15 Aug 2022

Integrating into the library community of Ireland: my journey to IFLA WLIC 2022

Image courtesy of Nadina Yedid

Guest post by Nadina YedidNadina works as Assistant Librarian at the Heritage Centre of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. She has a Master's Degree in Libraries and Digital Information Services from the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (Spain) and a bachelor's degree in Library Science from the Universidad de Buenos Aires (Argentina). She is the editor of the SLA-Europe newsletter and is part of the LAI-CDG and LAI-ASL groups.


Last month, like many other librarians, I had the most amazing one week professional journey as a volunteer at the IFLA WLIC 2022. But my journey had begun much before that. On the 21st of June 2021, I took a flight from Buenos Aires (Argentina) to Dublin, looking for a better future for me and my family. I knew nothing about Irish libraries, but I had been working in libraries for 13 years and I was certain I wanted to continue my professional development in this vibrant city. My case might be a bit extreme, but if you are looking to start a career in the Irish libraries you might as well stay and read some of my tips to integrate into the library community of Ireland.

Getting started

Library worlds tend to be small worlds. I found out that that statement was true both for Buenos Aires and for Dublin. I changed from being in a place where I knew everybody and everybody knew me, to not knowing anyone at all. I had so many questions to ask but, where could I start? Who could I contact? I decided to start with the people I had close to me, and believe it or not, it worked! Not long after arriving in Dublin, a former colleague of mine wrote me an email saying she knew an Argentinian librarian who was working in The Hague, had worked for several years at IFLA and had a lot of international connections. The email also said she had already contacted her, and she was waiting for my call. And here comes my first tip: TIP 1 - Tell it to everyone. If you are looking for a change in your career or you want to start a career in libraries, just tell to everybody (if you can). You never know whom the help might come from. Embrace any help you can get, even if it looks like a long shot. After all, it’s worth trying, don’t you think?

The Argentinian librarian living in The Hague didn’t know much about Irish libraries, but she handed me the tip of a cord to pull. She said her first advice for me would be to join an association. She of course didn’t know any Irish associations, but she knew a member of the European charter of the SLA (Special Libraries Association), a librarian from the British Library, whom she could put me in contact with. At the time I didn’t fully understand the implications of joining an international association, but I do now, and I would like to replicate her advice. So, this is my second tip for you: TIP 2 - Join an international association. Joining an association will allow you not only to avail of the benefits for the members, like attending webinars and other kinds of events but also to obtain a different perspective of the library field. If you can, explore the possibilities of joining a committee. The options to work within an association are vast, and they are always a very good way of acquiring experience and skills much requested for open vacancies. Plus, it will look great on your CV! 


The wheels in motion

The librarian from the British Library was, of course, delighted to have another person on board and she offered me to join one of their committees. She said she even knew some librarians here in Dublin she could introduce me to. And that was when all the magic began.

She took the time to write a personal email to each of these librarians, telling them my story and asking if they could help me in any way. Not long after, I got answers from all of them. With some of them I met for coffee, with others I had a video call, and with others I exchanged emails. But all of them offered me a great deal of help.

I want to be clear about this: I got help from four different Irish librarians, who didn’t know me at all, who at the time were introduced to me by a British librarian, who didn’t know me either, and who I had met thanks to the contact of an Argentinian librarian living abroad who, again, didn’t know me from before. All this chain of beautiful people, they helped me just because. They didn’t need to do it nor had any reason to do it, but the will of doing something nice for someone else. And with this comes my third tip: TIP 3 - Don’t be afraid to reach out. The librarians’ community is probably one of the most cooperative and solidary communities you might find. If you have a teacher, a colleague or an acquaintance to whom you would like to ask something, don’t be scared to do it. I’m sure they will be happy to help you in any way they can.


First steps

Chatting with these librarians meant a pivot point for me. They gave me tips on what kind of positions I should aim for, what kind of libraries, how to put together my CV, and they stressed two pieces of advice I followed, and now I would like to share with you too. So these are my fourth and fifth tips. 

TIP 4 - Get a Twitter account. There is a huge library twitter community, and a lot of what’s happening in the library world is reflected there. Vacancies in libraries, webinars, workshops, in-person events, and what other libraries/librarians are doing, most of those things get published on Twitter. If you don’t know who to follow, start with the easiest one: follow @LAIonline. The LAI (Library Association of Ireland) posts much interesting news for the library world. They also retweet interesting posts from other libraries/librarians. So once you are following them, you can start following the other people they are retweeting, and so on and so forth. The Twitter algorithm will take care of the rest. It will show you other users to follow based on your interests until you get your own personal connections in the library world. It’s not hard, give it a try!

TIP 5 - Join the LAI, and if you can join one of their many committees, so much the better! You don’t need to be already working in a library to join the LAI. Joining is very easy and it’s not expensive at all! They have around 16 groups you can join according to your interests and you can join as many as you want (or your time allows you). This is an excellent way to get involved with the library community. It will give you the opportunity of networking with other librarians, and to participate in the planning of many professional-related activities. At the time I joined the LAI-CDG group I wasn’t working in a library and I was sceptic about how I could help the group in any way. But I found out there are lots of different ways in which one can help, and for sure you will find your way to be helpful to the group. Taking part in a group will not take much of your time and you can have a lot of fun too! 


