23 Oct 2015

CDG joint seminar/AGM 2015 – Abstract to Audience: a guide to conference presentations - Report

Guest post by Siobhan McGuinness, Library and Records Management Intern at the Heritage Council

As a new professional I have always found the Career Development Group within the LAI wonderful when it comes to events. The venue was great and gave everyone a chance to meet and network over the day.

Thank you to the National Library of Ireland and to all the speakers on the day, in addition a huge round of applause and well done to CDG Group on a great day.

For those of you who didn’t attend the day, check out the CDG outline, and for those on Twitter the Storify is here.

To begin our day, the keynote speaker is the lovely Dr Sandra Collins (Director of the National Library of Ireland)

Sandra began her presentation by asking “What sort of Librarian are you”. In answering this question many of you will find your voice as a librarian. This voice may develop from being involved in many different jobs and projects. The more diverse the better.

We as librarian’s need to always be looking at this ever changing world and when it comes to finding your voice, stop and question, How will I contribute to this world and what will my voice say? Really ask yourself, “What is important to me”?

One way to contribute is to look at the social and cultural impact that your profession has. For instance, schools and communities around Ireland, look at the role of the library service within these two areas, librarians have a huge impact. In addition, look to the New Ireland that is evolving, look closely at the role you have as a librarian and the impact you can have on these groups. More importantly find the groups in your community that interest you and where your voice can give this group opportunity and help.

As Librarians we can and need to ask these important questions, Sandra encourages us to speak and present on a topic that interests you. We as professionals can figure out the answers to the questions that interest us, and as awesome people we should not be afraid to stand up and say “I know this”. Sandra goes on to give more encouragement by adding “you should have opinions don’t apologise for having them, believe in what you are saying and keep going”.

A truly inspirational presentation, Sandra gave me great encouragement to sit down and ask the tough questions.

The next three speakers where, Niamh O’Sullivan, Laura Connaughton, & Peter Dudley.

Niamh showed how public speaking can be the hardest thing to do as a professional. However you need to realise that it is scary and it does take a lot to face your fears. The best part is the more you do it the easier and more comfortable you will be.
Tips & Tricks was Niamh’s key message, below I have outlined a few:

  • Have Good Slides!
  • Use presentations as a route to publications.
  • Think catchy titles, like quotes from a movie.
  • Keep your message clear and simple
  • Use the 10/80/10 rule; 10% Intro, 80% Main, 10% Summary & Conclusion
  • Answer all the “W” questions: What, Why, Where, and don’t forget the HOW!
  • Check out this free eBook, “Persuasive Presentations
  • Check out this book: The Naked Presenter by Garr Reynold’s

Next to the stage is Laura Connaughton, here Laura spoke about her winning poster for A&SL conference 2015, and it was a super poster!

The advice Laura focuses on is to make sure the topic for your poster and content can stand alone. Be aware that this is the difference between a poster and a presentation, the poster will do all the talking for you.

When designing the poster have a logical pathway. In addition know that your choice of colour is very important, and be consistent.

The main aim of a poster presentation is to always ask for opinions, you need to always look at the full poster and you may have looked at it for the zillionth time and be so disjointed from the content. It is super important to get an honest opinion, look for constructive feedback, and learn from this.

The second last speaker is Peter Dudley, and his message is “DO NOT USE BULLET POINTS” end of story, well not really.

Peter is all about ambition and his presentation really is outstanding. Be smart about doing a presentation, don’t look for PowerPoint templates, look for the blank slide and be creative in your presentation. He maintains that standard bullet points are, (a) Generic, (b) Lifeless, (c) Ineffective. This is very true, bullet points force us to read the text and read it in a linear way. Why can’t I move the text around and keep it engaging? The best news is, you can do whatever you want.

Make images your best friend. Be smart when using the image, think of what you are talking about and find an image that will convey your message in a smart, effective manner. You are there to present, so present your material in a confident and dynamic way.

