5 Sep 2018

FORCing the issue: A can’t miss workshop on future directions for contributor recognition

Guest post by Cory Craig, Mohammad Hosseini and Alison McGonagle-O’Connell

An unlikely trio is collaborating to bring the attendees of FORCE 2018 a pre-meeting workshop discussing the CrediT Taxonomy, the standard that everyone’s been talking about.

CRediT is a linked data initiative that allows author contribution(s) to scientific papers to be specified, transparent, and machine-readable. CRediT has been adopted by hundreds of journals, yet implementations vary widely.

With backgrounds in research ethics and integrity, academic libraries, and publishing, researchers Mohammad Hosseini, Cory Craig, and CRediT Program Committee co-chair Alison McGonagle-O’Connell will deliver a dynamic pre-meeting workshop session to advance the dialogue.

As a ‘standalone’ project under the auspices of CASRAI, CRediT has been managed by enthusiastic volunteers on a Program Committee. This grassroots approach to the management of the taxonomy has attracted passionate advocates, but has at times presented some challenges to wider adoption: mainly, a lack of resources to get documentation and visibility to critical levels and ambiguities in relation to co-authorship. This workshop seeks to address these in an interactive session and explore next steps for the CRediT taxonomy. To further engagement with the scholarly community, and identify next steps for CRediT, this workshop will:
  • Start with an overview of CRediT and how it works, including: author, publisher, integrator perspectives; ethical issues; and barriers to adoption.
  • Use live online polls to gather participant opinions, conduct thought experiments, and identify topics for breakout groups.
  • Use Breakout Groups to identify innovations and next steps. Topics to be determined by participants and might include: implementation and barriers, ethical issues, usefulness, and application in non-science disciplines.
  • Share results from breakout groups (both during the workshop and after).
Select the “CRediT: Discussing Next Steps”pre-meeting workshop (12:30-3pm) on October 9, when you register to attend FORCE 2018.

15 Aug 2018


This post by Victoria Archer, Queens University Belfast Library was placed Joint First in the CONUL Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Award 2018. 

Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle. 
Paul Coelho, Brida – 1990

 Here, in my university library we go by a way of life entitled Task Rotation.

In theory it allows all of us to gain experience and knowledge in every area of the Borrower Services workload. Three times a year we learn how to manage a new sphere of library life and impart to the colleague stepping into our shoes all of the wisdom and expertise we have accumulated during our four-month reign. We curate and update our clipboards to make sure the most critical information and mystical secrets of our task are embodied within their sacred, silvery clasp. And then, when training is complete we hand them over, along with all of the highs, the lows, and the quirks of our old life.

There is much lively debate with regards to the pros and cons of task rotation within academic libraries. Overwhelmingly though, despite arguments it is time-consuming and lacks efficiency, it appears that there is much support for its benefits. In Job rotation at Cardiff University Library Service: A pilot study (2009) Sally Earney and Ana Martins concluded that:

 job rotation demonstrably improved the skills and motivation of the majority of the rotatees… job rotation fosters employee learning (Campion et al., 1994), improves motivation or reduces boredom and fatigue (Walker and Guest, 1952; Campion et al., 1994) and enables firm learning (Ortega, 2001; Ericksson and Ortega, 2006).

It is with a heavy heart then that I adjust my tortoiseshell glasses and begin to relay to you the story of my fall from grace

It has been one glorious year since I started to work for Queen’s University Library. Upon arrival my transition from working in the public libraries was an exhilarating and relentless barrage of learning and information. Gone were my days of issuing, discharging and tidying books for a small library attracting perhaps 100 people on a normal day.

The imposing façade of the McClay Library – Winner of The Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) Award 2013

Here I was standing behind the Borrower Services Desk of an institution where the average daily footfall hits 10,000; being educated on how to navigate the intricacies of a library with over a million books.

Nine months in I had graduated to one of the most complicated tasks of all – Inter Library Loan Reporting. With each task rotation my role had become more challenging, complicated and involved and I loved it.

Organisation is key: some of my beloved stationary
I had a diary overflowing with reminders, tips and weekly updates. I had colour-coded lists of libraries and their lending time frames. I got to know Library Assistants on first name terms from all over the UK and Ireland, and the Top Tips section I created for my clipboard extended over 4 pages. Every day was adrenaline fuelled and essentially, I felt like the Wolf of Wall Street; only with more books and decidedly less money.

Teamwork makes the dream work: my wonderful colleagues at QUB Library
Perhaps you can see where this is going.

Time for task rotation came, and I was to be forcibly removed from my Inter Library Loan position; banished to the realms of in-house notifications. My colleagues consoled me and as the final day of my task approached I prepared to part with my high-flying role and cherished clipboard.

I won’t say it didn’t look suspicious when the two colleagues taking over my duties were both taken mysteriously ill in the first week of task rotation. There were whispers that my passion for my work had gone too far, and I will admit that extra week was enjoyed with a bittersweet abandon.

After two months of my new task I am inclined to agree with Earney and Martins. The variety of our rotation allows for a much more interesting and diverse career long term, where we are always learning and facing new challenges.

That said – here I am, patiently awaiting the day when the Inter Library Loans come back to me.
And what have I learned? Don’t poison two people at once, it looks incredibly dubious.

Earney, S., Martins, A. (2009) ‘Job rotation at Cardiff University Library Service: A pilot study’, Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 41 (4), pp. 216-224. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/0961000609345089
Photos: Author’s own


This post by Ronan Kelly RCSI (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland) Library  was placed Joint First in the CONUL Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Award 2018. 

Earlier this year I joined the Heritage Collections team in the RCSI Library. On a daily basis I help with inquiries from within the College and from the general public. Another ongoing task has been the preparation of a booklet on medical instruments and innovations associated with figures from RCSI. From the College’s point of view, the booklet represents a moment of reputation enhancement: an opportunity to showcase one aspect of RCSI’s 234-year contribution to medicine in Ireland.

