5 Nov 2019

Casted Librarians: Library Education in Bavaria, Germany

Guest post by Magdalena Rausch, academic librarian in training, Hochschule für den öffentlichen Dienst in Bayern, Munich, Germany, training at University Library of Bayreuth.

Courtesy of Author
(Magdalena recently undertook a three week internship at UCC Libary. She kindly presented to library staff on LIS education in Bavaria, Germany. Since it was such a fascinating eye opener of a talk I asked would she write up a short piece for Libfocus. She kindly did... now over to Magdalena...)

The library education programme of Bavaria is one of a kind – it is a dual system of education and integrated in the civil service system of the state. First of all, there are three levels of librarianship: level 2 (called “FAMI”), level 3 (called “QE3”) which requires you to have graduated from secondary school, level 4 (called “QE4”) which requires you to at least have a master`s degree in a subject of your choice. FAMIs can either train to work in public or academic libraries, as both areas are strictly separated, QE3 is studying to become trained academic librarians and QE4 will become subject librarians.

There are a series of steps you`ll be required to take to start your course of study in level 3 – I like to compare it to a casting: there are a number of jobs available in the state funded libraries of Bavaria, so the state will look for exactly as many people as are needed to fill all vacancies, therefore the number of candidates has to be reduced a couple of times, so you will need to pass a number of tests to advance to the next round of casting and finally be able to study library science.
Courtesy of Author
First, all candidates without A-Levels will not even be able to apply. Secondly, all candidate with A-Levels and German citizenship will need to take the civil servants test – a standardized exam everybody who wants to work for the state of Bavaria will have to take, future policemen and future librarians alike. Pass the test and you will be ranked according to your score and your A-Level grades. In the third round, the best candidates of each department will be invited to a structured interview of two hours where their social competence is put to test. Pass the interview, be ranked high enough and you will be able to study library science at the university of applied science for the Bavarian civil service in Munich.

Of course that seems like a lot of requirements but as soon as you’ve passed those tests and begin your course of study you will be a civil servant of Bavaria and will be paid accordingly even while you`re still studying (this will also result in you having to stay in Bavaria for five years, if you don’t want to have to pay back your debts).

Now this course of study will take you 3 years, 1 of which is spend working at your training library (which you unfortunately might not get to choose) – either one of the University Libraries of Bavaria or the Bavarian State Library – you will be able to learn the theoretical basics of librarianship, make experiences abroad during internships and finally graduate as a trained academic librarian!

Courtesy of Author
More good news: you also will most certainly get a job as an academic librarian because they have only casted as many people as they need to fill the vacancies!

17 Oct 2019

Towards open science - Stockholm University Library (Erasmus Exchange, 23-27 September 2019)

A good few weeks ago I attended and contributed to the Erasmus staff week for librarians at Stockholm University. The full programme is available {here}. See also speaker profiles {here}.

In short, the experience was most rewarding from a professional development but also a personal perspective. I met a bunch of really interesting and like-minded librarians from all over Europe. Many thanks to SU Library for organising and hosting.

Instead of critically expanding on delegates' professional contexts, experiences and  insights around scholarly communications, I thought it would be more productive to let their presentations speak for themselves. Below is an overview of the week's programme with contextual links to (all) presentations embedded in their respective titles.

Separately, I pushed out the below follow-up questions to my colleagues.
  1. What is your professional opinion about Plan S?
  2. Is your institutional repository Plan-S ready?
  3. Can you describe your research-assessment regime at your institution (at researcher and institutional level)?
  4. Do you provide incentives to academics within your institution for publishing research via the open access route (gold/diamond/green etc.)? If so, what are they?
Responses can be viewed {here} - many thanks to everyone who kindly responded.

Towards open science...

