29 Jan 2014

Librarians as authors – report from a seminar held in the ‘new’ NUI Maynooth Library

Guest post by Aoife Lawton, Systems Librarian, HSE

This workshop was organised by Helen Fallon, Deputy University Librarian at NUI Maynooth. Helen is a great advocate for promoting writing amongst librarians in Ireland. It was held on Monday January 27th on the first floor of the new John Paul II Library in Maynooth.

It took me 2 trains to get to Maynooth, a relatively quick journey and passing by the green fields on the train down reminded me of how refreshing it is to escape the urban landscape of Dublin city, if only for a day. A short walk from the train station along the canal took me to the campus. The Library itself is a few minutes from the entrance and is hugely impressive. Inside it is hardly recognisable as a library in the traditional sense, but more about that later.

Copyright: Alan Monahan @ NUIM Library
The seminar was entitled “Developing Academic Writing among Librarians” and had a strong line up, including presentations from three editors of journals, founders of two blogs (this one and Academic Writing Librarians) and a researcher hoping to publish from a PhD thesis.

Professor Wendi Arant-Kaspar co-editor of the Journal of Academic Librarianship and based at Texas A&M University delivered the keynote address. In the United States tenure is a strong motivation or indeed condition for librarians to publish. In some cases, they are expected to publish 5 articles with at least one as a single author piece to acquire tenure. It struck me that in Ireland we have no such comparable tenure track nor indeed do Librarians in Europe. A discussion took place a bit later on about that. The Journal has an acceptance rate of 25% and receives on average 200 submissions per year. The impact factor is 0.885. All submissions are peer-reviewed with the exception of perspectives. The types of submissions they are looking for are a mixture of theory and practice. They tend to pick topical issues for themed issues such as e.g. Open Access or Business models. A perspective piece usually needs to be about something innovative and is largely descriptive. Wendi shared some of her tips for budding writers including: blog first, publish later; read around your topic first and see who has already published on your topic; ask the editor if an item is suitable for inclusion, the topic must be timely and important and must meet the scope of the journal. If you are unsure about your writing style, read it out loud or get a trusted friend or colleague to proof read it. Usually ideas that are innovative and contribute to the profession and the literature will get published. Another suggestion from Wendi was for librarians to initiate a writing group among peers or colleagues – to meet once a week for an hour and share research.

Copyright: Alan Monahan @ NUIM Library
Marjory Sliney, former president of the Library Association of Ireland and long time editor of An Leabharlann shared her insights into writing and librarians' uptake of writing in Ireland. She talked about how the journal An Leabharlann started and evolved. She played a key role in expanding the scope of the journal and broadening the inclusion of literature to include the voices of special and academic librarians in Ireland. Starting out a lot of the literature had been relevant to public libraries exclusively. This was an important development for the profession as a whole and An Leabharlann is an exclusive journal in that it is the only Irish journal devoted to Irish librarianship. It is not an Open Access journal, due to the current financial constraints of the Association. It is a member benefit. Her top tip was to read back issues of An Leabharlann to understand the scope of the journal. The journal accepts articles from 1,500 to 4000 words; book reviews of 450 words and conference reports of 650/700 words. If you are planning a large article then she did recommend getting in touch with her as it could be broken up into 2 parts. Marjory suggested that book reviews are a good place to start with writing as well as conference reports. She made an appeal for librarians to contribute to An Leabharlann and was particularly interested in hearing from librarians who hadn’t published in the journal before and from those based outside of Dublin.

Michelle Dalton, co-founder of this blog presented on Developing Irish Online Publishing Through Blogging and her experience of setting up and managing Libfcus, a key blog for librarians in Ireland. She described blogging as “conversational scholarship” which to me, seems to sum it up quite accurately. Libfocus is growing with a following of 1500 and 300 posts in just 2 years. Very impressive Michelle! (editor's note: Thanks Aoife, you are too kind!). Her tips for authors were twofold: 1) get started 2) make it a habit. Both of these tips are the key to writing. One of the advantages of blogging according to Michelle is that it may be treated like a testbed or sandbox. It affords the opportunity to test out your thoughts, like a perpetual draft. She shared some links to other noteworthy blogs in our profession: In the Library with the Leadpipe, Informed and Impact of Social Sciences blog. Another message from Michelle to librarians was to encourage us to think about writing outside of library journals which is crucial for visibility and advocacy for our profession. Other presenters and the audience, myself included agreed on this noteworthy point.

Helen Fallon, founder of the Academic Writing Librarians blog talked about how and why this blog was set up and how writing in our profession was an important endeavour. The audience for the blog does not hail solely from Ireland but as she put it “has gone global” and hence when you do write on a blog, it is of course, on the world wide web and therefore “out there” for all to see. An interesting feature of the blog is the ability to translate it into other languages which has been used by some visitors. There are some excellent resources on the blog including tips from journal editors and published authors and resources for academic writing. Helen sends out calls for papers via the blog so it is a very useful one to follow/favourite. One tip Helen had was for librarians to make their presentations available on Slideshare which would increase their audience and lead to collaborations or perhaps comments.

Mary Antonesa a PhD candidate and ‎Senior Librarian for Teaching, Learning and Research Development at NUI Maynooth spoke about her experience of doing a PhD part-time for almost 8 years and getting to the final hurdle. ‘Stickability’ was a core attribute for any writer. By this she talked about the hard slog of writing and rewriting and how it is an iterative process which needed commitment and dedication. She talked about the process of writing a thesis and how it differs from writing a journal article. She hopes to publish from her thesis but wonders about the transition to a new type of writing. She felt it important for librarians to share Irish experiences and how LIS concepts can contribute to other disciplines including education. She mentioned Sconul Focus as a good place to begin publishing for librarians.

Saranne Magennis, Editor of the Open Access All Ireland Society for Higher Education (AISHE) Journal made an appeal to librarians to consider submitting articles to this journal. Articles of up to 5000 words are accepted with 3 issues published per year. Her tips for writers were: 1) Ask yourself who is your audience? AISHE has many difference audiences including academics, education developers, students, librarians, it is international and multidisciplinary. 2) Ask yourself what is the purpose of your article? It could be multipurpose – to educate, entertain, train, inform. Whatever the purpose is, it must be clear from the outset. This will make it easy to write, easy to read and crucially for her, easy to edit. 3) Think about genre. Is it a journal article or a report on practice – think about being reflective and descriptive in your writing. 4) Include examples of resources that might be useful for readers. 5) Clarity is all-important. As mentioned earlier read it out loud. 6) Finally she recommended finding your own voice. As a general point the journal publishes 1 in 3 papers received and has 3 copy deadlines in March, July and November. Academics she noted are interested in how to do things quickly and easily, they are *not interested in what librarians do*.

Following on from the speakers we had an open forum where some Q & A took place. There was a positive vibe around writing for librarians and a feeling that we needed to be writing more and getting our practice and particularly Irish practice out there, into the academic publishing sphere.

Copyright: Alan Monahan @ NUIM Library
Library tour: I signed up for the library tour, led by Mary Antonesa which was made the visit even more worthwhile. An extensive renovation project was carried out on NUI Maynooth Library which was completed in December 2012. The building feels very new, modern and Google-like. For me it was the convergence of the information world. The bringing together of “information” from the world of “information technology” and “information” from the world of “library and information science”. The IT department and the Library department work in harmony – an ideal and much sought after scenario - for any Library. From the self-issue laptop trolleys to the wall of glass, this Library is taking its patrons into the information age with gusto. The ground floor has an exhibition area, a Starbucks, a quiet hub incorporating the IT equipment (photocopiers etc.) and a vast array of white desks, chairs and computers. A large separate room has a “Google” feel to it. The chairs are multicoloured, reflecting the colours of the NUI Maynooth logo which are bright and modern. There is technology at every turn, sockets for students needing to connect or recharge and computers aplenty. This room has beanbags – the ultimate student luxury – in a corner for anyone needing chill out or reflective time. There is light and glass everywhere, the outside is brought inside and unites the space beautifully with its surroundings.

Mary explained that the entrance area of the library is sometimes partitioned by a spectacular accordion like glass wall, just one of the ideas of the architect. This enables the library to be used late into the night, up until 2am and it is not unusual for students to order pizza deliveries. There is no issue with mess, it seems this space commands respect. Two tables resembling supersized tablets at the entrance have touchscreen capability, enabling visitors to zoom into precious digitized content of the library, among many other features. The space is open to the community in Maynooth, making the notion of “town and gown” an Irish reality. Going through the security gates, there is an information desk staffed by librarians and another desk staffed by IT. There are fresh plants growing and Artwork on the far wall depicting the treasures of the college. There was more to the library than I have described here, but a notable point is that there wasn’t a book in sight, at least not on the ground floor that I could see. This is a library come of age. For anyone thinking of libraries as place, this one is most definitely worth a look.
Posted on Wednesday, January 29, 2014 | Categories: ,

19 Jan 2014

Librarian practices in subject-based online research guides

Back in 2011, two librarians at Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries embarked on a project to find out more about the role of web-based library research guides amongst American and Canadian ARL libraries.

99 ARL library websites were selected and then surveyed to learn about the prevalence and general features of subject-based research guides. Effectively, all websites offered research guides in some shape or form, of which LibGuides featured prominently (67 out of 99 libraries used this platform). 75 of the surveyed library websites also included course specific guides.

In addition, a 10-question survey was conducted (driven via different librarian mailing list services including web4lib) to find out more about general attitudes and practices in libraries when it comes to the implementation and management of online research guides. The survey’s response rate among college/university libraries was very strong (155, 82%) within the context of 188 library and 198 individual responses in total. Importantly, the questionnaire's results correlated with the website survey confirming that LibGuides features heavily among college and university libraries.

One interesting question considered the types of content hosted on subject-based online research guides (“What other type of content do you host on your research guides system?”). The table below offers an overview of provided answers (n=198).

Course pages
127 (68%)
“How to” instruction
Alphabetical list of all databases

“About the library” information
(for example hours, directions, staff directory, event)
Digital colletions
Everything – we use the research guide platform as our website
None of the above

I briefly looked at the prevalence of subject guides in Irish universities and institutes of technology. Evidently, the picture is entirely different here. LibGuides is nowhere near as prominent when compared with ARL libraries. Some libraries utilise links to static documents (PDF), which in turn include embedded hyperlinks to subject resources. Others use bookmarking services and cloud-hosted presentations (e.g. Prezi).

Below is a list of a selection of Irish academic libraries (universities and institutes of technology... I hope I didn't miss anyone here) with links to their relevant subject-portals:

Operating platform
Dublin City University
University College Cork
University College Dublin
National University of Ireland, Galway
National University of Ireland, Maynooth
University of Limerick
Trinity College
Athlone Institute of Technology
Institute of Technology, Blanchardstown
Institute of Technology, Carlow
Cork Institute of Technology
DĂșn Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology
Dundalk Institute of Technology
Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology
Letterkenny Institute of Technology
Limerick Institute of Technology
Institute of Technology, Sligo
Institute of Technology, Tallaght
Institute of Technology, Tralee
Waterford Institute of Technology
Dublin Institute of Technology

Ghaphery, J., & White, E. (2012). Library Use of Web-based Research Guides. Information Technology & Libraries, 31(1), 21-31.

12 Jan 2014

Portable eReaders and the academic library context

Portable eReaders, such as Kindles, are perceived as intuitive and easy to use devices. Users tend to learn quickly enough how to operate them, simply by switching them on and playing with them for a while

Based on this convention, introducing an e-reader circulation programme within the context of the academic library should be a straight forward feat. After all, they are already a common feature in many lending public and academic libraries.

This was also the case at Oregon State University Libraries (OSU) where a successful Kindle e-reader circulation programme was introduced back in 2009. Even though the lending service is a success and despite the general growth of e-reader usage out there (see device ownership trend data here), patrons asked hardly any questions about portable eReaders and their use within the academic library context at OSU.

So OSU librarians wanted to find out more about eReader user perceptions and attitudes and decided to conduct a study among OSU library and press staff. A mix of eReader models (8 Kindle Keyboards, 8 Nook Simple Touches, 7 Kobo Touches and 7 Sony PRS-350 Reader Pocket Editions) was purchased and gifted to a study population of 30 participants. As part of the deal to keep their eReaders, all participants were obliged to participate in a qualitative research project, which aimed to 1) understand the difficulties and hurdles participants encountered when using an e-reader; 2) explore factors that influenced participants in their decision to adopt or reject e-reader technology; and 3) understand how knowledge of e-reader technology could or would lead to enhanced library services.

The researchers explored questions one and two by applying Rogers’ innovation decision process. Over a period of 12 months, four interviews were conducted.

Participants’ attitudes towards their eReaders were dominantly sceptical before use. Concerns included cost of ownership, the (in)ability to borrow books for free, a preference of the print book over e-books, preference for a multi-functional device, rapidly changing technology and general technology aversion. Even though over 90% of study participants felt it was important to know about eReaders as part of their work, only 40% had encountered work situations where knowledge about them would have been useful.

Below is a table of common challenges participants’ encountered when they started to use their allocated eReaders:

Finding content
“I found a book finally. Finding something [in the OSULP catalogue] that was really an e-book proved to be harder than I expected.”
Accessing content
“And I couldn’t find one [e-book] that would work with the Kindle.”
Transferring/ syncing content
“It downloaded to my computer, but not to my e-reader, and I didn’t know what to do at that point.”
Getting device going
“Figuring out how to navigate in the thing was frustrating. And the display was not immediately intuitive.”
Instructions/getting started
“The instructions that come with the device tell you only how to charge it and turn it on. It has nothing to do with how you download anything.”
Preconceived ideas
“Some part of me just assumed it was wireless because I just thought, of course it’s going to be wireless.”
Using content on device
“It was a PDF, so I had an issue with making it larger to read and then having to move around sideways and up and down to read it. Not fun.”

(Table Source: Hussong-Christian, U. et al., 2013)
“It’s annoying that when you finish a book, it tells you if you like this one then maybe you want to buy this one. That is a commercial experience. That when you turn it off there is always an ad on it.”

Another challenge for eReader usage is the nature of reading materials being downloaded and consumed. Most participants downloaded leisure reading material to their eReaders rather than scholarly articles. One argument for this is that eReaders are considered more suitable for receptive reading, i.e. reading from a text from beginning to end without critically appraising the ideas, taking notes, or interrupting one’s train of thought.

On the other hand, participants did not consider their e-reader to be practical for responsive reading, i.e. for the purpose of developing new knowledge or modifying existing knowledge by engaging with the idea presented in the text. Other e-reader devices, such as laptops, smartphones and tablets were considered to be a better technological fit for scholarly reading tasks.

At the end of the research project, the vast majority of study participants (60%) rejected their eReaders in favour of alternative portable technologies. Instead, dedicated eBook readers seem to represent a gateway technology to more versatile alternatives, namely tablets and smart phones.

Things to consider when introducing portable technologies for loan to academic library patrons:
- Consider a trial run before introducing a fully fledged eReader loan service
- Provide hands-on training for library staff so that reliable practical support is in place for library users
- Provide adequate access points to e-books from the library catalogue
- Provide adequate user guides and support materials (see example for eReaders and Tablets)
- Run hands-on workshops for library users
- Provide dedicated user support contacts within the library


7 Jan 2014

UCD SILS Alumni Association

UCD SILS (also on Twitter @UCD_iSchool) has launched a free alumni association for graduates.
Full details below reposted via Leabharlann-e:

Are you alumni of SILS UCD? Good news! Our alumni association is getting up and running and would love to hear from you! From now on there will be no membership fees for joining. Instead, merely email your details and your name will be added to the database as a member. The alumni association hopes to set up a committee of alumni members to drive the direction of the alumni association, so if this sounds like it might be of interest to you, please e-mail Claire.Nolan@ucd.ie, Lisa.a.Gaffney@ucd.ie, or SILS@ucd.ie
Posted on Tuesday, January 07, 2014 | Categories:

2 Jan 2014

Advocating for the future of Irish (public) libraries

I'll preface this post, by saying I don't know a lot about public libraries. I have never worked in one, so my thoughts are primarily those of an occasional user and somebody who works in a related sector. However, whilst the post was prompted by a proposed development for public libraries in Ireland, most of the points below apply to the profession more generally.

A recent article in The Irish Times drew attention to a new proposal to extend public library opening hours in Ireland. This move would allow users to access the physical library and borrow items on a self-service basis outside of staffed hours - an excellent idea for those who work full-time or other hours which preclude them from accessing library services. It has always disappointed me that many public libraries are not open right throughout the weekend for example, when to me, this seems like a prime period for attracting new and existing users. I understand of course that this would involve more staffing, something that is impossible in today's (and indeed tomorrow's) climate. A secondary piece in The Journal also discusses the issue, and some of the comments make interesting reading, particularly in terms of how people see public library services today. There are a lot of positive comments regarding the value of library services, staff and librarians.

Of course, alongside the obvious advantages of this proposal, is the very real threat that the out of hours service may become so successful and popular, that users (and further still, local authorities and the Government) may perceive that there is no need for libraries to be staffed at all. One commenter raises this concern:
Beware folks, this could be a slippery slope. In the UK many County Councils are trying to divest themselves of responsibility for running public libraries saying they are too-little utilised, cost too much etc. Their preferred alternatives are to hand them over to businesses or community volunteer groups to run them. Of course, they are offering some financial support but nothing remotely in line with the real cost of employing professional staff. Libraries run by unpaid volunteers is a strong, and worrying, possibility for the near future.

And this, I believe, is a very real threat to the future of public libraries in Ireland: closure and/or deprofessionalisation. There is no simple solution to stemming this potential tide, as recent examples from the UK have shown. However, I do wonder if there is more (perhaps a lot more) that we can do as a profession to assert our visibility and value.

Teaching has traditionally been a very respected and valued profession in Ireland, and one that is essential for the development of our economy, culture and society in general. Even with the escalation of elearning, free YouTube videos, downloadable Powerpoint presentations and MOOCs, not many people suggest that we may not need teachers anymore, given that there is a wealth of free material available with which one can teach oneself. In fact, in Budget 2014 Minister Quinn announced the provision for 1,250 extra teaching positions in a time of a public sector recruitment embargo. Sadly, there is no such chink of light on the horizon for Irish libraries, and it is unlikely that there will be any time soon. Of course it is right that education be protected in this way, but why do library and information professionals appear to hold such little power or value compared to teachers? I wonder what difference 125 (nevermind 1,250) school librarians could make to our children's futures? Perhaps we need to follow the example of our teaching colleagues and be more forceful and ardent in articulating and demonstrating our value, to ensure our voice is both heard and listened to?

Whilst we can often do very little in the face of budget cuts and library closures, we can help to some (however slight) effect by advocating for our profession, something which I feel that we (the profession as a whole) often do not do enough of. The role of a librarian today requires being able to communicate the unique value and expertise that we offer, not just to our user communities, but to management and even the Government. This may require changing our focus and approach in some cases, to highlight concrete benefits to stakeholders in their terms, rather than simply showcasing our services in our own library language. We also need to look at what we currently do, and what we can do in the future, that is truly unique (content creation and publishing is a big one here I feel). And we need to make sure we start doing this before the Irish library landscape irreversibly changes for the worse.