30 May 2016

Libraries Futures Symposium – Trinity College Science Gallery – May 19th 2016

Guest post by Niamh Ennis, Librarian at Independent College Dublin

The event, held from morning to early afternoon, was the second last in a season of events organised by Trinity College librarian Helen Shenton as an opportunity for information professionals to meet to discuss the road being travelled into the future by libraries. Trinity themselves have a 2020 strategy plan recently published and this event had much to do with how other great library institutions are dealing with the ever-changing nature of libraries and what projects are under way in their own places of work to meet this future. After a very interesting introduction by librarian Helen Shenton, the University Provost talked for a few minutes about the plan and the importance of the Trinity libraries, both in terms of the historical collections and the uniqueness of the Legal e- depository. This seemed to be a theme of the evening as Helen pointed out at the end: the need to keep both heritage and books as well as more digital content.

The first speaker was Roly Keating, the Chief Executive of the British Library. Opening with some comic remarks on what we thought would be the future library in the sixties (clean lines, Doctor Who), Roly began an enlightening talk about the two sides of the library and The British Library’s 2023 plan. He spoke about how their primary location near St Pancras station in London is a knowledge centre surrounded by organisations seeking knowledge but only became a knowledge quarter through communication. The two sides of the library line up with the geography of the location; the physical, collected, preserved lines up with the physical library itself to one side of the train station and the virtual, open, connecting and global linking to the ongoing Google build project to the other side. The library however is working towards the second side, in digital items and openness as well as taking a role in creative economy. An important aim is described as being to “make [their] intellectual heritage accessible to everyone, for research, inspiration and enjoyment”. Roly says that as the library is funded by the public it is their “birthright”. The focus of a lot of the talk was the library’s six purposes: Custodianship, Research (of all kinds), Business (support), Culture, Learning and to be available for and represent an International audience. The key projects under way include the ‘Save our Sounds’ project which plans to try and save some of the most under threat recordings in their collection, the off-site newspaper archive in Boston Spa in Yorkshire which houses ever piece of British Journalism since the 1600s, and their international print digitisation project.

Following on from Mr Keating was Mike Keller from Stanford University. He began his talk with a summarising statement saying what they were about that followed on from the two side of the library – both tradition and innovation in supporting and stimulating. Although he pointed out that their aims are mostly in line with serving their university population of students and faculty, what they do at the university is very useful in their responsibility towards “cultural patrimony and documenting [current time]”.  Mike went on to talk about how they preserve reference based information assets via LOCKSS and CLOCKSS (which he explained for those not in the know), Stanford Digital Repository which contains over 1100 collections, and they have also begun web archiving alongside other libraries and institutions. Key points he mentioned included the importance of having a data management plan when seeking funding for research, which encouraged a follow-up question from the audience after he was done speaking. Next Mike spoke about how their catalogue search worked and how library catalogues are much better for finding titles over Google Scholar. He also spoke about a very useful tool developed by a friend of his called Yewno.com. This search is based around conceptual maps that connect areas of a topic when searched which researchers can then discuss. He demonstrated this by searching ‘Ireland Easter 1916’ which drew a plain but detailed mind map of concepts around this event. He explained that 50 algorithms are used to create this. Mike also talked about a several year long project that occurred in the University which gathered 67,000 and counting maps from the collections of David Ramsey and created an exhibition centre with a stunning floor to ceiling screen. Following this he discussed the IIIF vision for the future of this and other projects, questioning if in the future of digitising these items if they could be analysed, a search could be done within the collection and results could be even compared across websites. Stanford is working with many other institutions, including UCD, to make the tools to meet this vision and make the project findable on the web. Another project they have undertaken at Stanford launched mere days ago and is entitled ‘Enchanting the Desert’ and aims to provide a interactive resource where peer-reviewed scholarly articles were available. Mike finished up with the empowering message that people are what will make the future of libraries and not necessarily just those with degrees.

The third speaker was Richard Ovenden of Bodleian Libraries in Oxford. Richard continued the theme of traditional and new library uses in his talk when comparing conserving the heritage of the historical reading room and the new needs of the library in relation to the refurbishment of the New Bodleian. He mentioned the problems with fitting these new needs within although beautiful, restricted architecture. Therefore they have preserved the older parts for the heritage but also for the historical books and manuscripts and refurbished the 1930’s building  in the centre of town to make it less “opaque” and more visible to students and the public and suitable for use as a cultural and research building. The first step in this process ,aside from changing the front of the building to be more visible with a open facade, was to move a great deal of their low-use titles to the appropriate storage facility for the work on the building. They would then be returning some of them while keeping a flexible storage facility with a smooth service should any of these texts be required. This storage facility would be staffed by an interesting mix of library staff and those with forklift licences! This reduction of books would make for more open shelf access and study space as well as exhibition space. They also worked on the general appearance of the spaces to make the tunnels more Star Trek and the space in general more open, while retaining important spaces such as reading rooms. These reading rooms would get a more fresh and well-lit look, while the stonework would be cleaned and unseen features would be made visible. All of these changes made a huge impact academically and in terms of the public. In Academic terms it opened up the space for research collaboration and international fellowship projects (which would include a ten week immersion project) as well as seminars. The updates also supported the changing nature of the library. In terms of public impact, footfalls exceeded expectation at over 880,000 visitors in 13 months, with the Oxford Literary Festival hosting 49 events in the library. Other cultural highlights include the Shakespeare’s Dead exhibition which was launched recently by Dame Maggie Smith. The library has now also hosted educational events such as coding for young people and the Big Draw of the Year. He closes on the points that the library functions completely on philanthropic donations and that marketing is key in libraries.

The final talk of the day was given by the founder of MetaLAB at Harvard, Jeffrey Schnapp. He began with an extinction chart from the past that suggested that the library as a physical form would be extinct by 2020, which he mused was simply not true. The belief at the time was that the library was “vestige of the past” and ideas along these lines of the library as only physical were naïve ideas about what the library was or will be or indeed what knowledge is.

This fantasy is an either/or idea; that there can be libraries with books or the internet with knowledge. Jeffrey then suggested that the library was an experimental space and as he mentioned later on it had been since early in the 20th century as new types of technology had to be dealt with. This is where the idea of Metalab came – “an idea foundry, knowledge-design lab”.  Two things of interest are designing a user-centric digital lab and archive (as a physical space) and designing the 21st century library, one component at a time. One project undertaken at the University was something called a Library Test Kitchen that didn’t lose the expert element but brought the conversation into an area of speculative design. This project asked questions such as ‘what would a reading room fit for text and digital library use look like’ and ‘what does the contemplatory space in this 21 century library look like’. An interesting point that Jeffrey brought up was how libraries are leading the pack in relation to collecting data in databases and catalogues and how useful it would be if this was open. One project he was part of that looked at this used records to show how the printing of books was disseminated across Europe over the first 1000 years of printing. Something that he said towards the end really stuck with me. He claimed that having a background in cultural history made him interested in ethnology. He spoke about how the work library and its origin Biblioteca essentially means bookshelf and that although people use this to justify the extinction of the use of libraries, the idea of a book is also changeable, so why should the shelf not? He then proceeded to talk a bit about the interesting history of libraries from Alexandria and Pergumon to Napolean’s mobile library that he brought to war with him to attempts at the modern library including the Idea Store. His concluding points concern an important recipe – What is the library yesterday, what is the library today and to link up with the topic of the day, what is the library in the future. Jeffrey believes this is a hybrid, a multimedia space for knowledge access and activation. It will include reading rooms but will not be the ridiculous space for books mapped when the New York library was opening and the reference desk will need to be changed.