Monday 23rd September
  1. {Lecture} Open Science: facts, opportunities and challenges (Wilhelm Widmark, Library Director)
Tuesday 24th September
  1. Vienna Technological University, Austria
  2. University of Cologne, Germany
  3. Friedrich-Alexander University, Erlangen-Nuernberg, Germany
  4. Eotvos Lorand University, Budapest, Hungary
  5. Kozminski University, Warszaw, Poland
  6. La Sapienza University, Rome, Italy
  7. University of Zagreb, Croatia
  8. Kauna University of Technology, Lituhania
  9. Mimar Sinam Faculty of Fine Arts, Istanbul, Turkey
Workshop 1: Research Data Management services at Stockholm University
Workshop 2: Workflows for OA agreements and APC management at SU University Press (see also notes)

Wednesday 25th September
  1. {Lecture} National Coordination of Licence Negotiations - Advancing the transition to Open Access - A view from Sweden (Kunglia Biblioteket)
Thursday 26th September
  1.  Pablo de Olivade University, Sevilla, Spain
  2. University of Navarra, Spain
  3. Polytechnic Institute of Leiria, Portugal
  4. ENSSIB, the French National School of Library and Information Sciences, France
  5. University of Akureyri, Iceland
  6. Rejkjavik University, Iceland
  7. Dublin City University, Ireland (see also Bibs & Refs)
Workshop 1: Stockholm University Press: Starting up a university press
(see also SUP's BPC quote form); (see also Marketing Guidelines for Authors and Editors)
Workshop 2: The consequences of cancelling the agreement with Elsevier

Friday, 27th September
  1. {Lecture} Open Science: a Researcher's perspective

Wilhelm Widmark / Överbibliotekarie

9 Oct 2019

Journals and the quest for a sustainable delivery .

Guest post by Paul Newman. Paul works as a library assistant with TU Dublin Library Service - City Campus. He has travelled extensively and lived to tell the tales. He finds the plastic / environmental situation rather concerning...

In this blog post, I will look at issues of plastic used in the delivery of Academic journals to the library, from the supply side chain to the manufacture of plastic as well as the environmental consequences.  I will also investigate paper, as an alternative to plastic, from a manufacturing and environmental point of view.  Finally I will see if th ere are any solutions to the problem.

Every day in the library, there is a new delivery of journals from various publishers and distributors.

These are often shipped labelled and in a plastic bag/sleeve.  We cut open the plastic and begin processing the journals.  However, the plastic in question is not being recycled and instead is going to landfill/incineration.  As this is just one branch of the TUDublin library system, the total amount arriving in all the libraries is much greater than the example shown in the photo.  In an attempt to rectify the issue and perhaps have paper used instead for shipping purposes, I contacted some of the publishers of the journals and some of the distributors too.

(Fig 1) TU Dublin Aungier Street - one week's plastic from journals (pic: Eaodaoin Ryan)

Both parties expressed sympathy for our plight and offered assistance.  However, both are effectively trapped in the system.  The publishers send the journals/newspapers to large distribution companies who sort and package it.   One publisher who was concerned about the environmental impacts of the plastic was told by the distributor that the plastic used was recyclable.  However, the publishers own city council’s recycling website stated that they don’t accept soft plastic for the recycling bin and that the nearest recycling nearest recycling centre was nearly a kilometre away.  A distribution centre who printed information that the plastic could be recycled on the address sheet was contacted and informed that neither their local recycling collection nor their local recycling centre accepted low density polyethylene (LDPE) plastic for recycling.  Here in Ireland, as it is not possible to recycle this type of plastic, we have to bin it.  One of the direct mail distributors had looked into using potato starch wrapping for the journals but as it was three times the cost of plastic, they kept with plastic.  A journal publisher offered to post them to us outside the normal distribution system, in a paper envelope, but said it would cost £4 minimum per issue to do this.

And that is part of the problem.  Everyone is trapped in the system, chained by the supply chain logistics. The distributors achieve large discounts from the postal/courier service which is why the comparative cost of the publishers mailing it to us in an envelope instead is much higher.  The distributers, competing to offer the best pricing, source the most economic, in the short term, mailing covers.  The manufacturers/wholesalers of LDPE material present their product in the most environmentally friendly way.  For instance, the Weifang Huasheng Plastics Products Company, on their Alibaba page, announce that they are “committed to developing environmentally friendly plastic bags.”  And this is the way plastic is being marketed now, as it has to overcome all the bad press recently.  Now there are biodegradable plastic products.  However, there are a lot of claims and counter claims about how much and how well this type of plastic degrades.  Is it a solution or just a case of putting lipstick on a pig?