IFLA WLIC 2022

In February 2022 I saw in a LAI newsletter (and again, on Twitter) that a call for volunteers for the IFLA WLIC 2022 was taking place. By that time I was already working in a library but I thought that it could be the best opportunity for me to attend and collaborate with a conference I had never even dreamed about going to. The last time an IFLA conference took place in Latin America was in 2004, and I hadn’t even finished my undergraduate studies back then! But now, a conference was taking place in the city where I was living, and I didn’t want to lose my chance to be a part of it. I talked to my manager who immediately agreed to it, and on Sunday 24th of July, I joined a group of approximately 200 volunteers from around the world. That’s when I got a true sense of what IFLA WLIC was.

The congress is as thrilling as it is exhausting. The days start very early in the morning and end very late in the evening. Volunteering implies that you have to do some “work” during the conference, but you also get some free time to enjoy the sessions. There are plenty of different tasks you might be given, like collaborating with the social media coverage, taking care of the VIP delegates, help out with the registration or badge control, among many others. In my case, my assignments involved assisting in one of the rooms where the sessions were taking place, so even when “on duty” I was able to attend some talks! The duties of a Room Assistant are quite simple: check that there are clean glasses and bottles of water for the speakers before every session; play a loop-presentation on the screens in between sessions; keep the room tidy; and eventually help the speakers to start their presentation (if they need it). Not a lot to ask, right?

During my time as a Room Assistant I got to listen to very interesting talks. I learned, for instance, about programs to identify Open Access journals; I became aware of innovative ideas taking place in health and academic libraries; I got to know IREL, the Irish e-Resources Consortium, and the fascinating work they are doing; and I listen about publishing in Irish academic libraries, among many other interesting topics. Needless to say, I also got the best out of my free time at the conference, learning about digital skills, conservation, marketing for libraries, and so much more.

But for me, the most invaluable asset I got out of the IFLA WLIC was the personal connection with other librarians. The Irish caucus, the cultural evening, the breaks, the lunches, all of them opportunities to get to know new people, and to finally meet face to face with those colleagues I had been interacting with over Zoom, Twitter or email. Putting a face to that Twitter account that always has interesting information, knowing how tall a person you had only seen sitting on the other side of a camera actually is, or how the voice of someone you’d only “talked” over email sounds. Humans are social animals, and all of our institutions and organisations are constructed on the grounds of the people who are part of it. The same happens with all the activities we do, for pleasure or work (or for both, if you are lucky enough). It all comes down to the people walking the path with us.

And with this comes my sixth and seven tips. TIP 6 - Get involved. If you see an opportunity to volunteer at any event, or if you can take part in it in any way, don’t lose your chance! Get involved, participate, join the community. Many events are taking place now, some of them in person and some of them online, but all of them equally worthy. Many of these events are for free, but for many others there are ways to join even if you can’t afford the admission fee, like applying for a bursary or, as I did, volunteering to help.

I’ve left my seventh tip almost for the very end of this post, but I think all the tips I’ve given you so far are in a way related to it. And if I had to choose only one tip to give you, it would be this one: TIP 7- Network. For any person that wants to make a start in any professional field, this would be my first advice. Knowing people already working in the industry probably won’t get you a position, but it will help you understand how the industry works. They can give you advice, they can help you understand what a position involves, and they can even shout out when they see a vacancy that might be good for you. I’m sure you already know many people you can talk to, but the biggest the circle, the better.

Moving forward

Last but not least, I wouldn’t like to finish this post without mentioning two extra tips for the time you are already enjoying your beloved library position. Here they are: 

TIP 8 - Be grateful. Getting your longed-for position is probably a combination of different factors. You were probably born in a home where you were supported to study, you had choices, you put lots of effort and perhaps, there was a bit of luck involved as well. Be grateful for that. And above all, if along the way you met people who helped you reach the place you wanted to be, thank them. You might not be able to repay them, but let them know that their actions had a positive impact on your life. So if you allow me, I would like to follow my own advice, and take this opportunity to thank the four Irish librarians who first introduced me to the Library world in Ireland: Marie O’Neill, Fiona Lacey, Ann O’Sullivan and Lara Musto; to Martin O’Connor and Helen Fallon for their support and inspiration to write this blog post; and very especially to the person who believed in me and offer me my first Assistant Librarian position in Ireland, Harriet Wheelock. To all of you, THANK YOU!

TIP 9 - Keep the chain. If someone helped you along the way, as I’m sure someone has, keep the chain of kindness. Help someone else to achieve their goals, as you have achieved yours. And again, as I like to follow my own advice, I’m writing this blog post hoping that someone might find it useful to start their own journey to integrate into the library community of Ireland. And if I can, from my humble place, help you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me. Look me up on Twitter @nadinayedid, or send me an email to nadyed@gmail.com.

Thank you for reading!

9 Aug 2022

CONUL Conference 2022: three short reports...

Below we have three short reports from the recent CONUL Conference held in Limerick. These reports are written by the CONUL Conference Bursary Winners for this year., Catherine Gallagher, Eilish McLaughlin, and Niamh O'Brien.


