelderloos, 2007). This is significant because it is not predicated by an ideology. That is to say, the definition of radical politics that I largely work within and espouse does not claim to have the solution(s) to all contemporaneous problems.

However, this is is not to say I espouse abstract politics, either. On the contrary. However, I believe it does place an emphasis on the construction of solutions. As Héme (1991) notes, "[a]nyone who asserts there is a deterministic relationship between [their] fantasy and the future of humanity is a charlatan [...] there will be an inhibiting effect on anyone who, instead of looking for causal relationships between phenomena, bases his or her critique of the world on relationships of analogy or correspondence without perceiving the difference between correlation and causality."

For me, this construction of alternatives can be built through mutual engagement and cooperation with peers. This undoubtedly brings challenges beyond the barrier of embedded practices: biases, privilege, power, tone, focus, clashes of priority, availability of resources... these are just the daily grind for any attempts to build solutions collectively. However, they yield something of greater significance than the mere sum of their parts.

It is perhaps also worth noting that the building of a functioning community is not a utopia. It is not an endgame. It is an alternative structure to that which we experience elsewhere in our lives. Take our workplaces, for example.

The fruits of workplace hierarchies
I've worked in libraries in higher education for just short of ten years. I've worked as a shelver, as an "information assistant", a subject team assistant, a subject librarian, and now in research support.

The hierarchies in place could not be more stark than in the academe. Of course there is variance across different institutions, but the rigid structures are pervasive. And these structures in turn set a precedent for how our library services engage with our readers, patrons, or users. They enforce behaviours and condition us. This is a form of institutional interpellation that I can only see as a violence.

I use this term violence not with the intention of hyperbole, but because it conditions us as subjects to the institutional power which lacks the kinds of dynamic flows that could exist, even in a deeply hierarchical organisation as a higher education institution.

I don't think it would be too shocking to suggest that the discourse and practice of our profession within the academe might be thought of as somewhat stodgy in certain aspects. At least in part, a professional and social conservatism seems to have been honed through what others are perceive as  largely passive professional identity when it comes to our political engagement. As Buschman, Rosenzewieg, and Harger (1994) have noted, “[w]e somehow seem to be a profession startled to find that we really do have deeply held convictions, that our words really do have meaning and consequence, and that when we act on our professional values someone actually notices”.

All too often, we provide services for and on behalf of faculty; our resource selection is increasingly automated through the deployment of reading list technologies and patron-driven acquisition services; we fail to substantively engage with the creation of emergent electronic publishing formats and access rights control; we frame our engagement in nascent global informational practices in terms of policy compliance.

But as Budd (2003) states: “[l]ibraries do not simply respond passively to communities’ stated desires [...] they help to construct the desires and expectations of the communities. In other words, libraries, to an extent, contribute to the legitimacy of a cultural orthodoxy” (Budd, 2003). However, the orthodoxy we're legitimising in this context is one that positions us as an administrative function.

What this culture yields is hardly what we might hope to see as the practices of those "badass" (Snowden, 2015) librarians providing support, access to information, and skills curated in liaison with their communities.

That there is still a hegemonic professional identity with a fallacious aspiration of "neutrality" is of concern to me, particularly within the now very well embedded political reality of neoliberalism.

The Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals and ARA (Archives Records Association) Workforce Mapping report (2015) highlighted the scale of our monoculture, with starkly gendered seniority and pay divides that disproportionately privilege men in a sector where nearly 80% of the workers are women, and has lower ethnic diversity than across the UK, with over 96.7% of workers identifying as white. This can do little else than reproduce the always-already (Adorno, 2003), again refuting the alternative possibilities that are available. 

That we marginalise alternative perspectives from the patriarchal and dominant norms seems distressing for a profession that has shown political resistance in various geographical, historical and contemporary examples. However, it is our reality, and we should not shy away from this if we are truly to challenge it and offer the plurality of resistances required for social and political change.
But this is not to throw the towel in and cede to the institutional strategies that have led us to this point. We still have an opportunities to make things ourselves, and this creates spaces in which to change things, to re-frame the strategies of institutions through the tactics of the individual (de Certau, 1984).

