24 Jul 2020

From my home to yours: showing off our manuscript collections in a virtual world.

Guest Post by Sophie Evans, Royal Irish Academy Library


For many years, the Library has welcomed Readers and visitors into its beautiful hushed nineteenth-century Reading Room. Every morning, before the doors opened, staff would carefully place a manuscript in the display case. A daily task which never became mundane; it is always a joy and a privilege to handle such old precious books, sure isn’t that what most librarians dream of! Then the Covid crisis hit; the manuscripts were safely locked away and library staff were sent home, scattered across Dublin and beyond. So, as manuscripts, library and librarians are locked away, how would we show off our wonderful collections? More importantly, would people be interested in our collections during a global pandemic?


As the member of staff responsible for the Library’s social media accounts, it was up to me to invite people to visit and learn about our collections virtually. Granted, this isn’t the same as visiting and seeing the manuscript in person but it does allow us to engage with more people and provide more in-depth information. Also, in a display case, you can only see the pages which are open, online you can see however many pages you want. My plan, alone and holed up in my Dublin city apartment, was to look at a different manuscript each week in detail and present this on our Twitter and Instagram feeds. This could not be done without the Irish Script on Screen (ISOS) project, which for over 20 years have been digitising Irish manuscripts from across Europe. Almost a hundred Academy manuscripts are freely available to view on ISOS and the majority have detailed catalogue records included. This really is a wonderfully important resource for researchers and librarians. The importance of digitisation has become even more apparent in 2020 as we have been separated from our physical collections.


Along with the images and information from ISOS, I also took advantage of the Special Collections pages on our website. My colleague Dr Bernadette Cunningham has been very busy updating and writing new pages for our website, providing detailed information on many of our manuscripts and other collections. For additional information on manuscripts I used the Library’s publication ‘Treasures of the Academy’ and Tim O’Neill’s Book ‘The Irish Hand’, and various articles located via JSTOR. When posting on social media I try to make the information accessible, informative, visually interesting and fun and also to provide links to further reading and resources. Here are some examples of Twitter threads on some of our older manuscripts.


Leabhar Breac 

Book of Ui Maine 

Book of Lecan 

B ii 1 Astronomical and Medical tract 

The Lebor ha hUidre is my favourite manuscript and for this one I experimented with iMovie and dusted off my guitar! 


Engagement on our social media accounts has increased and the feedback has been encouraging. We have all had to adapt to a different way of working and living and connecting to each other. Maybe ancient manuscripts on a modern medium are a welcome distraction. I very much hope that we will be able to welcome visitors into the Reading Room soon but for now, as the Academy motto goes, we will endeavour.



Sophie Evans

Assistant Librarian

Royal Irish Academy


(Title in homage to Bruce Springsteen’s recent lockdown radio show, From My home to yours.)






Posted on Friday, July 24, 2020 | Categories:

4 Jun 2020

Supporting Integration and Diversity


Guest post by Helen O’Connor, Maynooth University Library

Staff at Maynooth University library attended a day long CDP programme on ‘Supporting Integration and Diversity’. There were three facilitators – Camilla Fitzsimons, Philomena Obasi and Veronica Akinborewa. All three are attached to the Department of Adult and Community Education at Maynooth University.

The aim of the workshop was to give an opportunity to think and talk about the impact of increased diversity across the Irish university sector. In recent years, there has been an increase in migrant students, some of whom are international students, and some who have moved to Ireland to work, or to seek asylum from another jurisdiction.   As well as an increase in migrant students, there is also greater diversity in terms of the Irish ethnicity which has contributed to a growing number of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) students on campus.

The workshop was held over two days to give all library staff an opportunity to attend.

There was 25 people in each group. Handouts were given out at the beginning of the workshop and staff were invited to introduce themselves and say something about their name. Staff were then divided into smaller groups to discuss a range of topics, using flip charts. Each group then gave a short presentation to the bigger group. I thought this was really good as it gave people time to think and discuss the different topics.

Conversation topics helped library staff to explore their own cultural identity, to consider the implications of working in intercultural settings, to understand the origins and impacts of racism and to reflect on our own beliefs and theories of interculturalism and diversity.

Evaluation forms were handed out at the end of the day and feedback was very positive.

A lot of people liked the group discussions and several found the session informative, people found the atmosphere relaxed and informal. People thought the facilitators were very clear and informative in their presentation.  

I discovered the word BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic), I had not come across this term before. The University has students and staff from many different ethnic backgrounds and we in the library encounter these staff and students on a day to day basis. I think the workshop brought home to me that we are all the same and just because we might have different colour skin or speak a different language, we should treat each other the same. 

The University and the library have a lot in place for students from many different backgrounds.  Perhaps we could expand this and hold a celebration event for all of these groups for them to showcase their different cultures.

Signage is also something that could be broadened to be more inclusive.

One of the highlights of the day was the beautiful ethnic lunch which was enjoyed by everyone.

Below is a listing of some articles on diversity and multiculturalism that I’ve been working on with colleagues.  Hope you find it useful.

ACRL (2012) Cultural Competency for Academic Libraries http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/diversity

ACRL (1990) Academic libraries and the culturally diverse student population


ALA (2013)   Ethnic and Racial Diversity in Academic and Research Libraries: Past, Present, and Future


CILIP (2017) Equalities and Diversity Action Plan


Groarke, Sarah (2019) Attracting and Retaining International Higher Education Students: Ireland. Dublin: ESRI.

C&RL (2007) Achieving racial and ethnic diversity among academic and research librarians


Fallon, Helen and Connaughton, Laura and Cosgrave, Edel (2020) Promoting a Culture of Equality: Diversity Training at Maynooth University Library. An Leabharlann. The Irish Library, 29 (1) Pages 20 - 27


Higher Education Authority (2018) Key Facts and Figures: Higher Education 2017/2018.

Higher Education Authority Key Facts and Figures: Higher Education 2016/2017.


Page 21

Higher Education Authority5 Key Facts and Figures: Higher Education 2015/2016.


Page 21

IFLA/UNESCO (2018) Multicultural Library Manifesto


HE4u2 (2017) Creating Intercultural Learning Environments: Guidelines for Staff within Higher Education Institutions.


HEA (2017)  National Plan for Equity of Access to Higher Education 2015-2019


Library Trends 2019.   Low Morale in Ethnic and Racial Minority Academic Librarians: An Experiential Study Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, Ione T. Damasco


Mannion, David & Thornley, Clare (2011) The Experience of Chinese students in Irish third level libraries: an investigation of current challenges and an analysis of possible solutions.  An Leabharlann: The Irish Library,  20 (2), pp. 19-27. https://researchrepository.ucd.ie/handle/10197/3607  

Mellon, Bernadette, Cullen, Marie, Fallon, Helen (2013)  Implementing an online training course in disability awareness for frontline staff - Experiences at National University of Ireland Maynooth. Sconul Focus, 58. pp. 27-31.


Mestre. L. (2010) Librarians Working with Diverse Populations: What impact does Cultural Competency Training have on their efforts? Journal of Academic Librarianship, 36(6), pp. 479-488

O’Connor, M. & Kerrigan, C. (2013) Cultural Revolution: Reflections on an exchange. An Leabharlann: The Irish Library, 22(2), pp. 11-19.

Parkinson, Orla (1994) Do Irish public libraries have a role in engaging the host society in integrating immigrants. An Leabharlann: The Irish Library, Vol. 20(1), pp. 14-18
http://www.libraryassociation.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/20_1_AnLeabharlann.pdf  Stokes, D. & Molly, J. (2019) The Innocents Abroad: The Experience of two Irish librarians teaching information literacy in China. An Leabharlann: The Irish Library, Vol. 28(2), pp. 4-10.  https://www.libraryassociation.ie/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/An_Leabharlann_28-2_Full.pdf
UUK, NUS (2019) Black, Asian and Minority ethnic student attainment at UK Universities: Closing the gap
https://universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/Documents/2019/bame-student-attainment-uk-universities-closing-the-gap.pdf  (accessed 9 March 2020)

14 May 2020

Migrating into the Freelance Consultancy Library Space

Guest post by Marie Jennings 

I was always drawn to the idea of becoming a freelance librarian. In my past career I was involved in a lot of projects including: 
  • Cataloguing several special collections at various heritage houses throughout Ireland with the OPW. 
  • I was part of a retrospective cataloguing project with the Houses of the Oireachtas. 
  • Cataloguing a pre-1800 collection for DCU of several thousand books. 
  • Assessing the cataloguing needs of the Franciscan book collection in UCD Special Collections. 
  • A large-scale project comprising a Pre-1900, Irish Studies and a Moral Theology collection for the Redemptorists. 

Having spent nearly twenty years working as a professional librarian on a diverse range of projects, I decided to fulfil a key personal and professional goal to work as a freelance librarian where the skills and experience that I have acquired to date could be utilised. 

Since becoming a freelancer in June of last year, I have already been involved in a lot of interesting projects including compiling a User Experience report and a languages toolkit for librarians in Dublin City Libraries, creating a reference library for the Redemptorists in Dundalk, cataloguing a special collection for the Dominican Order and developing a secondary school library for Manor House School in Dublin. 

Working freelance is a very fulfilling experience and has exposed me to very interesting projects. There are other enjoyable aspects to becoming a freelance librarian such as website design, liaising with your customers and the promotion of your services. 

Even though I have worked in the library and information sector for twenty years, I am passionate about CPD, which is particularly helpful as a freelance librarian as my skills are always relevant and up to date. I have recently completed a “Metadata Design and Implementation” course with the Library Juice Academy. Another course I’ve recently undertaken is “The History of the Book” with Trinity College Dublin. I found this course beneficial as I learned about new tools that are useful for cataloguers of rare books. I also undertook the “Rare Book Curatorship” course many years ago in UCD as part of my postgraduate studies and I have been fortunate to have catalogued large collections of antiquarian books. 

I was planning to have this article published in March to officially launch my website and services and then Covid-19 struck, and I had put these plans on hold. At the time of writing we are still in the midst of the pandemic and increasing numbers are working from home. I myself am currently working from home to finish a cataloguing project for the Dominicans. I decided to publish this article anyway as I offer remote services in addition to onsite services, so it is business as usual for me as a freelance librarian. 

I am delighted to join the freelance librarian space. This is a growing space within the library and information management community due to the constantly expanding skillset of the modern librarian. Please go to https://freelancelibrarianmj.com/ to see my newly launched website called The Freelance Librarian. If you have queries, please do get in touch. My email is mariejenningslibrarian@gmail.com. 

In the meantime I hope that you all keep safe and well.
Posted on Thursday, May 14, 2020 | Categories:

7 May 2020

From Bavaria to Munster – our internships at Boole Library, UCC

Guest post by Franziska Frank and Magadelena Rausch of the University of Applied Sciences of the Civil Service in Munich 

Courtesy of the authors
In October 2019 and March 2020 respectively, two students from the University of Applied Sciences of the Civil Service of Bavaria in Germany found their way to Ireland, to the Boole Library of the UCC, to be exact. And this is our story:

We study library and information management in Munich, this dual education is divided into theoretical terms spent at the University of Applied Sciences of the Civil Service in Munich and practical terms spent working at university libraries across Bavaria, Germany – Bayreuth and Bamberg for us respectively. During those practical terms it is also common to do additional internships, as we both did at Boole Library. Though one of us planned for four weeks initially, we both ended up doing an internship for three weeks in Cork, as the outbreak of COVID-19 unfortunately shortened one internship by one week.  
With the University of Applied Sciences of the Civil Service in Bavaria it has become quite a tradition for one student from each course to travel to Cork for an internship. Because our predecessors always gushed about their time in Ireland, we applied as well and were very happy when Boole Library accepted not only one student, but two this term!
Whether we arrived in October or March the welcome was warm and friendly. We were immediately welcomed and involved in the daily life of the library. Even though for us Germans with our many honorifics and extremely formal ways it took a little to fall into rhythm with the easy friendliness of our Irish colleague, we integrated easily thanks to their warm welcome. 
Courtesy of the authors

We spend our first weeks in the heart of the library one might say, in the archives and special collections and were amazed about the openness of both the staff and the department as German libraries tend to be quite restrictive with their older collections. As for me, Magdalena, I was very happy to work in special collections and archives especially because I felt like I could really be of help by categorizing and describing an inheritance of a German professor. I, Franziska, gained among other things an insight into the usage of special collections by working on statistics and learned about Irish history and feminism as I described archival collections. We’ve also been invited to join lectures not only of the library but of the whole university, so we were able to get to know and be part of the whole life of an Irish campus university.

After working in the older books department, we went on to visit the repository – the newer, digital books department as to say. But that is not all we saw, our Irish colleagues were so kind to take time to show us the entire library and campus as well, and introduced not only the Skill Centre and the Disability Support but also the recording studio and the VR lab. We learned about the plans for the future of the library, the digital shift, but we also kept in touch with the inheritance of an university as old (1848) as the University College of Cork. 

But all work and no play make Jack a dull boy and of course we also spent our time exploring Ireland. Blarney Castle, Cobh, Kinsale and Ballycotton are just a few examples of the amazing places and beautiful scenery we enjoyed during our stay!

Courtesy of the authors

All in all we can confidently say that we loved our stay. It was very interesting comparing the library systems of Germany and Ireland and we learned a lot, not only about the Irish libraries but also about Ireland as a whole.

We would very much like to thank everyone that made our time in Cork so memorable and encourage everyone to use this chance and go see the world of libraries in other counties.

We also invite our Irish colleagues to visit us in Germany one day!

Magdalena Rausch and Franziska Frank.

24 Apr 2020

Ask the Archivist

My UCC Library colleague Emma Horgan did an Ask the Archive session for our Instagram account last week. The piece got was so engaging I thought it would be nice to capture the story in a more permanent way - hence this post... 

