14 Nov 2017

Internet Librarian International: Conference Report

Guest post by Niall O'Brien. Niall currently works as a Library Assistant in the Client Services unit of UCD Library. He is a graduate of the UCD MLIS programme and a qualified teacher. He is interested in the teaching and learning practices of academic libraries

The Internet Librarian International Conference, took place in London 17th & 18th October 2017.

Through the very good fortune of being awarded the LIR bursary for 2017 and with the support of my employing institution, UCD Library, I was privileged to attend this year’s Internet Librarian International Conference in London.

This being the first international conference I’ve had the pleasure to attend, I felt very humbled by the depth of the work and research that this global range of speakers were engaged in. Kate Torney, CEO of the State Library of Victoria, opened the conference with a rousing keynote speech in which she encouraged librarians to be more assertive about the importance of their work and not to allow the public to take it for granted. This message resonated in other talks I attended that day. I was struck, for instance, by Marydee Ojala of ‘Online Searcher, USA’ who succinctly made the point that ‘the librarian of the future thinks in connections, not collections’. It emphasised to me that librarians are no longer the gatekeepers of information, controlling access for the few privileged enough to be allowed to interact with their resources. Rather, in a world of frenetic information exchange, it is our role to communicate the merit of our particular information resources to users effectively. Likewise, it is imperative for us to reflect on how users are actually engaging with these resources rather than how we think they should. This means listening to them as much as having them listen to us.

The reality that the more open information network of today has necessitated a great deal of change to the librarian’s work practices was a strong theme of the conference. Many of the talks that took place that first day fleshed out these new practices. There were three different tracks that delegates could choose to attend: ‘The New Library, The New Librarian’, ‘Users, UX and Usage’ and ‘Content Creativity’. I spent most of my time at the UX track and picked up some invaluable insights into how information professionals are endeavouring to make their services more responsive. Carl Barrow of the University of Hull explained that his own interventions stemmed from the frustration of ‘sending out surveys knowing exactly what kind of feedback I was likely to get’. He charted his experience of employing more creative means of capturing the student’s library experience, including cognitive mapping and interview transcripts. I found this approach to user engagement refreshing and daring, exactly the kind of approach needed in response to so much debate and uncertainty surrounding how to move library services forward. I was particularly taken with his idea of asking library users to submit ‘breakup letters’, detailing reasons why they would choose to end their relationship with the library. I’m sure these make for devastating reading - provoking many bitter tears from library staff - but they must surely capture a brutal honesty that a more formal survey simply can’t. Terence Huwe’s talk on the many opportunities available to librarians in the field of data analytics likewise made a strong impression on me that day. As information professionals, we get so tired of hearing what we’re not: We’re not quite academics, we’re not quite support staff, and we’re not quite administrative staff. It was heartening to listen to some concrete examples of the roles that we are well placed to occupy if we’re prepared to work hard.

A keynote from David White of the University of the Arts, UK opened day two of the conference. His talk delved very deeply into what he saw as a growing chasm emerging between libraries and information professionals on the one hand and their more tech savvy user base on the other. He argued that today’s users tend to gather information in terms of networks and relevance, whereas information professionals tend to organise information in hierarchies that users have difficulty navigating, understanding or even caring about. While I’m not sure I see the gap in such adverse terms as White, I think he is attuned to a growing problem in information services. There is certainly a worrying disconnect emerging between users and librarians, and it’s one that improved interfaces and reassessment of the user experience is only going to go so far in addressing. The encouraging message that White provided at the close of his speech was that the answer (he feels) lies in information professionals taking on a greater teaching role and deepening their interaction with users; not only to offer instruction for students on how to navigate our resources, but also for us to actively keep pace with their rapidly evolving needs. Again, it all comes back to connections!

This cerebral keynote set the tone quite well for what was a decidedly more tech focused second half. I was left a little in awe of the dynamism of my fellow Irish librarians in employing such enterprising means to market libraries and library services. Laura Rooney Ferris and Michael Ferris are behind the ‘Librarian’s Aloud!’ podcast which aims to communicate the work and achievements of Irish librarians to a wider audience. I was particularly interested in the mechanics of how each podcast was produced and how both Laura and Michael honed skills that they had developed outside the field of librarianship to make the podcast so cutting edge and of such high quality. Similarly, it was obvious that deeply held passions for both music and libraries drive Ronan Madden and Martin O’Connor to present their radio show ‘Shush: Sounds from UCC Library’ and to be so successful in growing and developing it. It is encouraging to see that for some innovative and dedicated librarians, the effort to market libraries can really be a labour of love rather than any kind of obligation.

The final talk I attended included a very measured and insightful presentation from Ruth Graham of the University of Worcester. She has succeeded in streamlining e-resources at Worcester by minimising the number of interfaces and personalising them to give the user a more pleasant experience. Through this initiative, e-resource usage has increased by 200%. ‘It is all about building trust with your users and creating a seamless experience that they actually enjoy’, she said. The second day of this conference demonstrated to me that it is the human effort at the heart of the technology we facilitate that is crucial to its enduring success.

Having listened over the course of the two full days to so many inspiring contributions from information professionals dedicated to positively developing library services and fostering deeper connections with their user base, I can only surmise that the information needs of today’s library users are in good hands.

7 Nov 2017

Critical Media Literacy: Who Needs It? - Conference Review

Guest post by Sarah-Anne Kennedy, Dublin Institute of Technology. Sarah-Anne holds a BA (Hons) from the National University of Ireland Maynooth (MU) in English and History and a Masters of Library and Information Science from University College Dublin (UCD). She has been with the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) since 2006 and is currently supporting the College of Business, the School of Media and the School of Law. Sarah is interested in engaging and supporting students through blended learning and looking at new ways of bringing the Library to the student. 

The Centre for Critical Media Literacy hosted their inaugural conference Critical Media Literacy: Who Needs It? On Friday 20th October and Saturday October 21st in DIT Aungier St., Dublin. The conference was supported by DIT School of Media and the School of Multidisciplinary Technologies as well as a dedicated team of volunteer students of journalism.

I was unable to attend the opening Keynote on Friday 20th October from Richard Barbrook from the University of Westminster discussing ‘Critical Media Literacy & Digital Democracy’ with responses from Niamh Sweeney (Facebook) and Martina Chapman (Media Literacy Consultant). You can listen to a recording of the keynote and other sessions from the day on the DIT School of Media Facebook page.

The majority of proceedings took place the following day and it was a jam packed schedule with a range of topics discussed from Media Literacy (ML) education to citizen journalism to surveillance and privacy.

David Buckingham (London University) opened the day’s proceedings by giving an outline of the Media Literacy landscape in the UK. By not aligning Media Literacy (ML) and Media Education (ME), UK government policy has missed the mark. Essentially, ML policy was not part of ME policy and so was not reaching those who needed to be educated on ML essentials.
He argued that there was a focus on ‘media use’ rather than ML and that there was a disconnect across the educational landscape. David argued that there had been a “strangulation” of Media Studies and that educators were battling against policy from the government. Curriculum in UK schools was moving towards a ‘knowledge-based’ curriculum which essentially means that media studies survives but in a reduced (and easier!) form.

What do we need to tackle this? David argued that we need policy documents that align ML and ME, resources (not just textbooks), teacher training on ML, professional development networks, partnerships, research and evaluation and ME and media reform. While I would not be an expert on the ML issue in primary and secondary education in Ireland I could recognise the issues that David raised.

You can find out more about David Buckingham’s work and research on his website

Next up was Sheena Horgan talking about her involvement with MediaWise. MediaWise is a new education resource to help teach primary school children about media, advertising and fake news. The resource was developed to help media literacy education move away from only focusing on media skills development to empowerment. Sheena argued that we all have a collective responsibility when it comes to educating children -parents, the media industry, the government and educators. Librarians were not mentioned however. Why?

The next talk came from Kate Shanahan (Head of Journalism, DIT) and Róisín Boyd (School of Media, DIT) and they showcased the excellent work being carried out by DIT journalism students in delivering CLiC News. CLiC News is a free student produced rolling news service set up through collaboration between the DIT School of Journalism, Access & Civic Engagement Office (ACE) and Students Learning with Communities (SLWC). It is essentially media literacy in practice.

Clare Scully (School of Media, DIT) presented on the idea of ML usually being taught within the context of a ‘one-size fits all’ module. She argued that this is not effective when it comes to teaching students studying a range of media subjects. A module needed to be developed for media students that uses the language of the discipline and is based on pedagogical aspiration and approach. Clare argued that there was a conflation between general literacy and ML literacy problems and that the one-size fits all model goes against the aspiration of an ML module. Her research shows that students rank soft skills of academic writing etc. over critical thinking and evaluation which is opposite to how academics rank them. Ongoing development is needed and one module for all box ticking does not work.

The first break out session I attended looked at Social Science Experts and the Media. Barry Finnegan was first up to discuss Critical Media Literacy (CML) and trade agreements. He focused on TTIP and CETA and showed that despite CETA being the trade agreement that Ireland operates under there was more news coverage for TTIP. News coverage was primarily in the finance section of newspapers and the balance was pro-TTIP. Barry questioned why was it presented primarily as a finance story despite being a public interest story?

Next up were DIT researchers Joseph K. Fitzgerald and Brendan O’Rourke who are looking at the prominence of economists in Irish public discourse. They outlined how, since 1910, economists have slowly been granted authority by the media. Their research shows that economists have moved away from only governments granting authority to the media now granting that authority. Essentially moving from an academic order to a political order and now on to a media order.

Leena Ripatti-Torniainen (University of Helsinki) presented her research on public pedagogy. Leena’s research looks at public pedagogy as an approach to teaching experts to act in the political public sphere. She argues that we need to support student autonomy and judgement and that we can promote the teaching and learning of ML through acting in the public sphere.

Following Leena we had Henry Silke (UL), Maria Rieder (UL) and Hernik Theine (WU Vienna) presenting on the representation of ‘celebrity economists’ in the media, focusing on Thomas Piketty. They showcased the alarming trend of economists going unquestioned with their opinions being presented as fact. Their study looks at news coverage in four countries and how there is little disagreement with Piketty. The study uses a Corpus Linguistics methodology and alarmingly, when economists are discussed in the media words like ‘star’, ‘celebrity’ and even ‘messiah’ appear quite frequently. Looking closer to home, there is generally large agreement with Piketty across the Irish press showcasing a lack of protest and theory presented as reality.

The next break out session I attended looked at Truth or Data -Accuracy, Privacy and Surveillance at which myself and my colleague Róisín Guilfoyle also presented. Sarah Kearney (BL) opened the session looking at recent data protection cases in Ireland such as Schrems v Data Protection Commissioner which looks at the transfer of data from the EU to the US. and Digital Rights Ireland v Minister for Communication & Ors which looks at data retention and IP tracking. Sarah also spoke about the Fennelly report (March 2017) and the new General Data Protection Regulation which will come into force 25th May 2018.

Next up was Dr. Eileen Culloty (DCU) who presented on why fake news succeeds and how to oppose it. Her research looks at the online reasoning abilities of 2nd year undergraduate journalism students. Eileen used two control groups in her study, secondary school students and also secondary school students from the Centre for Talented Youth (CTYI). Eileen’s findings show that the journalism students in her study are over-reliant on heuristic principles/thinking and therefore fail to identify fake or biased websites.

Myself and my colleague, Róisín Guilfoyle (DIT) were up next and we presented on the similarities between ML and IL and that our experience matches the findings of a lot of literature and also Dr. Culloty’s (DCU), in that the majority of students lack critical thinking and evaluation skills. We also presented on the premise that our academic peers do not know that Librarians teach IL, and in particular, we teach critical thinking and evaluation. We argued that librarians and academics need to collaborate in teaching Digital Literacy based on the JISC Seven Elements model (see image). This is a term that will resonate with future students as Digital Media Literacy is now a subject on the Junior Cycle at second level and is also a DIT graduate attribute.

Courtesy of Sarah-Anne Kennedy

Our suggestions were strengthened by the next presenter, Isabelle Courtney. Isabelle has just recently finished the MLIS in DBS. Her dissertation looked at the role of information literacy in journalism education in Ireland. Her findings suggested that again there are similarities between the literacies and that collaboration is required between academics and librarians. She argued that there is a lack of awareness among media academics of the ‘teaching librarian’.

The last to present in this session was Cliodhna Pierce (DIT) whose research looks at the comparison between models of surveillance in East Germany and Northern Ireland and examining their relevance to the securitisation of today’s society. It was fascinating to see the similarities between data collection and surveillance during the past and present. Cliodhna argued that the public seem to be more concerned with surveillance over personal privacy.

The closing session focused on Journalism, Technology and the Public Sphere. Jen Hauser (DIT) presented on her research looking at amateur journalism with a focus on the coverage of the Aleppo offensive. Jen showcased how collaboration between professional journalists and amateur news coverage or footage is now commonplace. There is a new role for professionals in managing this collaboration and managing impartiality and bias that may exist in citizen journalism.

Next up was Kathryn Hayes (UL) who presented on freelance journalism in the age of social media. Kathryn argued that freelance journalism is the largest growth area in journalism. The precarious nature of the role of freelance journalists was outlined. Her findings show that younger journalists are more engaged with social media and technology to source information. They show less distrust of the medium. Older journalists rely on the older methods of interviewing people face to face. Kathryn questioned whether reliance on freelance journalists was sustainable and what are the implications for journalism?

My overall take away from this conference was the need for partnership and collaboration between librarians and academics. We all have a collective responsibility to enable students with the relevant skills to be media literate in an ever-confusing and complicated media landscape. The majority of presenters throughout the day mentioned the need for critical thinking and evaluation skills to be taught to students. There seems however, to be a complete lack of awareness among our academic peers and others that Librarians teach just that. As a profession we need to take control of how we are perceived and communicate our skills and expertise to those with which we can collaborate. Rather than waiting to be invited we can invite ourselves and ask to be involved in developing modules, programmes and curricula that supports media literacy and information literacy. We need to promote ourselves as stakeholders in this area on a national level.

One such way is getting involved with the Irish Media Literacy Network through the Broadcasting Association of Ireland (BAI). http://www.bai.ie/en/bai-launches-media-literacy-policy/

6 Nov 2017

SEDIC: the Spanish Information Managers Association

I have published this post to let you know SEDIC, the Spanish association of information management professionals, and the activities it organizes.

In Spain there are also other regional associations, which are accessible by the website of their federation.


SEDIC was founded in 1975 and is devoted to sharing experiences and training librarians, documentalists and archivists. It also assumes an active role in representing the interests of our professional community to Spanish government administration, European Union and various international organizations.

Since its foundation, SEDIC has been contributing to:
  • Disseminate the importance of information management for economic and scientific development, by stimulating the use of technologies and sources of information.
  • Facilitate access and contact with the job market, by building bridges between offers and demands. Indeed, SEDIC manages a job bank.
  • Encourage professional associations and stimulate the international relationships with colleagues from other countries, especially the European Union.
  • Coordinate the activities of its members with those of other associations grouped in FESABID (Spanish Federation of Archival, Library and Information Society Associations).
  • To train specialists in Information and Documentation, by collaborating in the design of universities' curricula regarding Librarianship and and providing professional courses.
  • Represent the Documentalists and Librarians to government administration and organizations related to their area of ​​activity, as well as in associations, conferences and international meetings.

    Source: sedic.es

    Training of Professionals: courses, seminars and workshops

    SEDIC organizes throughout the year many courses aimed at information  management professionals. Passing the courses results in a certification that will vary according to the interest shown by the students and the tasks that they have successfully completed. There are some training itineraries in which courses have been grouped by areas of specialization essential in our professional field.

    There are nine training itineraries of courses:

    1. Scientific Publication and Production: citations, bibliographic managers, altmetrics, etc.
    2. Archives: government's archives, cloud technology for small companies, International Standard Archival Description, etc.
    3. Web Technologies: resposive web design, management of digital repositories, semantic web, etc.
    4. Documental processes: cataloging, MARC, RDA, etc.
    5. Legislation: intellectual property in the digital age, e-goverment, etc.
    6. Specialized Information Resources: health, economic and financial information, European Union resources, etc.
    7. Communication and marketing: content marketing, creation and edition of video content for social networks, social media plans, etc.
    8. Technology for Documentalists: digital preservation, content management systems, etc.
    9. Management and Planning: teamwork strategies and tools in virtual environments, geographic information on libraries, gamification and meaningful engagement, etc.

    In addition, SEDIC organizes no-cost seminars and workshops in which specific technology, techniques or tools are taught.

    The last ones were:

    • Expert search strategies on Google.
    • Wikipedia editing workshop.
    • 3D introduction workshop.
    • Valuation of Bibliographic Heritage.
    • Preservation and sustainable conservation in archives and libraries.

    Information Management Conference

    SEDIC organizes a conference every year called Information Management to communicate what challenges information management professionals must overcome. Likewise, the most innovative aspects are exposed in the different specialties: librarianship, archives, etc.

    In 2017, the conference is taking place on November 15 at Spanish National Library and is addressing the following issues:
    Our profession has changed a lot in the last decades. Apparently, the roles, processes and challenges of information management institutions have little to do with yesterday's. How has the work of the information  management professional changed in the last thirty-forty years? How did you imagine the future of the profession then, and to what extent have the steps taken built what we are today? What great innovations did the preceding generations (and not necessarily technological ones) deal with? In what ways have the concepts of user, utility and social relevance, collection management, user satisfaction and evaluation, access, citizen participation, services, etc. evolved, and to what extent has it impacted our roles, training, professional objectives? How do we imagine today that these concepts will evolve, and where do we understand that the steps we are taking on this path will take us?

    Actualízate Conference

    It is an innovative idea born in 2014 that is driven by SEDIC and Universidad Complutense de Madrid's Department of Library Science. In this conference many companies related to information management show their most innovative products and services. The main purpose is to seek synergies between professionals, researcher and professors by creating a discussion forum around technological tendencies.

    Furthermore, in order to promote innovation and its application, awards for the most innovative bachelor and master thesis in the field of Librarianship and Information Science take placed during the conference.

    Guided tours and outings

    SEDIC organizes guided tours and outings to institutions such as libraries and archives.

    The last ones were to:

    • Library and Museum of the National Astronomical Observatory.
    • Archive of the Spain's Bank.
    • Library of a high school.
    • Spanish National Library's Department of Fine Arts.
    • Library of the Constitutional Court.

    Professional Encounters, Employment Portal and Debate Forum

    SEDIC organizes meetings between professionals in which there is no lack of refreshments, agape and music. The objective is to design an informal experience for sharing professional knowledge and getting to know other people that have librarianship in common.

    Likewise, the members have an employment portal in which job vacancies are published and filtered by SEDIC, as well as a discussion forum.

    Publications and Editorial News

    SEDIC publishes a series of resources to maintain and develop professional skills and defend the interests of the information management professional, as they needs to be up-to-date on varied issues that may arise. It let the SEDIC's members know the ongoing developments of technologies, sources and procedures:

    • News bulletin.
    • Blog.
    • Work documents.
    • Activity report.
    • Revista Española de Documentación Científica, which is a scientific journal.

    Moreover, SEDIC publishes various publishing novelties in all types of genres (narrative, essay, specialized monographs, poetry, etc.) and allows its members to get free copies that are given away by the publishers. The members can even participate by making their own reviews and publishing them on SEDIC's Blog.