30 Jun 2016

BIALL (British & Irish Association of Law Librarians) - Review

Guest post by Ann O'Sullivan, (BA HDipLIS ALAI) is the new Knowledge Services Manager in A&L Goodbody, having recently moved from the Houses of the Oireachtas Library and Research Service where she was the Acquisitions & Research Librarian.


I attended this conference in Dublin on the 10 and 11 June 2016 in the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel (formerly the Burlington). The theme of the conference was the Value of Change. In attendance there were approximately 200 delegates, 43 speakers and representatives from 31 suppliers. It was a busy conference with people from Ireland, the UK, France, America and Canada. The BIALL Conference Committee put on an excellent show; they engaged the services of Sovereign Conference Exhibitions and Warrick Event Services to assist them in running of a very smooth conference. I was also very impressed with the conference facilities at the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel.

The theme of change was evident in all of the talks and presentations. As librarians and information professionals we recognise that the environment in which we work is constantly changing. It is very important that our skills evolve with these changes in order to transform our services and ensure that we are providing world class services in all sectors – corporate, academic, government. There were plenary sessions on Cyber-crime, Knowledge Management and Data Protection and the parallel sessions covered many topics including: embedded services, different ways to use technology and digital literacy. There were also talks from the sponsors and exhibitors on new products, and a series of 10 minute lightning talks that covered everything from patron drive acquisition to deep breathing.

Plenary sessions

Day 1 kicked off with the keynote address by Andy HarbisonCyber-crime, how much of threat is it? Andy is a computer forensics investigator with Grant Thornton. Andy talked with great insight and depth of knowledge about the large scale cybercrimes that are committed against all kinds of organisations every day, including law firms. Zone-H.org is a website where you can find out who has been hacked most recently. Organisations and individuals can use all of the security measures imaginable to ensure their online safety, however Andy says that one of the most important things for everyone is awareness of your online presence. Training in online security and what to look out for is invaluable. Passwords MUST be complex and changed regularly, be suspicious when you are online, do not open suspicious emails, and be careful when you are browsing.

Amanda McKenzie's talk was entitled What Does Knowledge Management Mean for Information Professionals? Amanda is the Head of Research and Information Services as Olswang LLP. She is actively involved in KM projects and is keenly interested in how the concepts of information management and knowledge management interact. Amanda started her presentation with a quote from Albert Einstein: Information is not knowledge; the only source of knowledge is experience. She then went on to speak about the differences between information management and knowledge management. While they are different this does not mean that the two are not connected or that they do not support each other. Amanda addressed the question of whether the interchangeable use of the word knowledge with information means that information management is diluted or does it mean that information has to adapt to the mechanisms that knowledge management brings to an organisation and does it bring opportunities? Law firms have recognised that for many years that Knowledge Management supports the clients. The Knowledge Management strategy must be in line with the firms overall strategies. Amanda recommends having a Knowledge Management Steering Committee in-house to drive the Knowledge Management agenda and to ensure buy in from senior management. Collaboration is the key to creating a knowledge sharing environment. In order to value change we should suggest change, embrace change and challenge change.

Claire Greening from Withers LLP and Karen Brown from Dentons had an idea; they brought it to the BIALL Council and now we have two new tools for benchmarking legal library services: the annual BIALL Commercial Law Firms Survey and the BIALL Professionals Skills Framework. During their presentation Claire and Karen took us through their journey with the two working groups responsible for the creation of the new tools. BIALL already have an academic library survey and the salary survey, these still exist along with the new tools.
The Commercial Law Firms survey will be sent out to 145 firms in October 2016 (15 in Ireland), with the results due in Spring 2017, for the first time we will be able to benchmark items such as the library budget as a percentage of turnover, the number of library/information/knowledge staff related to the number of fee earners. Once the first survey has been completed the plan is then to issue this survey annually in January.
The Professional Skills Framework is now available on the BIALL website. The idea behind the framework is to provide a detailed overview of the skills and experience which legal information professionals need to carry out their role. It is designed to supplement, rather than replace, other relevant frameworks of skills, competencies and ethics, such as the CILIP Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB’) (also now available to LAI (Library Association of Ireland) members) and in-house documents. It is designed as a skills framework, rather than a competencies framework. The intention is that that the skills framework will be able to assist legal information professionals at all stages of their careers, with the principal uses being: as a benchmarking tool for personal professional development; to assist managers with appraisals and to assist managers with recruitment.

Denis Kelleher also spoke in plenary on the topic of Data Protection. His talk was entitled Europe & Data Protection: A Law onto Itself? Denis is the author of Privacy and Data Protection Law in Ireland; he is a Barrister-at-Law and is currently employed as Senior Legal Counsel in the Legal Division of the Central Bank of Ireland. Denis looked at the application of EU data protection laws to the global internet and social networks. Denis is an expert on this subject and took us on a whistle stop tour of the history of data protection in Ireland, Germany and Spain. He then looked to the future and explained what the new EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will mean for us in the coming months and years. One of the new requirements will be Data Protections Officers in every organisation.

Parallel sessions

Embedded legal information professionals: challenges and opportunities"
Peter Wilson & Cosmo Anderson, Slaughter and May
Peter is the first Knowledge and Information Officer to be embedded in Slaughter and May’s Pensions and Employment practice group. Cosmo has been part of the Knowledge & Information Officer team at Slaughter and May for over four years and currently supports the firm's IP/IT practice group. Embedded librarianship has been on the rise in the legal sector since the early 2000s. Peter and Cosmo discussed the ideas behind embedding legal information professionals in their user communities and their experience of establishing embedded services at Slaughter and May. Embedded librarianship is an approach, a particular way of working; it does not necessarily mean that you are physically located in the same area as your users. Peter and Cosmo suggest that the characteristics of embedded librarians are: relationship driven, enterprising, have specialist skills and knowledge; actively engage in networking and are flexible. The embedded approach is knowledge oriented.

