2 Apr 2020

Cataloguing older Irish language material: some brief notes on the Cló Gaelach.

Guest post by Patricia Moloney, Librarian, Cataloguer of Dónal Ó Súilleabháin Library University of Limerick

Following a transcription query on library twitter last week, these brief notes on the Cló Gaelach/Gaelic typeface may be of interest to cataloguers with limited previous exposure to the Irish language.

Almost all texts published in the Irish language up to the mid-20th century, were printed using the Cló Gaelach, a family of Gaelic typefaces (also known as Irish type and Irish character). The Cló Gaelach is modelled on an angular form of calligraphy (the insular minuscule script) based on the Latin alphabet, which developed in the Irish medieval monastic scriptoria. (For more on the history of Irish scribal tradition see The Irish Hand by Timothy O’Neill). Traditionally the letters j, k, q, v, w, x, y and z were not used in the Irish language, but in later centuries they began to appear in loanwords e.g. júdó (Judo); x-gha (x-ray); zú (zoo).

Irish Type Design
The subject matter of the first Irish language books to appear in print was religious. By royal order, the first fount of Irish type (known as Queen Elizabeth’s Irish type) was cast in London before 1571 and was sent to Dublin where immediately an Irish printing press was set up in order to facilitate the production of religious texts. Regarding printing terminology, in traditional printing where metal moveable type is used, the term ‘fount’ (later ‘font’) refers to the physical metal letters which were created/cast in the form of a design of typeface. Stylistic variants create a typeface family, in this instance, the Cló Gaelach or Gaelic typeface/Irish type.

The circulation of Irish language translations of the New Testament on the part of the Reformed Church in Ireland, which were printed using this Queen Elizabeth’s Irish type, (a hybrid fount of Irish and Roman letters), dismayed the Irish Franciscans in Louvain. In response, the monastic college arranged for the design of what later came to be regarded as the first authentic Irish typeface, (Louvain Irish type), and this was used for the printing of the catechism of Friar Bonventura O’Hussey (Giolla Brighde Ó hEódhasa), in 1611.  Later typeface designs which form part of the Gaelic typeface family include: Parker Irish type (1787); Petrie A (1835); B (1850); C (1856) and more recently, Colum Cille (1936) which was designed by Colm O’Lochlainn of Three Candles Press. (For more on the history of Irish typefaces see Irish Type Design by Dermot McGuinne).

Síneadh fada
In addition to the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet, the Cló Gaelach/Gaelic typeface must include all five vowels with the síneadh fada (a “long sign” which lengthens the sound of a vowel).  To put an acute accent/síneadh fada on a vowel, (rather than inserting a special character from the symbols menu which is time-consuming), for a quick method in Windows, hold down the Alt Gr key, then press the key for the vowel to produce á, é, í, ó or ú.  Again, in Windows, for capital letters, hold down the Alt Gr and the Shift key together, and then press the key for the vowel to produce Á, É, Í Ó or Ú.

On the Apple Mac, holding down the option key at the same time as the key for e and pressing the key for the vowel that needs the accent/fada will produce á, é, í, ó or ú.  For capitals, hold down the option key, the key for e, the Shift key and the vowel that needs the accent/fada added to produce Á, É, Í Ó or Ú. It should be emphasised that the inclusion of the síneadh fada is very important for meaning e.g. the word fear = man, but féar = grass.

The Gaelic typeface includes a set of consonants with a dot above (known as a ponc séimhithe "dot of lenition", séimhiú "lenition" or buailte "struck"). Since the establishment of An Caighdeán Oifigiúil/the Official Standard of modern Irish in the mid-20th century, and the adoption of the roman typeface for printing in the Irish language, the letter h is inserted after the relevant consonant to indicate lenition instead of the overdot. Special codes exist which permit display of the overdot séimhiú but for the purposes of cataloguing, the letters Ḃḃ Ċċ Ḋḋ Ḟḟ Ġġ Ṁṁ Ṗṗ Ṡṡ Ṫṫ may be transcribed as Bhbh Chch Dhdh Fhfh Ghgh Mhmh Phph Shsh Thth.

Image: Wikipedia
Tironian symbol ⁊
The Tironian symbol ⟨⁊⟩, which signifies the word et in Latin; ocus/agus in Irish, (‘and’ in English), is a remnant of a shorthand system, the notae Tironianae or Tironian notes, believed to have been developed by Marcus Tullius Tiro (died c. 4 BC).  Tiro was the confidential secretary, literary adviser, and former slave of Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 BC – 43 BC), the Roman philosopher, lawyer, statesman who was renowned for his prose style. Tiro was freed by Cicero in 53 BC and following the philosopher’s death, Tiro published some of the Cicero’s speeches and letters, in addition to writing a biography. Medieval monastic scribes used many abbreviations, including Tironian notes. The Tironian symbol ⁊ survived in use in Latin and Irish language manuscripts to represent et and ocus/agus respectively and eventually became an essential element of the Gaelic typeface. The Tironian symbol ⁊ may be transcribed as ‘agus’ for the purposes of cataloguing.

Early logo of the Irish Department of Posts and Telegraphs/ An Roinn Puist agus Telegrafa,  Image: Wikipedia

Adding scholarly notes – identification of stylistic variants etc.
Clóliosta, Printing in the Irish language, 1571–1871: An attempt at narrative bibliography, by Richard Sharpe and Mícheál Hoyne (soon to be published by the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies), is  a catalogue of printing in Irish from the beginning until 1871 which aims to document “the title and imprint of every item entered, a concise material description, identification of the Irish type used where relevant, the printer and place of printing, and references to appropriate bibliographical repertories”(dias.ie/cloliosta).

On  5 March 2019, Professor Richard Sharpe (Professor of Diplomatic at the University of Oxford), delivered the keynote address to  the Library Association of Ireland Cataloguing and Metadata Group Annual General Meeting during which he presented an overview of the Clóliosta catalogue project and where he requested the assistance of cataloguers and librarians in order to alert the editors to the existence of little-known or obscure copies and editions.

Professor Richard Sharpe addressing the LAICMG AGM in the National Library of Ireland, 5th March 2019. Photo: Yvette Campbell
Copies of the draft Clóliosta were made available to curators in libraries with relevant Irish holdings and the latest draft is now available as a PDF for download from the website of the DIAS here. The level of detail provided in the Clóliosta renders it an invaluable resource to cataloguers of Irish language publications who wish to add scholarly notes to records, including identification of typefaces and printing houses, and to those researchers interested in the book history and the history of print culture in the Irish language.

The sad news last week of the untimely death of Professor Richard Sharpe, renowned scholar, bibliographer, and supporter of libraries, came as a great shock to many in the library world. 

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal.

Further reading
  • O'Neill, Timothy, The Irish hand : scribes and their manuscripts from the earliest times, Cork University Press in association with the Keough Naughton Notre Dame Centre, Dublin, 2014 (new edition). 
  • McGuinne, Dermot, Irish Type Design:  A History of Printing Types in the Irish Character, Irish Academic Press, 1992
  • Hoyne, Mícheál; Sharpe, Richard, (eds.), Clóliosta , https://www.dias.ie/celt/celt-publications-2/cloliosta/ [Accessed 31 March, 2020].
Patricia Moloney is a librarian in the Glucksman Library, University of Limerick, where she is cataloguer of the Dónal Ó Súilleabháin Collection in the Special Collections and Archives Department. She is the current Secretary of the Library Association of Ireland Cataloguing and Metadata Group.

30 Mar 2020

Experiences of an Irish University Library: My internship at Maynooth University

Guest post by Theres Rudolph, University of Applied Sciences Leipzig

Photo courtesy of the author

I study in Leipzig in Western Saxony. That’s in Eastern Germany between Berlin and Munich. When I finished secondary school, I worked as a volunteer in a children’s library for one year.  I really liked that and decided a library career was for me.

Now I am a student at the University of Applied Sciences Leipzig.  I’m doing an undergraduate course in Library & Information Science.  The course is 3.5 years in duration and six months of that is an internship. This can be done either in Germany or abroad. I liked the idea of travelling and experiencing the library world outside of Germany. I’ve travelled to the UK and Finland with school and I’ve been in some other countries for holidays.

I sent off my CV to three libraries in English speaking countries.  I was delighted when I received an answer from Maynooth University Library in Ireland. I picked it because it seemed to be an international University, it has  great architecture and is in a good distance from Dublin (it’s not too far and not too close).
Photo courtesy of the author
I didn’t know much about Ireland before I came.  I had heard about the Troubles and knew that Ireland is an independent member of the EU. I was aware that some people speak Gaelic and that the landscape is very green. When I got accepted to do the internship in Maynooth University Library, I applied for ERASMUS+ funding. It was relatively straightforward, with both myself and the Deputy Librarian at Maynooth filling out necessary paperwork. 
With funding secured, I began to organise my trip.  I had to pay for my flight to Ireland and I arranged my own accommodation, identifying two host families (I stayed with each of them for three months) in Lucan and Leixlip, which meant an easy commute to Maynooth. 
My internship began in October 2019.   Everybody was welcoming, kind, and involved me from the first day. I mainly worked in the DPIS Department – Digital Programmes and Information Systems – especially with the institutional repository MURAL.  My work involved identifying publications by Maynooth staff online and checking the publisher’s Open Access policy (OA). If appropriate to deposit I then added metadata. As part of the team, I also created DOIs for an open access journal published at Maynooth University, The Journal of Mediation and Applied Conflict Analysis,  which is part of the library’s open publishing initiatives.

Another big part of my work in the Library was with the General Collections and Finance section, dealing specifically with electronic resources.  This was  mostly checking and updating data and replacing outdated URLs.
Photo courtesy of the author
If you’re wondering: yes, I had to do with “real” books too: the General Collections Department asked me to process books, check offered donations, and list incoming donated material.
One of my favourite parts of my daily schedule was shelving. It isn’t easy to focus on the Dewey numbers, which are quite long, when shelving for a few hours, but I still enjoyed being on the library floor and helping library users find books.  When my time shelving was reduced to one hour per day, I had more time for getting insights into different departments and attending events.
I was fortunate to be able to attend lectures on the MA in Historical Archives on Friday mornings. The Library delivers about 50% of this programme which is offered by the History department.  
I got insights into every part of the library from a variety of activity - working at the information desk for a few hours, taking part in LIST (Library Information Skills Training) sessions, diversity training and other workshops within the library, attending library events such as the Ken Saro-Wiwa Seminar,  even a discussion about climate change,  – I had the chance to attend them all.
The work experience didn’t stop at the library gates: I travelled with colleagues to CONUL training events in Cork and Belfast, and to the Digital Data Curation Conference in Dublin. I spent an afternoon at the OPW/MU Archive in Castletown House, and also viewed exhibitions and libraries in Dublin. I even had the chance to do a “job swop” with the local community library, which was exciting and totally different from my daily work in the academic library.

This was all valuable experiences. I learned about the range of events libraries can offer, and things to consider when organising an event. The training sessions and workshops I attended gave me first-hand insight of the everyday work of a librarian and the issues and concerns they deal with.
Photo courtesy of the author
 Life is not all about work, is it? I had a great time exploring Ireland: from Cavan to Cork, from Howth to the Cliffs of Moher – I enjoyed every trip I did. The country has beautiful walking trails and I will come back to see more of it. It was great to meet the friendly and welcoming people, both hosts and other guests. The University offers free Irish classes too, so I tried to learn a bit of the language, but I am still struggling with the pronunciation.

The ERASMUS+ was a great experience. You explore the country and the people in a totally different way than on a holiday trip. Most people taking part in the ERASMUS experience say that they have grown more independent, open hearted and skilled in the language.
My advice is: even if you might be afraid of going abroad because of language difficulties or the long distance from home – go for it. You can attend a language course in preparation (run by ERASMUS), and as you will be using the language of the host country, you will improve your language skills without noticing.

Ireland is as safe as a country can be and Irish people are great hosts and lovely friends. You might have to plan to spend a bit more money on groceries and accommodation than you are used to, but ERASMUS+ funding is quite good.
Maynooth University Library isn’t too different from University Libraries in Germany. There is more student engagement than I was used to, but the number of events and opening hours are similar. The internship strengthened my wish to work in an academic library in future, maybe even in the digital department/Repository/Research Data area.
I certainly hope to return some day. 
Photo courtesy of the author

Posted on Monday, March 30, 2020 | Categories: ,

3 Mar 2020

Open Access eXchange (OAeX): an economic model and platform for fundraising open scholarship services

This article describes the Open Access eXchange (OAeX) project, a pragmatic and comprehensive economic model and fundraising platform for open scholarship initiatives. OAeX connects bidders with funders at scale and right across the open scholarship spectrum through crowdfunding: financial expenditure is regulated by a market of freely competing providers and financial transactions and transparency are assured by a clearing-house entity. Specifically, OAeX seeks to facilitate open access publishing without the barrier of article processing charges (APCs), as well as contribute to solving challenges of transparency and economic sustainability in open scholarship projects in the broader sense.

Read the full piece at http://doi.org/10.1629/uksg.500

10 Feb 2020

Announcing - CONUL Conference Bursaries

Guest post by the CONUL Conference Team

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

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

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

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

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

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

18 Dec 2019

The Enduring Need for Archives

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

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

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

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

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

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