Last on the panel is Michelle Dalton, I have heard Michelle speak numerous of times and every presentation is superb. Today we are treated to a workshop, so we all have to sit up and get engaging.
Two activities were planned, here I will focus on the first activity as it gave a lot of food for thought.
Our first activity is to take a look at the handout above and decide what it is we like and dislike:
Everyone had similar results:
Dislikes included:
  • the template from PowerPoint, 
  • images used in the third slide, 
  • bullet points, 
Likes included:
  • image in the first slide,
  • font and use of text in the first slide,
  • question in the last slide, and how the change in font highlights the main part of the question
Michelle suggested that we focus on one main aim that you are trying to convey when giving a presentation, and this is tell a story. First you need to ask “What story do I want to tell”, and second “How will I tell it”.

As we had previously heard, images are super important, however Michelle suggests the use of “white space” can be crafted very well, and is something we often miss.

The biggest piece of advice I came away with from today’s event is to look at the font, you don’t need it to be default New Times Roman, at 12p, and justify. You are not in college there are no rules. It is your content, your topic and your work so make it all yours. Be brave and download new fonts, make the font super big when conveying an important piece, and use 100 slides with one point per slide, all of this is perfectly fine and acceptable.

The information, advice, tips and tricks given at this event is very important to anyone who wishes to be brave and put themselves out there. I for one will be setting challenges for myself next year, and I hope that I will channel all this wonderful energy into making my topic and presentations super awesome.

Thank you to the Libfocus team for the opportunity to write this post.

Slides of the event are available here

The bad librarian

After reading Martin O’Connor’s recent post, the good librarian, I thought about the opposite: who or what is The Bad Librarian? What do they look like? What do they do? Who do they do it to? How bad do you have to be before you’re struck off by the LAI? So in the first of a series of loosely Halloween themed libfocus posts*, I sought to investigate.

The idea of a bad librarian conjures a simplistic vision of frumpy, unhelpful reference desk staff confusing users with in-house jargon. Basically a variation of the stereotype that real librarians roll their eyes at. I’ve been working in libraries for nine years now: surely I can articulate a clearer vision of this? So I used my research skills to look into this in a bit more detail:

And mostly what I found was either covers from vintage smutty books or a few videos attempting libraries + humour (very difficult to do). A few librarians have blogged about it, but they were just describing bad reference service again.

If we look at the historical record, we'll find that such questionable characters as Mao Zedong and J. Edgar Hoover were librarians but they lacked commitment to the profession and soon moved on, so they are of little help to us here.

Then I asked Twitter:

And I got a bit more detail here. The responses I got back (thanks to all concerned) would suggest that a bad librarian is :
  • apathetic
  • negative
  • is not user-focussed, or at least is only focussed on what users wanted twenty years ago

Which doesn't sound that bad: it just sounds like me having a bad day, to be honest. So I think there’s a bad librarian in all of us. It isn't an extreme, needs-to-be-sacked sociopath. It’s any of us when we forget about why we got into libraries in the first place or have gotten stuck in a rut and forgotten how to keep our jobs interesting. I would suggest that if you can read Martin’s article and you find you’re not ticking many of the boxes there then maybe you're losing your spark and your inner bad (but not evil bad) librarian may have taken over.

*probably not.  

Posted on Friday, October 23, 2015 | Categories:

16 Oct 2015

Cataloguing, e-books, student acquisition, creating young readers and folk music: Great projects and presentations from The National Acquisition Conference 2015.

I recently travelled to York for the National Acquisitions Group Conference (NAG) 2015. The theme of this year’s event was ‘Back to the Future,’ and it was a really interesting and inspiring couple of days, not least because there was so much variety in the presentations and workshops. With presentations from a range of public, academic and special libraries there was something for everyone and allowed us all the opportunity to see what’s happening outside our own domains.

Having a plan
First up was Sara Griffin from York Minster. Sara spoke about their Collection Management Framework which basically acts as their 5 year plan. She commented that the plan was used to prioritise projects and gave us some excellent examples of projects in the library. One example involved using Copac CCM tools to identify the uniqueness of the collections. Another was a digitisation project that worked with digitising the donor book and linking it to the catalogue. What really came across from Sara’s presentation was the importance of having the framework to ensure that time and resources are used wisely.

Advocacy and public libraries
The keynote address was delivered by Neil MacInnes, President Elect of the Society of Chief Librarians. Although based in the public libraries sphere Neil’s address was very inspiring for librarians in any sector and he used the forum to encourage us to advocate for the libraries and for the profession. Fitting very nicely into the theme of the conference he spoke about how many libraries have tried to be too many things for too many people and there is a certain sense in getting ‘back to basics’. This led to an insight into the work of the Leadership for Libraries Taskforce which lists its potential outcomes as to get libraries seen as community hubs and to get libraries valued by decision makers. His presentation highlighted the ‘universal’ offers that libraries should be prioritising, digital, reading, health, information and learning. Slides are available on the NAG website for members and there is a link available for non-member attendees. But I would like to share with you the sentiment in his final slide which went down very well with the audience. “A Library should not shush; it should roar” (Catherynne M Valente, The Girl who soared over fairyland and cut the moon in two.)
Credit www.theuntappedsource.com
Licence: CC BY 3.0

Cataloguing and e-books
The next couple of presentations focused on two very different projects libraries. Sara Pink, Guildhall Library, spoke about cataloguing the incunabula in the collection. Importantly, she was passionate about capturing and making accessible all the extra details, like marginalia, that can make these early printed books completely unique. From incunabula to e-books, Sarah Rayner and Des Coyle spoke to us about provision of e-books in University of Manchester in a presentation aptly titled ‘Books Right Here Right Now.’ This was a fascinating insight into what students want from their library and what they actually use. As university becomes more expensive students are less likely to want to spend money on recommended reading and therefore expect the library to provide for their needs. The project involved providing core texts as e-books for a certain cohort of students and tracking usage. There were interesting findings, for example, more students found print easier to read but access to the e-book encouraged them to read more. Also, e-books were found to be more accessible and more convenient, echoing studies that have pointed to the importance of offering resources at the point of need. For more information I would encourage you to have a look at the blog http://blog.brhrn.library.manchester.ac.uk/.

Musician in residence and Library Champions in HE
After lunch there was even more....starting with a song entitled ‘Practical Coal Mining’! Jennie Hillyard and Gareth Davies-Jones presented on The Seam Project, a wonderful musician in residence project that took place in The Mining Institute in Newcastle. This really is a fun and unique way of making collections accessible in a whole new way and I have to say I personally loved the music. Then another academic library project , The Library Champions Project in King’s College London. This project brought in students as Library Champions and gave them budgets, encouraging them to engage with their peers and acquire books for the library. As engaged students they could also be used to provide feedback on other services etc. I found this project very interesting, in that it gave students the opportunity to be active contributors to the development of the library collections and services. I would definitely encourage anyone considering a similar scheme to have a look at the slides and findings from this project.

Collections Review and Copyright scanning
Following these presentations we broke into groups for workshops. I’m slightly biased about the first workshop I attended as it was presented by my colleague Dorothy Fouracre about the project I’m currently working on. It allowed participants an opportunity to use the rubrics and get a bit more of an in-depth understanding of what we are doing and why. You can read more about it in a previous post I’ve written. The workshop I attended on the second day was about Copyright Scanning. This was fascinating as I realised this is something that universities may not be using to its highest potential. However, it obviously requires resources, both scanners and time, as well as a very good knowledge of copyright law and understanding and investment by academics. Certainly, it is worth taking the time to consider further.

Day two, also brought presentations about a survey of users in HE, an overview of public libraries in Wales, creating readers in public library, a fantastic initiative called the Hive which is an amalgamation of a public and HE library in Worcester and finally a study of students experiences of using e-books on mobile devices. Phew....I’m tired just typing all of that! And that’s not all, there was
also a student panel which was very thought-provoking.

Student panel
First up, the student panel. Now this was something new for me, but really really interesting as there was an undergrad and two post-grads. E-books, the undergraduate loved, he lived off campus and again the point of need was important. The post-grads wanted a better experience with e-books, the ability to download being very important. Although none of them were aware of extra features, such as highlighting. Perhaps more support in how to make the most of e-books should be available and this was echoed later in the day.

In relation to student-led acquisition they were all very engaged with their libraries and knew about various options including ILL. When asked about most valueable resources the post-grads mentioned integrated search platforms, Worldcat and Copac. Funnily, the post-grads wanted quiet, food-free space in which to study (wishing for a Libro-cop!) while the undergrad wanted to talk and bring in his food and coffee. Clearly it’s very difficult for libraries to be all things to all people but many are managing this very well by creating separate spaces on different floors and providing study or group collaboration rooms. Interestingly, these students couldn’t answer the one question we’d all like answered, how do we engage students who aren’t already using the library?

Users in HE
Owen Stephens presented the results of a survey which looked at where and how library users in HE accessed resources and what they wanted from the library experience. The report is available to download at the following address http://info.iii.com/survey-uk-academic-libraries. It is always good to have a better insight into what the users have to say.

Public libraries, collaborations and creating readers
Next up was Helen McNabb to talk about ‘Public Libraries – the Welsh Perspective.’ I really enjoyed this presentation as I know relatively little about public libraries. Helen spoke about Libraries Inspire the current strategy for libraries in Wales. The level of collaboration across the public library sector in Wales is amazing and allows the services to provide so much more for their patrons. It really is worth taking time to look at their model. As Helen put it “It is much better working together than working apart.” The reality of cuts formed part of the discussion, harking back to the importance of advocacy in our keynote.

Another public librarian, Jill Connolly, Lancashire County Council, was up next to talk about creating readers so that libraries are sustainable into the future. I found her sentiments about the library being a part of family life very heart-warming and it bought back very happy memories of visits to the library with my family as a child. I hate to think of children missing out on the excitement of new stories and adventures, and the thrill of having so many to choose from in the library. The Reading Trail was something I really loved, matching books with tourist attractions in the vicinity really creating something very exciting for their young readers. Also the Book of the Year, picked by teenagers themselves, giving them a sense of ownership and inspiring them. It was so encouraging to see someone so passionate about empowering children and young people to read.

That led very nicely into another initiative that has the amazing statistic of increasing teenage/young people’s borrowing by 572%. YES...572%!!! The Hive is collaboration between Worcester University and Worcester County Council. The collaboration provides so much for the students and the local community including events such as a Study Happy Programme which provides revision skills alongside Pilates and nutrition classes. Staff provide support to all users and there are even opportunities for students to gain work experience providing classes etc in the library to add to their CVs before they even leave university. Again it showcases the benefits of collaboration and I really wish them every success with it.

E-books again
The final presentation focused on student’s use of e-books. As we all know, the e-book thing is complicated, different licences, different platforms, different devices are just some of the things we have to try to understand. This project tried to get a better understanding of these aspects to better understand the user experience. Interestingly when examining downloads, the project showed the difficulties with software rather than anything the supplier controls. Further reading is available here http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/25379/. For me it really illuminated the amount of different things at play to actually download and use an e-book, no wonder that it can be difficult for students. Perhaps this is another reason for the current, much talked about decline of the e-book?

Glisser – audience involvement
Finally I quickly have to mention Glisser which was used at the conference. Glisser allows the slides to be made available on devices on the day and also allows interaction from the audience. Although it didn’t necessarily work as smoothly as hoped on the day, I can see how once the kinks are ironed out this will be a fantastic addition to conferences. It’s well worth a look!

That’s all folks.....

As you can imagine there was such a huge amount to take in and I left both inspired and exhausted! It’s always nice to look outside your own bubble and see what is going on elsewhere and I love seeing the enthusiasm people have for their jobs in libraries and how much looking after collections and providing a good service to users means to them. 
Posted on Friday, October 16, 2015 | Categories:

12 Oct 2015

The good librarian


Michelle Dalton, in her most recent Libfocus post called on librarians to communicate with each other more and to share our knowledge and experience. She made this call based on a previous post by Aoife Lawton. The post that follows can be seen to be following in the spirit of their call.