Celebrate dissidence
To build from unitary figures to local partnerships, disparate groups and disparate, decentralised cooperatives is a huge structural challenge to the very means of organisations that are "successful" in the neoliberal climate of linear, return-on-investment dynamics, and the mere sustaining of dissent is worthy of celebration. This is something the Radical Librarians Collective has, in my view, managed to achieve over the last few years.

But equally, as a community, we need to be doing things. My esteemed friend Alison Macrina is offering an example of how this can be done with regards to making connections with people in ways that are important to them.. So too is Scott Bonner at the Ferguson Municipal Public Library. And Tom at The Forgotten Zine Library in Dublin. And those operating the Feminist Library in London. And throughout the library collectives at social centres around the world.

That all of these practitioner-led examples are from outside the of the academe is not an accident. This to me serves a lesson for us. (Please don't get me wrong, many excellent library workers do many excellent things in academic libraries in the UK and beyond, but few of these are institutionally-validated programmes aimed at interacting with communities outside of their core institutional remit).

Whilst, yes, the remit of an academic library is different, and we need to ensure that we serve our communities of users. We may not be able to build social and political change within the academe immediately. We may have to build examples outside and relate this practice, playing something of a dicey game with power that will wish to dilute the radical into the liberal mainstream. But this will most likely need to be supplemented through means that offer direct dissidence.

We may have to take risks and to push the boundaries of institutional policy. This can be done by organising through secure means with GPG emails on employers' servers, or by running Tor Browser on a portable USB over their operating systems and networks. Such tactical civil disobedience can be important in our liberation.

Yes. This brings inherent personal precarity. No, this may not be be for everyone. But this is a radical alternative to:
 "the putative morality and strategic/tactical analysis in many circles [functions] as to preclude even the acknowledgement of a feasible alternative. Would-be revolutionaries need to realize that pacifism is so vapid and counterproductive that an alternative is imperative. Only then can we weigh the different paths of struggle fairly — and, I hope, in a more pluralistic, decentralized manner as well — rather than attempting to enforce a party line or the single correct revolutionary program" (Gelderloos, 2007).

The ethical social underpinnings, whilst complicated and important to place in their relative historical and geopolitical contexts, should not fail to be reflected on and learnt from as both “[l]ibraries as institutions and librarianship as a profession [are] inherently political” (Jaeger & Sarin, 2016) Whether we are pursuing knowledge production, social cohesion, or equitable provision of resources, our professional differences can unite us, and we can share our collective symbolic power to greater social and political effect towards our disparate aims.

Adorno, T.W. (2003). Soziologische Schriften I. Gesammelte Schriften, Band 8, ed. Tiedemann R. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp
Budd, J. M. (2003). The library, praxis and symbolic power. The Library Quarterly, 73(1), 19–32
Buschman, J. E., Rosenzweig, M., & Harger, E. (1994). The clear imperative for involvement: Librarians must address social issues. American Libraries, 25(6), 575-576.
de Certau, M. (1984). The practice of everyday life. London: University of California
Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and Archives & Records Association UK Ireland. (2015). A study of the UK information workforce: Mapping the Library, Archives, Records, Information Management and Knowledge Management and related professions.
Foucault, M. (1978). The history of sexuality: vol. 1. London: Penguin
Gelderloos, P. (2007). How nonviolence protects the state.
Héme. (1991). A critique of half-assed radicalism.
Jaeger, P.T. & Sarin, L.C. (2016). All librarianship is political: educate accordingly. The political librarian, 2(1): 16-27
@Snowden. (2015/10/11). DHS fought to stop libraries from using privacy technology, but @LibraryFreedom beat them. Librarians are badass: