6 Oct 2021

Embrace the virtual library space

 

Graphic designed by Iain McCool

Libfocus is very happy to post the winning entry in this years CONUL Library Assistants Award. Congratulations Iain McCool,  Queens University Belfast Library. Congratulation Iain. 

Introduction 

The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown restrictions have turbo-blasted libraries toward becoming fully integrated virtual service providers. Libraries have very much always been about the provision of frontline services, offering valuable and friendly support for library users. 

The uncompromising situation witnessed throughout 2020, however, saw the nature of face-to-face interaction no longer being a viable option. As a consequence, library staff had to adapt to changes quickly and discover innovative new ways of communicating with their patrons. 

The library profession continually tries to find novel new ways to engage and offer support. Long before COVID-19, libraries had considered how to maximise the potential of digital services. The sudden impact of lockdown brought about a circumstance of uncertainty for which libraries were already ably prepared to cope (Walsh & Harjinder, 2020). 

Libraries have accordingly sought to develop the services they provide, in so far as, they now allow for patrons to gain access to resources remotely (Lindsay, 2021). The culmination of what has been experienced over the course of lockdown has presented libraries with an opportunity to become an effective virtual service provider that can make library resources more accessible.

                                        Image of the McClay Library atrium from the 2nd floor


A large aspect of university life has always been about a student’s ability to learn for themselves and thereby develop the necessary skills required to progress onto postgraduate study. 

Learning for oneself 

In order to be successful at university, students need to attend lectures and seminars. Students have to know how and where they can access learning resources, they should allocate adequate time to study, and learn how to correctly cite references (Barnes, 1995).

The library seeks to improve the experiences of students with a supportive study environment by helping develop research skills and manage expectations, equipping students with the necessary reading material, as well as offering a spacious study location that is quiet and well-kept, and is simultaneously in close vicinity to alternative campus amenities. 

The McClay Library, for example, also prepares students for university with the Transition Skills Online Training programme. Begun in 2019, this programme functions as an outreach project to improve school leavers information literacy.

                                       Image of a study area for students in the McClay Library


In many instances, patrons were no longer able to physically access the library during lockdown. This situation necessitated a rethink in terms of borrowing rights. Over the course of lockdown, library users had their standard loans extended. 

We learn by doing 

The renewal policy in the McClay Library had been under review prior to COVID-19. A new procedure has since been implemented whereby standard loans are renewed automatically unless the book is requested by someone else.

Complications regarding physical access to collections also initiated the deployment of a temporary Scan and Deliver service in the McClay library, whereby patrons could get a scan of print collections sent to them personally if the request was one chapter or 10% of a book, whichever being greater.

                A strategy model created by Library Chat Enhancement Group to assist staff training 


A new feature to library services was rolled out at the beginning of lockdown which enabled library users to get in touch with library staff using an online chat service. The implementation of Library Chat proved to be an advantageous success for library services, as queries are answered in real-time. 

Library Chat 

Library Chat places new demands on frontline library staff who adapted their skillset from answering queries in-person to using an interactive online tool (Cohn & Hyams, 2021). Communication was key to share specialised knowledge amongst departments, so a new process had to be devised for query referral and new training guides were developed for staff. 

The Library Chat Enhancement Group (LCEG), was comprised of library assistants who had first-hand experience of using Library Chat and was formed for the benefit of staff development in order to enhance the library user experience. The strategy employed encouraged a hands-on learning model based on experiential learning techniques (Kolb, 2014), complimented by group training sessions to obtain feedback. 

LCEG began by publishing a QuickStart guide which gave basic guidance on how to use the platform, a Latest Announcements page was designed to keep staff UpToDate with library developments, and an Information for LibChatters guide was produced to detail library policy.

Conclusion 

Higher education was identified as an essential service which could operate in some shape or form during lockdown. The nature of the restrictions imposed have had such a debilitating effect on the provision of in-person library services that much of what was practiced before the pandemic may no longer be applicable in the future (Ma, 2020). 

In embracing the virtual space, some of the new changes mentioned in this piece may still have a relevant part to play going forward, and ultimately enhance the provision of library services.

* all images and graphics by Iain McCool

References 

Barnes, R. (1995) Reading academic texts, in Barnes, R. (ed.) Successful Study for Degrees. London: Routledge, pp. 51-63. 

Cohn, S., Hyams, R. (2021) Making Room for TBD: Adapting Library Websites during a Pandemic, Computers in Libraries, 41(2), pp. 18-21 [Online]. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com.queens.ezp1.qub.ac.uk/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsbig&AN=edsbig.A654780607&site=eds-live&scope=site (Accessed: 5th July 2021). 

Kolb, D.A. (2014) The Process of Experiential Learning, in Kolb, D.A. (ed.) Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc., pp. 68-108. [Online]. Available at: https://r3.vlereader.com/Reader?ean=9780133892505 [Accessed: 5th July 2021). 

Lindsay, M.J., et al. (2021) Mind like Water: Flexibly Adapting to Serve Patrons in the Era of COVID-19, Medical Reference Services Quarterly, 40(1), pp. 56-66 [Online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/02763869.2021.1873622 (Accessed: 5th July 2021). 

Ma, L.F.H. (2020) Academic Library Services during COVID-19: The Experience of CUHK Library, International Information and Library Review, 52(4), pp. 321-324 [Online]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/10572317.2020.1834251 (Accessed: 5th July 2021). 

Walsh, B., Harjinder, R. (2020) Continuity of Academic Library Services during the Pandemic: The University of Toronto Libraries Response, Journal of Scholarly Publishing, 51(4), pp. 237-245 [Online]. Available at: muse.jhu.edu/article/760728 (Accessed: 5th July 2021).


28 Sept 2021

Outreach Content Creation: How to Produce YouTube Videos and Podcasts

Libfocus is very happy to post the second of the joint second placed entries in this years CONUL Library Assistants Award. Congratulations David RinehartMaynooth University Library


Introduction 

This blog post describes the processes and tools I have used to create YouTube video and podcast outreach content for Maynooth University’s Special Collections and Archives department. The central aim of the YouTube and podcast series was to expand our Library Treasures blog into the audio and visual platforms giving our collections greater visibility and discoverability, thus engaging a larger audience. I detail the tools used, collaboration, editing, and social media promotion. Further, I identify where improvements need to be made in addition to long-term goals. 


Screen shot from the second episode of Library Treasures video series 



Inspiration 

The inspiration for this project was sparked by the pandemic. Being a service that handles unique and rare materials, we tend to cater to patrons with specific interests or visitors keen on historical tourism. We were, thus, faced with the challenge of how to connect our patrons to these rare materials in some way. We took many measures to provide the service as best we could. The positive spin, however, is that we had the space to focus more on our virtual presence. While videos do not replace the in-house experience, it is still a way for us to remain connected to our public while giving the Russell Library space some life during a lonely time. 


Image of the Russell Library Reading Rooms taken by David Rinehart

Getting Started: 


YouTube series: 

Equipment: 

    • Camera (Canon EOS 2000D)
    • Tripod
    • Microphone
    • Computer


Software:

Hosting Service:

    

Image taken by David Rinehart of Hardware Used for Podcast and Video Series Podcast Series: 



Equipment:

    • Microphone 
    • Computer 


Software: 

    • Audacity (capturing audio)
    • Adobe Premiere Pro (works well for audio editing too)

Hosting Service:

 

Collaboration 

One of the greater challenges in creating this kind of content is, as a relatively new employee, identifying the collections and content to showcase. Collaboration has been key for a large project like this and a fantastic way to learn more about the work my colleagues are doing. I have collaborated with three colleagues – an archivist, a conservator, and a library assistant for the first three videos. 

The work load has been divided up in the following way: I establish a timeline while my counterpart writes the script, records most of the video, and takes the necessary images. I then record the 

introduction and outro for continuity. Lastly, I take all of the raw footage and material and edit it into the final product, post it to YouTube, and advertise on social media. 


Image captured by David Rinehart from The Scenery and Antiquities of Ireland (1842) for Adam Staunton’s blog post and episode 3 of the Library Treasures video series 


  


The editing process has been a steep learning curve. I have watched many YouTube videos and read many forums to learn about the techniques and tools available to me. For ease of editing, I have asked my collaborators to share the folders of images and videos with me via OneDrive in the order that they should appear in video, this makes it far easier to place the videos and still images along the timeline to sync up with the content being described. 

Social Media promotion is essential to get the content out to your target audience. It is important to think about which organization handles, individual handles, and hashtags would bring the content closest to your target audience. 

    

Screenshot of twitter post for Library Treasures Episode 2 



Results 

The first video has received 127 views since it was released on March 8th, 2021; the second video has received 48 views since its release on June 14th, 2021 and the third video has received 36 views since its release on July 9, 2021. The first video was created around the theme of women in the collections, e.g. Teresa Deevy, and released on International Women’s Day, which could account for the greater traction it picked up on social media. 