Up the Value Chain: Transition from Law Librarian to Business Analyst
Helen Marshall & Kelly Taylor, Pinsent Masons LLP
Pinsent Masons has a team of research analysts providing the firm with in-depth sector and market analysis. This innovative approach has benefits for Pinsent Masons and also for the research team - increased visibility within the firm and developing a role as a trusted adviser to the business. The team are drawn from a variety of backgrounds, including experienced law librarians. During their presentation, Kelly and Helen who are both law librarians, discussed Pinsents approach to business and sector insight. They told us how the team adds value to the firm and how they have developed their existing skillsets to meet this new challenge. Their case study discussed the challenges in expanding our output from traditional legal research to more business and commercially aware research. The key new skill that they have both acquired is commercial awareness and the ability to carry our research on companies and form a view on the current status of the company and where is it is going.

Building bridges: using SharePoint to connect with law students
Celine Kelly, A&L Goodbody
Celine Kelly is the Knowledge Systems Manager within the Knowledge team in A&L Goodbody solicitors. The UCD Student Knowledge Centre developed out of Celine's professional experience in legal information and knowledge management and her post-graduate study in IT. This mix of experience and study made it possible for her to project management the venture from start to finish and execute much of the build on the extranet. A&L Goodbody have built on a tradition of adding value through knowledge by leveraging SharePoint technology to reinforce relationships between the firm and students the UCD School of Law. The Student Knowledge Centre uses SharePoint to bring together legal know-how and expert insight from A&L Goodbody lawyers to offer students support in their studies, further their commercial awareness and to provide a flavour of how law firms work and what it feels like to be a legal professional in Ireland today. Celine shared her lessons learned during this project from the planning, development, implementation and testing stages of using SharePoint as a web content management system and extranet.

Lightning Talks

For the first time at a BIALL Conference we were treated to lightning talks – a number of short presentations, just 10 minutes each, covering a wide variety of topics, presenters were both practitioners and suppliers, here are some of the highlights:

"Ask not…"
Marianne Barber, BIALL Immediate Past President & Tim Barlow, BIALL Council
Marianne and Tim discussed the benefits of getting involved with your professional association in this case BIALL. Joining a committee, organising events etc. is very beneficial at all stages of your career.
(I concur as my involvement with the LAI has been very enjoyable and beneficial!).

Beyond The Lawyer: Services for Support Teams in a Law Firm
Seána McAuley, Allen & Overy LLP
Seána presented a case study of the development and implementation of the A&O Belfast office Learning & Development collection which provides resources to support staff. The collection provides a continuation of the learning that is offered through internal courses, seminars and online resources. It also supplements other initiatives such as Be Well week, encouraging staff to maintain and improve emotional wellbeing. She discussed the practicalities of developing the collection, promoting it within the office and embedding the concept within senior management and key departments such as HR.

Creating a Law Collection at Royal Holloway
Sian Downes, Royal Holloway
In 2015 the Royal Holloway University introduced a new school of Law. Sian discussed the challenges of creating a new Law collection from scratch in an academic setting.

Beyond the expected: the Library's role in creating an institutional faculty blog platform
Claire Germain, University of Florida Levin College of Law
The Law Library at the University Of Florida College Of Law has created the faculty blog. They are instrumental in facilitating a social interactive academic research service that promotes the intellectual content of the institution.

More change? Deep breaths!
Jane Del-Pizzo, University of Law
Jane instructed us how breathing techniques can help cope with anxiety. Anxiety can often arise from periods of change. Learning to breathe from the abdomen i.e. deep breathing, not shallow, is a valuable first step in combating anxiety and building resilience in the face of constant change. Jane demonstrated the technique and we followed, the photos are available on Twitter!

How many times are you paying for the same case?
Masoud Gerami, Justis Publishing
Many cases are reported in multiple different report series – authoritative and specialist. And to have “better coverage”, customers are encouraged to buy as many different titles as they can afford. Masoud presented the statistics produced by Justis using their JustCite tool on how some cases are reported in many different case reports and are then available on many different online platforms.

Making your subscriptions work better for you
Mark Windsor & James Orr, Informa Law
Mark and James demonstrated how their solutions as Informa Law can make subscriptions more proactive instead of just reactive. They were promoting i-law.com to ensure that users are able to get to the information they need e.g. journal email alerts etc.

How to Respond To Research Requests More Efficiently
Peter Borchers, Priory Solutions
Peter's flight was cancelled so he didn't make it to Dublin, at the last minute his colleague José stepped in to talk about how using a research request tracking tool can help law librarians, specifically those working in law firms, find better answer research requests through the use of template responses and knowledge base searching. And Priory Solutions have just the product to help you to do this - Quest

Careers Panel

If only I had known that... Career insights from senior managers"

This session was chaired by Michael Maher from The Law Society of England and Wales, the other speakers were: Dunstan Speight, Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP; Susan Scorey, University of Roehampton; Darron Chapman, CB Resourcing; and Samantha McCombe, Linen Hall Library.

You can read the speakers biographies here: http://www.biall.org.uk/pages/dublin-2016-speakers-433.html

The first question posed by Michael was about what skills we think are most important to our roles as law librarians: knowledge of the law, knowledge of IT or customer service. We first considered it from the point of an interviewee and then as interviewer. Customer service skills won hands down, as we all agreed that IT and Law can be thought but some people just have innate customer service skills and while someone who struggles with this skill can shadow and observe colleagues it is a huge advantage if you have a natural leaning towards excellent customer service. Other Items discussed and questions posed included: CV tips – what to include or leave out; do not forget to proofread, one of the speakers was once sent a CV without the candidates name!; when is the right time to move (don't be scared of moving was the advice from all of the speakers – don't be too mechanical in planning your career, allow for serendipity to intervene); get involved in your professional association (join a committee, if not BIALL then maybe the LAI, CILLIP, SLA etc.).