I recently put a call out to a number of librarians asking what, for them, makes a good librarian. I didn't try to define what a good librarian was. I worked on on the basis that we know one when we see one. And that we recognise the qualities that make a good one. I asked for three qualities from each person.

So, what, then, are those qualities that make a good librarian? I received, what I consider to be, excellent replies and these replies are posted, word for word, below... [each persons answer is one paragraph]

Obviously it depends so much on the role, but in acquisitions I think proven analytical skills, excellent communication and an ability to up-skill quickly are essential. The evolution of the digital environment means no one can rest on their laurels. There are obviously a number of other things such as being approachable and organised, but those are top for me right now

1) People skills - not necessarily are you gregarious or extrovert, but can you engage with people? Do you have a sense of empathy? Do you like helping people? Librarianship is first and foremost a service profession.  You need to provide a good quality service to your users, and being able to engage with people, who have a wide variety of library familiarity, goes a long way in establishing that.  I remember a colleague laughing in the face of someone who asked a really stupid question, a really really stupid question.  That’s appalling.  You keep a straight face and answer the question to the patron’s satisfaction, then, if you like, laugh about it afterwards, privately.
2) IT skills – like it or not, technology is ubiquitous.  Unless you’re specialising in, for example, rare books or special collections, you’ll be using IT a lot (heck, even if you are rare books bod or collections specialist, you’re still likely to be using computers. I’m not saying you need to be able to code, or hack into networks, but you at the very least when someone from your IT department (if you have one, that is) speaks to you about computers, you should be able to discern if he or she is pulling the wool over your eyes.
3) A synthesis of 1) and 2) Pedagogical skills -  give a man a fish etc etc.  Your, and your users, life will be made easier if instead of you finding the material or doing the catalogue search, you can effectively teach your users how to do the same.  Can you effectively cut through library jargon and demonstrate your mastery of your library by showing others how it’s done?
Finally a key skill in the negative.  A love of books is not a pre-requisite or even necessarily desirable for work in libraries: you’ll spend far more time dealing with people I’m afraid

I would say the ability to network and market the library, the ability to embrace change, a willingness to learn

It's interesting because I would say there's a big difference in what employers look for in public libraries compared to academic. I'm going to answer it from a public libraries perspective. The main thing you need to have is experience though the type of experience can vary. In public  libraries its still very much about the books, so even if your previous experience is in a book shop, it will count. You need to be able to demonstrate a good knowledge of fiction. The second thing I would say is a good knowledge of how public libraries fit into the wider community, their ethos, their purpose or role that they play in the community- who they serve and why. That's not necessarily a skill rather than a way of thinking. Public libraries are all about people and serving the community and a good librarian has to be as well. The third thing I would look for is people skills - good communication.a good librarian will develop partnerships, build relationships, connect with groups, and communicate daily with colleagues and public. You need to be able to resolve issues both with the public and colleagues. Unfortunately this is something you learn with time, you can't do a MOOC on it. You will get asked in interviews in public libraries about this and its important that you can demonstrate that you can handle conflict through good communication.
Hope this is helpful, they're not the kind of things you can learn but you can acquire them through volunteering, or working in other sectors, not just libraries

Three things that I look for when hiring library staff:
I like to try new things in my library. Whether that's eliminating the traditional non-circulating reference collection, standardizing loan rules so that everything goes out for the same amount of time, circulating unusual items like sewing machines and ukuleles, or using open source software, I need my staff to be open to experimentation; staff buy-in is essential when you're trying to push the envelope.
Working with the public, especially a changing public with evolving needs and expectations, can be difficult. In order to provide excellent service to the public, staff need to be calm, collected, and courteous. Staff also need these traits to work with well each other. If staff don't get along, work could become a lot harder. This is especially true in a library with a small staff – like mine.
Finally, and most importantly, I look for people who want to work at my library. I want staff to be excited to be here and to find satisfaction in the work.
These three traits – being open to experimentation, being calm/collected/courteous, and being excited about the job – are some of what I look for when hiring.
PS – I'm always willing to review resumes and cover letters and to talk to new librarians looking for advice! [Any body wishing to take up this offer can contact Alex Lent]