Reflection 

We have had team conversations about how to best get these videos to their target audiences and beyond. We made the decision to change the name of the YouTube series from Collections Spotlight to Library Treasures. We have had a blog of the same name running for years with many hundred followers. The video series and podcast are an expansion of this project and are meant to complement each other. Having the same name makes them more discoverable, as someone who has been following the blog may more easily search for or stumble across our podcast and video series. The three mediums will also have links to each other. 


Our long-term goal is to incorporate the blog posts, video and podcast episodes into LibGuides we are designing for our various collections showcased in Library Treasures posts. We are also developing a LibGuide exclusively for Library Treasures media, highlighting our more recent videos, podcasts, and blogs. This will greatly contribute to the lifespan and discoverability of the posts as they will have a permanent home instead of getting buried in a YouTube channel or deep down in a blog. 


Image created using Canva for third Library Treasures episode 



                


From home-made bread to home-schooling; the turning points in my path to becoming a Library Assistant

Libfocus is very happy to post one of the joint second placed entries in this years CONUL Library Assistants Award. Congratulations Sinead Byrne, RCSI Library 


The Covid pandemic has upturned nearly every aspect of life as we know it. We are constantly being bombarded with Covid related news headlines; barraged by grim projections of escalating case numbers and further waves; and blasted with horrific images of human suffering. 

But buried in all this doom and gloom are the “good news stories”; “reaching out to others” (metaphorically of course); “stories of conviviality”; “neighbourly gestures”........ I could go on. On a personal level there were two major events that changed my perspective on the global situation and prompted a shift in focus in relation to my own career goals. 

The first stand out memory for me was Mother’s Day 2020. My anxiety was at an all-time high. I removed myself from every WhatsApp group albeit one (the FOMO in me would not allow total social exclusion!). A text from a neighbour instructed me to look outside my front door at which point I was greeted by the most delicious loaf of homemade brown bread ....... This was a turning point for me .......the sense of community and the feeling that we are all in this together grounded me. I could not eradicate this awful virus but I could take joy in the simple things and also try focus on my personal goal of pursuing a career in the library sector which was something I had thought about for quite a while. 

I completed the MLIS in 2011, recession hit and, for financial reasons, I was forced to stay in my permanent, pensionable administrative job. Two children later and my interest in library work was still to the fore so I began working on a voluntary basis in a school library. I contacted the Library Association of Ireland to get guidance on CPD (Continued Professional Development) and after a whirlwind application process I was accepted on the Prof Cert in Digital Information Management in UCD. All was going to plan until the pandemic hit. 

The second turning point was the onset of home-schooling. How difficult could it be to home-school a 7 year old while keeping his 4 year old brother amused ...I completed the MLIS part time over two years while working full time...... I have this sussed I thought....... Oh how wrong I was!!!! This picture aptly depicts how I survived my new found career in “teaching”: 


Figure 1. The Home-school Life. 

Home-schooling was a double edged sword –it seriously tested my patience; survival was based on copious amounts of coffee and chocolate. But it had a very positive outcome in that it catapulted me into applying for a role as library assistant in RCSI on a particularly difficult day of “teaching”. 

Fast forward 6 months and I was offered a contract in RCSI. You would be forgiven for thinking I was suddenly enjoying leisurely lunches in the lavish surrounds of the library at Stephen’s Green while doing a spot of people watching. The reality was somewhat different. The not so lavish green at the front of my house is my only option for people watching. The sounds of the neighbourhood kids infiltrate my “office” window ........the sound of laughter and football matches have become the soundtrack to my day. 

And so I began my role as library assistant. Getting to know my team was somewhat different to my experience of starting previous roles. Casual coffee dates and spontaneous after work drinks have been replaced with a more structured social etiquette. Virtual coffee and chat dates were arranged on Microsoft Teams and this is how I got to know the library staff. Although we are dotted around the country I still felt connected from the start. All meetings are conducted online, and there are often “guest” appearances by toddlers or pets! My cat was very keen to join in until I relocated to my “office” upstairs!! I also have regular interaction with students when I deal with their queries via email and LibChat. I have undertaken training courses in the US without having to board a plane. I have attended conferences country wide while remaining at home. All instances of physical distancing while attaining virtual connectivity. 

ALMA, a new library management system was introduced in 2020 and staff are still familiarising themselves with it. I have been building up my expertise by attending training sessions as well as documenting workflows. I have learnt so much in my two months and I am enjoying every second! 

