14 Sept 2021

Preserving our cultural memory in the digital age

Libfocus is very happy to post the second of the highly commended posts in the 2021 CONUL Library Assistant Awards.  Congrats to Stewart Killeen of TU Dublin (City Centre) Library

Recently, I had the great pleasure of watching Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project, Matt Wolf’s documentary film on the life and work of Marion Stokes. Marion Stokes was an African-American civil activist, who besides tirelessly engaging the broad spectrum of American public opinion through public-access television, also took a key interest in technology with all of its political and social implications (Wikipedia, 2021). Her visionary enthusiasm for the new media and technologies which developed throughout the twentieth century and her commitment to democratic values culminated in her astonishing collection of recorded television news footage, spanning a period of 35 years from 1977 until her death in 2012 (Wikipedia, 2021). Her collection, which is now in the care of the ambitious Internet Archive project, consists of 140,000 VHS tapes, and it provides a record of televised news covering many of the seminal events that marked the close of the previous millennium and the beginning of a new one (Wikipedia, 2021). 

Courtesy of the BBC 

It was surely of no little significance to the legacy that Marion Stokes left that for much of her professional life she worked as a librarian with the Free Library of Philadelphia (Wikipedia, 2021). Indeed, in my own short time working as a Library Assistant with Technological University Dublin and through my studies on the MSc in Information and Library Management with Dublin Business School, I have come to appreciate the fragility of our shared cultural record as it is brought to life in a digital world. 

With the arrival of the internet and the explosion of digital technologies that has accompanied it, information professionals have faced both new challenges and opportunities in the curation of information. Traditionally the preserve of librarians and scholars, the digital turn has opened up the domains of human knowledge like never before, offering  “fast facts” to our fingertips (Kavanagh and O’Rourke, 2016, p.4; Rowlands et al., 2008, p.293). In some sense we have all become librarians today, as we access, monitor, and create large volumes of content to be shared and distributed across a wide variety of public platforms. The democratisation of information has undoubtedly improved the individual and collective lives of many, but it has not come without risk. The greatest danger it seems is the tendency to assume that the sheer volume of digital information available is a guarantee of its future sustainability and accessibility. One need only consider the historical and cultural significance of the Marion Stokes collection, however, to appreciate the tenuousness of such an equation. 

As far back as 2003, Clifford Lynch, one of the founding members of the Coalition for Networked Information (CNI), warned of the potential threats to cultural preservation in a digitally-driven economy (Lynch, 2003, p.149). In his paper, The Coming Crisis in Preserving our Digital Heritage, Lynch outlined how developments in intellectual property law, the dynamics of market forces and the technologies involved in maintaining digital information across sustained periods of time may conspire to “create a crisis in our ability to preserve our cultural heritage as this heritage increasingly migrates into digital formats” (Lynch, 2003, p.150). 

Lynch singled out as particularly worrisome the changing terms of availability that increasingly characterise the digital economy where, rather than paying to obtain copies of a given work consumers instead pay to experience these works (Lynch, 2003, p.151). This has in fact become the norm with many of today’s biggest information providers offering a large class of “ephemeral”, “transient,” and “experiential” products in return for a subscription cost (Lynch, 2003, p.151). However, should we choose to abdicate our responsibility for cultural preservation to intermediaries whose primary concern is not the “long-term preservation of the cultural record” we may, as Lynch suggests, run the risk of losing a considerable and vital part of that record (Lynch, 2003, p.151). 

Courtesy of the Haiti Trust Digital Library 

What can be done to avoid such an outcome? 

The success of libraries in supporting digital scholarship within the academic community offers a possible solution. With their expertise in “contextualising information”, their knowledge of metadata creation and their commitment to long-term access, librarians have been instrumental in helping create digital objects that are sustainable in the long-term (Burns, 2016, p.246). Moreover, librarians play a key role in the cultivation of skills that are essential to responsible and effective information management, i.e., information literacy, and there is a growing recognition of the need to cultivate a “digital mindset”, one which inculcates a deeper understanding of the implications of our digital culture (Kavanagh and O’Rourke, 2016, p.7). As Kavanagh and O’Rourke (2016, p.5) have argued, the “truly digital literate person is one who moves beyond passively absorbing information to actively participating in its creation.” By instilling both the skills and appreciation for the creation of sustainable digital objects it is perhaps possible to save some of the digital heritage we will leave to future generations. In doing so we will honour not only our own legacy but also that of Marion Stokes. (777) 

Courtesy of the National Orientation Agency 

Recommended Resources: 

A guide to personal archiving by the Library of Congress
A quick guide to Personal digital archiving by the Digital Preservation Coalition 

How to preserve your digital memories: Sara Day Thomson gives lecture on ‘Personal Digital Archiving’ by the Digital Repository Ireland 

Personal Digital Archiving: the basics by Purdue University Library 


Burns, J.A., 2016. Role of the information professional in the development and promotion of digital humanities content for research, teaching, and learning in the modern academic library: An Irish case study. New Review of Academic Librarianship, 22(2-3), pp.238-
248. https://doi.org/10.1080/13614533.2016.1191520 

Kavanagh, A. and O'Rourke, K. C. (2016) Digital Literacy: Why It Matters. Available at: https://arrow.tudublin.ie/ltcart/37/ (Accessed: 16 July 2021) 

A. Lynch (2003) Chapter 18. The Coming Crisis in Preserving Our Digital Cultural Heritage, Journal of Library Administration, 38:3-4, 149-161, https://doi.org/10.1300/J111v38n03_04 (Accessed: 16 July 2021) 


Rowlands, Ian et al. (2008). The Google generation: The information behaviour of the researcher of the future. Aslib Proceedings. 60. 290-310. 10.1108/00012530810887953 (Accessed: 16 July 2021) 

Wikipedia (2021) ‘Marion Stokes’. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marion_Stokes (Accessed: 15 July 2021

10 Sept 2021

3D printing in a pandemic: Maynooth University’s role

Libfocus is very happy to post the highly commended, and the winning, entries in the 2021 CONUL Library Assistant Awards. 
The first of the Highly Commended posts is by Sheree Yeates, Maynooth University Library

I am a library assistant working in the Library Information and Technology Department (LITD) in Maynooth University Library. Part of my role involves the day to day running of the library makerspace. In this space we provide three Ultimaker 3D printers, one of which can be seen below.

Ultimaker 3 Extended – Picture taken by Marie Cullen

These printers are normally used to print prototypes for students undertaking courses in areas such as Design and Innovation. During summer requests get a bit more fun and less academic like the below baby Yoda which was popular when the Disney show The Mandalorian first aired.

Thingiverse A picture of a 3D printed Baby Yoda

When the Covid-19 pandemic began in early 2020 it soon became apparent that there was a personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage, not only in Ireland but in the world. Little pockets of 3D printer users began to discover that they could aid in the fight against the pandemic, and this soon reached Maynooth University.

A number of people began to look into the possibilities. In discussion with me, Cathal McCauley, Head Librarian of MU Library said that ‘The project came about for a few reasons…the overriding one was the camaraderie of the national response that was very strong in March – June 2020.’ We began a project to create PPE. The project, which was made more difficult by the work from home order began in March 2020. It was a partnership between MU library and the Department of Design Innovation.

Each of the three 3D printers were relocated from the library makerspace for the duration of the project. Two went to Anthony Cleary, Design Studio Manager in the Department of Innovation. Anthony had a number of other printers which he also brought home from the design studio and began to create PPE in the utility room of his home. The third printer went to the University Librarian’s Cathal McCauley’s home.

Maynooth University

The process of printing is a simple enough one once you have done it a couple of times and have gotten used to the procedures. I provided brief initial training over Microsoft Teams and Cathal and his four children were ready to get printing. Cathal mentioned afterwards that ‘I think one thing the whole experience highlighted was the user-friendliness of 3-D printing. With some help from you (the author) and Anthony Cleary, inexperienced people like my kids and I were able to produce the content and repair the printers as we learnt about things like cold pulls and base plate levelling.’

Anthony sourced the files of the PPE that were to be printed. These files were found on websites such as Thingiverse. Thingiverse is a dedicated website with mostly free, open-source 3D print files created by hundreds of different people around the world. All the PPE files were open source and available for anyone to download and use.

Anthony began by printing two different types of visors. To do this he used the 3D printer to create the visor clip and then attached a piece of acetate to create the visor. He also printed face mask extenders to stop the PPE from hurting ears and contactless tools for opening doors.

                                                             Picture taken by Anthony Cleary                                                                         Top left – Contactless Tools, Top right – Face mask extenders, Bottom – visor clip 

Cathal and his children also printed face mask extenders, contactless tools and face mask buttons for a local charity that was making cloth face masks.

Between the two homes, hundreds of visors were printed, more than 1,000 face mask extenders, 200 plus contactless tools and hundreds of facemask buttons were also printed.