27 May 2016

The International Librarians Network: new round begins August 2016

Want to build your professional network and learn about librarianship around the world? Love the idea of professional travel but just don’t have the budget? The International Librarians Network (ILN) is for you. We are pleased to announce the next round of this popular program will commence in August 2016.

© International Librarians Network

Picture 1: Infographic on how the ILN works

The ILN peer mentoring program is a facilitated program aimed at helping librarians develop international networks. Participating in the ILN brings wider professional awareness, an international perspective to your work, new ideas, and increased professional confidence. We know this because many of our participants tell us – and we’ve had over 4500 librarians from 130+ countries take part so far. The ILN founders were recognised with a 2016 Library Journal Movers and Shakers award for our leadership as community builders in the profession.

© International Librarians Network

Picture 2: The ILN in numbers

Applications for the next round of partnerships will open in July and close at midnight on 7 August 2016. Numbers are limited, so apply early to ensure you don’t miss out.

The ILN is open to anyone working (or studying) in the library and information industry around the world. The program is free and the only requirements to participate are an internet connection, fluent English skills, an hour each week and a desire to build professional connections and learn from colleagues.

© International Librarians Network

Picture 3: The participant experience

Get involved now! Find out more about the way the program works, or apply online.

26 May 2016

Different types of doctoral theses - a follow up

In April this year I published a blogpost comparing the different forms of publishing for doctoral theses. My assumption was answered, there is an increase in the choice to publish a comprehensive summary thesis instead of a monograph.

Me and some colleagues have discussed the matter and it is inevitable not to mention different publishing patterns among different subjects. Therefore Ulf-Göran and I went back to DiVA ("DiVA portal is a finding tool and an institutional repository for research publications") and choosed to do an exact similar analysis for, as we consider monograph dependent subject - humanities - to see if, and if so how, it differs.

First of all, it differs. The relationship between monographs and comprehensive summary is more or less the opposite compared to the earlier selection of all subjects, monograph theses is predominant for humanities! But if we look closer, the ratio between the two different publishing formats have been very stable, at least up until 2015. For 2015 there has been a dramatic change and we can see that comprehensive summary takes shares, the gap is decreasing. I consider this a quite interesting development.

Posted on Thursday, May 26, 2016 | Categories:

23 May 2016

The Library of the Future, the Future of the Library

Guest post by Marie O’ NeillHead of Library Services & Information Services,  DBS Library
The Library of the Future, the Future of the Library symposium was held in Trinity College Dublin’s Science Gallery on the 19th May. After the recent A&SL Conference on Smashing Librarian Stereotypes, a symposium exploring future possibilities for libraries and librarians felt timely. Now that we as a profession know what we don’t want to be, how do we reimagine and describe anew the modern day library and librarian?
The symposium was one of a series of lectures that has been hosted by TCD Library on topics such as TCD’s Library Strategy, the future of monographs in a world of open access, memory in a digital age and more. The full line up of lectures can be seen here.
During the symposium, there was much talk about the ‘outward facing’ library. The hosting of a series of free talks on librarianship by TCD’s Librarian and Archivist Helen Shenton fully embodies this concept. Moreover lecture series on librarianship such as this raise the bar for Irish librarianship. We should as a profession and discipline have academic lecture series to explore and critique pertinent issues in the way that other disciplines do. 
Throughout the symposium Helen Shenton displayed an endearing professional generosity. She appears to thrive on knowledge sharing. It was clear that the line-up of presenters had been informed by contacts that she had acquired during her extensive library career. The presenters comprised library world heavy weights such as the Chief Director of the British Library, the University Librarian of Stanford University, the, Librarian of the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford and Jeffrey Schnapps, Founder/Faculty Director of MetaLab at Harvard University. One symposium tweet referred to the line-up as follows:
When I and another delegate thanked Helen at the end of the symposium for a really exciting event, she cheerfully asked us if we felt ‘fired up’ and was genuinely delighted when we said that we were. 
It was also apparent that the genesis of the library lecture series lay not only in a desire to showcase activities at TCD Library but also in a desire to contribute to the wider professional library dialogue here in Ireland.  The symposium certainly achieved this. The coffee and lunch break conversation as well as the tweets that the event generated were vibrant and lively.  At one point, the event trended number one in Ireland on Twitter, higher than the Twitter coverage of the EgyptAir flight 804 air crash which had occurred that day.
It is not possible to do justice to the detailed content of each presentation. Do consult the slides when you have the opportunity. There were however powerful takeaways from each presentation. 
Roly Keating, Chief Executive of the British Library was compelling on the potential of big data to empower researchers to get more from digital collections. He also highlighted that libraries have power in numbers, evocatively describing the universities and libraries that exist around the St Pancreas area of London as a ‘knowledge quarter.’ 
Mike Keller, the University Librarian of Stanford University described new forms of peer reviewed online scholarship. He also advocated that librarians embrace the ‘digital mashup,’ describing how disparate digital maps could be overlapped to generate ‘new hypotheses. ’Keller also demonstrated a new conceptual search engine called Yewno charmingly using the 1916 Easter Rising as an example. 
His most powerful takeaway however was his focus on talented staff as being integral to the library of the future. When he mentioned that he had obtained half a million dollars in salary bonuses for library staff at Stanford University there were audible gasps in the audience. Many Irish library staff haven’t seen a whiff of an annual salary increment for many years let alone a bonus nor have we ever conceived of looking for bonuses even in the good times which begs the question why not? What better way to smash librarian stereotypes than to be a profession that receives bonuses in the way that other professions do.  
Richard Ovenden, Librarian, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford spoke about the high density off-site storage facility in Swindon. Off-site storage of print collections to make way for more value added library spaces and services was a recurrent theme throughout the symposium. 
Ovenden also spoke about the highly successful remodelling of the drab Weston Library building (it was once described as a ‘dinner jacket made out of Harris Tweed’) designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1930s. The building was so non-descript that members of the public often mistook it for a public swimming pool. He was also insightful about the need for imaginative and modern marketing. The Bodleian libraries now advertise library events and resources on train station ticket turnstiles as thousands of commuters pass through them daily.  Genius! Ovenden like Keating highlighted the importance of library exhibitions describing them as powerful shop windows to collections. They also drive engagement.
There were yet more gasps from the audience as Ovenden revealed that the remodelling of the Weston Library was funded through eighty million pounds worth of philanthropy. New chairs in the Library were funded by alumni of the college for 500 pounds a pop for which the name of the donor would be printed on the back. Ovenden unashamedly joked that apart from the toilets there was very little space or furniture in the Weston Library that didn’t display visible evidence of philanthropy. Bodleian libraries also have coffee shops and other businesses that generate five million pounds in revenue.
Jeffrey Schnapps, Founder/Faculty director of MetaLab at Harvard in his thrilling talk appeared to develop a new nomenclature for librarianship comprising terms such as the, ‘library laboratory’, ‘programmable stacks, ‘books with memories’, ‘the awesome box’ and much more.  His talk generated stunning sound bites:
‘The reference desk as we know it is dead.’
‘Special Collections should be at the centre and not at the periphery.’
Schnapps was one of the most richly descriptive presenters that I have ever seen with a powerful, evocative turn of phrase. He has authored a book called the Library Beyond the Book which I will be rushing out to buy next week. Schnapps’ vision for the library of the future was that it would be a space devoted to knowledge creation and as well as preservation. All speakers described the future of the library as being a hybrid of the analogue and the digital.
During the symposium coffee and lunch breaks much conversation and debate ensured. Some delegates griped that it was okay for these particular librarians as they had budgets in the millions and sometimes billions. A few women and one man asked where were the female librarians in the line-up? Another delegate countered this by saying that they thought that there was a female head of library services in Harvard University and that she was also Irish. One public library delegate felt that the presentation on the British Library could have referred to what the British Library do to engage with poor local communities and with children. Other delegates found the talks to be uplifting in the context of recent public library closures in the UK. One thing that all the delegates were in agreement with was that they were awe struck by the quality of the event, of the speakers and of the library developments they described. Superlatives flowed like, ‘amazing’, ‘incredible’ ‘mind blowing’, ‘inspirational’ and more. I was also impressed with the way library staff at TCD worked together during the event and the welcoming and inviting manner with which they greeted delegates. Shenton also thanked them at the end of the symposium. 
What was clear from all of the presenters’ talks is that the future library is already here. Additionally it has been fuelled by new library funding models as well as new technologies. Librarians don’t always like to talk money. At times we can be shy about courting industry and philanthropy but all of these speakers spoke about relationships with the corporate sector and philanthropy with ease and confidence. Ovenden has also been at the forefront of the partnership between Oxford University Press and Google for example which has resulted in the digitisation of thousands of the Library’s unique collections.  
It was rapidly becoming clear that the librarian of the future needs to think outside the box in terms of the financial management of the library. We as librarians could learn so much from the presenters in this regard. In fact during the symposium, I started to have a flight of fancy where I envisaged a jointly written book by all of the speakers entitled New Funding Models for Libraries. The book would contain chapters on corporate partnerships, a chapter on philanthropy, a chapter on how to get a bigger piece of the financial pie in your institution (Keller was unequivocal that as Stanford expands academic programmes they must expand the library budget), a chapter on the librarian as entrepreneur (how to incorporate book shops, coffee shops and other businesses into your library etc.), a chapter on consortia etc.  Equally new funding models for libraries would make a great PHD thesis topic. 
Another symposium tweet reflected on some of the negative talk by delegates re: the large budgets that speakers had to play around with in their respective institutions. 

The author of this tweet is absolutely right. Yes we can think outside the box re how we fund the library of the future, but there is still an awful lot that you can do on a small budget particularly in the era of open source software and creative commons materials and more. 
I would have liked to have learned more not just about the library of the future but also the librarian of the future and the skillset that this librarian would require and then I realised that throughout the symposium I was actually looking at the librarian of the future. All four speakers were erudite, visionary, energetic, confident, eloquent, humorous and inventive, not a single librarian stereotype in sight. They were scholars, publishers, leaders, managers, public speakers, collaborators, event and PR managers, project managers, and IT, design and marketing savvy.  One computer science lecturer from TCD in the audience (it was great to see non library professionals in attendance) asked Mike Keller a question after his presentation prefacing it with one word ‘wow’. 
Did the Library of the Future, Future Libraries symposium have the wow factor? Hell yea. Were we all fired up after it? Absolutely, in spades. I couldn’t wait to get back to my library desk. The Careers Development Group of the Library Association of Ireland also hosted an incredible Library Camp on Saturday of the same week. It’s been a fantastic week for the Irish library profession.
My key takeaways from the Library of the Future symposium is that the library of the future must collaborate more not only with other libraries but also with industry and alumni. In fact it is essential. Impact statistics like the ones that Ovenden displayed are also critical.  One symposium tweet correctly asserted:

But most importantly I came away with a sense that with the right mindset, the right skillset and the right technological tools, the library of the future will be more important and dynamic than ever. In fact it doesn’t matter whether your library is big or small, what matters for the library of the future is that we as librarians think big and that we let nothing hold us back in this regard. 

20 May 2016


For many LIS graduates, up until now the idea of an entry level job unfortunately often meant an unpaid internship or Jobbridge position. A quick Ctrl+f of "library" on this spreadsheet shared by Third Level Workplace Watch indicates the prevalence of such jobs in the recent past. However, after several years of scant pickings, the past few months have brought quite a number of library vacancies - and not just in the usual places like academic and public libraries, but also in smaller and special libraries. It has been particularly interesting to see 'new' non-traditional library and information-related posts emerging also - job titles such as engagement librarian, data technologist, digital learning librarian, and information and communications coordinator among others.

Thinking back to when I finished my MLIS in 2009, at the time my job search mainly involved a weekly trawl of all the University websites, localjobs.ie, publicjobs.ie, and a few other recruitment sites (I had pretty much given up on newspapers by that point though it seems they are making a comeback!). At that, I still felt I was possibly missing out on a few places, as library positions can often pop up under the radar and in unusual places (though this was not so much the case in 2009 when library jobs were not really "popping up" anywhere:().

Fast forward to today, and there is really only one place I would check for job opportunities now: Twitter. Thanks to the hard work of a large community of tweeters (too many to name everyone, so sorry if I have missed you out) including @LAICDGroup, @ASLibraries, @libraryjobs, @LAIOnline, @AnnieOSullivan, @JMBurns99, @curiousfee, @BowsBooksLooks, @shinyshona and many more, the #LISjobsIE hashtag has become the place to find Irish LIS vacancies. If you are a recent graduate or current MLIS student who is not on Twitter yet, there has never been a bigger incentive to join.

But I didn't write this post just to highlight the value of #LISjobsIE to those who might be looking for a job. To me, it is yet another example of why Twitter can be such a remarkable and important tool. I can't think of many other platforms that would work as effectively or organically in bringing together a community, and connecting information and people. It is not just a case of people posting vacancies from their own organizations (though this certainly makes a very significant contribution), but also those who are job seeking or who might come across a position through another channel, actively opting to share this information with others. At a time when library jobs are still very much hotly contested with extremely high numbers of applicants, the idea of sharing information about vacancies - especially lesser-spotted, hidden roles - is also testament to the openness, generosity and supportiveness of the LIS profession and those who work in it.

Thanks to all who have made #LISjobsIE such a great resource for the LIS community, and long may the jobs continue :)

16 May 2016

Some notes on difference: beyond a deafening silence

Guest post by Kevin Sanders, radical librarian, miscreant and Research Support Librarian at St. Mary's University.

Like many of you reading this, for sins unknown, I'm a librarian. Like a sub-section of you, I'm also involved with a few initiatives related to librarianship.

I do tend to get involved in things. This is not, I hope, because I have a strong commitment to my professional development nor a masochistic approach to work. In earnest, it happens because I'm not exactly shy about running my mouth off. I am sure that some of you spotted this trait when I met some of you at this year's really fun #ASL16 conference.

At this conference, I spoke about librarianship, DIY culture and alternative structures and practices that the profession could utilise. It was here that Martin O'Conner asked whether I'd like to write a blog post for Libfocus, so I can only offer both him and you a sincere apology in dragging my heels in getting around to this!

In some defence, immediately following #ASL16 back in February, I had the small task of moving my life over to London to undertake a new role at St Mary's University, Twickenham as the Research Support Librarian. Anything for an easy life...

For all the stresses this has entailed, this move has opened up certain possibilities for me in terms of my professional practice due to the sheer scale of the city and the opportunities it can offer. Just as importantly to me, it really opens up the liminal spaces between our profession and the ethical aspects of our politics in a much more overt way.

By being in greater proximity to my peers in the RLC_SE branch of the Radical Librarians Collective (RLC), I have far greater access to a range of colleagues engaged in activism within the context of libraries, information, and society. When I was based in the highfalutin tourist-trap-cum-life-trap of Bath, we previously connected primarily through digital means - a lifeline for me in many ways! But access to social meetings and direct action away from the monitor offer qualities that I often fall foul of omitting in the ubiquity of digital information sharing.

Of course, there's no right way of doing things, and different things work for different people at different points and for different reasons. This idea of difference in relation to our profession is something I'd like to take the time in this blog post to discuss for a little bit. The idea of difference actually picks up from a theme I raised during at #ASL16 insofar as that across our professions, "there is a plurality of resistance, each of them a special case" (Foucault, 1978).

Political difference
I consider myself to work within the ideas and practices of radical politics. In spite of how popular discourse frames radicalism, it important to be aware that it "is not a synonym for extreme or extremist, much as the media would have us believe it is, through ignorance or design" (Gelderloos, 2007). Rather, I use it to refer to a politics of "critique, action, or [a] person that goes to the roots of a particular problem rather than focusing on the superficial solutions placed on the table by the prejudices and powers of the day" (Gelderloos, 2007). This is significant because it is not predicated by an ideology. That is to say, the definition of radical politics that I largely work within and espouse does not claim to have the solution(s) to all contemporaneous problems.

However, this is is not to say I espouse abstract politics, either. On the contrary. However, I believe it does place an emphasis on the construction of solutions. As Héme (1991) notes, "[a]nyone who asserts there is a deterministic relationship between [their] fantasy and the future of humanity is a charlatan [...] there will be an inhibiting effect on anyone who, instead of looking for causal relationships between phenomena, bases his or her critique of the world on relationships of analogy or correspondence without perceiving the difference between correlation and causality."

For me, this construction of alternatives can be built through mutual engagement and cooperation with peers. This undoubtedly brings challenges beyond the barrier of embedded practices: biases, privilege, power, tone, focus, clashes of priority, availability of resources... these are just the daily grind for any attempts to build solutions collectively. However, they yield something of greater significance than the mere sum of their parts.

It is perhaps also worth noting that the building of a functioning community is not a utopia. It is not an endgame. It is an alternative structure to that which we experience elsewhere in our lives. Take our workplaces, for example.

The fruits of workplace hierarchies
I've worked in libraries in higher education for just short of ten years. I've worked as a shelver, as an "information assistant", a subject team assistant, a subject librarian, and now in research support.

The hierarchies in place could not be more stark than in the academe. Of course there is variance across different institutions, but the rigid structures are pervasive. And these structures in turn set a precedent for how our library services engage with our readers, patrons, or users. They enforce behaviours and condition us. This is a form of institutional interpellation that I can only see as a violence.

I use this term violence not with the intention of hyperbole, but because it conditions us as subjects to the institutional power which lacks the kinds of dynamic flows that could exist, even in a deeply hierarchical organisation as a higher education institution.

I don't think it would be too shocking to suggest that the discourse and practice of our profession within the academe might be thought of as somewhat stodgy in certain aspects. At least in part, a professional and social conservatism seems to have been honed through what others are perceive as  largely passive professional identity when it comes to our political engagement. As Buschman, Rosenzewieg, and Harger (1994) have noted, “[w]e somehow seem to be a profession startled to find that we really do have deeply held convictions, that our words really do have meaning and consequence, and that when we act on our professional values someone actually notices”.

All too often, we provide services for and on behalf of faculty; our resource selection is increasingly automated through the deployment of reading list technologies and patron-driven acquisition services; we fail to substantively engage with the creation of emergent electronic publishing formats and access rights control; we frame our engagement in nascent global informational practices in terms of policy compliance.

But as Budd (2003) states: “[l]ibraries do not simply respond passively to communities’ stated desires [...] they help to construct the desires and expectations of the communities. In other words, libraries, to an extent, contribute to the legitimacy of a cultural orthodoxy” (Budd, 2003). However, the orthodoxy we're legitimising in this context is one that positions us as an administrative function.

What this culture yields is hardly what we might hope to see as the practices of those "badass" (Snowden, 2015) librarians providing support, access to information, and skills curated in liaison with their communities.

That there is still a hegemonic professional identity with a fallacious aspiration of "neutrality" is of concern to me, particularly within the now very well embedded political reality of neoliberalism.

The Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals and ARA (Archives Records Association) Workforce Mapping report (2015) highlighted the scale of our monoculture, with starkly gendered seniority and pay divides that disproportionately privilege men in a sector where nearly 80% of the workers are women, and has lower ethnic diversity than across the UK, with over 96.7% of workers identifying as white. This can do little else than reproduce the always-already (Adorno, 2003), again refuting the alternative possibilities that are available. 

That we marginalise alternative perspectives from the patriarchal and dominant norms seems distressing for a profession that has shown political resistance in various geographical, historical and contemporary examples. However, it is our reality, and we should not shy away from this if we are truly to challenge it and offer the plurality of resistances required for social and political change.
But this is not to throw the towel in and cede to the institutional strategies that have led us to this point. We still have an opportunities to make things ourselves, and this creates spaces in which to change things, to re-frame the strategies of institutions through the tactics of the individual (de Certau, 1984).

Celebrate dissidence
To build from unitary figures to local partnerships, disparate groups and disparate, decentralised cooperatives is a huge structural challenge to the very means of organisations that are "successful" in the neoliberal climate of linear, return-on-investment dynamics, and the mere sustaining of dissent is worthy of celebration. This is something the Radical Librarians Collective has, in my view, managed to achieve over the last few years.

But equally, as a community, we need to be doing things. My esteemed friend Alison Macrina is offering an example of how this can be done with regards to making connections with people in ways that are important to them.. So too is Scott Bonner at the Ferguson Municipal Public Library. And Tom at The Forgotten Zine Library in Dublin. And those operating the Feminist Library in London. And throughout the library collectives at social centres around the world.

That all of these practitioner-led examples are from outside the of the academe is not an accident. This to me serves a lesson for us. (Please don't get me wrong, many excellent library workers do many excellent things in academic libraries in the UK and beyond, but few of these are institutionally-validated programmes aimed at interacting with communities outside of their core institutional remit).

Whilst, yes, the remit of an academic library is different, and we need to ensure that we serve our communities of users. We may not be able to build social and political change within the academe immediately. We may have to build examples outside and relate this practice, playing something of a dicey game with power that will wish to dilute the radical into the liberal mainstream. But this will most likely need to be supplemented through means that offer direct dissidence.

We may have to take risks and to push the boundaries of institutional policy. This can be done by organising through secure means with GPG emails on employers' servers, or by running Tor Browser on a portable USB over their operating systems and networks. Such tactical civil disobedience can be important in our liberation.

Yes. This brings inherent personal precarity. No, this may not be be for everyone. But this is a radical alternative to:
 "the putative morality and strategic/tactical analysis in many circles [functions] as to preclude even the acknowledgement of a feasible alternative. Would-be revolutionaries need to realize that pacifism is so vapid and counterproductive that an alternative is imperative. Only then can we weigh the different paths of struggle fairly — and, I hope, in a more pluralistic, decentralized manner as well — rather than attempting to enforce a party line or the single correct revolutionary program" (Gelderloos, 2007).

The ethical social underpinnings, whilst complicated and important to place in their relative historical and geopolitical contexts, should not fail to be reflected on and learnt from as both “[l]ibraries as institutions and librarianship as a profession [are] inherently political” (Jaeger & Sarin, 2016) Whether we are pursuing knowledge production, social cohesion, or equitable provision of resources, our professional differences can unite us, and we can share our collective symbolic power to greater social and political effect towards our disparate aims.