Photo courtesy of Catherine Gallagher

Report one is from Catherine Gallagher, Senior Library Assistant, Reader Services, TUS Midlands 

Reflections on Library Futures: My experience of CONUL 2022.


When I received the news that I had been selected as the awardee for one of the CONUL Conference’s bursaries, I was absolutely delighted! At the time I was working in the Library at Carlow College, St Patrick’s, and put simply, the bursary was the difference in being able to attend the conference or not. Little did I, nor anybody else know, the global crisis that was just around the corner that would change not only how libraries would have to rapidly transform their services to meet the needs of their stakeholders, but indeed the world at large. As the world began to shut down and ‘remote learning’ for all students became the new business of the day, it became apparent fairly soon that the conference wouldn’t happen. I would be omitting a truth if I didn’t say that for a few moments I had the small, it’s-all-about-me thought: typical this would have to happen when I win a bursary to go to CONUL….

Fast forward to 2022 and the e-mail from Nicola Smith that I still had the bursary from 2019, well there may have been a silent whipeeeee at my work desk!  Much had changed, including my role, as I had moved from Carlow College to what is now a thriving and expanding University, TUS: Midlands Midwest. 

Where to begin? This was my first library conference and I have nothing but good things to say! It was tough to decide which talks to go to and in terms of planning which talks to go to and where, I found the CONUL app very useful for organising this. Many of the talks focused on the rapid pivot libraries had to make due to COVID-19 in terms of rolling out supports and services from largely on-site to online and libraries demonstrated their ‘capacity for agility’ as Emma Goode from NUIG aptly described it. I also found interesting her comment that libraries are like the ‘wall paper of institutions’; we are often not noticed but badly missed if we weren’t around. COVID-19 certainly had the effect of demonstrating to students and all stakeholders alike, the important role libraries play in providing not only spaces for student learning, but providing students with the skills and access to quality scholarly information. We are all now only too familiar with the concept of ‘fake news’ and as Ciara McCaffrey from UL and Emma Goode from NUIG noted in their talks, it has become just as important to teach students how to deal with all information, not just scholarly information.

Open and equitable scholarship was another key theme present in many of the talks. Keynote speaker Chris Bourg from MIT highlighted this in her talk where she discussed MIT Libraries’ urgent mission statement in response to the pandemic. Top of the list on Chris’s ‘urgency principles’ was the concept of ‘Digital First’ and where digital is certainly not new, the accelerated pace at which libraries have had to provide digital resources and equip students with digital literacy skills is. Ciara McCaffrey in her talk likewise posed interesting questions around the future of print collections and the impact of eBooks on libraries.

As my passion is for Teaching & Learning, I thoroughly enjoyed Michelle Breen’s talk on digital literacy for students. I came away with some great tips that are worth sharing:

  1. Teach what students want to learn
  2. Use succinct messaging on relevant channels, e.g. Social media
  3. Tweak, refine, adjust and have another go
  4. Make academics your advocates
  5. Use multiple formats

On the topic of using multiple formats, Kathryn Briggs from ATU gave a great talk on applying the principles of UDL to information and digital literacy. The key message I took from this to apply to my own teaching role is to minimise barriers for student learning and offer them flexibility. This is essential, and it was inspiring to see how other libraries are incorporating the UDL principles into library instruction.

I could go on and on, I really could. I found Martha Bustillo’s from UCD’s talk particularly inspiring. In her discussion on her role as the Digital Learning Librarian, she provided some excellent tips on how librarians can develop successful intra-campus social interoperability and it reminded me of Emma Goode’s comment I mentioned earlier on how the library can often be like the wallpaper of institutions, often not noticed but badly missed if it wasn’t there. They were all excellent but the 3 main takeaways that resonated or me were:

  • Speak their language.
  • Timing is essential.
  • Be confident in your value.

The conference was rounded up with lively panel discussion on day 2, and I found it particularly heartening to hear Dr. Patrick Ryan from UL’s words of praise and commendation for the stalwart role academic libraries have played in not only keeping the show on the road, so to speak, during COVID-19, but indeed to reflect on and transform library services and supports to meet the needs of our ever diversifying and expanding student population. I was reminded of one of Michelle Breen’s tips referred to earlier, and of two more of Martha Bustillo takeaways: make academics your advocates, secure buy in, and know your audience. If we are to take Dr. Patrick’s sentiments as a guide, we are clearly on the right track. 

So if in doubt, apply for the bursary!! Like me, you may not think you’ll get it, but you might, and if you do you are in for a fantastic experience! Lots to learn and lots of people to meet!


Report two is from Eilish McLaughlin

My name is Eilish McLaughlin and when I won the student bursary in 2020, I worked as a cataloguing library assistant at Queens University Belfast and acted as the students and new professionals officer for CILIP Ireland. I have also previously worked as a graduate trainee in the library at the University of Bradford and at Shrewsbury International school’s library in Bangkok. I have just recently completed my Master's Degree in Library and Information Management with the University of Ulster. Since winning the bursary, much has changed (to say the least!) I’ve moved from Belfast to Portsmouth, began a new post as a Sales and Marketing Consultant for PTFS Europe, and finished my studies. 