The PPE and accessories were delivered to Tallaght hospital over two months. As PPE was needed in many different areas over the pandemic, these were also distributed amongst other areas of the local community. This included local nursing homes, pharmacies, gardaí, paramedics and other frontline workers.

Tallaght Hospital

I felt proud to be part of the effort to bring PPE to those who needed it. Maynooth University’s 3D printing effort even received local and national recognition when Nuacht TG4 came to interview Cathal and his children. They demonstrated on air how the printer worked and how the PPE accessories could be used. Their work was also featured in a Liffey Champion article.

3 Sept 2021

Mapping Prints: Creating A Small-Scale Visualisation Project

Guest post by John Rooney. John is a Senior Library Assistant in Special Collections & Archives, UCC Library.

A key objective of any research repository is ensuring users' awareness of resources and holdings, examining methods for enhancing engagement and access, as well as catering to a diverse range of researchers and learning styles. While increasing points of access is a well-established method for accomplishing this, diversifying the methods by which users can actively engage with the material is also important.

The themes of user variety and dynamic engagement were among the primary drivers behind a small-scale visualisation project I developed while listing a collection of Irish topographical prints held in Special Collections at UCC.

IE BL/CV/TP/Cork/12 The Cork River (from below the Glanmire Road)

Listing Prints

The initial project involved listing a collection of approximately three hundred 18th and 19th century prints. The collection contains a mix of engravings, lithographs, chromolithographs, and aquatints depicting locations from across the country, including landscapes, towns, cities, buildings, harbours, and monuments. The prints provide a visually rich record, offering unique perspectives on both familiar and forgotten places. Thanks to resources such as Rosalind M. Elmes' Catalogue of Irish topographical prints and original drawings and NUIG's Ireland Illustrated, 1680-1860, the source of many of the prints could be traced, with the majority having been extracted from illustrated history and travel books. Further details on the listing project can be found on The River-side blog here.

Data and Visualisation

Once the print listing was completed, it was converted into a PDF and uploaded to the Special Collections’ Cartographic Visual LibGuide where it could be accessed and searched by researchers. As the project was coming to an end, I had the good fortune of attending a training day on “Textual Analysis and Data Visualization” run by the Center for Advanced Studies in Languages and Cultures and the departments of Digital Humanities and Italian at UCC, which included a session on mapping data. Despite having spent years working with spreadsheets and databases, I would not consider myself a particularly data conscious individual. However, attending a number of introductory sessions over the past year or so has encouraged me to be more aware of the ways in which even the most basic data can be ultilised and visualised.

IE BL/CV/TP/Kerry/12 Lislaghtin Abbey, Co. Kerry

Coming from the session on mapping data, I was able to formulate a simple project proposal to map the print collection. The aim would be to enhance the profile of the collection by utilising both the visual and geographical nature of the prints, unlocking the potential for greater user engagement and access. 

Mapping Prints

Working remotely during lockdown, I was able to convert the PDF listing into a dataset using the reference, title, date, and description elements as a starting point. I then compiled the longitude and latitude coordinates for each print, noting the accuracy as either "exact" or "approximate" (depending on whether I was able to pin down the exact location). Finally, I added a small number of additional fields for sorting the data and linking back to the original PDF listing.


Sample of Irish Topographical Prints Dataset

Once I had compiled a small sample, I was able to test the dataset in several different mapping tools, including Carto, uMap and Google MyMaps. After examining the features and viability of each tool, I settled on Google MyMaps.

Map of Irish Topographical Prints on Google MyMaps

 When the completed dataset was uploaded, the base map was populated with points based on the co-ordinates I had included for each print. I used the Subject Type field to style the icons for each point according to four main types: "Building", "Landscape", "Townscape" and "Harbour". I was then able to select which fields should be viewable to users. After some final testing, the map was ready to go live.

Navigating Prints

In terms of interaction, researchers now have the option to use a search box and drop-down menu to search for specific topics or locations and can zoom into the map to explore areas of interest.


Exploring Cork on the Map of Irish Topographical Prints

By either clicking on an icon on the map or selecting a title from the left-hand menu, a pop-up side panel appears providing descriptive details together with a thumbnail of the print, with the final field in the side panel containing a link to the full listing for the print on the original PDF.

Thumbnail and Description of an Irish Topographical Print 

The map is now embedded on the Cartographic Visual LibGuide alongside the PDF listing and accompanied by both contextual information and other resources relating to the collection.


Map of Irish Topographical Prints on the Cartographical Visual LibGuide


While the project is quite a basic example of visualisation, it has provided an opportunity to further explore the wide range of Digital Humanities tools and lessons currently available. In this regard, it has also generated discussions around how we might further utilise data to create different access points, draw on our collections in creative ways that encourage interaction, and plan for future projects.

26 Aug 2021

Getting Started with Library Publishing (June 10th 2021, LAI Library Publishing Group)

Guest post by Margaret Irons, a review of the LAI Library Publishing Group's recent webinar Getting started with Library PublishingMargaret is a Librarian and Repository Manager at the School of Celtic Studies, DIAS.  As librarian Margaret supports all research staff towards their research and publication work. As a member of the LAI Library Publishing Group she hopes to further enhance this support and to build on and develop networks within the library publishing community in Ireland.

“Librarians break down boundaries and promote sharing” according to Ann Okerson – Convenor of IFLA LIBPUBS.

Librarians are extremely good at openly sharing information and I don’t mean just the information contained in their libraries. I mean that if a librarian learns how to perfect a task or a new skill, they are always willing to pass on to their colleagues, this new skill they have just mastered. So they share the nuts and bolts of the information needed to get started and then enhance the experience by also sharing the knowledge they have gathered around the application of the process and subsequently teaching others how to do it better. 

Nowhere has this been more visible for me in recent times than with the LAI Library Publishing Group (LAI LPG).  

Established in 2019, the aims of the LAI LPG are:

  • To raise awareness of the Library Publishing movement in Ireland 
  • To disseminate information on the latest developments within the Library publishing sector nationally and internationally 
  • To promote academic writing and publishing activity amongst library staff providing a variety of relevant supports to facilitate this, including knowledge-sharing events, workshops and mentoring 
  • To mentor new library publishers and to showcase library publishing initiatives and successes in Ireland 
  • To forge links between open access and institutional publishing presses and libraries 
  • To liaise with relevant agencies such as the Library Publishing Coalition, the IFLA Special Interest Group on Library Publishing, PKP and other key organisations. 
  • To promote and teach the Library Publishing Curriculum to Group members and across the library sector 

Library publishing has come from the need to disseminate local scholarship in an environment where it was found that this fundamental need wasn’t entirely being met. It is not a new subject area but as a growing field, library publishers are advocates of and leaders in open access publishing. 

As defined by the Library Publishing Coalition, library publishing is: 

“[T]he set of activities led by college and university libraries to support the creation, dissemination, and curation of scholarly, creative, and/or educational works. Generally, library publishing requires a production process, presents original work not previously made available, and applies a level of certification to the content published, whether through peer review or extension of the institutional brand.

Given that one of the main aims of the LAI LPG is to mentor new library publishers and to showcase initiatives, the inaugural LAI LPG seminar was held online on June 10th 2021 in order to facilitate and promote this mentoring and to develop the Library Publishing community. 

The format of the webinar went like this. 

  • Welcome and Introduction – Jane Buggle, IADT
  • The Genesis of a Successful Library Publishing Program – Aisling Coyne, TU Dublin
  • Publishing with Faculty –  Johannah Duffy, Marino Institute of Education
  • Publishing with Students:
  • Sinead Hanrahan and Shane Cusack, MTU
  • Niamh Brennan, TCD
  • A New Publishing Program – Fiona Morley, MU
  • Setting up a Peer Reviewed Library Published Journal in Business: Ethos, Content and Quality – Marie O’Neill, CCT College
  • The Role of Managing Editor – Robert Alfis, ETBI
  • The Library Publishing Curriculum – Jane Buggle, IADT
  • The Benefits of Library Publishing – Ann Okerson, IFLA Special Interest Group on Library Publishing

Topics ranged from setting up library published journals, the role of editors and the peer review process involved, publishing with students and faculty, to the very dynamic and empowering library publishing curriculum. 

The amount of passion, knowledge and interest in the area was clear on screen and from the many different projects that were highlighted across institutions. 

The Genesis of a Successful Library Publishing Program – Aisling Coyne, TU Dublin

Positivity exhuded from Aisling Coyne’s ‘Go For It’ attitude to publishing and her presentation was a delight as she outlined the peaks and troughs of academic led and library supported publishing at TU Dublin since 2008. Publishing 11 open access journals – all TU Dublin titles can be found on the DOAJ. The process of applying for inclusion in the DOAJ can be found here for those who are interested. 

Publishing with Faculty  Johannah Duffy, Marino Institute of Education

Johannah Duffy led us through the process of encouraging and publishing with faculty members in MIE, by outlining the importance of relationship building between librarians and faculty. Good two-way communication is key. 