Qualities would be patience kindness and a passion for life. Library skills are a given as you just did a degree or masters, work helps you develops those skills, Skills would be to lead, work well with teams and look for collaborations to better the library even outside collaboration, I suppose it depends on the library sector but they need to know that sector really well and the organisation. And know the leaders, mover and shakers within that sector

I guess the things I'd be looking for are an aptitude with IT skills or willingness to try it out. I think it's important for all aspects of library work that someone is thorough and I'd be trying to establish this from CV and interview questions. Finally because of the environment we work in (academic libraries) where library work can vary greatly, I'd be looking for flexibility.

For a cataloguing librarian -someone with attention to detail, self-motivated and enthusiastic.It's hard to separate out skills, temperament and aptitude - particularly when librarians undertake so many different roles, but the longer I work the more I value good communication skills, which are vital in every environment.

I think interest /curiosity is key, along with respect for users, a commitment to professional development, effective searching skills, & a lot of energy

Sure, no problems. Three skills, qualities or characteristics hmm let me see... Creative, analytical and humble. Let me explain why! Creative, to be curious and always learn new things and questioning what we are doing. Analytical, to be able to go behind the obvious see patterns and be able to see consequences and draw conclusions. Humble, to be able to understand and be empathetic to keep good relations and networks and capable to communicate in a polite way.

I would say adaptability, customer service and resilience. The profession is changing so fast in so many ways that you need to be able to adapt to things as they happen. You also have to be prepared to think outside the box and try new career paths within the field if needed. Customer service is important as too many people still think all we do is sit in an office and read books all day. You need to be good with people to work in most library jobs. Finally resilience as it's not an easy profession to work in and sometimes you need a thick skin to cope with both changes and patrons!

Willingness to learn new skills or update existing ones & show evidence thereof. Willingness to change & adapt & evidence thereof. If resistance is futile (the Borg) at least use it your advantage. Willingness to work in a team - don't ask someone to do something they you're not prepared to do; listen to others' reasons for not doing X, sometimes just listening is sufficient & other times a longer process may be required for both sides. Back to willingness to adapt.

I would say: a desire to continuously learn and develop new skills and expertise, a willingness and ability to collaborate and build relationships, & you need to be a good communicator too

Be creative - being able to identify opportunities and spot potential for a service or resource that is not being delivered by other units in the wider organisation. Being creative helps librarians embrace change.
Know your audience - be they students, academics or the general public, if you don't understand the needs of the people you support, or if you don't know how to ask the right questions to get to that point, then you've failed.
Be a champion for your profession - be that locally by advocating for the library in the wider organisation or nationally/internationally through representation on committees/groups and by contributing to the research literature.

Enthusiasm for the profession, pro-active mindset, willingness to learn continuously
a LIS degree. Experience can be acquired on the job (with a hard-working attitude as the prerequisite)

1. Interesting and Interested. These qualities can't be understated and I think one informs and develops the other.Librarians tend to come from a wide variety of backgrounds and have lots of different interests- this means our scope of information is quite broad. To be interested in users of our services, not just in their well being and research needs but to be interested in what they have to say- how they say it and in what contexts helps us learn new things and new ways to interact with people.
2. Love to Learn. Being a librarian is the career where you are guaranteed to learn something new every day
3. Resilience - Some days are harder then others, some people will never understand you worth or what you do, others expect you to be a miracle worker with no funding.... getting a job in this sector can be disheartening.

1. Be sociable. You should be interacting with other library staff, users and any other stakeholders: telling them about what you and your library are doing and learning about what they're doing.
2. Be curious. As a librarian you're in a great position to be always learning new things. If you're not, refocus your job to make sure you are.
3. Be strategic. Library's change slowly so plan ahead for the projects that might take take six months or two years to come together - always keep a few long term projects or potential projects in mind.
Not that I consider myself an exemplar of the above but it's something I aim for!