There will be ten entries in the finished booklet, all quite varied, ranging from the late eighteenth century – Samuel Croker-King’s (1728 – 1817; first President of RCSI) improvement to the trepan (basically, advice on how to drill a better hole in a head) – to the middle of the twentieth – Terence Millin’s (1903 – 1980; President of RCSI) retropubic approach to transurethral resection of the prostate (I’ll spare the reader an image of that).

Title-page and plate from Croker-King’s Description of an instrument… (Dublin, 1791), RCSI Heritage Collections
Individually, these stories are fascinating and distinct (although as I researched each one the overriding question in my mind was whether it dated from before or after the discovery of anaesthetic…). But as the project wraps up I’ve taken a step back to ask myself what the discoveries have in common – and it seems to me that three interesting themes, or lessons, emerge. Despite the RCSI origins, these lessons are not necessarily medical and so I submit them here in the hope that they will inspire others regardless of their field of endeavour.

Lesson 1: Stealing is good
Invention, or innovation, can often be the repurposing of something already in the world. Consider, for example, the case of Richard Butcher (1819 – 1891; Fellow and President of RCSI). Surgery in Butcher’s time involved a lot (really, a lot) of amputation; indeed, a surgeon’s reputation often rested on their speed with the blade. But the sharp edges of sawn-off bones were extremely painful and slow to heal – until one day Butcher observed how cabinet-makers executed intricate or curving cuts by using a particular implement whose blade could be rotated to any angle. In his mind, he swapped the nice piece of furniture for somebody’s mangled limb and lo, his adapted version – known somewhat unfortunately as Butcher’s saw – was born.

Plate from Butcher’s Operative and conservative surgery (Dublin, 1866), RCSI Heritage Collections

Plate from Butcher’s Operative and conservative surgery (Dublin, 1866), RCSI Heritage Collections
Another repurposing happened with that most universally recognised instrument of medical practice, the stethoscope. Its invention is credited to René Laënnec, who in 1816 was inspired by the sight of two children sending acoustic signals to each other using a length of wood. He found that mediate auscultation – using a rolled-up sheet of paper to listen to a patient’s internal organs – produced louder and clearer sounds than the previous practice of immediate auscultation (placing one’s ear directly on the patient). With the advent of rubber, Arthur Leared (1822 – 1879; Licentiate of RCSI) developed this into the binaural version – meaning it had two earpieces – that we know today. Leared brings me to the next lesson…

Lesson 2: Don’t be shy
Having invented his binaural stethoscope, Leared showed it off briefly at the Great Exhibition of 1851; he then sailed off to serve in the Crimean War. When he returned he found that someone who ‘admired’ his invention at the Exhibition was now manufacturing and selling very similar binaural stethoscopes. Belatedly, Leared wrote to The Lancet to set the record straight, but it is his rival’s version that set the industry standard (see Lesson 1).

Leared’s binaural stethoscope from Down’s catalogue of surgical instruments (London, 1906), RCSI Heritage Collections
Something similar happened to Francis Rynd (1801 – 1861; Fellow of RCSI), inventor in 1844 of the hypodermic syringe. He neglected to write up his work and soon enough near-identical inventions appeared in Edinburgh and London. Finally Rynd staked his claim in 1861, when he published in a Dublin medical journal a fuller account of his earlier innovation. Coincidentally, following his sudden death, the same issue of the journal also carried Rynd’s obituary. Don’t let this happen to you!

Rynd’s hypodermic needle featured in RCSI promotional material (©RCSI)
Lesson 3: Keep trying
Failure need not be failure – or, to put it another way, failure is only failure until it is a success. This cheering lesson is exemplified by the uncheering story of 14-year-old Mary Ann Dooley, who suffered an accident working in a paper mill. She was brought to Robert McDonnell (1828 – 1889; Fellow and President of RCSI), who performed Ireland’s first blood transfusion in order to save her. Sadly, Dooley died the next day (‘without pain, and quite conscious to the last’), but McDonnell remained optimistic about the practice. He designed his own transfusion apparatus and went on to save many lives.

McDonnell’s transfusion apparatus, RCSI Heritage Collections
Space precludes sharing the lessons learned from Tufnell’s bullet scoop, Daunt’s lithotome or O’Halloran’s cataract knives – except to say we should all be very thankful for anaesthetic. RCSI Heritage’s next project will be on the influenza pandemic of 1918; no doubt there will be lessons there too…

Butcher, Richard. ‘Mr Butcher’s cases of amputation – use of a new saw’, Dublin quarterly journal of medical science 12.23 (1851): 209 – 23.
Croker-King, Samuel. A description of an instrument for performing the operation of trepanning the skull, with more ease, safety and expedition, than those in general use (Dublin, 1794).
Leared, Arthur. ‘On the self-adjusting double stethoscope’, The Lancet 2 (1856): 138.
McDonnell, Robert. ‘Remarks on the operation of transfusion and the apparatus for its performance’, Dublin quarterly journal of medical science 50.2 (1870): 257-265.
Millin, Terence. ‘Retropubic prostatectomy: a new extravesical technique’, The Lancet 249 (1945): 693 – 696.
Roguin, Ariel. ‘Rene Theophile Hyacinthe Laënnec (1781–1826): the man behind the stethoscope.’ Clinical medicine and research 4.3 (2006): 230–235.
Rynd, Francis. ‘Description of an instrument for the subcutaneous introduction of fluids in affections of the nerves’, Dublin quarterly journal of medical science, 32.1 (1861): 13.
Rynd, Francis. ‘Neuralgia – introduction of fluid to the nerve’, Dublin medical press 13 (1845): 167-168.

8 Aug 2018


All photographs are author’s own and © 2016 of Sharon Hoefig and DIT Conservatory Library

This post by Sharon Hoefig, DIT Library was placed second in the CONUL Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Award 2018. 

Towards the end of 2016, the DIT Conservatory Library undertook a project to clean and rehouse a large collection of Shellac (78 RPM) records and their corresponding sleeves. This undertaking was part of a larger project to conserve, catalogue, digitise and make accessible the historical shellac recordings of the Caruana Gramophone Collection. The Caruana Gramophone Collection consists of a near-complete run of the bound Gramophone magazine and a collection of 10-inch and 12-inch records collected by Frank Caruana to correspond with the magazines. A numerical sequence, devised by Mr. Caruana links each of the records to the relevant magazine and many of the sleeves have also had cut-outs of reviews or photos of the performers from other publications affixed to them. As most 78s were issued in relatively plain paper sleeves with no accompanying information, these additions make the sleeves in this collection particularly interesting and as worth conserving as the records themselves. We had never cleaned 78s before and so the task was a learning experience which proved enlightening, interesting and … dirty.

What is shellac?
All photographs are author’s own and © 2016 of Sharon Hoefig and DIT Conservatory Library
Images of lac beetle taken from Maxwell-Lefroy, H. (Harold). Indian Insect Life : a Manual of the Insects of the Plains . W. Thacker & Co., 1909. Available at https://archive.org/details/indianinsectlife00maxw  
Before describing the cleaning process, it’s worth answering this question as whenever we mention the project, this the first question asked. Shellac is a resin produced by the female lac bug on trees in India and Thailand and from the late 1800s until the advent of vinyl, it was used to produce the majority of gramophone records. In fact, in the 1930s it was estimated that half of all shellac used went into the manufacture of gramophone records. Shellac records are rigid and brittle. They don’t flex like vinyl, they break and chip easily and the grooves are susceptible to groove wear through surface contamination.

Why clean a shellac record?

All photographs are author’s own and © 2016 of Sharon Hoefig and DIT Conservatory Library
Our shellac records were certainly suffering from surface contamination. Most of the records were housed in standard open-ended sleeves and had gathered A LOT of dust over their many years. As well as accumulating dust and dirt, shellac also suffers from a gradual embrittlement over time. The embrittlement causes fine particles to be shed from the disc after each playback.The dust, dirt and shellac particles become trapped in the grooves causing the stylus to jump and skip during playback and scratching and wearing the grooves, effectively deleting the information they contain. The importance of removing this material is therefore clear.

How do you clean a shellac record?

All photographs are author’s own and © 2016 of Sharon Hoefig and DIT Conservatory Library
Removing material trapped between the grooves is tricky. A dry brush will only remove dirt sitting on the top and it may even make matters worse by moving that dirt into the grooves. Residue water may cause swelling or leave behind particles floating within it. Fortunately, we were able to borrow a Keith Monks machine from RTE. The Keith Monks record cleaner was developed in the 1960s for BBC engineers and they are still used in the BBC record libraries today. The machine consists of a top deck with a turntable, 2 brush blocks and a vacuum arm. The internal components include the motor, vacuum pump and fluid dispensing system. The machine looks more complicated to use than it actually is but it did take us a few attempts on some old practice records to get it right. 

Our work process

All photographs are author’s own and © 2016 of Sharon Hoefig and DIT Conservatory Library
We had 600 records to get through within a limited time frame. After a bit of trial and error the following work process proved most efficient for us: 
  1. Dusting. We used a dry brush to brush dust from the record label and a microfiber cloth to gently clean it. 
  2. Wetting. The record was then placed on the machine, the brush lowered into place and water pumped through it. The machine was then turned on. The record turned on the turntable while the wet brushes cleaned it. 
  3. Drying. The suction arm was then moved into place and the nozzle positioned on the record just outside the label. The machine was set to DRY and this time as it turned, the nozzle vacuumed up the remaining dirt and water. 
  4. Cleaning the sleeves. While the record was drying, we used vulcanised latex sponges to gently clean the sleeve and a dry brush afterwards to remove any crumbs. 
  5. Re-housing. The clean record was then placed in a custom-made archival folder and stored in an archival box. A piece of archival card was placed inside the sleeve and the sleeve was then placed in a mylar pocket and stored in an archival box. 

Repeat x 599


All photographs are author’s own and © 2016 of Sharon Hoefig and DIT Conservatory Library
The work was dirty and at times a little monotonous but it was also rewarding. The rewards are summed up in these before and after images. The middle photo is of the jar of vacuumed up dirt and water from the Keith Monks machine!

i: This estimate was published in The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912-1954) in 1937. The article is available online on the National Library of Australia website. https://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/55073762# 
ii:  https://cool.conservation-us.org/byauth/st-laurent/care.html 

All photographs are author’s own and © 2016 of Sharon Hoefig and DIT Conservatory Library. Images of lac beetle taken from Maxwell-Lefroy, H. (Harold). Indian Insect Life : a Manual of the Insects of the Plains . W. Thacker & Co., 1909. Available at https://archive.org/details/indianinsectlife00maxw  

1 Aug 2018


This post was placed joint third in the Conul Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Award 2018. 
This post is by Maolsheachlann O'Ceailligh, UCD Library

Earlier this year, I helped facilitate a workshop in which students drew up “journey maps” of the way in which they went about researching their projects. It was a very interesting project for many reasons, but one aspect in particular stood out to me-- the frequency with which the students mentioned the anxiety and stress they felt when pursuing their research, especially at the beginning of the project.

 Reading up a little on this, I discovered the concept of “library anxiety”, which I’d never heard of in sixteen years as a library assistant. I mentioned this on Facebook, and one of my friends (based in America) told me that she suffered from this condition and avoided her university library where possible. She wrote: “The people who work there are generally unhelpful and I have no idea how the system for the books actually works. So I can't find the sources I need, the staff can't help me, and even if I find my sources through hours of looking, I don't know how to get them reshelved. And I'm an introvert, so that much talking to people and/or looking like an idiot is too much for me.” I was especially surprised by this as I know she is a high-achieving student. In fact, as I was to learn, high-achieving students are particularly prone to library anxiety. In fact, every element of her comment, aside from the remark about reshelving, reflects common themes in the literature on library anxiety.

An extreme example of library anxiety. Picture courtesy of Joey Bartlett,

The term was introduced in a 1986 article by Constance Mellon, and has been frequently discussed in various academic articles since then. The main features of library anxiety are that the student feels overwhelmed by the size of the library, doesn’t know how to begin to seek information, is reluctant to approach library staff, and believes that other students are more knowledgeable about the library than himself or herself. In Mellon’s initial study, a staggering seventy-five to eighty-five per cent of students reported feelings of anxiety in their initial responses to library research.

When I reflected on my own experience as a library assistant, I recalled much that tallied with this finding. Yes, students very often apologize for “bothering” library staff. They very often preface very ordinary questions with statements like: “This is probably a stupid question, but...” They very often comment on the sheer size of the library.

Though I had become used to such interactions, I had no idea that library anxiety was so widespread and so frequently studied. One phenomenon that I had frequently observed might have tipped me off, perhaps-- the fact that it is only ever a minority of the student body who become familiar faces at the service desk.

Students often complain that university libraries seem huge. Stock photo, creative commons

Furthermore, I realised how difficult it is to tackle library anxiety when I remembered some of the measures which my own library had taken to reach out to students. Some ten years ago, we instituted a “library rover” scheme whereby library staff walked the floors of the library and approached library users, rather than waiting for them to approach us. This was a frustrating exercise as very few users took up our offers of help. Eventually the scheme was discontinued. More recently, we have tried various ways to make library orientation more welcoming and informal, such as disseminating information in the form of quizzes and other games. This has had some success, but only a very small minority of students ever take it up. What else might we do?

Perhaps one approach that might be taken is to emphasise the informational role of library service desks. Indeed, the ambiguity of the terminology used for library service desks is quite telling. Are they “issue desks”? Are they “service desks”? Are they “information desks”? Branding them clearly as information desks, regardless of what other services they perform, might be a good way to make them approachable to students. As well as this, it might be helpful to explicitly convey the message, through signage and online, that any question can be asked at the information desk and that there is no such thing as a stupid question. (One library in Wisconsin has the words “Ask Here” hanging over the issue desk in large letters.)

Given the complexity of university life, many queries will inevitably have to be directed elsewhere. It’s important that students are not sent on a wild goose chase at these times. Academic libraries therefore have an interest in lobbying for a culture of greater openness and availability across the university. I doubt I am only the library staff member who experiences “inter-departmental anxiety” when it comes to helping students with non-library queries!


This post was placed joint third in the Conul Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Award 2018. 
This post is by Laura Ryan, UCD Library

Don Share, editor of Poetry magazine, refers to Ireland as “a country of and for poets” – a sentiment I would not understand upon finishing the Leaving Certificate English course. I could recite Kavanagh, Frost, Rich or Yeats, or release a well-rehearsed spiel on their meanings picked from course books and class notes but on completion of the exams, my attitude towards the world of Irish poetry was apathetic at best. A class of secondary school teenagers taking turns at reading lines from ‘The Road Not Taken’ had never really done much justice to Frost.

 At university, I chose no poetry modules until my final year when one particular class caught my eye: Modern American Poetry. It was the first poetry class I had encountered where we listened to contemporary poets reciting their own works. Simply put, it changed my mind about poetry. I witnessed a rawness of emotion, a certainty of rhythm. I came to understand how some poets have a truly distinctive voice, giving life to the poetry itself.

My poetry education came to an abrupt halt at that point, as I went on to complete a Masters in the History of Art before stepping into my role with UCD Library. I brought with me skills in customer service, financial administration, and photography (among others) and I happily put these skills to good use. It came as quite a surprise when a request landed on my desk: assistance was needed in the administration of the Irish Poetry Reading Archive (Taisce Aithris Filíochta na hÉireann).

Irish Poetry Reading Archive Promotional Material courtesy of UCD Library Outreach Department

The Irish Poetry Reading Archive is a repository of recordings of Irish poets. They each select eight of their own poems to read, for which they give a brief note of context – detailing their influences, intent or inspiration. We make the recordings available for free via the Archive’s YouTube channel, and the video is preserved within UCD’s Digital Library. We store a signed collection of the published works of these poets, and the books remain accessible to our users. The poets also provide us with handwritten manuscripts of their poetry, available to readers via our Special Collections Reading Room.

Part of my personal work with the archive involves acting as liaison to poets, being their first point of contact and arranging anything necessary for recording sessions. I have acquired a unique view on their feelings towards Irish poetry and with regard to the archive itself. With print runs of poetic works often being quite small, our archive works to preserve as much as possible. Many poets have informed me that they are grateful that their work is being stored securely and will be accessible to future generations of readers and poets alike.

From the archive: Handwritten manuscripts of poems by Jessica Traynor, Michael Longley, and Doireann Ní Ghríofa.

I believe poetry is integral to Irish traditions. Our oral heritage is still alive and well, and we have a duty to preserve it as much as those who first documented Irish song, poetry, and folklore. In my time with the poetry archive, many of the poets have recited works influenced by current or recent affairs – including the movement to Repeal the 8th amendment, the homelessness crisis, poverty, Direct Provision, and the Tuam Mother and Baby homes to name just a few. It offers an insight into the current challenges, wrongs and rights of this country, explored through poetry in a very candid, honest way. Some of our recordings situate themselves in specific spaces in time and I hope will provide an understanding of our current world for future generations.

The project has changed my personal relationship with poetry, and I hope that my work aids in the preservation of Irish voices not only for future generations, but also for current students of Irish poetry. Over the last number of months, we have recorded poets who feature on the current Junior Certificate curriculum. We will work to make their recordings accessible to schools, so that students can experience how the poets read them and the individual qualities a poet’s personal voice provides. Education has changed greatly even in the few years since I have left school, and we hope that our multimedia archive will aid in teaching of poetry.

Don Share was absolutely correct in referring to Ireland as a country of poets. I should know – we have a long list of poets recorded, with an ever-growing list of those we are yet to record. When he said it was a country for poets, I believe that is where our library should play its part, by continuing our project to capture as many voices of Irish poetry as we possibly can.

I am a small part of a much larger team that includes staff from UCD’s Media Services, our Special Collections, Collections, Outreach, and Research Services departments, and of course the gracious contributions of Irish poets.

Share, D. (2015). Don Share: ‘Ireland was and remains for me a country of and for poets’. [online] The Irish Times. Available at: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/don-share-ireland-was-and-remains-for-me-a-country-of-and-for-poets-1.2329231 [Accessed 7 May 2018].

Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2018 | Categories:

30 Jul 2018


Highly Commended post in the Conul Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Award 2018. 
This post is by Sarah Graham, Maynooth University Library 

When I am asked what a book and paper conservator is, the usual response is ‘you must have a lot of patience’ or ‘you must be good at jigsaw puzzles’. In reality, neither is true. Instead a rich mixture of history, science, ethics and practical bench skills informs my practice in the studio and helps me in the protection of our cultural heritage. It is important to protect these individual, physical, bound items as they inform our understanding of how the information within was read and shared over the centuries. This is especially so when the text is rare or unique. There are a number of preventive measures used to mitigate future damage from use or environment but sometimes interventive treatment is necessary to consolidate deteriorating material. This blog will look at the first volume I conserved in Special Collections and Archives after joining the team last February, the manuscript written by Seán Clárach Mac Domhnaill in 1720.

Request for Digitisation: 
In early 2018 the Churchtown North Cork Heritage Group requested a number of pages from this manuscript as they wished to have the surrogate pages bound and displayed in their meeting house. It belongs to the collection of fifty Gaelic manuscripts from St Coleman’s College, Fermoy which was brought to Maynooth in 2013. Further information can be found in the MU Library Treasures blog by Yvettte Campbell. Volume 20 (Gaelic Ms. Vol. 20) contains multiple items. The first hundred pages are the manuscript followed by; a list of Subscribers, part of the Dublin Chronicle (6th October 1817) and Keating’s History of Ireland.

Figure 1:Tears and burns to text block.                                                                              Losses of paper and previous repairs.
©Maynooth University

Assessment of the condition: 
Digitisation requires significant handling and it is important to assess the risk to the original material beforehand. It was agreed that in its pre-treatment state, the volume was too fragile and there was risk of losing unique information. The first third of the volume had large tears and significant losses of paper (especially true for the first few pages) and the old repairs were both obscuring text and damaging the page substrate. The list of subscribers also has structural tears and areas of the page are detached.

Figure 2:List of subscribers before and after treatment
©Maynooth University

Treatment of the volume: 
This manuscript has a half-leather binding and the leather on the joints and corners was beginning to chemically deteriorate. A consolidant (a mixture of klucel G and isopropanol called Cellugel) was applied to improve the cohesive strength of the leather. As this was evaporating, the text block was cleaned with smoke sponges. Most of the dirt was already ingrained but this removed surface particles which could be abrasive to the paper.

Previous repairs had been adhered with a weak water sensitive adhesive. In many areas adhesion had already failed but removal was assisted with moisture from wheat starch paste where necessary. This was replaced with Tengujo paper (12gsm) as it is thin enough to read the text underneath but still strong enough to hold the repair together. Wheat starch paste was also used here, but as an adhesive this time. There were significant losses around the edges and a heavier weight Usumino paper (28gsm) was used as it was similar in weight and thickness to the pages of the manuscript. The infill was ‘cut’ out using a needle to ensure a fibrous edge and attached to the page on either side with Tengujo and wheat starch paste.

Figure 3: Infilling loss of paper; before, during and after treatment.
©Maynooth University

There were no structural problems with the binding. Both boards were firmly attached and the spine was intact. However, the leather had split at the head and tail of the left board joint and leather had been lost from the corners. The corners were originally made of leather but I chose to repair with a toned Japanese paper. It is a strong and quick repair and the tissue can easily be matched with the original leather. However, it is different enough in texture and depth to look like a contemporary intervention in the volume.

Figure 4: Front of binding before and after treatment
©Maynooth University

The privileged position I am in as a conservator means I have the time to become familiar with these beautiful volumes and see them in a temporary deconstructed state. It is so exciting that this often time-consuming and always delicate work has allowed more people to see the lovely handwriting within. The original may be in a four-flap enclosure on a secure self in the Russell Library but its digital surrogate is publicly available.

29 Jul 2018

National Library of Spain: my Experience as an Intern at Digital Library Service

Every year graduates in Librarianship and Information Science, History, Art History, Philology, Fine Arts, Journalism, Media and Communication Studies, Architecture and Culture Management have the opportunity to join National Library of Spain (BNE) as interns.

National Library of Spain, entrance. Source: www.bne.es
Marks obtained in bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees, courses, previous work experience and specific knowledge are considered in order to choose those who are going to be interns. It is not easy to be taken on at all.

In this post, I will tell my experience as an intern at Digital Library Service of BNE, in which I have been working between october 2017 and july 2018.

Induction and Being Part of a Team

From the very first moment I felt that my colleagues were interested in knowing me in professional terms and making me feel comfortable at workplace.

They explained me the projects in which I was going to take part. What is more, personal taught me everything I needed to cope with a great amount of problems that emerge when managing digital collections and preservation.

BNE organised two guided visits for interns to the two headquarters, namely, Alcalá de Henares and Recoletos. Besides, I did as many courses for users as I could to learn to use the great range of different collections National Library of Spain has. I attended to two conferences regarding RDA and Digital Edition. Also, I took part in 2018 Open Doors Day as a volunteer.

It must be stressed that my high motivation stemmed from my learning process and having considered me as a member of the team by allowing me certain independence and suggesting improvements in work methods.

I strongly think that all I have learned have increased my knowledge and understanding of national libraries as well as the importance of digitization and preservation regarding bibliographic heritage.

Work and Projects

1. Digital Collections and Preservation

In order to explain what I exactly did at BNE, let's consider this graph:
Projects regarding Digital Collections and Preservation at BNE during an internship. Source: Eduardo Cruz-Palacios
Projects regarding Digital Collections and Preservation at BNE during an internship. Source: Eduardo Cruz-Palacios
Horizontal axis defines where digitized documents are destined: either software Libsafe for digital preservation or digital collections on the website of Biblioteca Digital Hispánica.

Vertical axis defines the role of personal of Digital Library Service of BNE. When outsources are in charge of digitization, BNE personal deal with quality assurance of what outsources have done. When it is BNE which is in charge of digitization, its personal cope with the creation of files, directories and their structure and naming, and metadata.

P1, P2, P3 and P4 refer to the projects in which I took part.

Therefore, the graph can be read as followed:
  • Massive Digitization: the outsourcer was in charge of the creation of the necessary files, directories and their structure and naming, and metadata. I ensured that they met quality requirements before uploading them on Biblioteca Digital Hispánica and Libsafe. I coped with manuscripts (letters, plays, etc.), maps and atlas, drawings, photographs, old and modern books (novels, essays, etc.), engravings and ephemera.
  • Spanish Civil War Photographs: similar to the previous one, but I did not revised digital preservation.
  • eBooks (made from manuscripts): I ensured that a set of ebooks created by an outsourcer had the quality required in terms of legibility and accordance with original manuscripts.
  • Copybook: there is a scanner at BNE that is used to digitize its collections day by day. After having obtaining digitized pages, I had to generate the necessary files, directories and their structure and naming, and metadata to make these collections available on the website of Biblioteca Digital Hispánica and ingest them into the software Libsafe for their digital preservation.
Other notes:
  • Software for managing the digital library: Pandora.
  • Files formats destined to Biblioteca Digital Hispánica: PDF and JPG.
  • Files format destined to Libsafe: TIF.
  • Metadata: MARCXML for Biblioteca Digital Hispánica (METS when multipart documents) and PREMIS for Digital Preservation.
  • Company that provides software Libsafe for Digital Preservation: Libnova.

2. User Formation

BNE offers seven courses for users that let them know what this library offers and teach them how to make the most of their collections. One of these courses concerns Biblioteca Digital Hispánica.

Biblioteca Digital Hispánica. Source: http://bdh.bne.es
After having offered to give the course of Biblioteca Digital Hispánica, the manager of Digital Library Service welcomed the idea and I was allowed to give all the sessions I could.

The course focuses on letting users know all functions of Biblioteca Digital Hispánica in terms of information provided (mission of digital collections, process of digitization and webpage of help), how to use advanced search, partnerships with Europeana and World Digital Library, interactive books of manuscripts of Leonardo da Vinci and Don Quixote, and use of digital collections (navigation, visualization, downloading and publishing).

I proposed to the team the creation of a digital presentation that showed in a visual way all taught in the course of users formation. The team thanked the idea and I created a presentation with the help of one of the assistant librarians. The presentation is now sent by email to the attendants to this course.

3. Records Management

Like any other organization, Digital Library Service of BNE have been generating records as a result of daily work. Recently, it was decided that Records Management System (RMS) Alfresco was going to be used by BNE in order to improve coordination between all departments, ensure the preservation of records and provide an unique system of classification.

I had to analyze the records of Digital Library Service of BNE, determine whether they must be preserved and classify them according to the classification scheme of National Library of Spain.

4. Intellectual Property Management

Some months ago, a call was gone out for research groups interested in collections of BNE that have not been digitized. As long as they are in Public Domain, BNE will digitize them.

What I had to do was to find out whether all proposals of the research groups could be digitized in terms of Intellectual Property according to Spanish law. It involved searching all the documents demanded and comparing dates of authors’ death so as to determine a document could be digitized. In the end, 545 documents out of few more than 1000 are going to be digitized for research groups.

Moreover, as I had to search many times in two catalogs, I proposed the development of a tool that allow the team to automatically extract data for catalogs. After an IT technician developed it, we have observed that what it took 30 hours of work before, it takes now 10 minutes.

5. Research into Digital Collections of National Libraries

In order to make improvements in Biblioteca Digital Hispánica in terms of web usability and the efficiency of some work methods, I conducted a research geared to find out how other national libraries were managing certain aspects of their digital collections.

The scope of the research included several national libraries all over the world:
  • Library of Congress (US).
  • National Library of Australia.
  • National Diet Library (Japan).
  • British Library.
  • National Library of France.
  • German National Library.
  • Austrian National Library.
  • Royal Library of Belgium.
  • National and University Library in Zagreb.
  • Royal Library (Denmark).
  • National Library of Scotland.
  • National and University Library of Slovenia.
  • National Library of Finland.
  • National Library of Wales.
  • National Library of Ireland.
  • National Library of Portugal.
  • National Library of the Czech Republic.
  • National Library of Russia.
  • National Library of Sweden.
Outcomes are currently being taken into consideration.

6. Search for Digital Collections to be integrated into Biblioteca Digital del Patrimonio Iberoamericano

Not only does Digital Library Service of BNE manages Biblioteca Digital Hispánica, but also Biblioteca Digital del Patrimonio Iberoamericano, which is a website aimed at providing access to the digital collections of national libraries of Ibero-America region.

It is being discussing whether to widen the scope of Biblioteca Digital del Patrimonio Iberoamericano, so that digital collections of other non-national libraries would be integrated, such as repositories of college libraries, art galleries, museums, archives, etc.

As the project would demand a great effort and resources, I had to search for possible participants. Aspects like OAI-PMH servers, cataloging formats and the amount of documents were considered.

7. Software Testing and Metadata Creation and Validation

Digital Preservation includes several aspects. BNE plan at this respect is aimed at meeting Levels of Digital Preservation established by National Digital Stewardship Alliance - Digital Library Federation.

My work placement involved the creation and quality assurance of metadata. Most of tasks are obviously automatized. Otherwise, it would be titanic struggle. Digital Library Service of BNE has a software called Cran that can generate and validate metadata as well as checking whether a set of metadata for digital preservation correspond to the files it is associated. This allows to ensure well-formed metadata, well-structured and well-named files and directories, the correspondence between digital documents and their bibliographic description and integrity of digital files.

Cran software was being updated in order to generate more metadata and increase the efficiency of work procedures for Digital Preservation. Therefore, I had to test the new version in order to ensure new software requirements had been implemented.

8. Work Procedures and Knowledge Management

As I said before, colleagues help me learn from the very first moment. Each member of the team had their notebook with knowledge they need. However, I realized that some work procedures and methods were not documented and available for all the team. Then, I proposed to create some documents to record how to use software (Adobe Acrobat X Pro, Excel, Cran, Pandora, Limb for digital edition of images, Fusion for the creation of METS, MarcEdit for the transformation of marc files into MARCXML, Symphony as the integrated library system of BNE, and Directory Lister) and the processes needed for Digital Preservation and Management of Digital Collections. The idea was welcomed by the managers of Digital Library Service of BNE, so I created several documents at this respect. It has showed to be especially useful for the autonomous learning of new personal.

Interdisciplinary Exchange of Knowledge

National Library of Spain has several departments. Each one is in charge of a specific type of collection: incunables, printed music, manuscripts, films, maps, drawings, engravings, atlas, books, personal records, etc. As a digital librarian, I had to understand the particularity of all these types of documents. It involves understanding what matters in terms of content and continent so that digital collections and preservation plan and management of bibliographic heritage are well-conceived and carried out. No few times I needed the expertise of other librarians specialized in those collections to do well my work. To my mind, as far as patrimonial libraries are concerned, if it were not for non-digital librarians, digital librarians could not work.

Owing to the varied fields in which interns are specialised, I had the opportunity to learn different points of view in terms of understanding what working in a library involves. Needless to say, there is no comparison with studying for years to gain a degree, but the point I am trying to put across has to do with the understanding of the difficulties different specialists had and how we could take advantage of our different knowledge and skills to improve the management of a library.

From the other interns, I could particularly learn from graduates in History, Art History, Philology, Fine Arts and Culture Management. Indeed, thanks to a colleague who was in the Museum of BNE and is specialized in Fine Arts and passionate about museums, I have been starting to be keen to them and learn how both libraries and museums can work collaboratively.

25 Jul 2018


Highly Commended post in the Conul Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Award 2018. 
This post is by Emma Boyce, Maynooth University Library 

@Imgflip Meme Generator
I remember pausing so many times before clicking the publish/post button, wondering if social media would ever be something that I would get comfortable doing?

In May 2017, I had been asked to be part of the newly formed Maynooth University Library. Digital Communications Team (DCT) by our Librarian Cathal McCauley. The team is responsible for our web page and all our social media platforms.

 Settling into the role had its challenges - could I bring down the Library website with one wrong click? Will my snap on Snapchat smack of a 40 something trying to be cool? These are the kind of things that pop into your head when you are in that ‘voice of the library’ moment. Little did I know my role with social media and the web was going to take a leap. In February of this year, I was appointed Senior Library Assistant. Part of the role included becoming Library Web Editor.

An Assistant Librarian manages the team overall. Due to the quickening pace of social media, escalating number of events taking place in the Library, and growing number of followers alongside our regular work, I have introduced a rota based system for the DCT. Each member is now scheduled to check social media and upload content on particular days each week. We are currently sourcing a call logging tool to help us manage and streamline those requests to further add and glean statistical and other information on social media usage.


The Library at Dusk. ©Maynooth University Library
Accuracy and quality are a must when communicating on all our platforms. These values are imperative when we are reaching out via our website. Keeping within the guidelines set out on the MU University website is always at the core. Visual communication plays an important role in the makeup of the Library website. With this in mind I am working on devising a bank of quality images which will be used on our website and across our other digital platforms. Photographs will include: the Library building, it’s interior, various collections, specific books and any displays/exhibitions. This initial outlay of time will actually save time in the long term, for the team, as we have found that sourcing images and resizing can be time consuming. Here is an example of a newly added photo to our carousel section of the MU Student and Staff Support Page.

Niall O'Brien, MU Library and student Rachel Spillane. Photo: Alan Monahan @Maynooth University Library
MU Library are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Flickr and since last year Snapchat. These platforms work well to communicate informally with our audience. Being mindful of increased activities in social media and the need for quick, consistent and quality postings, effective teamwork is essential.


Emma Boyce, MU Llibrary & Easter Competition winner
student Kathleen Goldsmith
©Maynooth University Library
It’s a known fact that there is more engagement with our audience when there is a reward at the end. From time to time we run competitions to engage with our existing followers and gather new ones.
Examples of this were ‘Add us on Snapchat’ competition to increase our followers, which was very successful and a ‘Surprise Easter Competition’ which we ran through the website and promoted on social media.

Other methods of engagement at Maynooth University Library include our Annual Student and Staff Art Exhibition. Click on the image below to view our YouTube video.

‘Tryron’ by Mariia Skyba. Photo: Emma Boyce ©Maynooth University Library

Here is another example from our Africa Day which was promoted on our Flickr social media account.

Using humour in our images and gifs has proved very popular with the student body as a recent twitter posting shows.

Africa Day 2016 at MU Library. Photo: Alan Monahan ©Maynooth University Library

The evidence of engagement and impact is clearly seen from our current followers:
Twitter – 3,927
Facebook – 5,155
Snapchat – 400
Instagram – 307

The following steps have helped us to engage more proactively with our audiences:

  • Establishing the rota which helps even out the workload and gives members of the team certainty regarding their schedule and creates a sense of ownership. 
  • Creating visual content with a bank of images which ensures currency, vibrancy and interest for the website and are easily available for use. 
  • Devising new ways of engaging our communities via the website. 
  • Sourcing a call logging tool to help streamline our system of work and that will inform our service via the website and social media 

I am settled into my new role now and really enjoying it!

Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2018 | Categories:

23 Jul 2018


Highly Commended post in the Conul Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Award 2018. 
This post is by Maureen Finn, Maynooth University Library 

“A nap, anyone?” This is not a typical question one expects to hear asked in a busy academic library but that’s precisely what students at Maynooth University Library are asking these days following the recent installation of two EnergyPods on campus in the library.

This is a first for academic libraries in Ireland and was the brainchild of a first year undergraduate student at the University. The library Innovation Team ran a campaign during the 2016/2017 academic year called “If Students did libraries”, asking students to come up with novel or innovative ideas that could be incorporated into the library in order to improve service or enhance user experience. What people are better placed than students themselves to tell us how we could improve things in the library!

A social media and marketing campaign was launched in September 2016 with a ‘Dragons Den’ final in February 2017. Students submitted ideas, which were shortlisted by the Library Innovation Team, then they attended an in-house session run by the University’s Department of Design Innovation, which helped formulate their idea, work on their pitch and practice it.

Cathal McCauley, University Librarian, launching the Competition
© Maynooth University Library

In February 2017 the shortlisted entries pitched their idea to the panel of “Dragons” - Cathal McCauley, Maynooth University Librarian; Dr Alison Hood, Maynooth University Dean of Teaching & Learning; Dr Sandra Collins, Director of the National Library of Ireland; Lorna Dodd, Head of Academic Services at Maynooth University Library, and 2017 Maynooth Students’ Union President Dillon Grace.

Judging panel: L-R Lorna Dodd, Dillon Grace, Cathal McCauley, Dr. Alison Hood, Dr. Sandra Collins             
© Maynooth University library

After a rigorous pitch and judging, the winner was Brian Crinion, a first year undergraduate in Robotics & Intelligent Devices. Commenting on his win, Brian said:

      “I came up with the idea while I was trying to find a healthy way of balancing my long 
       commute to university, my classes and my extracurricular activities. I looked at 
       the benefits of short napping during the day, and researched ways of fitting 
       them into student life. The EnergyPods were the perfect solution.”

Cathal McCauley, University Librarian, presents winner Brian Crinion with a cheque
©Maynooth University library

His leading-edge proposal for the installation of EnergyPods in the library was seen as a clear winner and it has the added value of a nod (no pun intended) to the new Critical Skills element of the curriculum on offer to all undergrads here at Maynooth University. This enrichment of the undergraduate offering is intended to encourage creativity and entrepreneurship, while fostering critical thinking together with developing analytical and evaluation abilities, thereby better preparing students for the world of work and beyond. 

A view of the two EnergyPods in the library
Picture by Alan Monahan @Maynooth University Library

So how do the EnergyPods work? The work weary student reclines under a privacy visor in the Pod while listening to soothing music on the built in speaker system. An interface on the chair allows the time to be set to 20 minutes (the duration of a nap) and an alarm sounds when the time has elapsed.

Instructions on how to use the EnergyPod
Picture Alan Monahan @Maynooth University Library
The control panel on the Energypod chair
Picture Alan Monahan @Maynooth University Library

The location chosen for the Pods in the library is an important element - why?. They are situated close to a glazed atrium that spans three storeys, overlooking an internal planted area where graceful palms and peaceful lilies grow, which further enhances the zen-like ambiance. Added to this is the tranquil vista out towards the beautiful historic buildings and well-maintained gardens of St. Patrick’s College, while the clock on the adjacent Church tower chimes out the hours of a busy day as the sun tracks its’ path westward across the sky. Who could resist nodding off in such a calm setting?

Internal Atrium in the library planted with greenery
Picture courtesy of M. Finn

Getting back to the Pods… there was great excitement at the time of their installation with Press reporters, photographers and curious on-lookers all vying for a peek at these new-fangled machines. The Irish Times, the Irish Examiner, and RTE television, featured the event, garnering high-profile exposure for one of the many enhancements Maynooth University has made to its’ campus in recent times. Head of Academic Services at Maynooth University Library, Lorna Dodd, said:

                “The EnergyPods will be a wonderful addition to our library services. Brian 
                  really impressed the judging panel with his creative concept and 
                 excellent research to support his proposal. We are sure the EnergyPods 
                 will be of great benefit to our students.”

User reclining in an EnergyPod at MU library
Picture by Alan Monahan @Maynooth University Library

The Maynooth University Library Innovation Team, comprising of staff from across the library, won the inaugural Presidents prize for their work in making this cutting edge concept a reality and overseeing its’ incorporation into the library’s array of services and supports for students. Commenting on the awards, President of Maynooth University, Professor Philip Nolan said:

             “I am constantly impressed by the high calibre of work undertaken by 
              colleagues across this institution—whether it be strikingly original research; 
              innovation and commitment in University support services; or dedicated 
              and engaging teaching practice and development.” 

Can’t wait for next year’s competition! In the meantime, I think it’s time for a nap ….