1- What is the difference between an Archivist and a Librarian?
Archivists primarily deal with unique unpublished material, while Librarians mainly deal with published material that exists in multiple copies.
Archivists and Librarians are both very concerned with preservation, but since Archivists often are keeping the ONLY original copy of something they are more focused on preservation. Preservation meaning long term access... both archivists and librarians are very much concerned about providing access and research assistance!
Because the material in archives is generally unique, archivists often have to spend a lot more time in processing / cataloguing material than librarians do. Librarians can rely more on shared cataloguing and standardised processing by vendors to get things ready for the shelf.
Again, because the material in archives is generally unique, archivists usually can't permit the public to browse their shelves in person, or to check out materials. This has led archivists to be more personally involved in mediating between users and materials than librarians generally are. Librarians (and this is generally speaking - not true in every situation of course) mainly try to teach users to help themselves to sources as much as possible.
Librarians tend to do a lot more instruction and outreach activities than archivists, teaching things like how to do specialised research, track citations, adhere to copyright and so on. Archivists are beginning to focus more on teaching and outreach than they used to. I personally teach undergrad and post grad classes in UCC Library Special Collections, using material from the archival collections.

One more note: many people do not realise how diverse both the librarian and archivist fields really are. There are MANY varieties of librarians who specialise in all sorts of things... there are librarians who organise outreach for public libraries: science librarians who run institutional repositories for electronic articles; rare book librarians who catalogue unique printed works; academic subject specialists who administer collection development budgets and teach research skills; and so on. Archivists likewise might be specialists in research methods, acquisitions, born digital records, exhibit curation, or arrangement/description of paper archives. So, all of my comments won't apply to every situation.

2- Why does society need Archivists?/ Why do you think the job of an archivist is an important one?
The most important aspect of an Archivist's job is that we identify what documents and information should be kept and preserved for future generations to study. Once we make the decision not archive an item, it's gone forever.  

3- What is my favourite archival collection i have worked on?
Definitely the Power's Distillery Collection i worked on in the Irish Distillers Archive. 

4- What is my dream archival collection to work on?
 I am a huge film buff, and fan of digital archiving, so my answer has to be the Walt Disney Archive.

5- Why/How did i become an Archivist?
I was persuaded by Emer Twomey, UCC Library's long standing Archivist. Her passion and enthusiasm sold me. I also love learning new things and researching- a vital aspect of an Archivist's job. 

6- Any advice for a budding archivist?
Try and get as much work experience in the field as you can. Not only does it give you an idea if this job is for you, but it also enable you to build up your contacts in the archival world. Networking is important in all fields. 

7- Are there any traits which i feel all Archivists have?
The one trait i would definitely say we all have is curiosity. 

8- What Collection do you wish more people knew about?
The Elizabeth Friedlander Collection. She was a german graphic designer, who fled Nazi Germany and was the first woman to ever design her own typeface- called "Elizabeth".

9- What's the strangest thing you've come across?
I was working on a collection in the Irish Distillers Archive. I was opening boxes for the first time since they'd been filled in the 1930s, and found a really nice pair of gentleman's horn rimmed glasses. Had been swept into the box from his desk accidentally. They're on display in the archive now as an artefact.  

10- Where's the mummy? What's the story with it?
He's stored securely in the basement of the Kane building. Very difficult to organise passport for long dead Egyptians, especially in this climate, but he's in the queue!

11- What is the most mysterious piece in your archive?
We have quite a range of things, including a death mask! But for actual mystery, it's a vellum document from Elizabeth I, containing, we think, royal orders. But the document is entirely in Latin and we haven't been able to have it translated. Could be a shopping list! 

12- Coolest item you've ever gotten to handle?
An actual bottle of whiskey from 1782.

13- How do people go about compiling an archive?
if you are interested in compiling a family archive, get in contact and i can give you specific advice. If you want to preserve an item of national/historical significance, i would advise you get in contact with your nearest Archive, or the National Archive of Ireland. 

14- What would be your dream find in an archive?
The secret to eating my bodyweight in chocolate and not gaining weight, ideally! But realistically i love finding items that change our perception of history, i discovered a long lost distillery!

15- How do you become an archivist? 🙂
To achieve your qualification you can either do the MA in Archives in UCD, or the part time MAs available from UK universities. The UCD course is one year, and intensive, but it is an internationally recognised qualification, so i can work in Canada or New Zealand if i decided to.

16- What's your fave colour?
Purple- colour of royalty 😁

17- Which do you prefer? Books or movies?
Movies, I'm a huge horror fan. Love Spanish, Korean and Scandinavian horror.

18-What is your biggest fear?
The unknown. I liken it to being in the ocean, and having no idea what could come up from the depths! 

19-What's the farthest you've ever been from home? 
Recently i went a whole 500 metres, but the furthest ever was Malta, a fascinating melting pot of cultures. Looking forward to making that Australia for my honeymoon.

20- What are you looking forward to in the coming months? 
ACTUAL HUMAN CONTACT!!! *clears throat* Seeing my colleagues and friends again.