I had seen the bursary advertised on Twitter and thought it’d be a great way to engage with other students and new professionals in attendance and gain insight into the sector and its future outlook. It was also my first real-life conference I’d be attending after two years of virtual events. While I’d learned a lot from taking part in virtual events, which proved to be something of a professional lifeline during the pandemic, I was excited to have the full 3D, in-person experience in Limerick! 

After a year of living and working out of the country, I was also excited to be back and in touch with the academic library sector in Ireland. Upon my arrival at the Limerick Strand hotel, I was delighted to run into two former Queens University colleagues who were presenting a lightning talk that morning on creating video training materials for staff. This followed an excellent Keynote by Chris Bourg, Director of Libraries at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who, despite having begun their talk with a disclaimer about being a bit rusty on presenting, delivered a compelling talk on MIT libraries and their concept of the future of libraries—which is indeed now!

Much of the discussion focused on how library and information professionals navigated the physical limitations brought about by the pandemic and how this operational context could be balanced alongside the need to provide in-person support for students and colleagues. Speakers presented much scope for innovation in the areas of blended learning, hybrid working, and flexible library spaces to name but a few key topics. I was particularly interested in Day 2’s keynote from Melissa Highton, Assistant Principal for Online Learning and Director of Learning, Teaching, and Web Services at the University of Edinburgh. I studied for my undergraduate degree at the University of Edinburgh and also completed my master's degree via online learning so I enjoyed hearing Melissa talk about the University’s continued success with online modes of learning and her advice for supporting those studying and working in this way. 

PTFS Europe, the company I currently work for, is dedicated to providing Open Source solutions for libraries. Since I began working for PTFS Europe last year, I have become extremely invested in the Open Source movement and its analogues; Open Science, Access, Education, etc. One of the aspects that I most enjoyed about CONUL was the positive conversation around these Open Movements and the changing scholarly communication landscape. I also enjoyed catching up with colleagues from Interleaf, PTFS Europe’s Irish equivalent, who had a lot of Open Source Wisdom to share! It was encouraging to see that in a programme that looked to the future of libraries, Open Source was very much part of that vision. 

I had a wonderful time and was so glad to attend. I’m very grateful to CONUL for awarding me the student bursary and would recommend that any current MLIS students apply for the chance to take part in a brilliant opportunity for professional development. 




Photo Courtesy of Niamh O'Brien


Report three is from Niamh O'Brien, ICT Support, Library Assistant, TUS Midlands

Pandemic delays, posters, and prizes: reflections on my first in-person conference  #CONUL2022

I was sitting in the UCD library with my head stuck in my laptop trying to finish my assignment at the end of the first semester of my MLIS when I received the news that I had won the student bursary for CONUL2020.

Fast forward a couple of months and I had moved back in with my parents, was studying from my childhood bedroom, stuck in lockdown and found out CONUL would not go ahead in 2020. It feels like a lifetime ago now. 

*****

I’d just received a job offer for my first library assistant job position in December 2021, when the conference organisers got back in contact with me to let me know they would honour the bursary I originally received in 2019 for CONUL2022 in Limerick.  Five months later I packed my suitcase and headed to Limerick with my conference poster and coffee in hand. 

Once I got my poster up, I headed for the free stuff. I love free stuff, and you know what online conferences don’t have? Free stuff. I started gathering souvenirs to bring back to my co-workers immediately but was quickly side tracked when I bumped into some familiar faces from Galway who showed me the ropes in the Hardiman library when I did my pre-MLIS work placement. Soon I was chatting with former colleagues and classmates that I hadn’t seen in over two years, and meeting twitter mutuals in person for the first time. 

I also had the pleasure of meeting Ellen Breen who was my conference mentor. A lovely bonus for receiving the student bursary was that I was assigned a conference mentor. It was great to have someone to touch base with throughout the conference and someone to ask for some advice before the conference. Although I had attended plenty online conferences, I had a feeling I couldn’t wear pyjama pants to CONUL so I reached out to Ellen beforehand for some dress code insights!

CONUL opened with (well the official opening but after that) a keynote from Chris Bourg from MIT who talked about how libraries have had to focus on a digital first (but not digital only) approach to providing resources, especially since the pandemic. 

After the keynote I scurried upstairs for the first session Technology and Innovation in Libraries. The first presentation in this session starred David Carlos Rinehart who went on to win an award for his ability to hold it together and stay calm despite a myriad of technical difficulties. David wrote a hilarious blogpost about that here (Link: https://www.libfocus.com/2022/06/keeping-calm-in-face-of-technological.html). At the time I assumed he was very calm but I’ve come to learn he’s a great actor! 

During lunch, I took up my position beside my poster to present the Laptop on Loan scheme at TUS Midlands, answer questions from the other delegates, and pass out the bookmarks I had made about the scheme. 

The second session of the day centred around the very important subject of library services at the heart of EDI. To close the conference-y part of day one, there was a fantastic panel focused on the future of libraries, sustainability, and the key external influences for academic libraries. Then I wandered back to my room, drank more coffee, and got myself ready for dinner. After dinner I went back to my room at a very reasonable hour and got loads of sleep so I would be refreshed for day two. Okay that’s a lie. I stayed up all night chatting with all the lovely librarians I had met during the day. 