LexisLibrary Awards
The LexisLibrary Awards were presented at the conference dinner in the Mansion House on Friday night and all 3 awards went to libraries on the island of Ireland.
The award for Best Information Service 2016 went to The Bar Library in Belfast; Library Service of the Law Society of Ireland was the runner-up and Legal Aid Board’s Research and Information Unit was Highly Commended in the same category.

Charity Collection
At the conference dinner there was a collection for the Capuchin Day Centre who provide a range of services to the homeless in Dublin City Centre. GBP£945.00 was raised.

Here is an experiment that I have not yet had the opportunity to try out but I am fairly confident would work...

Guest post by Gerard Gregory

If you Google a concert venue or search for it on Google Maps it will display information about the venue in a Knowledge Graph card. Aside from basic information like contact details, opening hours and location the most useful cards also include information on upcoming events. Libraries have the potential to do the same. You can look up the example of the New York Public Library.

Making event listings available to Google is low-hanging fruit in terms of library marketing. Libraries are prolific when it comes to event hosting. You could go to see the Ruzbihan Qur’an exhibition at the Chester Beatty Library, join a chess club in Cork or practice Tai Chi in Dún Laoghaire. If libraries supplied authoritative, structured linked data about their events, much in the same way that they do about their collections, it may well improve the discoverability of a hugely important service.

There are three ways that you can mark up event listings:
1.    Rely on a ticketing service, e.g. Ticketmaster (which is not always going to be an option)
2.    Embed event data type markup directly to the event listings
3.    Use a markup-compatible events plugin or widget on your website

Regardless of the surface approach the basic activity is the same: you are feeding Google structured data that it can use. Google recommends JSON-LD. JSON-LD tags the parts of the website that are important to Google’s Knowledge Graph. With JSON-LD the markup is placed inside a script tag in the head of the HTML page, which makes it relatively easy for humans to use. The script tag looks like the outline presented here.

Conference Report: The Drew University Transatlantic Connections Conference – January 15-18 2016, Part I

Guest post by Jane Burns, School of Information & Communication Studies, University College Dublin, one of the winners of the A&SL National and International Library Conference Bursary Scheme 2016

The Drew University Transatlantic Connections Conference –

 January 15-18 2016

Sometimes I forget the distance and difference there is between Ireland and the USA after living in here for just over a quarter of a century.  So I was keenly interested this time last summer when the call for papers for this conference went out. I was taken by the strapline of sharing information, ideas and connecting people and immediately thought this was solely a library information focussed conference. In fact it turned out to have a much a broader scope, with a range of presentations, participants and formats but all with a similar purpose to connect people to ideas and to enable them to share them in a meaningful way in order to make a range of connections.

I submitted a paper based on a research project I had undertaken with 4 other researchers whilst completing my Master’s Degree in Digital Humanities at Trinity College Dublin, entitled The Mary Martin Diary – A Mother’s Story of 1916 under the stream of Multimedia Narratives: Collaborative Research with Historical Material.  The Academic & Special Libraries Section had a call out for bursary funding and I decided to apply. This generous assistance not only allowed me to attend the conference but also provided funding for two of my MLIS students from the School of Information & Communication Studies, UCD, Hanna Bush and Dermot O’Leary to attend as well. Their reflections on attending this conference will be published in Libfocus tomorrow.

The conference was great. The range of speakers and conference participants was impressive. What I enjoyed the most was to see how others inside and outside of traditional library environments were creating and sharing content and research approaches and outputs.  I always think it is a good idea to see how others are processing, perceiving and personalising information – it certainly helps me refocus my understanding and perspectives as a LIS professional and as a Researcher.

The sponsors and organisers of this Transatlantic Conference was Drew University, which is a private third level institution located in Madison, New Jersey, USA. This was the second year this unique conference was organised through the Caspersen School of Graduate Studies at Drew University, in partnership with the Institute of Study Abroad Ireland, based in Bundoran, County Donegal. The Conference gathers together academics, experts and local guests to discuss the connections between Ireland, the US and the world, in an interdisciplinary context. This was not a library themed conference, but there were many librarians and information professionals such as archivists from all Ireland, the UK and the USA in attendance.

The Programme can be found here. The focus on cultural history and in particular music, the Irish language and education were very impressive.  There was a real emphasis on the relationships between Northern & Southern Ireland and the joint research and cultural understanding that has taken place, especially since the Peace process. 

The discussion panel about Hedge Schools and the Diaspora was very informative, particularly the perspectives by Liam Kennedy, who is the Director of the Clinton Institute at University College Dublin, and roles and opportunities for the diaspora not just in the USA but globally. 

For those of us involved in managing, developing and promoting archival material, the topic of the Ethics of Archiving and Commemoration: The Fluctuating Status of the Stolen Irish in the New World given by Michael McKenna from Queens University Belfast was thought provoking and insightful.

A different approach to the exploration and understanding to experiential learning from a surfing perspective was fascinating. Ethnographic research is a very topical subject in the understanding of how information users experience library spaces. There were many insightful approaches to the sport and philosophy of surfing that could be transferable to understanding how people behave, interact and engage with their environments.

Cathal Cavanagh’s presentation (Cathal is a PhD student from the University of Ulster) on his multimedia project Grace Gifford: The Woman behind the Song was the highlight of the conference for me. Not only did he beautifully capture the love story of Grace Gifford, an Irish artist active in the Republican movement, who married her fiancé Joseph Plunkett in Kilmainham Gaol only a few hours before he was executed for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising, but Cathal demonstrated the use of and linking of primary source information into an online platform that could reach a range of users, from ordinary people, to researchers and historians. 

Concluding thoughts

Library & Information Professionals are involved a range of subject areas, delivery methods and a variety of research initiatives. While it is so important for us to attend exclusive library centric conferences it is important for us to realise that our research and our interests can also be promoted at broader conferences with a wider audience. It allows for those outside of our primary circles to understand the range of work we are involved in and it also provides for us different perspectives and approaches to user research and interest.  If we only talk amongst ourselves we are limiting the space we occupy and narrowing the lens by which others see us and our amazing skill sets. 

Many thanks to the A&SL, a truly progressive committee, for their support for me and my students to attend this event.

Please follow me on Twitter: @JMBurns99

27 Jun 2016

The Joys of a Book Exchange Shelf

Guest post by Maolsheachlann Ó Ceallaigh, UCD Library
Browsing the book exchange shelf
Three years ago, in April 2013, a book exchange shelf appeared outside the James Joyce Library, UCD, as part of a cooperative scheme with Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Libraries.¹ It’s already become a cherished institution in the life of the library, and has convinced me that every library should have a book exchange shelf.

What is a book exchange shelf. Put simply, it’s a shelf which holds books for exchange. You bring a book and you leave a book.

Of course, that’s seldom how it actually works. Sometimes scrupulous students will come to the desk, asking if they need to have a book on hand, to replace the book they fancy. I reassure them that we are not so literal-minded, that the requirement to leave a book is more open-ended. Most people seem to understand this intuitively.

Despite that, the shelf seems to have a steady supply of new material, and not only bulk donations from the library. Part of its excitement (yes, excitement) is the fact that anything can turn up there, from an issue of the Yeats Journal of Korea (there really is such a thing, and it really did turn up) to the works of Barbara Taylor Bradford.²

Books of all sorts on the book exchange shelf

Indeed, it’s not only books that turn up. DVDs and CDs regularly appear, and sometimes more miscellaneous items. Once a giraffe made of glass beads turned up on top of it. I took a fancy to the thing, and brought it up to my office. My office-mate, who was not a fan of the style, told me that, as soon as he saw it on the book exchange shelf, he knew that I was going to acquire it. We had some animated debates on the merit of folk art (or faux folk art). Eventually I came round to his point of view and it made its way back out to the shelf.
Books of every kind on the book exchange shelf
One of the things I like most about the book exchange shelf is its acknowledgement of books as objects of pleasure and recreation. There is something ever-so-slightly chilling in the formal atmosphere of a library. Put a shelf-mark on a book, give it a barcode and a catalogue record, and it has instantly become serious business—in an academic library, anyway. There is a sense of relaxation in the mere sight of books that have no ‘higher’ purpose, and no assigned place on a shelf!

As well as this, there is something of a social element to a book exchange. Immediately outside the library is a popular meeting point (a little bit too popular, given the noise implications) and very often one will see somebody who is waiting for somebody else browsing the book exchange shelf. When their friend arrives, there is often a conversation about the book they were browsing, or the books on display in general. Sometimes complete strangers will even pass a remark on the contents of the shelf, while one is browsing it.

In the world of romantic comedies, of course, it would be the ideal locale for soulmates to encounter each other for the first time, perhaps reaching for the same book of poetry simultaneously. As we all know, such things don’t happen in real life. But it’s not impossible…

On the subject of chance encounters, I’ve had plenty of these through the book exchange shelf. I’ve made the acquaintance of many books which otherwise would never have come into my life. Teen horror novels are the prime example. They are not the sort of book I would buy, or even seek out for myself. But when they appear on a shelf, just there for the taking, why be backward?

The World Book, an ornament to any bookshelf
Of course, the book exchange shelf caters for more aspirational reading, too. I once transferred twenty-nine volumes of the World Book 1981 from the book exchange shelf to my office shelf. A few months later they made the return journey. I understand now why door-to-door encyclopaedia salesmen were a comic convention for so long. Those gilt-edged, lavishly illustrated volumes are hard to resist.

My experiences as a donor have been as interesting as my experiences as a beneficiary. I left a copy of a trilogy by Arthur Halley (a mega-selling author some thirty years ago) on the shelf.³  It remained there for literally months. Another time, I left some books about my own favourite author, G.K. Chesterton. (You can have too much of a good thing.) I was pleased that they disappeared overnight.

Tomorrow morning, who knows what jewel might be awaiting? Oh, the joys of a book exchange shelf!

¹ UCD Library Website, 10 April 2013
² The Yeats Journal of Korea website
³  Dennis Barker,  “Arthur Hailey” (obituary), The Guardian, 27 November 2004

24 Jun 2016

CONUL ANLTC Library Assistant Award 2016: Transformational Collaboration: A reflection on the process of creating an academic poster.

*Highly commended entries 2016*

Transformational Collaboration: A reflection on the process of creating an academic poster.

by Jesse Waters, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland  

Hello people, 

I recently had a poster accepted to the annual Health Science Library Group Conference being held in May. In this blog post I will detail the creative process, the feedback I received from other information professionals, and how said feedback transformed the project. 

The theme of the conference is the Skillset of a Health Science Librarian, so I decided I should focus on my own experience and narrowed the theme of the poster down to the Skillset of a Health Science Library Assistant. After a couple of days of thinking about the poster, I had a pretty clear idea how I wanted it to look and the message that I wanted to convey. Above all I wanted it to be a colourful, eye-catching poster that was not heavy on text. However, I also wanted to highlight the diverse skillset of a library assistant in a health science library. 

I began to think about, and discuss with other staff members, the diverse set of skills that library assistants possess- customer service, library knowledge, communication skills, research and information technology skills. I considered other skills that we possess such as knowledge of our customer needs and the physical and electronic resources available in our library. And then (yes I know it just keeps going!) I thought about familiarity with health and medicine. However, not every library assistant in a health science library possesses all these skills immediately and some are grown and developed over time. Thus, I decided to use the format of a wheel divided into three main subcategories to present the information clearly: 

Early draft

1. Skills required immediately. 

2. Skills that develop with familiarity in your new environment. 

3. Skills that develop over time.

With a theme and an idea for the look and feel of the poster in mind, I decided I should find a way to create the poster. With a quick Google search using the eloquent search term- 'Create poster free', I found a fantastic tool called Canva, started to play with it and was well on my way. I used Pixabay to source some images free from the chains of copyright, but as I was scrolling through tons of stock images that looked dated and uninteresting, an article that I had read way back in October meandered from my subconscious and deposited an idea that my poster benefited greatly from.

Sourced from Pixabay.

I was encouraged to use emoji`s (or at least pictures that resembled emojis which I sourced from Pixabay) from a BBC article that pondered whether emoji`s would evolve into a new language "which could compete with English in global usage" based on their popularity in modern society (Cohn, 2015). By using emoji`s, I hoped that the poster would be visual, and could be understood on a basic level by somebody without fluency in English.
When I was pleased with my poster, I sought feedback from a couple of my information-professional colleagues. I sent the file to a former lecturer from UCD and we met for coffee the next day. I was quite disappointed to hear that she found it to be eye-catching, but she originally wasn't a huge fan of the bright cartoon emoji`s I had used. I explained my reasons for using them and she advised me to stick to my guns. I then sent the file to another colleague from a health science library, and was encouraged to add more text to the poster to make it more academic in style and tone. Even though I was quite opposed to the idea, I took her advice and made a second draft which contained text boxes expanding on the duties of library assistants using information I had researched from job adverts for library assistants. The inclusion of the text boxes did not take from the visual aspects and added a great deal more information to the poster. The following image is an incomplete draft of the poster. 

Draft near completion, see finished product at HSLG Conference May 12-13.

In Beyond the Silos of the LAM's, Zorich et al state that collaboration is a transformational process (2008). I cannot recommend seeking feedback enough on any project you work on. With each person who offered recommendations or thoughts on the project, from my initial interactions with immediate co-workers to other contacts, the poster was altered slightly.  I reflected on both positive and negative comments received, and the final poster was an improved, more considered version of my original vision due to the recommendations of others. 



23 Jun 2016

CONUL ANLTC Library Assistant Award 2016: Summer Time…Something Different!

*Highly commended entries 2016*

Summer Time…Something Different!

by Helen O’Connor, Maynooth University

Working in a very busy academic library brings many job opportunities. Each summer, Library Assistants are invited to work on different projects – we apply for the roles and attend an interview, that in itself is a new experience!  During the summer months of 2014 and 2015 I was delighted to get the opportunity to work in our Digital Electronic Collections (DEC) department.  This is a big change for me - as I mainly work in Library Information Services (LIS). I am part of a team of nine who work on desk services at the ‘coalface’ dealing with up to 45,000 queries in an academic year…luckily I work with some great colleagues to answer that volume of questions!  We answer a variety of questions including circulation enquiries, help finding material, assistance with sourcing material for assignments as well as those strange and wonderful queries you can get when working with the public!  (‘Could you please close the windows we are freezing?’......’Can you please ask the people who are talking on level 1 to be quiet?’.......’Do I really owe all those fines?’........)  

The experience in DEC was a great way to see and experience the work done in another department.    

Maynooth University ePrints and eTheses Archive

My first experience in DEC in 2014, involved working on a “Theses Digitisation” summer project. We drew up a list of nearly 300 of the most highly borrowed theses, I checked the list for the year and qualifications then I retrieved the theses from the shelves. These were then boxed and sent away to be digitised. Each thesis was copied and saved in PDF format which was sent back via Dropbox. Each thesis was then uploaded to eTheses - full-text electronic copies of theses produced by research postgraduates from the University. The bibliographic records were adjusted accordingly and all theses reshelved.

I really enjoyed working on this project.  It was something I could work at on my own and I could see how every stage of the project was progressing.  I found it a very worthwhile project as it gives our patrons immediate access to a selection of our theses and it gave me experience of working on our ePrints repository. It also gave me a much greater knowledge for the coming academic years when students or academic staff have queries about electronic theses. 

Copyright:  http://deevy.nuim.ie/  

In 2015 I had the opportunity to work on the Teresa Deevy Archive. 

Teresa Deevy was born in 1894, and was a deaf Irish dramatist, short story writer and also a writer for radio. Many of her papers have been digitised including scripts, published versions of Deevy writings, theatre programmes and other memorabilia from theatrical productions, details of broadcast productions, correspondence and newspapers clippings. 

This project involved editing some of the collections, including copyright newspaper articles, performances and broadcasts.  I did this using one of our library based repositories, Omeka, which is a free, open source content management system for online digital collections. I had never used Omeka before so this was an excellent learning experience for me.

A programme from the Abbey Theatre 
Image and content Copyright: NUI Maynooth 

I also catalogued a collection of letters including the transcription of these letters.  Interestingly, this gave me a small insight into the type of person Teresa Deevy was.  My work on the archive continued and I developed a spreadsheet with a list of actors and contributors and added links to Deevy archive, the Abbey Theatre archive and Wikipedia.  

I used links to Irish playography, a comprehensive database of new Irish plays produced professionally since 1904, while searching for actors of the Abbey Theatre.  I really enjoyed this particularly as I would have gone to a lot of theatre in the Abbey and I recognised a lot of the actors and this in turn evoked some really wonderful memories. 

I also worked on the Irish Newspaper Archive.This archive was very interesting as it was great to look back at the old newspapers at times. I found myself reading some of the old advertisements, that reminded me of times gone by!

Working on both of these projects enabled me to learn a lot about our collections and how we set up the archives and catalogue all the items.  Both summers involved very varied work and I always grab the opportunity to work with colleagues in other departments, but as always I love to return to working in LIS on desk services as a new term commences. 

22 Jun 2016

CONUL ANLTC Library Assistant Award 2016: Ever wondered why students always go to the same study seat in the library?

*Highly commended entries 2016*

Ever wondered why students always go to the same study seat in the library?

by Cara Toner, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Is it for specific reasons, like, that seat has more leg room or maybe the lighting is better? Possibly it’s just that it’s easier not to have to think about it and it becomes a habit.

But when that habit is formed students will then refuse to move to another area if their favourite place is gone. Have you ever noticed that when the library is very busy, at exam time for example, some students would rather leave the library than go to another floor?

Classroom Seating

You may think this is silly but it’s much the same theory as when we choose the same seat in the classroom. For humans and animals locations have associations, this could be down to evolutionary traits. 

In ancient times humans learned to look for similar spots, food, situations, simply because repeating something that was done before, without disastrous consequences, would guarantee some sort of safety!

Space Matters

The way a space is used dictates whether it can be used as a learning environment or not, so if a space is used for social interaction, it is hard to think of it as a place for academic learning. As shown in a study done by Jim Barber in 2012 of students living in two different types of Fraternity Houses. 

Apparently some of us study better with some background noise, just enough to drown out other things that can distract us. Others like a very quiet environment. However as anyone who works or studies in an academic library knows not every area is completely hushed so that you can hear a pin drop. Some areas naturally have more footfall and have more of a buzz about them. Are students naturally more drawn to these different types of areas as this facilitates better study? But why the same seat?

As suggested earlier is it habit? Well……there is some evidence to suggest that this could be the case. Our brain learns habits so that we automatically do the same thing every time rather than having to think about every single move, such as…

Creature of Habit

So these are the types of thoughts that go through our heads when trying to find a space. That’s where habit comes in. When we are doing something that is habitual we are not engaged in the task in the same way so we save a lot of time and brain power.

Once we have found, first of all, the environment that suits our type of study, quiet, buzzy or in-between and then just the right type of space so that we feel comfortable, we will go back to it time and time again, ah yes…my favourite seat!


Audrey Bueno, ‘Psychologically, why do students still sit in the same seat when they are unassigned?’ Quora https://www.quora.com/Psychologically-why-do-students-still-sit-in-the-same-seat-when-they-areunassigned (accessed: 12.04.16) 
Ian Newby Clark, ‘We Are Creatures of Habit’, Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/creatures-habit/200907/we-are-creatures-habit (accessed: 14.04.16) 
Erin Zagursky, ‘Study finds that space matters for student learning in fraternity houses’, William & Mary blog http://www.wm.edu/news/stories/2015/space-matters-when-itcomes-to-student-learning-in-fraternity-houses.php (accessed: 13.04016) 
‘11 Ways Your Study Environment Affects Productivity (And How You Can Improve It)’, The 

21 Jun 2016

CONUL ANLTC Library Assistant Award 2016: Creating the MU Library Treasures Blog

*Highly commended entries 2016*

Creating the MU Library Treasures Blog

by Mary Robinson, Maynooth University

Blogs have become an expected feature of library life. It seems every library homepage I visit offers a link to their blog, every second Twitter post directs me to the latest blog post on library news. Blogs are great though. I can read about a library collection I will never actually visit. I can learn about an upcoming event or read about it when I’ve missed it. The Special Collections and Archives team here in Maynooth University Library decided to complement existing MU Library social media tools and create a blog to discuss, highlight and promote our collections and work. As our special collections are divided between two locations on campus, the Russell Library and the John Paul II Library, we thought this would be a great way to unify them. But a blog doesn’t start itself...

Blog homepage

Firstly, for inspiration I looked up existing special collections blogs in universities around Ireland and the UK. I also snooped through other library and non-library blogs, trying not to get too engrossed or go off topic during working hours. I noted the design, content, regularity and variety of posts and contributors, writing style and other interesting or unique features. For instance the RCSI Heritage Blog has an impressive informal writing style, excellent imagery and interesting topics. LibFocus was invaluable in its variety of posts and insights into blogging in general. I discovered there are many different blogging platforms, and with free online social media courses one can easily jump right in and get started. However, as this is a team effort and to sneak in a CPD opportunity, I thought some specific face-to-face training would be in order.

With the support of management, my special collections colleagues and I received a half day training session with the wonderful Jane Burns. Jane, an information specialist and social media wizard, offered a tailor made training session on the ins and outs of blogging. Her professional approach began with a pre-training day task encouraging us to look differently at our collection: in 200 words what item would we save from Special Collections if, touch wood, there was a fire? Writing a personal reflection like this helped to introduce the ‘personal perceptive’ concept of blog writing. The language had to appeal to everyone but be familiar to our library colleagues.

Jane explained the different blogging platforms and we decided our best fit was WordPress. For the beginner, it is easy to use, extremely adaptable and has a pleasant interface. The design of our blog would provide a fleeting permanence, be dynamic and changeable. We brainstormed a number of possible names and settled on MU Library Treasures which we felt encompassed our collections and what the blog is about. To ensure our ‘dynamic and changing’ interface we incorporated rotating header images as part of our design.  

We included the opening hours for both locations, uploaded a gallery of images depicting a taste of our collections and embedded our social media links and visitor statistics. 

WordPress offers a great statistical recording element to the administration aspect of the blog. It provides insights into popularity of posts, where our readers are from and the breakdown of comments. The team agreed on a target of posts with the intention of regularity but not to overwhelm either ourselves or our readers. We created a Google calendar which we fill with upcoming University, local and national events. This helps to inspire and allows us to a ‘bank’ and schedule posts. Each team member is encouraged to contribute and the blog is opened to guest contributors. 

A picture can say a thousand words and when restricted to 500-800 words the right image can enhance a post. The concern however is copyright. Some of our collections include un-catalogued material that has strict conditions in their loan, donation or bequest agreement. In the blog ‘about’ page we include a disclosure that states ‘unless otherwise noted all images are copyright of Maynooth University Library’. Any external images used are referenced and obtained through appropriate channels such as Creative Commons.  

Statistics                              Creative Commons search page

Overall, the hard work was worth it. I gained a wealth of experience in the technological aspect of library work. I think the training was an essential element to the task. I now feel confident in setting up a blog, writing for one and encouraging others to do so. The reward of publishing a small piece and exposing interesting features of my work to a wider audience outweighs any hick-ups encountered in blogging. I gain a deeper appreciation for our collections and who knows, may even encourage a budding researcher to come in and have a look. 

‘Blog homepage screenshot’. Author’s screenshot
Creative Commons
‘Creative Commons screenshot’, Author’s screenshot, 12/04/2016
‘Header images screenshot’. Author’s screenshot
‘Embedded elements screenshot’. Author’s screenshot
RCSI Heritage Blog
Stafford, J. (2015, May 20). How to Make A Blog Step By Step - WordPress Blog Tutorial For Beginners 2015 [video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNMiOjRf05c
‘Statistics screenshot’. Author’s screenshot www.thenextweb.com

20 Jun 2016

Effects of sharing research on social media - a follow up

A week ago I published a post on the effects of sharing research on social media. Now, one week after, I have taken a new look at the downloads to see the duration of the effect, my assumption is that it will diminish quite fast...

For the first article which started off with a low number of downloads, but with the most impressing increase, 900%, there was another 2 dowloads during the second week. A small number but still a 50% increase from the original number of downloads for the first 8 weeks. For the second article, which had a bigger number of downloads already after the first 8 weeks, there was a more "modest" increase in downloads during the first week of sharing, 258%, there hasn't been any new downloads at all the second week.

My reflection is that the effect of sharing research on social media is quite limited in time. Already after a week it has "disappeared" in the flow of information if no actions is taken. My recommendation is that if you as a researcher, or as a librarian, share OA articles on social media you can expect a real effect in number of downloads, but it will be short-term. Therfore there is an opportunity to duplicate or rephrase your post after a month or so. But do not overdo with the risk of beeing repetitive!

CONUL ANLTC Library Assistant Award 2016: An Extraordinary Life. Discovering the legacy of Professor Kevin Boyle on CalmView - our Archives Search System.

*Highly commended entries 2016*

An Extraordinary Life.

Discovering the legacy of Professor Kevin Boyle on CalmView - our Archives Search System.

by Bernice Walsh, NUI Galway

Courtesy of The Guardian

Recently the James Hardiman launched Calmview - (Cataloguing in Archives, Libraries and Museums) – our online catalogue for deposited collections at 

I click View Record. Scrolling through the description of the Archive, the full realisation of his legacy begins to sink in. This man has made a difference – on an international scale! It makes for exciting reading.  I am anything but calm, as I try to decide, which area of his life to explore first!

Would I begin with his role as Public Relations Officer with the Civil Rights Association in Belfast, and his membership of the group Peoples Democracy? Or would I explore his years as Chair of Law in NUI Galway, and the setting up of the Irish Centre for Human Rights? 

Perhaps I should read about his foundation and directorship of Article 19 – the Non 
Governmental Organization, concerned with the defence of freedom of expression? Or what about his chairmanship of the International Committee for the Protection of Salman Rushdie?

Could I leave aside his directorship of the Human Rights Department in University of Essex, during which time, he and his colleague, Francois Hampson, would be named UK lawyers of the year in 1998? 

Should I start with his observational reports, and research trips, for Amnesty International to Gambia, Somalia and South Africa?  

Or learn more about the year he spent as Special Advisor/Speech Writer to former President Mary Robinson, in her role as United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights?  

The list goes on and on …………….. This is before I even consider, any of the pioneering legal cases he was involved, in such as:

  • Donnelly et al v United Kingdom – concerning complaints of ill treatment arising out of the emergency in Northern Ireland. 
  • Dudgeon vs the UK Case - central to the decriminalisation of homosexuality. 
  • Jersild v Denmark – involving freedom of opinion.  

In the end I begin with his years in NUI Galway, where he was the first full time member/professor of the Law Faculty.

I click Ref no A44, opening a list of what this Archive covers.

  • A box to the left of the Academia tab reveals a list of institutions, including University College Galway – as NUI Galway was known at the time.  
  • Clicking these boxes is an excellent way of browsing the Archive.  
  • University College Galway opens another list. 
  • The box to the left of the Correspondence tab displays a list of letters.  

I am drawn to these letters. Sentences are isolated. 

I discover how nervous and excited he is at coming to Galway, and setting up the Law Faculty (A44/5/5/1/1/5).

Another sub-heading concentrates on his efforts in establishing The Irish Centre for Human Rights (A44/5/5/4/1).

Further searching reveals his determination to get funding for our Law Collection (A44/5/5/6).

I am on temporary transfer to the Law Library. I am learning to appreciate the special history of the area that I presently work in. I become more familiar with the breadth of this Archive.

I type in Dudgeon in the Main Search Box. A wealth of information is displayed, such as Press Cuttings, Case Documents and Case Research.

Using Search Box

I type in lawyer of the year into the Search Box.

Among the results, my eye is drawn to an email, regarding his nomination for UK Lawyer of the Year 1988 (A44/5/9/1/6/23).

I read that Kevin and Francois Hampson received this award for their numerous against Turkey, on behalf of the Kurdish Human Rights Project. These prosecutions would become material, for both scholars and practitioners, in International Human Rights Law (Rodley, 2011).