As I write this I am inwardly jumping for joy at the prospect of spending my first day in the library and meeting three of my colleagues. According to Dorothy there is no place like home but I think I might just have to agree to disagree in this instance. 


Figure 2. Dorothy Home-schooling. 

Photo Credits:
Figure 1:
“The Home-school Life” meme. Mom Saves Time, Money, Sanity. Wordpress, 30 December, 2017.
momsavestimemoneysanity.wordpress.com/2017/12/30/my-day-in-gifs/ 

Figure 2:
“Dorothy Home-schooling” meme. My San Antonio, Houston, 30 March, 2020. 

mysanantonio.com/houston/article/Homeschooling-memes-highlight-what-life-is-like- 15166171.php#photo-19240271 

    

24 Sept 2021

Stop, Thief! Preventing theft in Library Special Collections

Libfocus is very happy to post the third placed entry in this years CONUL Library Assistants Award. Congratulations Gretchen Allen, Maynooth University Library.


Copies of Newton’s Principia have been stolen from the Cambridge University Library and from the Carnegie Library (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

 

Book theft is a taboo topic amongst high profile libraries, even though almost every library has experienced a major theft. The reluctance to discuss the topic in library circles has led to a culture of silence surrounding collection security and theft prevention. However, ignoring this type of crime does not make it less common, and libraries can benefit from looking at the patterns of large-scale book theft and adjust their approaches accordingly. This post features a short summary of the different motivations and methods employed by prolific book thieves and gives some suggestions on how libraries can stay vigilant and secure. 



Pages from illuminated manuscripts are often cut or torn out and sold individually, like this single leaf from a 14th C manuscript that was recently repatriated to Italy (Photo: US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) 

Book Theft

Rare books have a cultural mystique that informs how and why they’re stolen. The book collection signifies the taste and status of the collector, even if they haven't actually read them. A book’s rarified aura as a cultural “collectible” has a profound effect on a certain type of thief. For these thieves, rare books trigger a compulsive hoarding instinct for expensive volumes. Rather than being primarily motivated by profit, their aim is to accumulate more books. These thieves are often the most prolific and unrepentant--often they’ll go straight back to stealing books the minute they’re let out of jail. 


In addition to thieves who pursue the book itself as a valuable item, more profit-driven thieves are often interested in the component parts that make up a valuable book. These thieves are more likely to remove and sell the valuable plates, maps, illuminations, or even covering boards, because these smaller components are easier to steal than the whole book. Selling book parts individually can also help circumvent questions of provenance, making them easier to sell off quickly. 


These are by no means the only types of book thieves, but these tend to be two strategies and motivations seen the most in thefts from library special collections. 



Two of Darwin’s notebooks, thought to be misplaced for 20 years, were confirmed to have been stolen from Cambridge University Library (Photo: University of Cambridge) 

What makes libraries vulnerable 

Libraries are particularly vulnerable, as they are fairly relaxed environments in terms of security, even in special collection spaces. This has recently started to change, but even now reading rooms have weaknesses inherent to the nature of a working library. For example, in a museum people are encouraged to stand away from the art, forbidden to touch it, and expected to move through fairly quickly. In libraries, readers are given hours of time to handle and examine books. This makes it easy to just put a book under your jacket and leave. Alternatively, readers can easily bring in small blades to remove pages. If readers have access to stacks, a space from a missing book is easily camouflaged. 


Special Collections are also vulnerable to thefts by employees. Even where security for readers is tight, Special Collections staff are often given open access to collections. Underpaid library staff may be susceptible to temptation to sell priceless collection items. Like the book-hoarding thieves, some inside thieves are taken in by the aura surrounding the collections; there can be the added motivation of “nobody else knows this collection like I do” or “I’ve been taking care of this collection for decades, it’s basically mine”. Large collections are particularly susceptible to items “disappearing”, often due to just being misfiled or misplaced, so theft usually wouldn’t be suspected. In collections with thousands of items, thieves have the same amount of plausible deniability as someone who stole a twig from a forest. 


Because of this, both inside and outside thieves will often steal repeatedly over a long span of time, racking up dozens or hundreds of undetected thefts over years or even decades. 


Book thieves and YOU 

Every institution is different, and different priorities will help determine appropriate security actions. Some suggestions are: 

 Keep thorough records of all appointments

 Provide lockers to store coats and bags
                    Implement CCTV in reading rooms

 Monitor return readers, as most book thieves will take books repeatedly

 Check books upon return to make sure no plates or pages have been
                    removed

 Conduct regular inventory checks and identify missing items

 Keep your staff’s pay and morale high

 Keep staff well-informed of previous thefts, security weaknesses, and
                    blacklisted guests

 Refrain from transporting items through unsecured areas

 Keep keys to collection storage secured on-premises

 In-person invigilation is key

 Talk to other libraries near you about their experiences

 In case of theft, press charges

Conclusion

The fact that book theft is only ever discussed when a thief has already struck has contributed to ignorance in libraries around techniques used to identify, foil, catch, and prosecute book thieves. If libraries and scholars create an open dialogue regarding book thefts, it could lead to an aware and informed library and conservation profession, and hopefully help prevent more crimes in the future.  



19 Sept 2021

Be a Star with Screencast: Producing Valuable Online Resources from Home for Maynooth University Library

Libfocus is very happy to post the third of the highly commended posts in the 2021 CONUL Library Assistant Awards. Congratulations to Fiona Tuohy of Maynooth University Library.

This blog post will give an insight into my experience of using Screencastomatic to create useful online resources for our students during the pandemic. As part of the Teaching and Research Development Team at Maynooth University Library, I worked with our Teaching Librarians to produce short video promoting our many resources. Without the face-to-face contact, we needed to find a way to show our users how to navigate and use our resources themselves. We decided that short How to videos showing the steps required clearly and concisely was the way forward. As we all know it’s never a good idea to jump headfirst into a project but if you keep to this checklist, you’ll save time. 


Steps 

The first thing to do is ask yourself – who is my audience? What is the purpose of this video? If you are creating a video to show e.g. How to find an eBook, break down each step, each mouse click and decide then what exactly you need to show on screen. Have it clear in your mind what will be the first screen and the last screen within the video. Repeat the process but this time say out loud how you would explain each step so the user can do it themselves. 


Script 

It’s essential to write a script. Firstly, it removes the dreaded ‘ehs’ and ‘ems’ we all fall victim to when presenting in person. If it’s a collaboration with a colleague and you are doing a recording for them, a script is such a useful tool to work with. When the topic is something you’re not familiar with, it’s helpful to have a hard copy of the script beside you as you record voiceovers for that awkward word or phrasing you need to double-check (I still can’t say Digital Object Identifiers after 2pm!!). A script helps you monitor the length of the video. What started off as one 15 minute video could work better as two 7 minute videos. 


Photo by Simon Payne on Unsplash 

Practice 

Line up the kid’s toys and use them as your audience! You can’t write a script, cross your fingers and hope for the best when it comes to record. Practice several times – I guarantee you’ll re-draft the script at least once. There may be a lightbulb moment during the redraft where you realise you’ve left out an important step. That’s something you want to happen at this stage rather than on completion. 


Voiceover tips Created using Canva by Fiona Tuohy 

Record

With the continuous doorstep deliveries, outside ambience and incoming calls, recording from home can be a challenge. The beauty of Screencastomatic is you just need a headset with a mic and a quiet place. I know easier said than done for many working from home! For recording first time, there will be nerves and many outtakes but the more your confidence grows the easier it gets. Voiceover tips can provide insight into preparing for a recording. It can make a huge difference to how the final recording sounds. 


Example of MU Library branding for Screencasts 


Edit 

Screencastomatic allows you to add text, highlight, add arrows even insert video. Simple ways to point out the really important information to the user and make it easy to follow. Sometimes you don’t need to record your voice at all. With short how to’s silence really is golden. I would suggest using a title page for your videos – it looks professional and users will become familiar with the branding. 


Number of views for videos within Using Library Services Playlist 

Promote 

Now your video is created you need to promote it to your users. We created a new playlist called Using Library Services within our YouTube channel. But sometimes it can be difficult to promote via YouTube directly. We added the videos to our Working Remotely Guide as they were created and then promoted the guide as our one stop shop for useful resources for our users. The majority of the videos were created in Semester 1 and had consistent views up to March 2021. 


The future 

We are currently working on content for next Semester. The aim is to still use the Working Remotely Guide to connect with our user community but rename to reflect the likely hybrid learning environment in the coming academic year. We also hope to develop our Library Moodle space this year and it will be important to provide content for students to access and use to support their learning in our classes. We can also link in to course module Moodle pages and ensure our academic colleagues can easily access our learning resources for use within courses. Screencastomatic is inexpensive - $15 per year for Deluxe Solo – and reasonably easy to use. By choosing this tool you can create a suite of excellent online content to promote your library resources.