As the plastic industry is putting forward an image of itself as environmentally friendly and  our suppliers and their distributors are using this to feel that these products are solutions not problems, we will look at how plastic is created.  Plastic can be transparent, have a nice feel and be hygienic but looks can be deceiving.  While it might seem with all the environmental concerns that plastic may be a thing of the past, in the US, for instance, there is $164 billion being invested in new plastic production facilities[1]Much of the plastic is sourced from fracked shale gas.  As this increase in supply needs to be sold, the US now ships gas to Europe where, for instance in Scotland, there has been a huge increase in plastic production. However, all this fracking is causing environmental and social problems. In, her article, Drilling and Consent, [2] Ellie Bastian notes how in the US, 650,000 school children live within a mile of a fracked well, while the industry itself and a republican majority senate committee in Colorado voted to defeat a motion to widen the required distance.  She writes how problems from fracking wastewater and evaporation pits kill half a million birds a year while also contaminating the land and nearby streams.  This wastewater is also a chemical soup containing heavy metals and radioactive material amongst other chemicals.

(Fig 2) Oklahoma Earthquakes 2018 - Sept 2019
(Fig 3) Oklahoma Earthquakes 1980s

In his article “Oklahoma earthquakes and the price of oil” [3] Travis Roach writes that earthquake activity in Oklahoma is 300 times the historical average and is mainly the result of fracking wastewater injection.  The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland [4] did a report on the effect of earthquakes on house prices in Oklahoma and found that there were increased insurance costs due to homeowners having to cover for earthquakes which were not needed before and that in the worst affected areas there were house price falls of between 3.4% and 9.8%.  In an article on Psychosocial Impact of Fracking [5], Hirch et al note that fracking usually happens in poorer areas, thus worsening the quality of life for those who have a lower quality of life index anyway.  They describe the effects of ‘negative externality”, meaning that those living in fracking areas are paying an additional cost for the activities of others, costs which impact their social life, the community, tourism, conservation and agriculture.  They cite a couple of studies which showed a “collective trauma” and “widespread social stress” as a result of fracking.

Meanwhile, the oil industry news site, oilprice.com, reports that the benefits outweigh the negatives: that gas is clean, with little groundwater contamination and environmental consequences and concludes that shale gas is needed for energy security, economic prosperity and a cleaner environment.  The author wonders why people are not demanding that cars be banned considering the slaughter on the roads instead of protesting about fracking.

The industry is now promoting itself as clean and environmentally caring.  Plastic is recyclable and now there is an increasing amount of biodegradable plastic coming onto the market.  This is quite a controversial issue as there is still a lot of debate about whether the products are actually biodegradable. The Oxo-Biodegradable Plastics Association [6] acknowledges the existing problems with plastic, such as the 150,000 tons dumped in European seas each year which decompose into microplastics, but claim that the solution is to redesign plastic itself.  This is normal LDPE, which has chemical additives that allow it to be broken down by micro-organisms combined with oxygen.  They will not breakdown, for instance, while buried in a landfill as they need oxygen and the right type of micro-organism or fungus to decompose.  While the plastic industry extolls the virtues of oxy-biodegradable plastic, Recycling Magazine [7] reports that Spain, France and Italy have already banned oxo-degradable plastics.  There is a lot of lobbying going on from the industry who have heavily criticised the EU over the proposed ban as part of the EU single use directive and lobbying by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.  We do have a publisher who sends us journals with a message on the address slip informing us that the plastic used is biodegradable. Technically it is, but we are unable to place it in a suitable situation where this will occur.

We did suggest to some of our suppliers that a paper envelope might be a better alternative to plastic, and there was a commitment from one publisher on that, but at quite an additional cost.  Then there is the environmental cost of paper.  Is it as clean as it looks?  It appears not.   In his article The Environmental Sustainability of Paper [8], Smith outlines some of the problems such as the heavy use of chemicals including “chlorine, mercury, absorbable organic halogens, nitrates, ammonia, phosphorus, and caustic soda”, the pesticides used on forests, the wastewater issue, that it takes 17 watts to produce 1 piece of paper. The American Chemical Association in a paper titled Plastics: An Energy-Efficient Choice [9] claimed that in 1990 alone the use of plastics versus alternatives resulted in enough energy savings to provide power for 100,000 homes for 35 years.  However, paper is actually bio-degradable, and is made from renewable resources something the petro-chemical industry cannot say.

So, a journey that started off as a suggestion to use a more sustainable option for the supply of journals turned into an investigation into fracking, earthquakes, oxy-biodegradable plastics, the paper industry and the logistics of journal distribution.  Though the distributors claim to be eco-friendly, they are foregoing other, more environmentally friendly, materials because plastic is cheaper, we have seen that there is are hidden costs.  There is the cost of pollution caused by fracking, the reduced value of a family home in Oklahoma, the social cost paid by low income families, the collective traumas affecting communities, earthquakes, environmental problems.  Paper too has problems but seems to be the lesser of two evils. Could going completely digital be the solution. However there are the associated problems of server farms gobbling up electricity…….

It would ease the problem if our refuse collection service accepted LDPE plastic for recycling but at the moment it is not recycled.  The Irish Independent [10] reported that the government wanted to ban non-recyclable plastic by 2030.  Government targets for 2030 include “ensuring that all plastic packaging is reusable or recyclable.”   Can we presume that this means that there will be recycling facilities for LDPE?  Should we be moving away from the petro-chemical industry and forgetting about plastic products regardless of whether it is recyclable or not?  Why should we need to wait until 2030?

While a small library on its own might not be able to have much leverage to achieve this type of change, as we have seen in the case of TUDublin City Campus Aungier Street, perhaps on a higher level, on a consortium level of some sort, it might be possible to pressurize suppliers now.  An additional factor might be to use the greater economies of scale to bring down the additional cost of non-plastic wrapping.

(Fig 4) TU Dublin Compostable packaging screenshot
We can see that TUDublin used compostable wrap, with recycling instructions, for their student welcome pack.  It can be done and, after all, the suppliers and distributors of journals will have to change anyway.  So why not start now?

  1. Centre for Environmental Law: How Fracked Gas, Cheap Oil, And Unburnable Coal are Driving the Plastics Boom.
  2.  Minnesota Law Review (2017) Drilling and Community Consent: How Oil andGas Boards Can Address the Public Health ThreatsPosed by Fracking / Ellie Bastian
  3. Energy Policy(2018) Oklahoma earthquakes and the price of oil/ Travis Roac
  4. Ron Cheung, Daniel Wetherell, and Stephan Whitaker (2016)  Earthquakes and House Prices:Evidence from Oklahoma  [Federal Reserve Bank of Cleaveland Working Paper 16-31]
  5. International Journal of Mental Health Addiction (2018) Psychosocial Impact of Fracking: a Review of the Literature on the Mental Health Consequences of Hydraulic Fracturing / Jameson K. Hirsch & K. Bryant Smalley & Emily M. Selby-Nelson3 & Jane M. Hamel-Lambert  & Michael R. Rosmann5 & Tammy A. Barnes6 & Daniel Abrahamson6 & Scott S. Meit & Iva GreyWolf &Sarah Beckmann9 & Teresa LaFromboise
  6. Oxo-Biodegradable Plastics Association (2019) Comments on the Ellen MacArthur Foundation 
  7. Recycling Magazine (2019:2) ECHA withdraws its intention to restrict Oxo-degradable plastic under REACH
  8.  Graduate Studies Journal of Organizational Dynamics (2011): The Environmental Sustainability of Paper / Richard Smith
  9. The American Chemical Association: Plastics: An Energy-Efficient Choice [https://plastics.americanchemistry.com/Plastics-An-Energy-Efficient-Choice/]
  10. Irish Independent 16/09/2019 Plastic straws, cups and cutlery to be banned by minister /Caroline O'Doherty.

Fig 1: Eadaoin Ryan, TUDublin, Aungier Street Library.
Fig 2 and 3 : Govt. of Oklahoma, United States.
Fig 4.  Still from video curtesy of Brian Gormley, TUDublin.

30 Sep 2019

Dabbling with the Demonic: Creating Embedded Learning Experiences in the Library

Buffy The Vampire Slayer, created by Joss Whedon, performance by Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mutant Enemy, 1997.

The Winning post in the CONUL Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Awards 2019. This post is by Emma Doran working as a library assistant at Maynooth University Library

I’m sure when many of you picture magic, demons and libraries together in the same context, the epic feats of Harry Potter or the acting exploits of Anthony Head in his longstanding role of Giles, on the TV series Buffy The Vampire Slayer springs to your mind instantaneously. I know I was certainly enchanted by the world of libraries and in particular the special collections department of libraries, mainly as a result of watching these movies and shows where magic imbued the collections and adventure lived a page away if one dared enough to open the book. But imagine if we as librarians could bring this sense of adventure and involvement with our collections to the students we interact with on a daily basis. If we could entice them to actively delve into the usually “restricted section” of our libraries and put these primary sources of information we so lovingly conserve to work. Now that would be magical!

A selection of books from the witchcraft collection laid out for students to explore during the class. Image taken by Emma Doran © Russell library

How Can We Do This?

At MU Library we are encouraged as library practitioners to think up ways of integrating and embedding our collections into the learning experiences of our users. This practice not only enables us to meet and contribute to the strategic aims of the institution, but empowers us to develop information-literate graduates and broaden the student experience with hands-on active learning for our users. Very recently I was able to experience my very own “Giles” moment, by utilizing our collection of witchcraft and demonology books when a group of second year undergraduate history students visited our library for an embedded learning experience. By incorporating our special collections early printed books into the module HY283: Witchcraft in Europe c.1450-c.1650, we were not only able to provide the students with access to primary sources they needed to investigate as part of their final assignment. But we were able to use the collection materials to engage with the students and academic staff to provide a ‘hands-on experience, and the act of leaving the classroom to visit a new space.’[1] The module, taught by Professor Marian Lyons, explores the phenomenon of witchcraft in Europe during the era of the Renaissance and the Reformations Scientific Revolution, when thousands were executed for practicing witchcraft and consorting with demons.

De la Demonomanie des Sorciers, by Jean Bodin published in Paris, 1580. Image taken by Emma Doran © Russell library

Fortalicium Fidei, by Alphonso de Espina published in Nuremberg, 1485. Image taken by Emma Doran © Russell libraryDisquisitionum
During the session students were split into two groups and my colleague Barbara Mc Cormack (Special Collections Librarian) and I were able to speak to students taking the module about the physical makeup of the items in the collection and how they came to be in possession of the library and also the historical context of the items in the collection in relation to their topic of study. Some of the materials we were able to showcase in our class were notable resources such as: The Fortalicium Fidei, known to be the first printed work to contain a description of witchcraft, The Formicarius, by Johannes Nider, the second book ever printed examining topic of witchcraft and a selection by popular authors on the topic such as Jean Bodin and Martin Antoine Del Rio. By teaching the students in this manner and allowing them access to explore the materials, we were able to provide an opportunity for the students to engage with historic primary source materials and contribute to their broader understanding of the history of witchcraft and demonology in Europe, by concentrating on a variety of sources held by the library for consultation.

Disquisitionum Magicarum Libri Sex, by Martin Antoine Del Rio published in London, 1608. Image taken by Emma Doran © Russell library

In preparation for the class, I also developed a finding aid for the students to help them in terms of navigating the collection, as the books that form the collection are housed in two separate library locations across the campus. In feedback received from the students we learned not only was the experience useful in terms of identifying and consulting sources they needed for assignment work but that engaging with materials such as the early printed books, created an exciting and dynamic learning opportunity that would not be easily forgotten and left the students excited for more.

A section of the finding aid I created for students attending the class

As library professionals we are becoming more progressively aware of the benefits students can reap from the incorporation of our collections into the institutional curriculum and of how doing so can facilitate the development of critical and research skills such as handling, preservation, consultation and the ability to cite accurately.[2] Bringing this class to life with my colleague, Barbara and the lecturer in charge of the module was an extremely satisfying experience both as a library professional, keen on the development of students in my care and as an avid fantasy nut who always dreamed of fighting the forces of evil one book at a time.

De Praestigiis Dæmonvm, by Johann Weyer published in Basel, 1563. Image taken by Emma Doran © Russell

[1] Hubbard, M. and Lotts, M. (2013). Special Collections, Primary Resources, and Information Literacy Pedagogy. Communications in Information Literacy, 7:1, p. 34. [online]. [accessed 15 May 2019]

[2] McCormack, Barbara. (2016). Embedding unique and distinctive collections into the curriculum: Experiences at Maynooth University Library. SCONUL Focus, (68), 77.

24 Sep 2019

The challenge of student engagement: a sloth’s perspective

Runner up post in the CONUL Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Awards 2019. This post is by Susan Murphy, working as a library assistant at TU Dublin Blanchardstown

I am a member of the student engagement team at TU Dublin Blanchardstown Campus Library. Our aim is to engage the students who make use of our library, be it in person or online. We want them to enjoy their library experience and to view the library as a safe, welcoming space where they can both further their studies and enjoy some fun interaction. What could we do, we wondered, to achieve this purpose?

Enter José.

Figure 1: José, our library mascot

José Garcia-Lopez is our exchange student from Paraguay. He may be a sloth but he is far from lazy! He came to the library in September 2018 and has been making his presence felt throughout the academic year. He hangs out in the library a lot but he also visits other parts of the campus and even makes some field trips on occasion.

Figure 2: José marking World Stationery Day

Figure 3: José visiting SciFest                                        Figure 4: José at the seaside for Mother Ocean Day

Some of José’s interaction is very simple. Sometimes he sits on the library desk holding a sign offering everyone free hugs. The students have really responded to this and we are happy that José has been able to offer them a nugget of comfort during stressful times.

Figure 5: José offering free hugs

José’s friendly face appears on a lot of our library signage so students regularly see him on the walls and pillars and have grown used to having him around.

Figure 6: José on our library bookmarks                                                                         Figure 7: José on our library posters

I maintain the Blanchardstown Campus library blog (publishing new posts every Tuesday and Thursday) and many of José’s antics tie in with the monthly blog themes. For example, April was Garden Month so José took the time to visit the Horticulture compound on campus to learn more about water conservation and building bug hotels. These types of posts are a good way to make students aware of what else is happening around campus and it’s possible to tie them back to the library too, in this case by informing students where they can find the Horticulture books in the stacks.

Figure 8: José and a water reservoir                                                         Figure 9: José and a bug hotel

José also likes to mark special dates during the year. Valentine’s Day and St Patrick’s Day were two of his favourites.

Figure 10: José celebrating Valentine's Day                         Figure 11: José celebrating St Patrick's Day

What was especially significant about these book structures in terms of student engagement was the fact that a student stopped to watch us build the shamrock and then made her own suggestion for what we could build next – a throne for José in honour of the final season of the TV show Game of Thrones! We were delighted to have such student interaction and naturally obliged. This structure really captured the hearts of the students, with many stopping to comment and take photos of it.

Figure 12: José's very own Iron Throne

Examinations are an inevitable part of the academic calendar. The exams period can be a stressful time, but José was there to provide support and advice to anxious students.

Figure 13: José says 'Hang in there!' during exam time

These days, technology is an inescapable part of people’s lives so we have made sure to connect with students online as much as in person. José’s activities are widespread on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, where he garners likes and shares/retweets each time something new is posted.

Figure 14: José is a big fan of the Harry Potter books which he read during Library Lovers Month

Figure 15: José helping to highlight the national Be Media Smart campaign (which garnered a like from RTÉ!)
We are delighted to say that José is a very recognisable figure around campus now. Even staff members know who he is and a colleague from TU Dublin City Campus coined the phrase ‘#josérocks’, which we now include in every social media post. José’s influence is only growing and we look forward to seeing how he continues to flourish next year!

Photo credits: Timmi Donald (figures 1-2, 4-12, 14-15), Anne Greene (figure 3), Susan Murphy (figure 13). All photos are property of TU Dublin Blanchardstown Campus Library.