Adorno, T.W. (2003). Soziologische Schriften I. Gesammelte Schriften, Band 8, ed. Tiedemann R. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp
Budd, J. M. (2003). The library, praxis and symbolic power. The Library Quarterly, 73(1), 19–32
Buschman, J. E., Rosenzweig, M., & Harger, E. (1994). The clear imperative for involvement: Librarians must address social issues. American Libraries, 25(6), 575-576.
de Certau, M. (1984). The practice of everyday life. London: University of California
Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals and Archives & Records Association UK Ireland. (2015). A study of the UK information workforce: Mapping the Library, Archives, Records, Information Management and Knowledge Management and related professions.
Foucault, M. (1978). The history of sexuality: vol. 1. London: Penguin
Gelderloos, P. (2007). How nonviolence protects the state.
Héme. (1991). A critique of half-assed radicalism.
Jaeger, P.T. & Sarin, L.C. (2016). All librarianship is political: educate accordingly. The political librarian, 2(1): 16-27
@Snowden. (2015/10/11). DHS fought to stop libraries from using privacy technology, but @LibraryFreedom beat them. Librarians are badass:

12 May 2016

Is There Anyone Out There? Documenting Birmingham’s Alternative Music Scene 1986 – 1990

Guest post by Jez Collins, Researcher music history, heritage and archives Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research and Birmingham Music Archive


Through my work as the founder of the Birmingham Music Archive, I’ve collaborated with colleagues from the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Archive to co-curate an exhibition, hosted at BCU, about an alternative music venue and disco called The Click Club.

The name of the exhibition is Is There Anyone Out There? Documenting Birmingham’s Alternative Music Scene 1986-1990

For this blog post though I thought I would give some context about what we are trying to achieve by having this exhibition and how we might think about it in terms of impact for BCMCR and the Birmingham Music Archive.

To start with the BMA, the impact I’d like to see is relatively straightforward. Through the lifecycle of the exhibition, and beyond, I’d like to see an increase in people engaging with the BMA. Either by posting comments and materials to the site, or asking me to create new entries for people, places and spaces that are missing, offering new insights and new stories about Birmingham’s music heritage. I’d like to create new partnerships and new collaborations, and encourage more people to take an active part in running and sustaining the BMA.

For BCMCR, we need to draw out impact in more meaningful ways, encouraging visitors to engage with the exhibition on a different level.

Sugarcubes (with Bjork) © Dave Travis
To achieve this, we have a number of students working on the project and in particular, on the night of the launch event, when we expect to host the most visitors at any one time. We are challenging our students to think critically about the event so when they speak to visitors and receive feedback they can engage and extend the discussion to elicit more detailed feedback that we can then use for a range of activities (impact assessment being merely one).

And so, part of our brief to student reads thus:

When we talk about impact we mean how the exhibition relates to the ways in which our approach to research, its insights and practice transforms people’s lives.
The nature of this transformation is what we are seeking to track in capturing:
  • how did they know about it? (through which channels, online vs. offline etc.)?  
  • reach of the current exhibition (who got to know about it and Target beneficiaries: direct vs. indirect); 
  • engagement (who came, or read the materials produced for the exhibition?);  
  • impact (what changed for individuals as a result of engaging with the exhibition? How has this change been expressed and how is it manifested?).
While there are those who will be interested in the exhibition that were original participants in the scene it captures, the audience we seek to reach can be defined as widely as possible, encompassing all demographics. Those who will be particularly important however can be identified as those whose interests and activities are far removed from the generic qualities of the exhibition material.

Working with colleagues in BCMCR’s Monitoring and Evaluation Lab we will be following up on engagement with the exhibition, in the physical space itself but also across a wide range of social media and online platforms and of course in the press. Our M&E colleagues are really questioning us about the impact, about how we evidence it and what we might do with it. It’s very early in the life of the exhibition, but first indications are that we are beginning to already receive some detailed responses from visitors.

Mapping Birmingham Music

If you are in Birmingham during May please do pop in and take a look (and leave feedback, you may even when a print of your choice from the exhibition). The Parkside Gallery is open Monday –Saturday 7.30am – 7pm.

'Is There Anyone Out There?'
Documenting Birmingham’s Alternative Music Scene 1986-1990
4-28th May 2016
Parkside Building, Birmingham City University, Curzon Street, Birmingham, B4 7BD

Alan Vega – Suicide at The Click Club © Dave Travis

Established in 1986 by Dave Travis and Steve Coxon, The Click Club was the name of a concert venue and disco associated with Birmingham’s alternative music culture.

Located in ‘Burberries’ - a conventional nightclub site in the pre-regeneration city centre, the club showcased a wide variety of acts reflecting the varied culture of the independent and alternative sector.

While capacity was limited to a few hundred attendees on any one night, The Click Club was important locally, nationally and internationally, for the role it played as part of a touring circuit, and for distributors and retailers of independent music. As a central feature in a music scene operating on a DIY-basis, independent of major labels, at the intersection of subcultures it also had enormous cultural value for its participants.

Travis continues to be a key cultural entrepreneur. Known initially as a professional photographer, commissioned by music publications such as /NME/, /Sounds/ and the local /Brumbeat/ amongst others, he has combined his photographic work with the promotion of live music in the city.

This exhibition draws upon Travis’ personal archive of film, posters, magazines and ephemera that detail a vibrant and dynamic space and time in late 80s Birmingham.

Central to the exhibition is a set of previously unseen images taken by Travis at The Click Club, a small proportion of those produced during a professional life as a music promoter and photographer.

The exhibition draws upon first hand accounts of those who were there and includes loaned artefacts in order to contextualize The Click Club in a historical moment that remains important to its community and to the music and cultural heritage of Birmingham.

The exhibition poses a series of questions: what is the value of this material? What does it tell us beyond confirming the memories of the individuals it concerned? Does such material have wider importance and contributions to make to our understanding of the past?

While the exhibition will appeal to those who attended The Click Club as well as those curious about popular music more generally, it is aimed at a broader audience interested in history, urban life, everyday creativity and the cultural economy.

Moshing at The Stupids gig © Dave Travis

Conceived and curated by scholars from the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research Paul Long, Jez Collins (founder of Birmingham Music Archive), and Sarah Raine, the exhibition//develops themes from BCMCR research clusters in Popular Music Studies and History, Heritage and Archives.

Previous work includes: UK Film Council funded production of: the film ‘Made in Birmingham: Reggae Punk Bhangra’ establishment of a project to develop the archival preservation of the production culture of Pebble Mill research into the archive of BBC documentarist Philip Donnellan; collaborations with Vivid Projects on the history of The Birmingham Film and Television Workshop and Catapult Club Archive

You are welcome to join us over the duration of the exhibition and we would be pleased to welcome you and discuss the project.

For more information and exhibition materials contact us directly.

Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research:

Birmingham Music Archive:

10 May 2016

Dynamic Research Support for Academic Libraries - edited by Starr Hoffman (Review)

Edited books can sometimes be a challenge for a reader, but with Dynamic Research Support for Academic Libraries Starr Hoffman has done an admirable job in pulling together the individual chapters into a coherent and cogent collection. An interesting strategy presented by Hoffman herself in the introduction is the idea that we should “do less, but deeper” – a somewhat antithetical solution to the common “doing more with less” predicament. This concept in many ways underpins the book, which includes detailed case studies of what are for the most part significant or substantial projects - all no doubt requiring considerable planning, resourcing, time and/or effort. Hoffman’s philosophy that libraries should primarily focus on those key activities and services where they can add most value to their institutions and users, and not necessarily try to be all things to all people, is both an intuitive and pragmatic one that many will easily buy in to (however, I imagine in some cases the process of identifying the areas that may need to be cut back on can be quite a challenging task, particularly where staff may need to be redeployed, but that’s outside the scope of this book and review). Importantly, Hoffman also emphasises that every library, institution and context is different, and no one solution fits all.

Hoffman has assembled an impressive collection of authors with an international outlook and feel, which presents the reader with a variety of different contexts, environments and experiences from smaller libraries to larger institutions. The book curates a series of case studies from these various institutions divided across three core themes: training and infrastructure; data services and data literacy; and research as a conversation, offering something for everyone from planning spaces and systems in order to support our users better, to GIS, information literacy and open access. For the most part, the case studies are very well-detailed but sometimes quite specific, so the content may appeal most to those who are currently planning to undertake a reasonably similar project, or those looking for ideas for possible new services or initiatives at a more strategic level. On occasion I found that some chapters do assume a certain level of familiarity with research services and support in academic libraries, and so it may be a better fit for those with some degree of experience in the area rather than those who are just starting off. This is understandable however, given the limited canvas and word-count within which the authors have to operate, and a number of chapters do indeed provide significant background and introductory information on the topic to help orient the reader, for instance the chapter on supporting GIS in non-traditional disciplines which I found particularly interesting, thorough and practical.

I feel that Dynamic Research Support is not so much a handbook or reference tool that one might consult frequently in day to day practice, but rather it provides the reader with tangible inspiration and ideas, shaped by a clear vision of what dynamic and innovative research services can look like in practice. Hoffman’s collection showcases how we can add long-term value for our users by focusing on going “deeper” and delivering comprehensive specialist services which tap into a very real need. Whilst such projects may require significant investment (particularly in terms of staff time, which is a recurring motif), the examples in Dynamic Research Support provide evidence that the return will often far exceed the cost.

Dynamic Research Support for Academic Libraries is published by Facet Publishing, March 2016, £49.95, 176pp.

9 May 2016

Conference report - LILAC 2016; Dublin, 21st-23rd March

Guest post by Isabel Fleischmann, Dublin Dental University Hospital

LILAC is the Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference (http://www.lilacconference.com) is organised by CILIP’s Information Literacy Group.  Information literacy development and teaching is a significant part of my role as Librarian at the Dublin Dental University Hospital, so I was delighted to be lucky enough to be awarded a bursary to attend LILAC 2016 in University College Dublin.

LILAC runs a format of multiple parallel sessions, so attendees can choose from multiple sessions. Sometimes that was a straightforward choice, other times more difficult.  The majority of sessions were interactive and full of audience participation. Really enjoyable!

To begin with I chose several sessions on using games in teaching. “The students run the session: hands-off one-shots with a library game” https://blogs.uoregon.edu/annie/lilac_2016/ by Ngoc-Yen Tran, Miriam Rigby & Annie Zeidman Karpinski from the US focussed on devising the Research race for interactive, team-based learning. Like the majority of sessions this was very hands-on with groups of us playing a short version of the game (and getting prizes!), followed by developing our own game. An online treasure hunt by Catherine Radbourne from City University, London followed (https://city.adobeconnect.com/treasure). She developed the treasure hunt after the time allocated for induction for nursing and midwifery programmes had been drastically reduced and is using a story as a starting point, taking the player through various tasks designed to teach library skills. The result was very impressive and kept low-cost by using significant in-house expertise, including graphic design skills for making a cartoon and Catherine’s acting skills!

Continuing the same theme the keynote by Nicola Whitton and Alex Moseley, authors of “Using games to enhance learning and teaching”, had a whole lecture theatre playing a game during “What can play do for you?” Their way of delivering the message that game play allows for socialisation, allows for mistakes and learning from them was very impressive.

Other game focussed sessions included “Transform-IT: on the magic roundabout” discussing various ways of offering play and game based safe environments for learning and a session on developing questioning skills through comics (“Is it a bird, is it a plane?). Like some of the other innovative teaching and learning ideas, this was a specific teaching and learning requirement being met in new ways inspired by the personal interests of a Librarian, in this case comics.

Another strong theme of the conference focused on the overall information literacy offer, design and fit within the curriculum. I found those sessions very useful and applicable. It included a session on using professional standards as a basis for information literacy offerings. I’m planning to use this as part of my approach in the future as it is particularly applicable in my institution. “Exploring the need: re-examining our information skills offering” discussed identifying current information literacy offerings at DeMontford University, identifying need and re-aligning it with the curriculum. “Perceptions & understanding of the ACRL framework for information literacy” was not what I expected, discussing Librarian’s perceptions and use of the framework, rather than the application of it. I still found the discussion around the new framework and existing standards useful.

Connecting with this theme was Tuesday morning’s keynote by Char Booth from the US. Another interactive session involving the audience, Char used examples from everyday life to make us think about reflection in information skills programmes and teaching. One of the easy to implement suggestions from this session, which I’m going to implement is a simple refection form to be used after each teaching session: What worked?; What didn’t work? and What can I do better?

Other sessions included Danielle Carlock  on information seeking behaviour & e-health literacy,  “What actually happens: an ethnographic investigation of student library use” and a final keynote by James Clay focussed on a digital skills framework within organisations. While these were interesting, I found it more difficult to see the applicability to my own institution.

LILAC 2016 was a very friendly conference, easy to make contacts with colleagues from different areas and several networking events. The social event in the Chester Beatty Library, the conference dinner at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham and lunches, tea & coffee allowed for lots of opportunities to make contact with Librarians from around the world, including former colleagues and other bursary recipient, Genevieve Larkin.

Overall, I learned a huge amount and came away with many ideas to implement. Following the conference, I have developed my first library game on search skills and information literacy and will use it for the first time this month. While I arrived at the conference particularly interested in the games and online teaching aspect, I came away with a whole new approach for structuring and approaching the total of our information literacy programme as well as simple approaches to improve my teaching practice.

Isabel was successful in applying for the Academic & Special Libaries' National and International Library Conference Bursary Scheme 2016. To learn more about this award, please visit http://www.aslibraries.com/#!conference-bursary-2015/cttn

5 May 2016

UKSG 39th Annual Conference and Exhibition: Bournemouth, 11th-13th April 2016

Guest post by Shona Thoma, IReL Officer at Irish Research eLibrary. Read more of her blog posts at Information Sauce.

This is a brief reflection of the themes and key lessons I took away from the UKSG Annual Conference and Exhibition. I was the recipient of the John Merriman Award, for which I am very grateful to UKSG, and the sponsors of the prize, Taylor and Francis. As a first time attendee, the conference seemed overwhelming in size and number of attendees in comparison to other conferences I have attended. To navigate the busy schedule, and the exhibition hall, the dedicated conference app was incredibly useful. Before getting to Bournemouth I selected the talks I most wanted to attend and exported the schedule to my phone’s calendar. I also had my schedule of meetings with providers saved there, so even in battery saving or airplane mode I was able to quickly check where I was supposed to be and who I was meeting, without digging in my bag or leafing through pages.


The gaps between publishers and librarians are not necessarily shrinking or growing, but they are evolving, and possibly even multiplying. This was highlighted by Ann Rossiter of SCONUL speaking early in the conference on Open Access and competitiveness in her thought provoking presentation ‘Managing relationships between libraries and publishers for greater impact’. Through analysis by SCONUL, and others, it is clear that libraries are faced with increasing responsibilities, but this is not reflected in the levelled out, or even shrinking budgets. The perceived or real gaps that exist between all of us in the scholarly communications field were taken on throughout the conference, culminating in one of the closing plenaries, where Cameron Neylon proposed that it is all down to culture.

Figure 1 Slide: Ann Rossiter, UKSG 2016
Rossiter also questioned which metrics are most useful, and whether they are measuring what we really need to know. This probing of metrics and evidence was continued by Terry Bucknell (Altmetric) and Yvonne Nobis (Cambridge), Hugh Murphy (Maynooth), and Jo Alcock (Evidence Base at BCU), amongst others, in later plenary sessions.

Tools of the trade

From the volume of presentations on the purposes, aims, and practicalities of the tools available to the eResources librarian, it is evident that being aware of how and when to use them is an important ability. This demonstrates that attending regular conferences, seminars and other CPD meetings is crucial. It is the best way to keep abreast of new developments, and also affords an opportunity to meet those who are already putting the tools to good use. I attended talks that focused on or featured these tools and initiatives:

· Altmetric
· KB+
· Safe Net
· CrossRef
· DataCite

Many of these tools demonstrate how collaboration on such projects brings benefits to all parties involved, be that in relation to discoverability, usage, tracking and anything in between.

New Professionals, New Opportunities

The Meet the New Professionals session offered a unique insight into the range of skills the speakers have developed since graduating, how they are fitting in where needed, and are making an impact in changing roles. The discussion following the presentations revealed contradictory views on competition for roles versus availability and suitability of candidates. Those in the room discussed that if support and training are available to the successful applicant, this should be highlighted in the job description to encourage applications from those who might not meet all the criteria. Dom Fripp pointed out that his role, working on Research Data Management for Jisc, did not exist when he did his library qualification. On the job training and development were critical to him obtaining and carrying out the required duties.

The Alternative

I was inspired by the work of Stockholm University Press, presented by Sofie Wennström. The costs associated with publishing in the University Press are considerably lower than commercial publishing, and yet the spread or impact remains healthy. Collaboration within the University, and with international peers is essential for ensuring the quality of work published. The Stockholm University Press model was presented alongside a case study from Simon Bains, Manchester University, where the press is utilized for teaching students about the scholarly publishing process. The model at Huddersfield was also referenced, where a student publication teaches about publishing and peer review, and includes alternative formats such as video and music (http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/25990/ ). While the latter two teach students about the publishing process and encourage them to critically engage with how they will disseminate research, Stokholm University Press offers support to their researchers, but also takes care of elements of publishing they can’t, or don’t want to, worry about.


It was interesting to hear from the Myanmar eLibrary, and the challenges they have faced in providing academic resources after years of isolation from the global research community. Whilst we can be grateful that our access to resources is not restricted politically, it struck me that there are more similarities in our needs than differences. Gulfs may exist in relationships between providers and libraries, but libraries are universally bound by the need to provide access to quality information. Anne Powell then presented INASP’s ‘Principles for doing business responsibly in developing countries’ (see slide below), which honestly, seem like good principles for doing business with anyone. Why shouldn’t we all be treated to these basic principles? As understanding each other’s culture was the focus of Neylon’s stirring plenary, these principles might be a good place for providers to start in understanding and appreciating library culture, universally.

Figure 2 Anne Powell: ‘Principles for doing business responsibly in developing countries’ UKSG 2016

As the Merriman Awardee I had the opportunity to meet some of the fantastic UKSG committee members and learn a little bit about the efforts involved in coordinating such a massive event. I was also delighted to meet fellow librarians working for library consortia in Russia, Holland, Norway, and Scotland. I met colleagues who up until now I have only known through Twitter, including the founders of the Manchester New Professionals Network.

Working with eResources and dealing with a variety of different publishers, intermediaries, and suppliers can sometimes feel like trying to put together a particularly challenging jigsaw puzzle. The UKSG conference helps to align the pieces, shed light on the various perspectives and bring the whole picture a bit closer together.

My tweets, curated: https://storify.com/shinyshona/uksg-2016

3 May 2016

Open access to research data : a pilot project in Sweden

Guest post by Ulf-Göran Nilsson and Stefan Carlstein librarians at Jönköping University Library.

Jönköping University Library and two research groups at Jönköping University, CHILD (Children, Health, Intervention, Learning and Development) and Computer Science and Informatics, are currently participating in a national pilot study of open research data.

In recent decades, rapid technological development has brought new opportunities and possibilities to collect and make information available. In doing so, it has established new ways of conducting research. A wide range of funders, the EU and Vetenskapsrådet, the Swedish Research Council, considers that it is of great importance economically to make data available in general and research in particular.

To archive research data was previously a responsibility of each institution in Sweden. But according to the Swedish Research Council's proposed guidelines for the coming years “Proposal for National Guidelines for Open Access to Scientific Information", will universities now have to increasingly take responsibility both to preserve research data on long   term and to make it available where it is possible.

Jönköping University is one of five universities that are part of a pilot study in arrangement of Swedish National Data Service, SND. The Swedish Research Council has appointed SND as a national resource for the coordination of existing and newly established databases within the social sciences, humanities and health sciences. SND offers support to Swedish research by facilitating researchers access to data within and outside of Sweden as well as offer support for research during the whole research process. SND presents Swedish research outside of Sweden. The project started in April 2016 and is expected to continue throughout the year.

The pilot project aims to develop a model for dealing with the challenges that Swedish universities and the Swedish National Data Service will meet in connection with the increasing demands for the long time preservation of digital research and the availability to the research data. One important part of the project will be transfer of competence from the Swedish National Data Service to a Research Support Unit, RSU, at the university to manage research data, metadata enrichment, ensuring the format for long term storage and making the data available when it is possible. RSU is a concept from SND and it is defined in this project to be manned by the university library and the archive with support from the IT department and the university lawyer. The archive is part of the same department as the university library at Jönköping University and it is an advantage with the close connection between library and archive. The Research Support Unit will in the next step train and support researchers in two ways. The first training will be conducted together with SND with the two selected research groups and in the final training for a broader group of researchers conducted by the RSU on its own.

The pilot project is focusing on the most important parts in research data management: Working with various types of research data and file formats, development of forms for metadata management, metadata profiles and metadata standards, valuation of the metadata required for data to be useful for secondary research, design of data management plans, analyzing tools and methods to document data, development of procedures and responsibilities for the archiving of research documents and finally reviewing the basic legal aspects that affect the handling of research data.

2 May 2016

D’odyssey: A Library Students experience of the jobs market.

Guest post by Michael O'Sullivan, a recent MLIS graduate of UCD Information and Communication Studies. His interests  include history, education and the role of LIS in both.
This post is also available on his own blog Library Muses.

Last August, I completed my Masters in Library and Information studies in University College Dublin. Since that time, I have been on the jobs market hunting down any and all types of LIS work. Recently, just this week, I received a bit of good news. I was offered and accepted a librarian position in the Chengdu Campus of Beanstalk International Bilingual School in the People’s Republic of China. Given the rigors of the past few months, it was suggested to me that I write a blog on my experiences of the modern LIS job market. Whether you are nearing the end of your LIS course or considering a career move, I hope there is something to be gained from my own experience.

Recently, I found a laconic description of the central theme of James Joyce’s Ulysses: “A single day in the life of a modern man is as exciting and dangerous as the whole of The Odyssey”. It is certainly difficult to argue with that point. While mulling that point over, I realised that whenever the process of job hunting is discussed, the notion of the modern, technological, digital world is often brought up. As if there has been a tipping point, before which the conduct of job seekers and employers differs from the behaviours exhibited after. This notion of modernity, created a link in my mind between my own job seeking, and Leopold Blooms trip around Dublin. If a simple stroll can capture the essence of the Odyssey, then imagine the adventures of a job seeker navigating the choppy waters of other candidates, employer expectations, concerns of family and friends, balancing reality and the promises of politicians and Universities, economic malaise and networking. In other words every job seeker encounter thrills, dangers and obstacles as multifarious and fascinating as Calypso, Circe, Charybdis and Scylla.