Dr Melissa Highton kicked off day two with her keynote where she spoke about her role as digital technologist at University of Edinburgh and how they meet the challenges and demands that arose from the sudden university wide pivot to online learning.

Later that morning Molly Twomey from UCC presented on Using Social Media and Humour to Engage with Students. I found out later that Molly is a poet, so I ordered her poetry collection and found out she’s very talented. I think I’ll be a bit start stuck if I meet her again. 

In the second session of day two, the OER team from NUIG discussed their OER project. Having previously attended a longer, half day workshop on creating OERs in Galway I was seriously impressed at the amount of information these guys fit into their 20-minute presentation slot. 

In the final session of the day I regrouped with all the gang from TUS Midlands to cheer on our colleague Assumpta who presented with the Library Carpenters.

Before the final panel discussion and conference close, the winning conference posters were announced. My colleagues Emmet and Catherine came joint third place, and I came second! This was a great thrill and a great way to end what was a very enjoyable conference. 

I’d rate my CONUL experience very highly and look forward to next year! 


Photo courtesy of Niamh O'Brien








14 Jun 2022

Keeping Calm in the Face of Technological Calamity

Guest post by David Carlos RinehartDavid is a Library Assistant at Maynooth University Library’s Special Collections and Archives Department where he has worked on expanding the Library Treasures blog to include the audio and audio-visual mediums of Podcasts and YouTube videos. He is currently in the dissertation stage of completing an MSc in Library and Information Studies from Robert Gordon University which he is on track to finish by April 2023. You can find him  @DCRinehart on Twitter 

In conversation with Martin O’Connor’s Libfocus post Dodgy cursors, wonky links and alarming fire alarms...

Ok, the plenary is done, I gotta get up to the sixth floor and make sure everything is running smoothly for my presentation.



Trapped between people getting out of their seats and meandering to the doors of the Shannon Suite at the Strand Hotel in Limerick for CONUL 2022, I (im)patiently wait. Once I get out of my row of chairs, I push through the crowd as elegantly as I can (basically not sticking my hands out and knocking them out of the way with the power of my nerves which are vibrating as I’m first up for the parallel paper I’m presenting).

Elevators… Elevators… There they are. Perfect. Oh good, Marie, my friend, is standing at the front. I’m just going to go and stand by her, I do go first so I need to be at the front.

Ok the button is pushed, good deal. Now we wait.

Behind the glass pane I see the elevator weights rocket up and soon the first of the two elevators arrives. Unfortunately, it’s the elevator for who’s line I am not in. Well, we will just have to wait until the door shuts and we press the button and the other elevator will soon come.

The elevator door shuts.

Then

It opens

Shuts

Opens

SHUTS

OPENS

SHUTS OPENS SHUTS OPENS SHUTS OPENS!!!!

What is going on!? I have to get up there! The other elevator won’t come if this one doesn’t go up!

As those in the elevator try varying arrangements of their bodies inside the elevator, and the door keeps opening to mark their failed attempts, I look for a hotel employee.

There she is!

“Hi, can I please use the stairs, the elevators don’t seem to be working,” I say, trying to keep the edge out of my voice.

“Sorry, we don’t have stairs.”

Don’t have stairs? DON’T HAVE STAIRS!? Seriously!? That is totally and absolutely impossible!! “Oh, ok, I’ll just wait then. Thank you.”

“Here’s another elevator,” someone calls out.

Since I am presenting first, I am ushered over to it.

We stand in the elevator and press six. The light flicks on, and then flicks off. No movement.

Ok, this is a cosmic joke, right?

Wrong. Or, well, right actually. It does appear to be the case.

I press six again.

On

Off

Again

On

Off

Again

ON OFF ON OFF ON OFF ON OFF GAHHHHHHHHH

Ok, what is the highest floor we can go!?

5

On

OFF

4

On

OFF

3

2

1

A key card is required to access any floors above the lobby and we don’t check in for another 5 hours. Perfect.

0

On

Still on

Up we go.

Now I am in the lobby. I press the button to go up on the elevators that will actually take me up.

We see the elevator lowering through the glass pane.

And….

it just keeps on going down.

It’s gone down to the floor I had just been on. And guess what? When it comes to the lobby floor, IT IS FULL!

At this point my manners and shyness have completely drained and I ask someone to please just let me on because I have to present!

Of course they let me on. I really should have asked from the start. But it’s just the way I am, a bit too shy for all that.

Ok, up we go.

Sixth floor.

Success!!


I run down the hall to the Harris Suite and the chair of the session asks, “David?”

“Yes! It’s me! I’m so sorry!”

“No worries, we will get started now.”

I am introduced very kindly and I step up to the mic. My presentation is already open and it’s go time.

Wow very professional! I don’t even have to open it. Awesome!

“Hello, I’m David, thank you for attending…” blah blah blah

Next slide.

“I am going to show you a video clip…” so on and so forth.

Nothing. The embedded video does not work.

Well, ok, here we go again
.

“Sorry everyone, seems like I am having some technical difficulties. Just one second, sorry about that.”

What could it be.

(Troubleshooting mode initiated)

Maybe the internet isn’t on.

I exit out of the presentation and sure enough, not connected.

Ok quickly connect (which is not quick at all, in fact, excruciatingly slow).

Ok. Connected. Perfect. Let’s go.

“As I was saying…” blah blah blah

Video starts playing with no sound.

Bloody hell already!!!

“Sorry about that everyone, it seems we don’t have sound.”

GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

The IT guy is right next to me and I ask him, “Do we have speakers in here?”

“No.”

“I really need speakers because one of the clips I have is a podcast and, well, I need speakers for that.”

“Alright, I’m going to go get them, you keep doing your presentation and I’ll be back before you are done.”

Thank goodness for a calm IT guy with solutions!

“You got it!”

And I run through the entire presentation and right at the last slide, the tech guy comes in with the speakers, hooks me up and I play the clips.

Not only that, but I end up winning an award for keeping it cool with great technical challenges, or as I like to call it, a technical calamity!

Yes, I can keep my cool externally, from years of experience performing in a band, but I hope that this little story shows you what is going on inside which is total freak out mode, but also quick troubleshooting and solutions mode, which all comes together for a successful presentation despite the various challenges that present themselves.



Photo credit: Alexandra Caccamo

4 Jun 2022

Enhancing Teaching & Learning Using Virtual and Immersive Technologies Seminar - Review


Guest post by David Leen, student in Sustainability Studies at UCC and student assistant at UCC Library with the Academic Services Team.

On February the 16th, UCC Library hosted a virtual seminar with speakers from Irish and American universities on the various ways VR technology can be used in teaching and learning. The event began with an introduction by Alan Carbery, Head of Academic Services in UCC Library, where he emphasized the importance of discussion between groups seeking to utilize these technologies for the benefit of students and researchers. 

I’ll now provide a summary on the speakers at the seminar, and the panel discussion at the end of the session. 

Dr. Orla Murphy

Dr. Murphy, an expert in digital humanities in UCC, has spent the past 20 years working with virtual reality software. Her PhD thesis focused on knowledge modeling, using older meshing software. Interestingly, Dr. Murphy’s presentation positioned virtual reality as a new evolution of the ‘information age’, recognising the importance of this in shifting the learning experience from the digital to the ‘real’. The technology gives an appreciation of space and size that is impossible to replicate in 2D. She highlighted the personal learning journeys that are possible using the technology, referencing a recent study which found the technology encouraged each student to accomplish the tasks set in unique ways. 

Stephanie Chen & Daniel Nowacki

The second presentation focused on UCC Library’s digital services, drawing attention to the Digital Environment Lounge. Stephanie gave a walkthrough of the space and Oculus Rift, and work done on Mozilla hubs (carried out by my colleague Cara and I), while detailing future plans for new Library spaces. She then handed the presentation over to Daniel Nowacki, a first-year student who has spent a lot of time in the Digital Environment Lounge. He gave two interesting examples where he and his friends used the equipment for learning and teaching opportunities. This presentation provided interesting examples of the practical uses of VR technology in UCC Library. 

Dr. Jerry Reen

Dr. Reen, a molecular and cellular biologist, focused on the work of his ELEVATE group, funded by the National Forum. Their work sought to enhance the student experience in visualizing the objects studied at the molecular level, using the example of a plasmid. The group sought to link and scaffold VR content with the module’s goals, not just tack it on as a gimmick. This presentation also highlighted a little-recognised aspect of VR teaching – most students have little experience with the technology, and require time to get used to it. 

Prof. Louise Rainsford

Prof. Rainsford works in the Radiography and Diagnostic Imaging department of the UCD School of Medicine. Her presentation detailed the various 2D and 3D training programmes which the University made available to their students to aid in the preparation for their placement periods. She specified that the technology was ‘embedded’ into the curriculum, ensuring each student became comfortable with the technology, with 72% of students more comfortable in a practical setting. She noted the use of VR to visualize radiation – usually invisible – as a fantastic tool to allow students to grasp the concept. 

Elise Gowen

Elise’s presentation was concerned with her efforts to create immersive experiences for students in a STEM library at Penn State University, highlighting the various programmes made available. The most interesting of these were a collection of virtual field trips for the Geosciences department, improving the educational experiences of distance learners and low-income students by making unique experiences available. She showed off programmes designed to replicate rock formations of interest, or immersive simulations of various phenomena. 

Megan Baird and Jamie Nelson

The speakers from the University of Illinois highlighted the work of their Centre for Innovation in Teaching and Learning, focusing on their various outreach efforts and the novel uses which they have found for their technology. From e-sports to dress design, the presentation detailed the wide variety of uses for the systems once you have the interest and support of the student population. This talk led into a presentation from one such student.

Zade Bosco Lobo

Zade discussed the more student-focused elements of the University of Illinois’ offering, as the vice-president of their student-run VR Club. The university works to both embed VR technologies in their undergraduate programmes, and offers development courses in VR and game development. He also detailed the various research programmes ongoing at the university. However, the highlight of the talk was the VR Club itself. He went into detail describing the various initiatives of the club to encourage participation with the technology, from board games to the university’s esports teams. 

Dr. James Frazee and Dr. Sean Hauze

The presentation from San Diego State University detailed their work with their corporate partners to incorporate ‘Extended Reality’ technologies to each of the university’s colleges, 70 courses and 54 faculty. The university emphasized their focus on students as creators. A particularly interesting example was the use of HoloLens to train nurses. 

Panel Discussion

The panel discussion introduced some interesting themes. The impact of Covid on the rollout of educational technologies was considered, with most panelists agreeing that Covid has sped up this process. The use of training tools for medical education was highlighted in particular. 

When asked about the greatest inhibitors to VR as an educational tool, panelists considered a variety of reasons, from a misunderstanding of the nature of the technology to the educators’ own confidence in using the tech. They considered that more help should be directed at the educators as well as the students. 

Finally, open access to educational technology was considered by the panel. The importance of curated experiences for certain courses was emphasized. Panelists noted that repositories of educational programmes could be used to ensure their sustainability, but that these systems are less effective for previewing VR experiences. 

Conclusion

The seminar was a very interesting look at the development of educational technologies in a multi-national setting. The problems facing the institutions were addressed in a collaborative manner, and both the student and academic experiences were highlighted. 

The introduction, all of the presentations, and the panel discussion are available on YouTube.  


3 Jun 2022

A "She-Cession" in Academia: The Impact of COVID-19 on Women in Academic Publishing

 Guest post by Sinead Carey. This post was written as part of the MLIS Scholarly Communications module at UCD School of Information and Communication Studies.

For more than a decade, feminism has experienced a revival off the back of modern social movements. The world of scholarly communication is no exception, having experienced an explosion of interest in research surrounding gender inequalities, the gender pay gap and women in leadership. As time passed, those in the media began to brandish the growing gender diversity in academic publishing as an optimistic sign for the future.

And then the pandemic happened.

COVID-19 has had unprecedented ripple effects for the entire world, and certainly, this has trickled down to female scholars. Social isolation, remote work and the increased burden of home-schooling have all taken a toll, with many women with young children describing perceived 'penalties' they have faced in the workplace. In the past year, researchers have begun to call attention to the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on women in academia, with new gender gaps being identified in the areas of publishing and productivity.

Is this a temporary setback? Or will COVID-19 have long-lasting effects on the progression of women in academic publishing?

Image credit: photo by Luke Southern / Unsplash


One Step Forward...
Before the pandemic hit, women in academia saw (some) progress. According to the European Commission (2022), the number of women at bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels has been growing steadily in recent years. Women had also begun to join the workforce in higher numbers than men. From 2015 to 2018, women saw a 2.2% increase in workforce involvement compared to a 0.8% increase for men.

In Ireland, progress was slow but still visible. The first female president of an Irish University was appointed in 2020, with more following closely in her wake. Today, four of the seven Universities in Ireland are headed by female leaders. On top of this, a recent report by the Higher Education Authority (HEA) showcases that more than half of lecturers in Ireland are female. It seemed that women were making strides across the field of academia.

But these figures tell only one side of the story.

Two Steps Back
The She Figures 2021 report indicates that women remain under-represented in research and innovation careers. Since 2003, this report has monitored "the progression of gender equality in research and innovation in the European Union and beyond". Figures show that women represent a mere one-third of researchers (33%), and at the highest level of academia, women possess around one-quarter of full professorship positions (26%). The report also emphasises an insidious experience that has worsened throughout the pandemic; due to competing obligations in the home, women in academia began to publish less and, therefore, received less funding. This meant they were less likely to be published in the future and subsequently less likely to receive further funding and be cited by others. The report suggests that this damaging occurrence represents a cycle that women may find difficult to come back from as life returns to normal.

And around and around it goes.

Image credit: photo by Micheile dot com / Unsplash
Women in academic publishing
Though the included research is indeed unsettling, the question still remains:

Has COVID-19 affected women in academic publishing?

 IT professor Cassidy Sugimoto believes it has, stating that 16% fewer women were lead authors for articles published on the preprint-platform medRxiv between December 2019 and April 2020. Fellow scholars Lundine et al. echo this sentiment in a more general sense:

"Bias and structural sexism affect women at every stage in the research and publishing cycle, cumulatively disadvantaging women and their advancement throughout their careers," said the authors. "Women are less visible as researchers and authors and thus less likely to be invited as peer reviewers and editors".

Research by Kim & Patterson (2021) argues that the pandemic enforces this both directly and indirectly by examining "1.8 million tweets from approximately 3,000 political scientists". This research suggests that increased familial obligations are placed primarily on women, causing a detriment to professional visibility, productivity and likelihood of being published. Pinho-Gomes et al. (2020) argue that this gendered disadvantage is also reflected in peer-reviewed publication rates. Their paper, which looks specifically at publications regarding COVID-19, found that women accounted for just one-third of authors who published since January 2020. It also found that female representation was lower again for first and last authorship positions.

Anecdotal evidence on social media further supports the idea that female academics have been more negatively affected by COVID-19 than men. However, it must be noted that much of the available data focuses on female scholars in the medical sciences, and it would be interesting to note whether such effects have taken hold within other specialities such as humanities and social sciences.

Certainly, it does not look good, and public discussion on social media has led to mass outrage and sensationalised debate.

Image credit: photo by Markus Winkler / Unsplash

Gender Roles and the Pandemic
The impact of COVID-19 on women has been given many glib nicknames, from 'she-demic' to 'disaster patriarchy'. The most infamous of these is a term coined by American author and CEO of the Institute for Women's Policy Research, C. Nicole Mason, who said: "We should go ahead and call this a 'shecession.'" Though such terms often dramatise women's struggles, it is important to consider whether there is any merit to their claims.

The term "she-cession" was originally devised to represent the unemployment rates of women in comparison to men during COVID-19. However, as time went on, the meaning of the phrase began to morph and change. Today, it is used more flippantly to echo the dissatisfaction of many women regarding their perceived setbacks since COVID-19.

The most significant implication put forward by women is the return of traditional gender roles. With the closure of schools, day-care and other recreational supports, families were put in a difficult position of deciding how to take care of their children and maintain the household whilst also bringing in enough income. As men often hold higher-paying jobs, studies have shown that traditional gender roles were promoted, female academic productivity decreased, and pre-existing gender inequalities were exacerbated.

Canadian columnist Alison Hanes also highlights this pressure to take up traditional gender roles, saying: "There are so many measures of how gender inequality has worsened during the pandemic that it's difficult to keep track. But for me, it's calculated in stacks of dirty dishes." As Hanes aptly describes, the fortification of outdated gender norms has affected more women than the general public may be aware of and has filtered down to all fields of work in some way or another.

"It's like the virus seeped into the gender gaps that already existed in our society and cracked them wide open," said Hanes.

The Road to Post-Pandemic Recovery?
It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected women in academia compared to men. The European Commission declares that women are still acutely under-represented in research and academia despite the long history of scientific achievements. An EU-sponsored SUPERA project is now being touted as "the key to long-term institutional change". This project outlines a plan for audits of practices and procedures in an effort to address gender discriminatory shortfalls. Though it is beyond the remit of this author to comment on the validity of this project, it is undoubtedly positive to see initiatives targeting the pandemic's ripple effects.

Could this be the mark of a road to recovery?

A new article in the New York Times provides additional optimism. The article, by correspondent Claire Cain Miller, claims that recent studies have shown a particular group of women have avoided the so-called she-cession. College-educated American women with young children were shown to be more likely to work than before the pandemic. The cause of this is still being researched, but Miller states that it is likely because careers requiring college degrees are far more adaptable to working from home.

Despite Miller's insistence that a "she-cession" is not credible, she does maintain that women are "stretched thin", adding that American President Joe Biden has declared "there are nearly 1.2 million extremely qualified women who haven't returned to the work force". Whether the sensationalised term "she-cession" is warranted or not, it appears there is a consensus that action needs to be taken.

It is time to knit together the scattered articles that have shone a light on the impact of COVID-19 on women and open the conversation about the pressures of traditional gender roles that are still faced today. If this is not addressed at a core level, women in academic publishing may suffer consequences long after COVID-19 becomes a story in the history books.

As said by gender politics researcher Maria Bustelo "Only when academia and research include scholars with different backgrounds and identities will we be able to achieve results that are meaningful to everyone."

19 May 2022

The Library Treasures Podcast

Guest post by Alexandra Caccamo and David Rinehart.

 

 In 2015, the Maynooth University Library’s Special Collections and Archives (SC&A) Department started the LibraryTreasures blog on WordPress. We have continued to publish a new blog every month detailing treasures found in our collections in both the Russell Library and the John Paul II Special Collections and Archives. It was with the shock of the pandemic and a quick pivot towards presenting our service virtually that we began to think about other ways to reach new and existing audiences.

Historically, SC&A departments tended to be thought of as exclusive spaces for distinguished researchers and academics. Further, in some cases, what makes these collections ‘special’ is their antiquity, making the use of technology seem like a contradiction or an anachronism. However, the ideologies, philosophies, and strategies that drive many libraries, which include Special Collections and Archives departments, recognize these collections as important objects, stories, and perspectives for our culture. This is history which belongs to everyone. Thus, there is a drive to make these collections more discoverable and easier to access for all members of the local and global community. And so, the importance of technology and social media has become increasingly evident.

Back to the pandemic. With this increased focus on bringing Maynooth University’s collections to the people, and the physical service being put on hiatus, saw an opportunity to enhance and grow our digital skills. The Special Collections and Archives department then set out to expand our blog to include not only the visual medium of written work, but to the audio and audio-visual mediums of podcasts and YouTube videos as well.


We now have six Library Treasures videos and two episodes of our podcast available on our Library Treasures blog. The most recent two episodes were an interview with the incredible and talented academic from the MU Department of Early Irish, Dr. Elizabeth Boyle in two parts. Part 2 just launched on May 13th.

Dr. Boyle talked with us about a recent item of great historical significance which she helped us acquire. This incunable, Orosius’ Historiae Adversus Paganos or The Seven Books of History against the Pagans (1471), is the earliest print copy of Orosius in an Irish Library. It is also the first printed work to mention Ireland and its landscape and climate. Without going into too much detail, Orosius wrote in the 5th century about the God given right kings had for ruling. Orosius’ works shaped the belief monarchs have had about their divine rights and caused a paradigmatic shift in political discourse which has prevailed for over a millennium.


Follow us on Twitter: @SCA_MULibrary
Follow Elizabeth Boyle on Twitter: @thecelticist
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Follow David Rinehart on Twitter: @DCRinehart