Among his publications is Ten Years On in Northern Ireland (Boyle, Hadden, Hillyard) 349.416.Boy. We hold a copy of Stategic Visions for Human Rights 341.48.STR, a Festschrift published in his honour by colleagues on his retirement from Essex.

Sadly, Professor Kevin Boyle passed away on Christmas Day 2010 at the age of 67.

This blog is primarily an appreciation of the life of Kevin Boyle and the generosity of his wife Joan and sons Mark and Stephen, in sharing his legacy with future generations .It is also a salute to the power of digitisation, as after all – my journey started with just a Click!

Galway: James Hardiman Library Archives: Professor Kevin Boyle Papers A44’Accessed March/April 2016 http://www.calmhosting01.com/NUIG/CalmView/Record.aspx?src=Catalog&id=A44

Rodley,N.(2011)’Kevin Boyle Orbituary’, THE GUARDIAN, 2nd.January , http://www.theguardian.com/law/2011/jan/02/kevin-boyle-obituary.

The Hardiblog James Hardiman Library. http://hardimanlibrary.blogspot.ie/2015/01/a-voice-forhuman-rights-launching.html

17 Jun 2016

CONUL ANLTC Library Assistant Award 2016: Brian O’Higgins/Brian Ó hUigínn (1882-1963)

*Joint Third Prize, won by Olive Morrin, Maynooth University*

Brian O’Higgins/Brian Ó hUigínn (1882-1963)

As we are remembering this year Irish men and women who played a leading part in the 1916 Rising I would like to remember a lesser known personality from the neighbouring county of Meath who was in the GPO for the duration of the Rising.  He was Brian O‘Higgins, the uncompromising republican, 1916 veteran, Irish teacher, poet in Irish and English, balladeer and historian. His brand of patriotism encompassed both the pen and the sword.

Brian O'Higgins

In Special Collections Maynooth University Library we hold eight of his publications.  We also hold two volumes of The Wolfe Tone Annual which he published and edited between 1932-62.  He was born in Kilskyre, Co. Meath into a family with strong traditions of nationalism.

I first came across Brian O’Higgins when I was preparing an exhibition on local poet and nationalist Teresa Brayton.  As poets and likeminded compatriots they became friends when Teresa returned to Ireland after spending over thirty years in America.  I was intrigued when I discovered photos of Brian O’Higgins jnr. and Westmeath poet William Walsh taken outside her house in Kilbrook near Enfield. Benedict Kiely as a young man occasionally rode down from Dublin to spend time with Teresa wrote that he first met Teresa Brayton in Brian O’Higgins house in Clontarf.

William Walsh Teresa Brayton and Brian O'Higgins jnr.

At a young age he started to write and publish poetry in the Meath Chronicle.  He then moved to Dublin where he worked as a barman and joined the Gaelic League where he studied the Irish language and learned Irish dancing and songs and published the first of his many books.  He wrote for many regional newspapers and in 1906 he secured the Teastas Timire Gaeilge which allowed him to teach Irish.  Around this time he married Annie Kenny from Dublin and they had six children.

Padraig Pearse

He met Padraig Pearse in 1912 and became more involved with political activities. He subsequently became active in the events leading up to the 1916 Rising.

He was present in the GPO during Easter Week and after Pearse surrendered Brian was sent with many of the other Volunteers to Frongoch Jail in Wales.  After his release in 1917 he became involved in an Irish College in Clare.  He served a further prison term in Birmingham and during this time he was elected to the First Dáil in 1918.

GPO in 1916

In the Civil War which followed the Treaty he was on the anti Treaty side and was again imprisoned. In the Curragh he went on a twenty five day hunger strike which nearly killed him.  When he was eventually released he returned to writing and delivering orations and speeches.  He published The Soldier’s Story of Easter Week in 1926 which was an account of his own experiences during Easter Week and the following year Ten Golden Years: a little memorial of Easter Week 1916.

In his book “Decoding the IRA” James Gillogly wrote “Many members of Sinn Féin were furious with de Valera for having ‘compromised his principles’. A leading member, Brian O’Higgins, was reported to have been so bitter towards de Valera that he left his own wife’s funeral when de Valera arrived to attend”.  In 1938 he and seven other members of the 2nd Dáil signed over what they believed was the authority of the Government of Dáil Eireann to the IRA Army Council.

Eamonn de Valera

For the rest of his life he continued to write poems and songs many under the pen name of Brian na Banban.  In 1932 he started the Wolfe Tone Annual which recounted Irish republican history which he continued until the year before his death in 1963. 

For the rest of his life he continued to write poems and songs many under the pen name of Brian na Banban.  In 1932 he started the Wolfe Tone Annual which recounted Irish republican history which he continued until the year before his death in 1963.

Brian O’Higgins was no means a one dimensional character, he wrote humorous verse, satire, religious and nature poetry such as from his book of poetry in Special Collections called Glen na Mona where the titles of some of his poems are The Valley of the Boyne and Peggy O.

By his own admission he knew he was considered by some to be “a crank, an irreconcilable and an extremist”.  But he fervently believed the actions he took were because they were right.  Of all the speeches he made over forty years he claimed he only made one speech “A man who does not turn his political coat……has only one speech”.  I hope I have given a flavour of Brian O’Higgins who lived his life according to his own unswerving principles.


Life and times of Brian O’Higgins by Padraig O Tuile
www.Irish identity.com Brian O’Higgins 1882-1963
Decoding the IRA by Tom Mahon and James G. Gillogly, Cork: Mercier Press, 2008
Along my father’s hills: a miscellany by Michael and William Walsh, foreword by Benedict Kiely 
The Voice of Banba: songs and recitations for Young Ireland by Brian na Banban