10 Feb 2020

Announcing - CONUL Conference Bursaries

Guest post by the CONUL Conference Team

We are delighted to announce that there will be two bursaries to attend CONUL Conference 2020: a LIS Student bursary, sponsored by Cambridge University Press; and a recent LIS Graduate bursary, sponsored by Annual Reviews. The conference, with the theme ‘Imagining The Future and How We Get There’ provides an exciting opportunity for those beginning LIS careers to attend an internationally regarded conference, with ample provision to attend sessions, network with delegates, and learn about key issues facing research libraries.

Two bursaries in total are available, one for each eligible category of applicant:

  1. LIS students currently studying a LAI accredited course
  2. LIS graduates who have graduated from a LAI accredited course within the last 5 years
LAI Accredited courses can be found here and here.

CONUL 2020 bursaries will cover:
  • Full CONUL 2020 registration - entrance to conference sessions and sponsor exhibitions, lunch and refreshments, drinks reception and conference dinner on Wednesday 27 May
  • One night’s accommodation on Wednesday 27 May, with breakfast the following morning
  • Public Transport costs from within Ireland to and from Limerick
  • Appointment of a mentor
To apply please email Michaela Hollywood (Michaela.hollywood@dcu.ie) with a letter of expression of interest (maximum 500 words) that includes:
  • An outline of why you would like to attend CONUL 2020
  • Your anticipated learning outcomes, and why you would benefit from attending
  • Confirmation of your agreement to submit a report of the event to the Libfocus library blog within 4 weeks of attending the event, which may be published on both the Libfocus and CONUL websites (mandatory)
Successful applicants will be notified via email by Monday 27 March 2020

In addition to attending conference sessions successful applicants will be required to:
  • Submit a report on the conference within 4 weeks of the event for potential publication on the Libfocus library blog and CONUL website
  • Be present at the conference venue in Limerick for the full conference programme

*Closing date for applications is 17:00 on Wednesday 24 February 2020*

18 Dec 2019

The Enduring Need for Archives

Joe Peakin is a medical librarian who has worked in a wide range of both public and private libraries, usually involved in cataloguing or acquisitions.

I was recently asked by a friend, who is a lecturer in the School of Law and Government in DCU, about the archiving of a special collection.  He was curious about the cost and time that can go into making a large, diverse collection searchable and presentable to interested parties. Having not worked strictly as an archivist, but having been somewhat of a career cataloguer to this point, I asked for a bit more information on the project.  With a bit more clarity, I was able to clear up (hopefully!) a bit of the mystique behind such a task and the challenges or pitfalls that it would face.  However, what stuck with me about this conversation was the importance of the project itself and, as a result, the vital nature of archives and libraries in the current climate.

He and other academics and survivors of residential institutions have been petitioning the government to immediately withdraw the Retention of Records Bill 2019. The Bill itself sets out to seal for a period of 75 years all records currently contained in the archives of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse (the Ryan commission), and the Residential Institutions Redress Board and Review Committee. They are fighting to have transparency of information for all survivors of abuse and asking the government to pro-actively engage with survivors concerning the information held and the way that the records are treated.  

This issue is obviously a highly sensitive matter, any decision needs to take into account the wishes and feelings of survivors and those whose testimonies are involved, and hopefully this is what the government will decide to do in this matter.  What jumps out as the one inarguable tenet of the whole issue though is the significance of the records themselves and the need to ensure that the archival information is maintained and available if needed.  

Whether the government moves ahead with plans to seal the records for multiple generations or listens to the opposing groups, what does need to happen is in-depth archival work to ensure that the records themselves are not lost forever.  It would be easy to see a 75-year embargo on the records as an excuse to leave the collection unmanned and untouched but this kind ofdocumentation is the exact type of information we need to cling to as a society these days.  A growing flexibility of fact is an issue that has never been more prevalent than it is today, with some of the world’s leading figures resorting to it almost daily. However, one of the main ways that we can engage this denial of absolutes is to attempt to counter it with unquestionable documentation.  

The job of an archivist, cataloguer or librarian in general is that of the retention and presentation of information.  The information itself is what is important.  Librarians can show people how to find what they are looking for but there should be an unbiased approach to both how we catalogue and how we present it.  In a case such as this one, where there seems to be a move towards the suppression of important documentation for whatever reason, we as a community should be moving to oppose it.  Thankfully, I was hugely heartened to see that this was the case as Twenty prominent archivists and information professionals at some of Ireland's main universities have called for “the full and immediate withdrawal” of legislation seeking to seal millions of child abuse records for 75 years.” It is so encouraging to see some of the leading information professionals take on causes such as this and show that the societal need for our profession should be growing in the face of the exponential growth in information sources and the lessening impact of absolute fact.
So, to summarise and indirectly answer my friend’s question, an archival project such as this would be a huge one due to the volume, variety and sensitivity of the information. However, it is also the kind of project that the library and archive community absolutely should be ensuring is undertaken and also given the focus and gravity it is so deserving of.  

29 Nov 2019

IFLA World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) 2020 – An Exciting Opportunity to become a Volunteer

 Next August something incredible, amazing and unique will be taking place in Dublin. From August 15-21st 2020 The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) and the Library Association of Ireland will be hosting the  IFLA World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) 2020.

The IFLA World Library and Information Congress is the international flagship professional and trade event for the library and information services sector. It brings together over 4,000 participants from more than 140 countries. It sets the international agenda for the profession and offers opportunities for networking and professional development to all delegates. It is an opportunity for the host country to showcase the status of libraries and information science in their country and region as well as to have their professionals experience international librarianship and international relations in a unique way. The congress also offers an international trade exhibition of approximately 1,000 square metres with over 80 exhibitors. The combined buying power of all delegates can be estimated at more than €1 billion. This event is being hosted by the Library Association of Ireland.

Are you ready to become an international IFLA volunteer?

In order to be a success IFLA needs a team of international volunteers. Volunteers play an integral role in supporting WLIC 2020 and we look forward to welcoming you as part of our Volunteers in WLIC 2020. Volunteers are key in creating a positive and welcoming atmosphere to delegates while assisting the hosts to deliver a professionally run Congress.
A series of upskilling programs and training sessions will be offered to Volunteers and an information kit will be provided regarding specific duties and benefits
Who are we looking for?
We are looking for volunteers who have the time, dedication and enthusiasm to assist us to deliver a successful international event. If you are professional, committed, hardworking, reliable and culturally sensitive, then you are exactly what we are looking for.

What’s in for you?

The  IFLA World Library and Information Congress (WLIC) coming to Ireland is a once in a lifetime opportunity- the conference travels to different countries every year- so this is a once in lifetime opportunity.
Volunteers receive free registration for the conference (valued at €800) and they will be given time to combine volunteering with attending talks and events. They will get to meet volunteers and librarians from all over the world. Volunteers need to secure their own accommodation.

Application forms and more detailed information is available here  CLOSING DATE IS DEC 20TH 2019!

Message from Jane Burns, Institute Librarian, Athlone IT.  LAI Executive Council Member

I am the National Co-ordinator for the Volunteer Program.  In order to make this conference a success we are recruiting a team of up to 350 volunteers. These opportunities are ideally suited to students, retired information professionals and individuals who have an interest in this field.
The IFLA conference travels to different countries every year- so for many this will be a once in lifetime opportunity - volunteer and don't miss out!


Jane can be contacted via email janeaburns@gmail.com/ or through her Twitter account @JMBurns99

22 Nov 2019

Artificial Intelligence and Libraries - The 2019 Annual LIR Seminar

By DavidKane, LIR Group Chair

On December 6 we are running a special event. The 2019 LIR seminar takes place in the Curtis Auditorium in the CIT School of Music, Cork. It will feature six carefully chosen speakers that, together, will provide you with a rounded view of what artificial intelligence is and how it will impact the library world.

Why do we believe it is so crucial for you to know about artificial intelligence? We think this because artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation are part of the wave of technological development that is going to profoundly change our society, our economy, and the way we do work.

Now is the right time to hold this event, because we stand at a liminal moment where this technology is becoming pervasive but not yet noticeable. Soon, we will cross that threshold at it will at once become an undeniable part of our daily lives.

What the impact of AI will be like is hard to predict. The best thing we can do is learn about it in a way that relates to what we do in our jobs, in libraries and education.  We have invited Dr Andrew Cox, director of research at the University of Sheffield's Information School.  As the lead of the Digital Societies Research Group at Sheffield, he is interested in what artificial intelligence means for libraries and the broader HE context. His presentation will consider the different roles that libraries might play in applying AI and the knowledge, skills and attitudes that library staff might need to develop.  Andrew's presentation should be of interest to anyone seriously interested in library strategy and development.

Appositely, we follow Andrew's talk with a look at a real example of AI, in Cork Institute of Technology.  Adrian Vaughn and Michael Costello share their experience of deploying an AI-powered virtual library assistant based on IBM's 'Watson' AI.  Michael and Adrian will explain their reasoning for implementing this AI, how it is performing, and the impact on library staff.

Michael Upshall continues the theme of the morning session by comparing AI-powered discovery, which can read and 'understand' scholarly content, with traditional approaches, such as building large-scale classification systems. Michael's presentation will also explore how this kind of technology can enhance the role of the information professional.

We often hear of FAIR data these days, in connection with open science and reusability. The primary way in which FAIR data will be used, and reused, in the future, is through machine learning and AI, which can help researchers make sense of large datasets in a way that the human brain alone could never manage. After lunch, Dr Bernard Butler will cover this topic and will explain where AI and machine learning came from and where they are going. It also outlines some ways in which the world of research, and of knowledge more generally, is undergoing a fundamental change in response to advances in AI and Machine Learning.

Dr Tony Russel-Rose will talk cover A key AI technology, natural language processing (NLP), whose objective is to ‘read’ text and to extract meaning and concepts from it.  Historically, this has been an impossible challenge for computers, due to the ambiguous nature of human language.  AI-powered NLP is a fast-growing field that is defeating these challenges almost as fast as they appear.

The day finishes with Brenda O’Neill presenting a human-centred AI systems architecture that centres around the librarian as curator, valorising their tacit knowledge, augmenting, rather than replacing, the librarian.

This approach is consonant with the philosophy of Mike Cooley, an Irish engineer, and trades union leader, best known for his work on the social effects of technology and human-centred systems. Cooley’s books, papers, correspondence, and other ephemera were donated to the Waterford Institute of Technology Libraries by his family, in 2017.

So far, artificial intelligence has only made a small impact on the library sector, with some niche applications that are now only beginning to take the public stage.

Information and library professionals need to grasp this crucial topic and develop an informed opinion, so they can make the best use of AI and influence its evolution.

Register for the LIR seminar on the 6th of December, and we hope to see you there, in Cork.

Register at: https://lirgroup.heanet.ie/

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!