Like Odysseus at the beginning of the poem, recent jobseekers are departing from a scene of triumph; the completion of their education, with the wind at their back and all the world ahead of them. At least, that was how I felt. I was optimistic, surrounded by people also driven to succeed in the LIS world. During the closing months of the Masters in Library and Information Studies course, I sent out dozens of applications to Libraries and Information institutions in Ireland, UK and USA. An evening was not complete without hours of answering inflexible online forms for jobs in UK, trying to determine corresponding grades, and informing the employer that “yes I am white Irish”.  Then came the rejections, the “try again at another time” messages, the silences. Moreover, once the course was finished, I had to return from Dublin to the family home in Cork and work out my plan for the immediate future. Throughout, this whole process, I must thank the advice and support of Martin O'Connor and Jane Burns, both pillars of the Irish library community for their advice, proof reading and general support, without which this process would have been unbearable.

My zeal for working in Libraries remained intact, but I was beginning to realise that the direct route was not working. During this time, the thought of a Jobbridge was abhorrent. Six months on social welfare, was not on the cards, and then working for a pittance while broke was too much to bear. Although more LIS jobs were available the competition from the backlog of older more experienced candidates and the fact that many positions were centred in Dublin (in my biased opinion) hamstrung my prospects. So, I got a job in Wetherspoons - that pub chain from the UK - recently branching into Ireland.  Needless to say this was an experience. My customer service was impeccable, my pint pulling ability dreadful. However, I learned a great deal from my brief time there, exposed to customers, the differing personalities of my co-workers, the reality that workplaces do not run like clockwork, long hours (seriously eleven hour shifts with only an hour break) etc. One could say the experience compounded lessons acquired from the Masters course in UCD.

Desperate, not to give up on the library dream, I remembered volunteering as a reading mentor at Terence McSwiney Community College a DEIS secondary school in Knocknaheeny Co. Cork. For any non-Irish readers this meant essentially that, the Irish government recognised that the high school provided services in a severely disadvantaged area and provided extra funding and schemes to help the student body. It is not an exaggeration to say that the reading mentor experience was developmentally a defining one.

Firstly, it revealed first-hand the importance of education and information for people, especially those in difficult social circumstances and secondly how important library services are in that role. In my opinion, Anne Masterson the JCSP librarian at TCM embodies what I believe a librarian should be in a school setting. While, I was a reading mentor she hosted the sessions in the school library and was constantly involved in encouraging the students to read, learn and develop their skills. Witnessing this type of work was what made me want to become a school librarian. Therefore, rather than work at Wetherspoons and rely solely on making enough money for a TEFL course, I made contact with Anne and Ms Phil O Flynn the school principal and volunteered as a library assistant at the school for three months. I cannot deny that those were three excellent months, I gained experience providing a library service in an educational setting, and I met Mr. Alan Kennedy, a tutor employed by the Irish Department of Education to work one on one with students outside a classroom setting. I was asked to help Mr. Kennedy with a reading program for students from the Irish Travelling community, an essential and enlightening experience which I gained a great deal from. Towards the close of 2015 I also applied for a vacancy advertised on Library jobs.ie for a school in Kuwait. Part of this process entailed meeting the fantastic Loretta Jennings the schools HR manager, who was based in Ireland. I cannot stress how fortunate a meeting this was, given Ms. Jennings long experience in career advice. At around the same time, I decided to leave Wetherspoons, as I was becoming extremely unhappy with the type of work I was doing. Fortunately, I picked up Christmas work in retail which kept me occupied for a few weeks.

In an additional turn of fortune, a friend of mine was able to offer me two weeks volunteer work at the Library and Media centre at St. Johns Central College in Cork city. As an institute of further education, it was an excellent opportunity to deal with a range of students, from those who recently sat the Leaving Certificate, to adults returning to education. Under the excellent management of Deidre Eccles, I was able to practice my chosen profession and help students with technological and educational queries.

In true modernist style, it has become essential at this point in the narrative to backtrack a bit. For several years I have wanted to live and work abroad. Before, beginning the Masters course in UCD, I stumbled across a blog post describing the benefits of becoming a librarian in an international school. After reading the piece the deal was sealed, I had a plan so cunning, I could brush my teeth with it. However, I had no idea how to break into the international school circuit. Remembering the advice of Jane Burns, Martin O Connor and another cornerstone of the LIS profession Michelle Dalton to network I decided to do just that. I met Michelle one evening, and she put me in contact with Laura “Missy” Cahill a school Librarian in China. The rest as they say was history, Missy is a wonderful contact and friend, offering invaluable advice and encouraged my joining an agency called “Search Associates” which specialised in International educators. Calling upon all my previous experiences, I was accepted by the agency, and travelled to London for a jobs fair.

I cannot stress how invaluable the fair was. Despite only being there for two days, I met several international school teachers, principals, and librarians. Interestingly, the latter group only made up thirteen attendees out of two hundred. This illustrated the importance of trained librarians, and that a demand exists on an international level. Furthermore, what was wonderful about the fair was how helpful everyone was. One teacher would pipe up “does anyone know anything about Egypt?” and more often than not, someone would come over and offer their help. One such informal chat is what ultimately netted me the job with BIBS. An acquaintance I made, mentioned that a school was being set up, and put me in touch with the principal. On the whole the fair was a fascinating experience, it introduced me to others working in the international field, and boosted my confidence as I received several interviews and a job offer (which I rejected).

The weeks since the jobs fair were made up of waiting, with several schools considering my candidacy. Rather than remain passive, I followed the advice of a friend, a decision which resulted in my current employment as a clerical officer in Cork University Hospital. Where I remain until it is time to leave for China. There was a brief flirtation with attending an interview for a part time vacancy in Trinity College Dublin. Despite, the allure of the position, the attendant risk and the cost of living in Dublin, ensured that decision to remain there I was.

So, what moral lessons, do my experience have to offer? If I am being honest, I am not sure. I could say it illustrates how convoluted the post recessionary job market is, perhaps it elucidates how millennials must be flexible and undertake actions they necessarily do not want, or ultimately the role that fate or luck plays in such affairs. Personally, I think it says how no man is an island. I could not have made it through the last few months alone. I had a great deal of help and encouragement. Which brings me to the expressions of gratitude. I cannot convey my thanks enough to my family and friends for helping me, during this time. In no particular order this extends to Martin O Connor, Jane Burns, Michelle Dalton, Elaine Harrington, Lai Ma, Claire Nolan, Amber Cushing, all the staff members of the Boole Library UCC, James Joyce Library UCD and the school the UCD School of Library and Information studies for all their support. To Loretta for all the advice and great conversations. To Julie, Helena, and Missy for all the tips advice, tirades, chats and aid offered to navigate the world of education and travel. To Anne Masterson. Ms. Flynn, Alan Kennedy and the staff of TMC, along with Deidre Eccles of St. Johns for the encouragement and opportunity to practice my trade. Last but not least I must thank Mr. David Cope of Search Associates for taking me on and guiding through the jobs fair, and to Karl Hanratty and Claire for putting me in touch with my current employer. For anyone I have not mentioned I apologise, but thank you for all your assistance.

In short, having the support of colleagues, friends and family makes all the difference in the world for job seekers. Unlike Odysseus, you cannot successfully blind the Cyclops, or visit the underworld alone, relying only your wits and strength of character A strong network, or crew to continue the analogy is required for success. And in that regard I have been most fortunate indeed.

 For anyone interested in getting in touch my Blog is librarymuses@wordpress.com and my twitter handle is @OMichaelos

Posted on Monday, May 02, 2016 | Categories: