17 Dec 2018

Do you have any cassettes? (An interview with the Fanning Sessions Archive)



For me, one of the most important personal archives on the web is the Fanning Sessions Archive. I spoke to the person behind the archive and asked them a number of questions about the archive itself, personal digital archives in general and, of course, music. Below are the answers. 

In ten words or less what is the Fanning Sessions Archive?

a) A treasure trove of Irish indie nuggets
b) Demos & sessions of lost Irish bands
c) The long tail of Irish music blogging

Why did you set up the Archive?

I was frustrated that the sessions recorded for Dave Fanning's 2FM show in the 1980s and 90s were not getting any recognition. They are Ireland's equivalent of the John Peel sessions but do not seem to be appreciated. RTE seems to have forgotten them. I saw so many great bands over the years, many of whom never released albums or singles. Dave Fanning and Ian Wilson had many of these bands in to Studio 8 to record sessions and these were lost apart from those I had personally recorded from the radio.

What is involved in digitising a session or demo?

I play back the cassette recording on a good HiFi separate unit which is attached to a portable SONY digital recorder via the line-in interface. I record / digitise the cassette either to a lossless format or to a 320kbps mp3, one single recording for each side of the tape. I know the purists are probably having a fit right now that I don’t always digitise to a lossless format but I don’t have the disk space or time! I copy this digital version to a computer where if necessary I convert to high quality mp3. I then listen back to the recording and identify and individually save the tracks of interest. Before posting I usually normalise the track to balance left and right levels and boost the audio. I also fade in and out the start and end of the track to editing out previous and next tracks. If Dave says something interesting I like to leave it in place but usually the taper has edited this out.

The hard part is sourcing recordings. At the start I used my own personal tapes but they were quickly exhausted. Unfortunately at that time in my life when I was diligently listening to Dave Fanning I reused tapes rather than buy new ones. Later, thankfully, as word got out people starting getting in touch and started to send in recordings, mp3s, cassettes, VHS and even some white vinyl. Many people have been very generous over the years and have lent vinyl and tape collections. I was lucky enough a few years ago to make contact with Thomas in Kilkenny who it turned out had hundreds of Fanning recordings diligently documented. Pat O’Mahony sent me over a hundred tapes from his collection which he managed to have personally delivered by a former senator. I also post the occasional interview. Just recently I received a great Grant McLennan recording which was very much appreciated and well received.

People have fond memories of hearing these items on the radio so it is nice to preserve not just the recordings but also the memories they evoke.

Any advice for anybody thinking of setting up a personal digital archive?

Do it. Don’t waste too much time. No one is getting any younger, memories are fading and you won’t have more time later. Chances are if you enjoy something enough to want to share it someone out there enjoyed it too.

What role do you see for personal archives?

In certain circumstances such as with the national broadcaster I think personal archives are the only option. Imagine how much content RTE is sitting on. That content is to all intents and purposes lost because there is no scenario where it makes financial sense for them to do anything with it. They are apparently digitising the Fanning sessions but let's be real, are they going to release these? They don't have online rights so they will have to request permission from the artist before they can share online but that requires manpower, time and energy i.e. money. As regards the TV music shows there's even less hope. The costs are more prohibitive so unless it's U2 or Phil Lynott or Rory Gallagher related we're probably not going to see it again ever. Why not rerun the 'Anything Goes' music clips on TG4 late at night or some of the music shows like 'Borderline', 'Visual Eyes', 'Megamix', 'On The Waterfront' or 'No Disco'?

Do you have any background in digital archiving?

Not at all. Or maybe I've been archiving all my life ;-)

If not, how did you learn the tools of the trade?

Trial and error, step by step. I applied techniques I liked that I saw being used by others. The process evolves as the technology improves. You can scan now with a phone which is fantastic. I have honed my workflow so i can digitise quite quickly and then circle back at a later point to process the recording in a more detailed way if I discover there was something there of interest. Without having studied archiving techniques I am probably using a light version of what should be done, adding metadata so that I can find stuff later.

You obviously think archives are important – why is this the case?