1. user/client focused, rather than a library-centric mind-set
2. the ability/aptitude to continually identify how new technologies can be harnessed to support No.1
3.to be able to work methodically,accurately,with attention to detail so that (all) outputs are reliable and factual/evidence-based where possible

People skills, including communication skills, are essential.
 A librarian must be willing to learn.  You can learn how to do most things if you want to.
 A librarian needs to be able to adapt to change and have a flexible approach to work

Firstly I would look for someone who is motivated and passionate and really wants to work in a library. Who is willing to join committees and advocate for the profession. 
I would look for someone who is curious, who keeps an eye on current trends in the library world and is willing to upskill to improve their skills. 
Finally I think it’s important to have a sense of social justice and empathy. We deal with the public a lot, so it’s good to have empathy to them and your workmates. As we deal in information it’s very important to have a sense of social justice and value intellectual freedom and privacy.

A big thanks, in no particular order, goes to Shona Thoma, Mick O'Dwyer , Ger Prendergast, Jack Hyland, Ronan Madden, Jane Burns, David Hughes, Helen Fallon, Michelle Dalton Niamh O'Donovan, Siobhan Dunne, Elaine Harrington, Claire Sewell, Daniel Gunnarrson, Brid McGrath, John McManus, Breeda Herlihy, Siobhan McGuinness, Alex Lent and Alex Kouker...

Posted on Monday, October 12, 2015 | Categories:

7 Oct 2015

DIY until you die - an ode to the Dublin Zine Fair

picture courtesy of Mick O''Dwyer

Guest post by Mick O'Dwyer, a zine librarian with the Forgotten Zine Archive

If you were to ask me what my favourite zine of Dublin Zine Fair this year was, I would be hard-pressed to answer. It could be either Rachel Ang’s stunning perzine The Craft, or Cal Folger Day’s Domestic Labor Manual - a chapbook about cleaning houses in New York. If I'm honest, however, I think my favourite was a zine called FUK U. It contains 24 images of Bono with the words FUK U. It’s a mini-masterpiece.

The fifth annual Dublin Zine Fair took place in the Chocolate Factory, Dublin, over the weekend of August 15th and 16th. It was originally set up by the artist Sarah Bracken as a means to celebrate, support, and promote independent publishing. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most unique events in the Irish publishing calendar.

Zines are independent, self-published magaZINEs, created out of desire for self-expression rather than profit. They’re passionate, delicate, and intimate, borne out of their creator’s curiosities, and alive with a Do-It-Yourself spirit. As zine librarians for Ireland’s only dedicated independent zine archive (the Forgotten Zine Archive), fellow librarian Tom Maher and I were asked to help organise the fair for the second year running (for a more detailed description of zine librarianship, click here).

This year’s Dublin Zine Fair was the best attended yet, with over 40 self-publishers selling and trading their work. The variety of high quality alternative publications on display was astounding – independent comix, artist books, chapbooks, and zines could be found on every table. There were zines about theremins, photography zines of punk gigs, and even a comic about a talking rock. Anyone who feels that print is dead hasn’t checked with the zine community.

picture courtesy of Mick O''Dwyer

The whole Forgotten Zine Archive (comprised of over 2000 zines) was on display throughout the fair, as we ran a pop-up archive for the third time this year. It’s always fascinating to see an archive in operation outside the more traditional library/museum spaces, allowing people to delve in, rifle through it, and get lost in its contents. To see the interest and respect people showed for the collection was quite heartening. I’m always a little apprehensive of zines getting damaged or stolen at pop-ups. As zines are items of ephemera, and often more or less unique, if any were taken, it might be impossible to replace them. But none were, and I can’t wait to showcase them again!

I love how empowering creating a zine is. One of the main messages of the fair is that anyone can make a zine, and people from all over the world are welcome to showcase their work. At this year’s event, we had zinesters from as far afield as Malaysia, Australia, and New Zealand. Everyone is encouraged to self-publish, regardless of their artistic or literary level. Each zinester manages every aspect of their creation; they write, edit, publish, and distribute every zine. In a world of internet trolling and cyberbullying, these kinds of positive messages are invaluable and should be available to everyone.