Johannah went on to give us an overview of their open access e-journal

Student Teacher Educational Research (STER) which is an Irish Higher Education partnership project that supports education students to share their dissertation research with the wider education community. 

Sinead Hanrahan and Shane Cusack, MTU

Sinéad Hanrahan and Shane Cusack, Munster TU, described the learning curve involved in publishing the International Undergraduate Journal of Health Sciences (IUJHS). Launched shortly after this webinar in June 2021 the IUJHS is a student run, open access, peer- reviewed online journal that publishes original research papers, short communications, review papers, mini-review papers, letters to the editor and conference proceedings within the field of human health and medical science. 

The learning objectives outlined by our speakers can certainly be applied to library publishing everywhere. 

  • Prepare students for their working lives
  • Develop student-staff partnership
  • Develop student’s experience of scientific communication
  • Develop opportunities for staff CPD

Niamh Brennan, TCD

Niamh Brennan ran us through the timeline of the past 15 years of open access publishing in TCD and in particular SOAPbox.  This project seeks to engage the student community in activities that will maximise the reach of their work and embrace contemporary developments in scholarly communication via the facilitation of a Student Open Access Project, or SOAPBOX for short.

Niamh also went on to highlight both the importance of a journal being open access and also the reasons why many scholars still feel there are barriers to embracing open scholarship. 

Some early findings from SOAPbox are

  • Student publishing bridges the research and the teaching and learning ‘divide’
  • Community of Practice approach works
  • Need for training in all aspects of the publishing process
  • Transition to OA/OJS via a tandem or parallel process (print & online)
  • Clear annual ‘handover’ model required per journal

A New Publishing Program – Fiona Morley, MU

As the first university in Ireland to set up an OA repository, Maynooth University is a leading advocate of OA publishing. Also with an array of OA journals under it’s belt, Fiona went through the list of titles and the reasons why MU library sees the importance of supporting OA scholarship and piloting open publishing initiatives. The library is currently developing a libguide on open publishing and also working on building knowledge and expertise on campus around OA publishing. 

Setting up a Peer Reviewed Library Published Journal in Business: Ethos, Content and Quality – Marie O’Neill, CCT College

Next up Marie O’Neill, CCT College (previously Dublin Business School), outlined the process involved in setting up the DBS Business Review inspired by an institution wide audit of scholarly activity at DBS Business School compared to the Arts School. Marie outlined that the goal of the journal is to facilitate robust and dynamic scholarly communication across business schools throughout Ireland and beyond. DBS Business Review also aims to dismantle some of the boundaries that exists between various disciplines. A key aim of open access publishing in itself. 

Marie then went on to give us a synopsis of the library publishing initiatives at CCT college and to advocate for and promote the various communities of practice that are available for anyone interested in learning more about library publishing. 

The Role of Managing Editor – Robert Alfis, ETBI

Following on from that Robert Alfis, ETBI (formerly Dublin Business School) described his role as Managing Editor on the DBS Business Review. With insights into the process behind the role it is clear to see the benefits of Librarian as Editor. 

The Library Publishing Curriculum Jane Buggle, IADT

The final presentation of the day was by Jane Buggle, IADT and Chair of the LAI LPG. Members of the LAI LPG completed the Library Publishing Curriculum (expertly taught by Jane) online during 2020. Professionally it was one of the highlights of my year. Developed by the Library Publishing Coalition in partnership with Educopia in 2018, the Curriculum covers the Content, Impact, Sustainability and Policies of Library Publishing. Open and free to use by anyone under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license, the LAI LPG would highly recommend everyone having a look. 

Promoting this curriculum is one of the main aims of the LAI LPG along with advocating for Library Publishing education at a library school, National and International level. 

Rounding off the webinar we were joined by Ann Okerson, IFLA Special Interest Group on Library Publishing and author of The Once and Future Publishing Library. 

Ann reminded us that librarian values are aligned to open access publishing initiatives and finished off the day with encouragement for the future.

We owe it to ourselves to promote libraries as publishers and we owe it to research & publishing to share our skills with research staff and students. 

Thank you to the LAI LPG committee for organising the event and to all speakers for sharing their knowledge and experience. 





Further reading

19 Aug 2021

The L2L Joint Digital Badge (A collaboration between the LAI and the NFT&L)

Guest post by Isabelle Courtney & Mary Buckley. Isabelle Courtney is a librarian and lecturer in Records Management &  Information Law at Dublin Business School.  She is a member of the LAI Career Development Group and Project Leader on the L2L Digital Badge initiative with the National Forum

Mary Buckley is head librarian at the National College of Ireland.  She is a member of the LAI and Project Leader on the L2L Digital Badge initiative with the National Forum

The National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education is the  national body responsible for leading and advising on the enhancement of teaching and learning in Irish higher education. They have developed a suite of open-access professional development short courses for those who are interested in progressing their professional development.   

With a wide range of courses to choose from, over  1,500 participants across the sector have  already completed one or more of the short courses and earned their digital badges. The first of these digital badges is called PACT and it is about committing to professional development.  One of the key outputs of this  course is the creation of an ePortfolio, an online space to record and reflect on one’s professional development .

Many of the participants of the National Forums’ courses  are librarians and it was  a chance discussion between two of these librarians during a PACT course in late 2020 led to the concept of the L2L Joint Digital Badge.  

Considering the identity of librarians as professionals within the National Forum’s framework. Mary Buckley (National College of Ireland) and Isabelle Courtney (Dublin Business School), both active members of the Library Association of Ireland (LAI), talked about  the possibility of a librarian specific PACT course that encompassed both the National Forum’s Professional Development Framework and the CILIP'S Professional Knowledge & Skills Base Framework  (PKSB)

The Domains of the National Forum PD Framework

Recognising that librarian roles, not just in the education sector, but in general, increasingly include teaching responsibilities, it was felt that there was a need for a specific course which focused on pedagogy from a librarian perspective.  

Although little research on the subject has been conducted in an Irish context, a 2015  study in the UK looked at academic librarians’ perception of their own teaching roles, the main themes arising from that study found that some librarians felt less confident about their teaching and less willing to acknowledge that they were teachers. However, by attending more teaching related CPD events, librarians felt more informed about good teaching practice and more confident to speak with authority on the subject. (Wheeler and McKinney, 2015) 

Considering the conclusions and recommendations of this study and anecdotal evidence within librarian networks, an adapted version of the PACT open course was pitched to the Library Association of  Ireland (LAI )and the National Forum for Teaching & Learning (NFT&L).   

Both parties enthusiastically supported the proposal. In fact, this proposed initiative aligned, and built upon a previous collaboration between the  National Forum  and  librarians from Dundalk Institute of Technology. The  L2L project in 2017 saw  library staff  across  three institutions came  together  to explore  and reflect upon their  professional  development using the National Forum’s  professional development framework.  

An  application for support for the L2L Joint Digital Badge was  made through the National Forum's Network & Discipline Fund.  This fund focused  on the theme of  “Shared Solutions to Common Challenges” and was aimed at groups who wished to work together to respond proactively to identified challenges in teaching and learning in Irish higher education.  (‘Network and Discipline Fund 2021’, 2021)  The application was successful and the L2L Joint Digital badge was given the go ahead in April 2020. The new digital badge will be jointly recognised by the NFTL and LAI.

In order to promote the initiative and to seek expressions of interest, the LAI Career Development Group held an online information event in early June 2021 . The event was extremely well attended and a waiting list for the L2L short course was established.

A project team of seven skilled librarians across several institutions, was appointed and have been working on the development  of the course. 

Project Team:

Isabelle Courtney (DBS)

Mary Buckley (NCI)

Marie O'Neill (CCT College)

Robert Alfis  (ETBI)

Stephanie Chen (UCC)

Eva Hornung (CDEBT) 

Aoife Williams (IBAT College)

The existing learning outcomes  of the PACT course have been adapted to reflect the needs of  teaching librarians  and those who  wished to take up teaching roles.  On completion of the course learners will be able to:

  • Reflect on what is involved in making a commitment to your own Professional Development as a teaching librarian
  • Explore and demonstrate familiarity with the National Professional Development Framework and the CILIP/LAI  Professional Knowledge & Skills Base Framework
  • Create an ePortfolio to record and reflect on  CPD activities
  • Be informed by other librarians who have already used the Professional Development Framework and identify key actions from these conversations for your own Professional Development practice
  • Identify ‘next steps’ – moving from reflecting on Professional Development to undertaking it 

The pilot course will run lunchtime webinars over 6 weeks from 4th October to 8th November 2021 (12.30-1.30pm). It will take 25 learner hours in total to earn the L2L digital badge.   By completing a further 2 weeks, successful participants can earn an additional facilitator’s digital badge which will allow you to run the  course within your institution or across your network.


For further information please contact us on the L2L website and check our social media channels for updates.

Twitter: @librariansl2l

Instagram: l2ljointdigitalbadge

Facebook: L2L Joint Digital Badge


‘Getting Started with Professional Development – PACT’ (no date) National Forum. Available at: https://opencourses.teachingandlearning.ie/open_course/getting-started-with-professional-development-pact/ (Accessed: 16 August 2021).

‘Network and Discipline Fund 2021’ (2021) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education. Available at: https://www.teachingandlearning.ie/funding/network-and-discipline-fund-2020/ (Accessed: 16 August 2021).

Wheeler, E. and McKinney, P. (2015) ‘Are librarians teachers? Investigating academic librarians’ perceptions of their own teaching skills’, Journal of Information Literacy, 9(2), pp. 111–128. doi: 10.11645/9.2.1985.

19 Jul 2021

Manual labour: Creating best practice guidelines for captioning DCU Library’s YouTube videos

Post by Eilís O'Neill (@mise_eilis) is a senior library assistant working in DCU Library as a member of the research and teaching team.

DCU Library’s Captioning Best Practices and Subtitle guidelines were born from a request by a DCU student for the transcript of a recorded online training session, hosted on YouTube. When a member of the library’s research and teaching team viewed the automated subtitles and transcript provided by YouTube, they realised how inadequate they were.

The team decided to manually edit the automated subtitles for all our existing YouTube videos but quickly realised that we needed a procedural manual. This would ensure that our captions were standardised and followed best practice guidelines – and who doesn’t love a good procedural manual?  You’ll notice that I refer to both subtitles and captions here; these terms are often used interchangeably. However, captions are generally designed for viewers who can’t hear the audio in a video while subtitles are designed for viewers who can hear but who don’t understand the language in the audio.
The Benefits and Importance of Video Captioning
Making our videos more usable and accessible would have huge benefits for all our viewers, whether they were deaf, hard of hearing or hearing. Many people use subtitles: as much as 20% of the population in the US or UK and 80% of them are hearing, increasing to 35% for some online content (BBC, 2018, para. 2; Datta et al., 2020, p. 195). Studies have found that students given manually captioned instructional videos are more engaged, more responsive to questions, understand and retain the information better and achieve higher grades than students whose videos aren’t captioned (Chazen, 2020; Erler & Automatic Sync Technologies, 2012).

Add to this the fact that the students registered with disability support services in 2018 made up more than 6% of the total student population in higher education in Ireland. (Ahead, 2020, para. 1). Providing accurate captions for our educational video content supports those with different learning needs and styles; viewers can both see and hear the contents of the video simultaneously. Learners have been shown to process information more effectively when it’s presented in more than one sensory mode (Minnesota State captioning committee, 2017).

Accurate captions are essential for viewers who need to access videos in environments where the audio is difficult to hear or is intentionally muted. Online video content is frequently accessed without audio; 85% of Facebook’s videos are watched on mute (Lemonlight, 2020, para. 9). Captions help second language learners understand video content and verbatim captions can also improve reading skills. They help viewers understand complex terminology and decipher unfamiliar accents (Debevc et al., 2014).
Inaccurate captions or subtitles that don’t match the dialogue can negatively affect the viewer’s experience to the point that they stop watching the content (Szarkowska et al., 2020). When captions are less than 97% accurate readers find it difficult to understand the content being presented. At 90% the text can barely be understood at all (Erler & Automatic Sync Technologies, 2012, p. 6). This is significant because the accuracy rates of automatic captioning technologies including YouTube’s have been shown to vary from between 60-90% depending on the speaker’s accent (Minnesota State captioning committee, 2017, p. 13). See in the image below how YouTube’s automated subtitles interpret how easily plagiarism can be spotted by “a trained eye.” YouTube’s automatically generated captions don’t have punctuation or capitalisation; subtitles without punctuation make it harder for viewers to understand grammar, sentence structure and make it harder for them to identify speakers (Datta et al., 2020).

Screenshot from 'Is it easy to spot plagiarism?' 2013 DCU Library
Screenshot from 'Is it easy to spot plagiarism?' 2013 DCU Library

Worthwhile Time and Effort
Manually captioning videos can be time-consuming; it can take anything from 5-10 times the duration of the video to caption it (Enamorado, 2018, para. 2). Editing the automated captions provided by YouTube speeds up the process, as captions don’t have to be created from scratch. It’s worth taking the time to do it, not only because it’s of huge benefit to viewers but also because viewers are 80% more likely to view a video until the end if captions are included (Lemonlight, 2020, para. 9). Manually edited captions also help with search engine optimisation (SEO) because Google indexes captions that you’ve added to videos (Albright, 2018).

An interesting David and Goliath story with potential international repercussions took place in 2020. The National Association of the Deaf in the U.S. A. won a law suit brought against Harvard University and MIT for violating US accessibility laws. The suit focused on their failure to provide high-quality captions for their online programming to people who are deaf and hard of hearing. The auto-captions provided on platforms like YouTube were deemed inaccurate and of poor quality. A precedent has now been set which holds universities in the U.S.A. accountable for providing high-quality captioning for their online video content (Leduc, 2020). It’s worth noting that Ireland’s Disability Act 2005 mandates that public services, including those provided by publicly-funded Irish Universities, be made accessible and inclusive for all people regardless of disability (Lewis, 2017). Compiling this manual and committing to the creation of high-quality captions for our video content is a proactive rather than a reactive step that anticipates the needs of our users and supports their learning.
Re-Use, Re-Purpose
We’ve made the manual available as an Open Educational Resource on the Zenodo platform under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 licence. It draws on current best practices recommended by deaf and hard of hearing advocacy organisations, broadcasting guidelines, academic journal articles, principles of universal design and World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) standards. It shows users how to improve the readability of captions through the application of punctuation, capitalisation, line breaks and sentence layout, numbering and date and time. It also goes through the pros and cons of using YouTube’s subtitles and gives instructions on how to edit these to produce high-quality captions. We hope that these guidelines will be used and adapted by other organisations who wish to make their educational online content more accessible to their users.


Ahead. (2020, July 24). Launch of Students with Disabilities Engaged with Support Services in Higher Education in Ireland 2018/19 Report. Ahead.ie; AHEAD. https://ahead.ie/Launch-of-New-Report-on-Numbers-of-Students-with-Disabilites-in-Higher-Education

Albright, D. (2018, March 7). 7 Reasons Your Videos Need Subtitles [Infographic]. Uscreen. https://www.uscreen.tv/blog/7-reasons-videos-need-subtitles-infographic/

BBC. (2018). BBC Subtitle Guidelines. BBC. https://bbc.github.io/subtitle-guidelines/

Chazen, D. (2020, June 22). Closed Captioning Best Practices & Subtitle Guidelines. Verbit. https://verbit.ai/closed-captioning-best-practices-subtitle-guidelines/

Datta, P., Jakubowicz, P., Vogler, C., & Kushalnagar, R. (2020). Readability of Punctuation in Automatic Subtitles. In K. Miesenberger, R. Manduchi, M. Covarrubias Rodriguez, & P. Peňáz (Eds.), Computers Helping People with Special Needs (pp. 195–201). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-58805-2_23

Debevc, M., Stjepanovič, Z., & Holzinger, A. (2014). Development and evaluation of an e-learning course for deaf and hard of hearing based on the advanced Adapted Pedagogical Index method. Interactive Learning Environments, 22(1), 35–50. Academic Search Complete.

Enamorado, S. (2018, December 20). How Long Does It Take To Manually Caption YouTube Videos? 3Play Media. https://www.3playmedia.com/blog/long-take-manually-caption-videos/

Erler, K., & Automatic Sync Technologies. (2012). The essential Higher Ed closed captioning guide. https://secfac.wisc.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/50/2017/09/The-Essential-Higher-Ed-Closed-Captioning-Guide.pdf

Leduc, J. (2020, March 25). Overview of NAD v. Harvard and NAD v. MIT Lawsuits. 3Play Media. https://www.3playmedia.com/blog/harvard-mit-sued-captioning-violation-ada-rehabilitation-act/

Lemonlight. (2020, February 12). How Video Captions Help Attract and Engage More Users. Lemonlight – High-Quality, Affordable Video Production. https://www.lemonlight.com/blog/how-video-captions-help-attract-and-engage-more-users/

Lewis, E. (2017, March 14). Accessibility Laws in the Emerald Isle. 3Play Media. https://www.3playmedia.com/blog/accessibility-laws-emerald-isle/

Minnesota State captioning committee. (2017). A campus toolkit for course captioning. https://ccaps.umn.edu/documents/CPE-Conferences/MnLC/MNStateCaptioningToolkit.pdf

Szarkowska, A., Díaz Cintas, J., & Gerber-Morón, O. (2020). Quality is in the eye of the stakeholders: What do professional subtitlers and viewers think about subtitling? Universal Access in the Information Society. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10209-020-00739-2