I think I am documenting/archiving an Irish musical history for a certain period of time / genre of music. Irishrock.org has done a fantastic job of documenting most of these but what’s missing is a way to hear what the bands sounded like. Once upon a time MySpace featured many of these acts but that technological experiment crashed and burned. YouTube has a lot of content but it's an ocean with no curation. What I have tried to do was bring everything together into a repository of Irish content never released on record or very hard to find (going off on the odd tangent to scratch a particular personal itch / plug something I like). The site is a starting point, but I am also aware that it is a honey pot. I want to attract folks who are interested and get them to engage. I think it is important to be able to leave and receive feedback. The internet is not always right so it is nice to be able to correct the public record and let people listen and make up their own mind. It’s not about glorification with rose tinted glasses but remembering how things were.

What are your favourite Archives? What other Digital Archives would you recommend?

I am a big fan of irishrock.org, it's my first port of call when doing a post. The Blackpool Sentinel is great, Colm O'Callaghan has a way with words and great musical taste. There have been a few websites that have come and gone, 'These Auld Tapes From The Attic', 'Rekcollector' , 'Brand New Retro' has had some great music pieces, 'Dublin Opinion' ran a series 'Great Irish Bands' which has to be read. The history site 'Come Here To Me' has also done some fine pieces on Irish rock . More recently Abstract Analogue on Facebook have been posting some great articles/scans on 90s Irish music that I am enjoying.

There are probably more that I am forgetting. Hot Press is sitting on an amazing archive but it is not online. Thankfully some libraries have physical copies so you can go there to have a look. The John Peel Wiki and mailing list has long been an inspiration. Irish Music Central is another great source of information, unfortunately the site underwent some rework which never got completed but a lot of the original content is still there. Irish Nuggets is another site that is well worth checking out. It's this guy who put together some serious compilations of tracks sourced from his vinyl collection which must be huge.

What is your personal favourite session?

Just one? That’s an impossible question! The 1988 Slowest Clock session is one that every time I hear, am blown away by how strong it is. The Wild Herrings session is another that I love. But that's just off the top of my head, I need to look at the list of sessions posted to see what others are favourites. I have long been a fan of a band from Derry called Bam Bam & The Calling but I'd never heard their session. I was delighted to come across it and even though the cassette quality wasn't great I discovered a song of theirs I didn't even know existed - 'Road of the Lonely' which sounds fantastic.

What is your personal favourite demo?

The first recording I posted - 'Them Ghosts Do Come' by The Swinging Swine from Galway. The song was subsequently rerecorded but the demo I taped off Dave Fanning is the most immediate and perfect I know. The original demo by Backwards Into Paradise before they shortened their name to Into Paradise is also incredibly strong. It would probably be fairer to ask for my favourite 10 demos and 10 favourite sessions, maybe I should do a compilation! 😉

Is there anything you don’t have up on the site that you would like to have up?

There are a couple of tracks I took down at the request of the artist. Both of those I think were great but I have to respect the artist's wishes. One other recording never made it up because after a protracted investigation trying to identify the recording I asked via a third party for permission to post but was turned down. That was a real anti-climax as I was looking forward to sharing.

You are very active on social media – how important is it for the archive to be so active?

If I was on my own I would have stopped a long time ago. The feedback & the conversation on social media is what keeps me going. Social media is also an important research tool. I often come across bands or recordings I can’t find any information on and social media has been invaluable. Facebook has its uses but it is very difficult to locate information or past conversations if I need to go back and find something. I would like to see more comments on the site. It is particularly satisfying to hear from the musicians involved, many of whom haven't heard these recordings since they were broadcast. The majority are happy to hear their music again and are flattered that folks remember and have fond memories.

5 Dec 2018

Notes from #CISPC18, 3rd December 2018

Collaborating at CISPC 2018 – now we need action…
Guest Post by Lou Peck, Founder at The International Bunch - #CISPC18


Sunday afternoon saw me heading over the border to the bright lights of London town ready for my first Challenges in the Scholarly Publishing Cycle (CISPC) 2018 conference the next day. Around 50 people attended with a mixture of information professionals, researchers, publishers, intermediaries and consultants. Overall the conference was great, I heard valuable feedback and insight from different stakeholders and most importantly met some new people and old faces.

People traveled from all over the country, some flying in from Israel, the US, Belgium and Ireland for example though no representation, sadly, from further afield like Asia Pacific, India etc. However, we did have a number of people with a great deal of experience in these areas to enrich the insight.

As expected, the majority of attendees were publishers/intermediaries keen to find out what the other stakeholders had to say. So it would be great for future events if more can be done to encourage further researchers and information professionals in addition to lower delegate rates. Maybe publishers/intermediaries can sponsor researcher/information professional delegate places.

It would also be great to see representation from the funders themselves. I am sure they would find this event really invaluable and we of course want to hear what they have to say. Also, consultants are usually one man bands and having to pay the same as a large publisher. This be challenging when there are several events to attend during the year and the registration fee is roughly five times more than UKSG annual membership and double that of a CILIP annual membership for example.

Interestingly, as consultants work with a number of stakeholder groups on various projects, we can bring even more perspective to the different discussions, fresh insight. Essentially, we can be very open with our feedback without feeling possible repercussions.

You’ll notice that I talk about Information Professionals. Primarily in attendance were academic librarians and those who weren’t, e.g. from a corporate background, found the discussions to be too academic focussed and didn’t feel well represented in their feedback from the morning breakout discussions when presented to the room – a real shame and a missed opportunity for all as they weren’t around for the afternoon sessions.

The London Art House was quite a quirky venue and in some ways a refreshing change from the usual hotel/conference venue; surprisingly, the internet connection was pretty good too! Sitting having open discussions in the highly decorative ‘Egyptian’ themed room was certainly something I’ve never experienced before – here’s Erin’s tweet to give you a visual!

The day’s agenda was set around collaboration and discussion for the three ‘identified’ stakeholder groups - Librarians, Academics and Publishers. This classification posed challenges – as a consultant I somewhat floated between and had feedback from all parties through research/interviews we undertake on a regular basis. It would be great to include funders in the discussions, we’d love to hear that feedback, and them to hear everyone else’s.

Tim Gillett, Editor of Research Information chaired the agenda throughout the day. I’ve summarised my thoughts below on each session – I realised I took far too many notes and so have condensed them down. You’ll be pleased to read on to more digestible chunks though there is probably still way too much!

Survey Findings Presented
Warren Clark, Publisher of Research Information and David Stuart, Research Consultant, presented their recent survey findings for ‘The Scholarly Publishing Research Cycle 2018’ survey.

Interestingly, from all my years in publishing, my perception of the Research Information readership was more of a publisher trade publication and so I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the readership is 60% librarians, 20% publishers and 20% others. There was the recognition that there needs to be more researcher involvement in these types of events and surveys.

Warren raised some interesting points – more metrics available however abundance doesn’t mean improvement, rebalancing of power (Germany/Sweden and S Plan), collected action with librarians which should continue. Most notable issues from the survey were around Open Access and Licensing, Discoverability, Accessibility, Trust and Validation, and Policymakers’ Scholarly Publishing Policies.

The room commented that it would be interesting to understand the regional differences, as well as the stakeholder differences, including Funders, and interviewing those that didn’t respond, including more regional responses e.g. APAC. Stakeholder categorization seems a bit old hat now. All great feedback for next year’s report.

Morning Breakout Sessions
The room was split into the predetermined stakeholder groups - Researchers, Librarians and Publishers to engage in stakeholder specific discussion. I ended up on the Researchers table, Publishers had three tables and it became very apparent about the ratio of Librarians, Researcher and Publishers in the room. Some key points from each below:

Researchers – Alastair Horne, Doctoral Researcher, Bath Spa University and the British Library

  • Group of many hats, the divided self - what the researcher wants as a producer and a consumer
  • What is the biggest impact for them, less concern with Open Access (OA) to publish in - more for accessing content, focus on compliance can lead to tick box approach, do we need publishers? GitHub as a collaboration tool etc, differing problems balancing requirements and prestige
  • Researchers publishing more on blogs as finding it hard to publish in journals
  • Turning the publisher business model upside down – libraries publishing with little cost
  • Elsevier is the devil in the room
  • No one understands how Article Processing Charges (APCs) are decided (zero transparency)
Librarians – Helen Blanchett, Scholarly Communications, Subject Specialist, JISC

  • Costs – double dipping and tied into multi-year deals
  • Value for library users
  • Researchers’ slaves to REF, moving goal posts - everything changing all the time in the policy landscape, keeping systems is difficult, changes in publishing industry
  • Predatory publishers
  • More transparency around APCs
  • Time to publish
  • OA monographs
  • Lack of understanding about publisher processes
  • Some institutions struggle to fund APCs and a business case has to be done to support it
  • Internal structures in libraries – e.g. collections and OA were separate but now teams talking more to each other and need to talk more
Publishers – Tasha Mellins-Cohen, Director of Publishing, Microbiology Society
  • We don't have a ‘landscape’ but a ‘seascape’ which is changing all the time
  • Idea of balance of power, ship of many souls - no individual has the same idea as everyone else about where we are heading
  • A lot of individuals are negative to publishers, are we facilitators or blockers? There is no knight in shining armour - we need to work together with the other stakeholder groups
  • Publishers ‘tolerate’ the impact factor
  • Value add, transparency, collaboration and education
Open Room Discussion
We then took some time to discuss some of the feedback raised as well as other thoughts in the room – to be honest I felt this should have been longer to give more people the opportunity to speak and really hash out some of the issues that some people really felt strongly about. I felt that some people were overly quiet. Some of these topics are included below:
  • Gatekeepers – are these publishers now also information professionals – is the publisher a curator (e.g. because of DOIs etc.) as well as an information professional? If we have no fences, do we even need gates?
  • Feeling the need for more transparency and support for what an author should do after publication from Publishers – Emerald’s post publication email was mentioned as a great example and I know from personal experience and contribution that Wiley do a great job here too as another example
  • JISC looking to support UK level of archiving and accessibility
  • UCL is a great example of a university press
  • Publishers should be transparent with APCs - what money is going where 
  • John Tenants report on Elsevier
Jeremy Frey, Professor of Physical Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, University of Southampton
  • What is open? Be transparent as possible – record the story behind the research (notebooks), coding in GitHub, sharing standards etc
  • Life as an academic can be impossible - ideas, funding, people to collaborate with, admin, results, teaching, publishing and demonstrating/improving impact
  • Research is a cost to universities unless have funders
  • Impact is important - what goes in the REF, what assessed for and how he keeps his job
  • Some research is immediately impactful, some will be relevant in 100 years
  • Vision - look at the impact of digitization on the whole process
  • Publishers to support new technologies - e.g. QR code and augmented virtual reality in article
  • Publishes at the beginning of the academic year as library has the money
  • Importance of students understanding publishing process
  • Open data - how can we get the data from an article, what is the providence and how reuse?
  • More supplementary data to be on publishers’ site
  • How do we go from here? 2019 is a dramatic year for chemistry and science - anniversary of periodical table, IUPAC 100 years, and redefining SI – loss of the kg
  • Transition from print to e and pre-print support
  • Scientists not believed anymore - how do we change this?
  • Not all chemists wear lab coats
Helen Dobson, Scholarly Communications Manager, University of Manchester Library 
  • Sense of feeling like making it up as you go along
  • Policy - complex framework that is so complicated – in six years already seen two rounds
  • Importance of library voice being heard by University
  • REF - that is where the money is and the pressure is
  • Plan S – helping to standardize policies but publishers taking parts of it and not clear which parts yet – funders should standardize
  • All these conversations going on separately, we need to talk to each other, are we talking the same language just sometimes using different terminology. We need to all start talking the same language
  • Invited by publishers to review products as part of RLUK – when works, works well
  • Developed a system with a deposit form to make it easier for researchers to deposit their work in institution repository
  • Developing simple systems to reduce OA admin
  • Library has to do lots of checking – systems like PURE and JISC Monitor Local aren’t fulfilling their needs and needing to do more manual work for reporting
  • Need to keep talking about systems - working smarter together on quick wins whilst waiting on the bigger developments
Bill Kasdorf, Kasdorf and Associates
  • The Oxford word of the year – TOXIC, The word of Scholarly Publishing is Open
  • Open = Toxic?
  • ‘Open’ feels precarious to many publishers
  • Researchers feel OA is not as open as you think it is
  • The world we are in is all about open science - funder info, research, etc
  • Open doesn't equal free
  • Open standards and open technologies are key to open access
  • Open examples - Editoria, eLife and Accessibility
    • Editoria - open source platform
    • eLife - actively collaborating - Coko and Hindawi partnership to develop xPub MS submission and peer review. Have an initiative called ScienceBean - open tools - looking to unlock 40million records
    • Accessibility - make it something we take for granted - the publication should be born accessible
  • EPUB3 is based on Open Web Platform - schema.org
  • Room comment - No one is talking about the China policies - what about policies from other countries? China data policy issues - China publishing landscape changing - more open access journals being created that are good quality. In 10 years there will be a more Chinese centric approach. We'll start submitting to English language Chinese journals. People will be going over there for research jobs.
Afternoon Breakout Session – Summary of Sessions
Helen Blanchett, Scholarly Communications, Subject Specialist, JISC 
Librarian focused - issues with outcomes - policy/funders, REF, manual process, standards, PIDs, metadata, communications with publishers and libraries - what published and when - publications JISC - manuscripts end up in repository, publication checklist for researchers about what to do next, primary focus has been on UK mandates, funding - how are APC funds managed, libraries and publishers trying to do the same training - can they work together? Maybe researchers more attracted to publisher session than library session, collection action - university presses, UCL.

Alastair Horne, Doctoral Researcher, Bath Spa University and the British Library
Researchers - measurement of research - imperfections of impact factor, abandoning journals entirely. Researchers need to know more about what publishers do and what they contribute to the process.

Tasha Mellins-Cohen, Director of Publishing, Microbiology Society 
Publishers - we all generalize too much, Publishers need to be more transparent and Publishers need to do more – e.g. send the papers to preprint repository services.

Wrap Up
It seems the day was a success for most and some interesting points were made – however we can discuss things as much as we like – it depends if there is going to be any action – I’d like to see some people taking ownership helping to drive some actions forward – there are often key players in the room who have the ‘authority’ to do this.

One point I commented towards the end is that as a consultancy we have a number of commissioned research projects we’re involved with and I know many other industry colleagues do these too. There must be some really great commissioned research out there held on servers that can be made open access through figshare for example so it gets a DOI for all the industry to benefit from – we can only improve and get better together.

Of course, some is competitively sensitive so could have an embargo, and some of course is commercially sensitive so it won’t see the outside of the boardroom but it would be great if publishers and intermediaries collaborated more and shared their insights, beyond the meet ups and discussions usually held at a more senior level – which on some occasions isn’t filtered down the team structure.

If we want scientists to collaborate with open data/open science, why don’t we lead the way?

22 Nov 2018

Positioning the academic library within the institution; a summary



Guest Post by Michelle Breen, Head of Information Services at the Glucksman Library at the University of Limerick.

Things have never moved so fast, and things will never again go so slow. 

What a way to open an event!

This was one of the many memorable quotes in the day’s opening address, given by Pat Loughrey, Warden of Goldsmiths College. As CEO of the institute, he oversees academic and administrative activities at the college and he sees the leadership that the library brings, informed by our daily interactions with students as being a distinguishing attribute of libraries in the campus infrastructure. Pat remarked that it is known in many institutions that if you want to ‘take the temperature’ of the student body you just ask the library or the catering outlets. Pat also remarked that other support services on campus look to the library as a model for how to develop their service; anticipating student needs, acting on their feedback and moving away from the “we know what’s best” approach that might prevail in institutions that are in awe of their own history and foundations. A wider perspective than this can help library leaders – that’s all of us by the way – to become what Sarah Brown from the University of Queensland described as ‘University people’. Sarah talked about the ‘One UQ’ philosophy, meaning that all of what they do is in support of the institution’s mission. Northumbria, led by Tony Woolley, aligns all of its library activities firmly with the KPIs as set out in the University’s strategic plan. It is to this set of KPIs that we can look to for guidance when we ask ourselves “what can I stop doing”. Our library activities need to ALL be in some way connected to a University goal. If they’re not, should we be doing them at all? A compelling quote from the day was from John Cox’s talk when he quoted a book (from 2005) that encouraged us to be ‘University people first, Library or IT people second’. We will all have to read John’s article for the full reference!

The day’s first speaker Regina Everitt from University of East London described how she used the McKinsey 7S model to restructure her organisation. In ascertaining what skills set her teams had, Regina discovered that all had a common ‘customer facing’ outlook. Regina expanded on this so that the teams saw what they had in common and then worked to discover other common ground, “cross-identifying” so that they people could see that it was as valuable to be a service provider as to be a technical specialist.  One crucial thing that Regina found in her work was that our libraries need versatile people who can work outside their own specialty. Regina advocated getting teams talking to each other so that they can cross train but she emphasised the importance of and need for formal training also to help us develop the skills to support researchers as ably as we have been supporting students up to now.

Ruth Harrison, Head of Scholarly Communications Management, Library Services at Imperial College, London talked about changing the roles of the faculty librarians. Ruth’s article in the upcoming NRAL themed issue sets out the skills and competencies she thinks library staff need to have impact, citing excellent relationship management, good teaching skills, knowledge of Higher Ed and ability to converse with researchers about scholarly communication.

We heard from Lijuan Xu from Lafayette College about their functionalist approach with liaison librarians while also maintaining a focus on student support. Ithaka S&R noted in 2017 how subject expertise is valued but that researchers expect ‘sub-discipline’ expertise also from the library. You can get more detail on the talk but the general idea is that if a music librarian can give assistance in a general sense about music can they provide it at the same level about performance? Is this a realistic expectation for ALL of a University’s sub-disciplines and are libraries on a hiding to nothing if they persist with ‘subject’ expertise?  The inter-team discussions that Lafayette library now has, with librarians from cataloguing or other areas also being involved in supporting researchers, creates positive collaborative opportunities whereby a researcher could be put in touch with a library staff member that may not have or ever held a subject role but has knowledge, interest or expertise in the area being asked about.

Always a popular speaker, Róisín Gwyer from Portsmouth talked about librarians reinventing themselves by moving out of their areas, encouraging new roles for library leaders. Róisín referenced the SCONUL View from Above report that reports on the perspectives of senior leaders in universities about libraries.  For this report, 12 senior people were asked how they viewed library directors, what strategies library leaders can use in uncertain times, they asked questions about culture and how library leaders can move up to executive positions within institutions. I recommend having a read of the SCONUL report and Róisín’s article next month.

Sarah Brown from the University of Queensland described the hybrid model where subject librarians provide teaching, learning and research support. Training and placements, peer mentoring and the use of PDRs to identify training needs are all elements in the transformation of subject librarians to a more hybrid model at the University of Queensland. Sarah described the ways that the library facilitates knowledge transfer within their library team but emphasised that inter-team communication is vital to the continuing development of the individuals in the teams. Formal training is a must in the development of subject librarians if they are to support researchers; we can not create experts overnight. The library at the University of Queensland through its very strong relationship with their campus research office will deliver digital skills to PhD students and early career researchers. This moves the library and its staff up the value chain in the university, delivering what is prioritised and needed in their University right now. I really like the UQ motto, ‘One UQ’ and I would say it is fundamental to the success of their inter-departmental collaboration.

Cambridge’s Helen Murphy and Libby (Elizabeth) Tilley reported on what they called ethnographish research to find out how English and Arts faculty perceived the library. They focused on established faculty members and uncovered some really interesting stories to understand the experience of their academics. I must admit that the talks moved at an incredible pace and I did not catch all their examples but you can read about it yourself in NRAL in December.

John Cox opened his talk by saying that trends and pressures in Higher Education impact how the library positions itself.  John presented his detailed literature review article in a very clever way, choosing his top 10 quotes from his research as a summary of his work. There are thought-provoking insights in John’s paper including this quote from Murray and Ireland in a CRL article: “Academic libraries are no longer the symbolic heart of the University”. Lots of John’s points would be good conversation starters with senior university personnel.

Nick Woolley from Northumbria delivered an invited paper for the themed issue. He asked a couple of fundamental questions such as what is a library for? What is the value proposition? What does the library do for the institution? Northumbria created teams around their major value propositions including a Reading Lists team whereby any competent member of the team goes out and does the liaison work and can also be a technical contributor in the management of the reading lists.

Tim Wales, the Head of Library & Information Services at Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire opened the afternoon session of the conference. This is Tim’s third role as a Library Director and he provided the audience with some practical insights on strategic planning gained through his experiences in quite different libraries. Tim’s article in New Review of Academic Librarianship describes how he used a reflective cycle model looking at his experiences at the three libraries in question and will be an interesting article to read for people who face a challenge about where to locate a library building, the merits of moving to a new site or refurbishing an existing library.

In summary
Michelle Blake from York posed a very direct question in the early stage of the day; why are liaison librarians slow to take on advocacy work with researchers? The libraries that have made strides in this area have reported that their staff are enjoying the change and the challenge that being a research support librarian can bring. Liaison librarians are very good at what they do but their contributions can go up a noticeable notch by focusing efforts on talking to early career academic and researchers about RDM, copyright, collections, licenses, and scholarly communications. What are we afraid of?

Much of what was discussed resonated with me because it was a definite theme in the research I did with Johanna Archbold about Amplifying CONUL’s voice. Our interviews for that project, with leaders of library organisations, particularly in RLUK, CILIP, LIBER & SCONUL, gave us insights in to how non library people view libraries. Our interviews revealed that libraries could be described as the black box of institutions, knowing what goes on, recording valuable information and being robust and fairly indestructible. The challenge we have is how we take advantage of this really unique position, how do we get involved in the management and leadership of those more tricky areas within the institution, lending our expertise where it is most valuable.

Throughout the day, over lunch and on in to the afternoon reception, there was serious chatter and networking and the hosts really looked after us well. Thanks to Leo Appleton and his team for hosting this most interesting event.

The seminar marked the launch of a special themed issue of NRAL which promises to be a very informative and useful set of papers on a very relevant topic to all academic libraries. This issue is due out in December, sign up on their website to receive an alert when it comes out.  Editor in chief of NRAL Graham Walton was OK with the fact that the journal does not have an impact factor as NRAL has enough altmetric data to confirm that the journal is being read and is making a very important contribution through its practitioner style publications from across the globe. Downloads are at about 3,000 per month at present and the journal has very international coverage and if the event at Goldsmiths is anything to judge by, the journal is still in a growth phase. The mix of international authors, many of them present at the event, is a strong signal that this journal has a global reach. The events speakers are all featured in the upcoming issue and today just gave a 10 – 15 minute snapshot of their research. Take a look at some of the tweets at #NRAlAcadLib to see how lively the conversation was on the day.

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

A TALE OF HEARTBREAK: THE DAY I LOST THE INTER LIBRARY LOANS


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 fa̤ade of the McClay Library РWinner 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.

References
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

PAIN AND PROGRESS or LESSONS IN INVENTION FROM A MEDICAL ARCHIVE


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…

References 
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

CLEANING SHELLAC RECORDS IN THE DIT CONSERVATORY LIBRARY

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

Rewarding

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

LIBRARY ANXIETY

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!

PRESERVING IRISH VOICES: THE IRISH POETRY READING ARCHIVE

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.

References
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

CONSERVATION OF A GAELIC MANUSCRIPT AT MAYNOOTH UNIVERSITY LIBRARY.


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

Introduction: 
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.