It was great to see support for the event from NIVAL (National Irish Visual Arts Library), who were there purchasing material for their collection. The librarians at Limerick School of Art and Design have also been at fairs, and have even run their own event, the Limerick International Publishers Salon (LIPS). Further interest in the Dublin Zine Fair from the wider library community would be more than welcome, as it is vital that libraries seek out and support alternative publications. Libraries typically purchase their materials from a narrow list of corporate vendors. As vendors conglomerate and collections homogenise, the need for alternative voices grows ever stronger. Vendors may not always cover unpopular and underrepresented viewpoints, or house unusual formats, as there is less commercial value in doing so. As a result of this, it is becoming increasingly difficult for librarians (and therefore library patrons) to be aware of the wealth of independent, local, or alternative publications available. Librarians must actively search for them.

During the fair, we ran various workshops on weaving, needle felting, bookbinding, and creating zines and comics. I was struck by how easily these workshops could be adopted by libraries. Zines have been used successfully in many libraries as teaching tools, for people from Montessori school age to adults. Teaching with zines demonstrates the wealth of alternative information sources available. These lesson plans on Barnard College's website are an example of how teaching using zines could benefit a student’s information literacy. Zine-making workshops are fun, easy to run, and can be of particular benefit to those who learn visually, or kinaesthetic learners.

The zine community and the library community currently exist as separate entities in Ireland. Libraries are starting to become more aware of zines, but tend to be slow to begin creating their own zine collections. Events like the Dublin Zine Fair highlight how both communities can benefit from one another, and perhaps will be the first steps towards creating an open dialogue between the two.

picture courtesy of Mick O''Dwyer

5 Oct 2015

Let's all learn from each other

I was really struck by a comment that Aoife Lawton made in her recent post on public libraries, about how we should try and share experience, ideas and expertise across all library and information sectors:
"As librarians we must continue to support each other, to network, to learn from our mistakes, to build on our successes and most of all to share all of our learning with each other. There needs to be cross-fertilization of ideas amongst the different sectors of librarianship, from special to academic, from public to school, from health to legal to corporate. Our combined experience will drive librarianship forward."
Based on data from Census 2011 (thanks to @usernameerror aka David Hughes for the reference), 1,807 individuals identified their profession as "librarians" (as an aside, there were significantly less registered members of the LAI in 2014 - thanks @farragher aka Louise Farragher for this one). That is an awful lot of people, and there are potentially others working in information and knowledge management (and indeed other areas) who may have identified themselves under other titles/areas.

I wonder how effectively do the wide-ranging and varied library and information sectors and professionals currently communicate with each other and work together? Certainly at a personal level, I am guilty of being overly-focused on academic and research libraries myself - my blog posts are probably indicative of that alone. Moreover, most of the LIS professionals I network with work in academic or research libraries. In fact, I don't really know many, if any, people who work in public libraries at all.

I am a member of the LAI, an organisation that represents all libraries, and in doing so opens up channels to communicate and network across sectors. However, I wonder if those working outside libraries who also work with information in other ways feel connected to the Association? There are also a lot of other "traditional library" professionals who are not members of the LAI (a topic for another post!). These are people we can learn a lot from too, but how can we connect? Individuals and sectors have strengths and weaknesses in different areas, and have faced successes, challenges and experiences that we can all learn from, and ultimately improve and develop as a profession. Whilst there are many great examples of collaboration across sectors, I do wonder if a lot of this potential expertise and learning still remains untapped?

Library, information and knowledge professionals are not all homogeneous, but we do share something: we are part of the same community, with the same core values around access, preservation and learning. This is something we should leverage and exploit. We should support and advocate for each other, and not just for our our own sectors or issues. It is much more difficult for an individual library, or even a sector, to achieve visibility and to get on the agenda at a national level. However, there are at least 1,807 of us. If we work together, and share our expertise and experience we will have a much better chance.
Posted on Monday, October 05, 2015 | Categories: