3 Oct 2023

Camera, Action: Finding Photography in UCD Special Collections

Libfocus is delighted to present the second prize post for the CONUL Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Awards 2023. The author is Kathryn Milligan, Library Assistant at University College Dublin (Special Collections).

From time to time, an opportunity comes to delve into a library’s holdings and reconsider how a selection of materials might be gathered and presented to readers and researchers. Recently, I have been looking anew at material related to photography and its history in UCD Special Collections. From the very beginning of this project, it was clear that our holdings included a range of interesting materials, from nineteenth century book, journals, and manuals to large photographic prints. An early stand out item was Sun Pictures of Rocky Mountain Scenery which I later wrote about for the UCD Cultural Heritage Collections blog.

Albumen print frontispiece and title page of F. V. Hayden, Sun Pictures of Rocky Mountain Scenery (UCD SC 11.Q.17)
1. Albumen print frontispiece and title page of F. V. Hayden, Sun Pictures of Rocky Mountain Scenery (UCD SC 11.Q.17).
Further opportunity to explore these collections came in December 2022 when we welcomed two historians of photography to the reading room. In putting together a display for this, I browsed the shelves to identify further notable items, coming across (for example) the imposing Notes on Irish Architecture, published in 1875, several photographic prints of John Henry Newman, and a photogravure by Alvin Langdon Coburn.

Display of photographic prints and photographically illustrated books, UCD Special Collections Reading Room
2. Display of photographic prints and photographically illustrated books, UCD Special Collections Reading Room
These searches suggested the need for a more systematic review to identify photography related holdings within our collections, and a method of making them more findable and accessible to our readers. Building on the knowledge I had gained when writing about Sun Pictures, I decided that identifying and improving the records of photographically illustrated books would be of significant benefit and be of interest to a wide range of disciplines within the university.

Albumen print frontispiece and title page of Richard A. Procter, ‘The Moon’ (UCD SC RCSCI 525.3 PRO).
3. Albumen print frontispiece and title page of Richard A. Procter, ‘The Moon’ (UCD SC RCSCI 525.3 PRO).
Photographically illustrated books contain an actual photographic print, such as an albumen or carbon print. They emerged in the mid-nineteenth century as photographic processes developed more generally. These were not books that a former owner or collector had personalised through extra-illustration, but rather fully conceived works that brought together letterpress and photography, with images either tipped in or bound with the text block.

Photographically illustrated books can be found across a range of scholarly and general interest publications, from travel and spectroscopy to biography and medical research. Given the nature of the holdings in UCD Special Collections, which includes books from the libraries of UCD’s antecedent institutions like the Catholic University of Ireland and the Royal College of Science for Ireland, our print collections cover many disciplinary fields.

A shelf in UCD Special Collections: are there any photographically illustrated books here?!
4. A shelf in UCD Special Collections: are there any photographically illustrated books here?!

To assist with identifying these books, I turned to three main resources: Julia van Haaften’s ''Original Sun Pictures': A Checklist from New York Public Library's Holdings of Early Works Illustrated with Photographs, 1844 – 1900’; Helmut Gernsheim’s Incunabula of British Photographic Literature, 1839 – 1875; and the British Library’s online Catalogue of Photographically Illustrated Books. I also consulted more specialised publications on Irish photographic history to identify additional material. As well as basic catalogue searches, I also did systematic shelf searches, replicating van Haaften’s own process in

After consulting the published bibliographies, catalogues, and creating a basic listing of items, I consulted with my Special Collections colleagues to see how this new information could be best captured within our existing catalogue records. We settled on adding relevant MARC fields, capturing information such as the photographer or photographic company’s name, and whether the book appears in van Haaften and Gernsheim. The genre heading ‘Photographically Illustrated Books’ from the LOC’s Thesaurus of Graphical Material was also added to each record.

Example of an updated catalogue record for a photographically illustrated book
5. Example of an updated catalogue record for a photographically illustrated book

To date, I have identified close to thirty photographically illustrated books containing a range of photographic and early photomechanical processes. There are also examples of early colour reproductions and photographic literature. For many of these publications, further research is needed to fully identify the photographic processes employed, as well as details of the photographer or publisher. Our readers can now find these books by searching for ‘photographically illustrated books’ and filtering the search results to ‘Special Collections’ on the UCD Library Catalogue. This basic listing also enables us to easily promote these holdings across the university and seek opportunities to incorporate them into teaching, learning and public engagement programmes, aligning with Pillar 2 of the Library’s Strategic Plan.

I hope that research on, and analysis of, these books will continue and that a standardised cataloguing guideline can be used for similar holdings across UCD Library’s Cultural Heritage collections. For now however, we can look to these books to learn about (and enjoy) the story they tell us about the development of photography and the illustrated book.

Hand-coloured albumen print frontispiece and title page of Alexander W. M. Clark Kennedy, ‘The Birds of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire’ (UCD SC Store 598.094229 KEN)
6. Hand-coloured albumen print frontispiece and title page of Alexander W. M. Clark Kennedy, ‘The Birds of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire’ (UCD SC Store 598.094229 KEN)

Chandler, Edward. Photography in Ireland: The Nineteenth Century (Dublin: Edmund
Burke, 2001).

Gernsheim, Helmut. Incunabula of British Photographic Literature, 1839 – 1875 (London
and Berkeley: Scolar in association with Derbyshire College of Higher Education, 1984).

van Haaften, Julia. ''Original Sun Pictures': A Checklist from New York Public Library's
Holdings of Early Works Illustrated with Photographs, 1844 – 1900’, Bulletin of The New
York Public Library (80:3 Spring 1977).

All photographs are by the author, and show items from UCD Special Collections.

26 Sept 2023

Evolving with Energy: Enhancing Spaces for Students at the Glucksman Library at the University of Limerick

Libfocus is delighted to present the winning post for the CONUL Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Awards 2023. The author is Maeve Shanahan, Library Assistant at University of Limerick.

We tend to think of libraries as unchangeable brick-and-mortar places. This idea gives us comfort in a rapidly changing world, and libraries remain a steadfast academic refuge for many. I think back on my student days at the University of Limerick (UL), writing and researching for my master’s dissertation in the library. Those caffeine-fuelled late nights, spent in commiseration with my fellow students, are now fond memories. 

As I’ve become a staff member at the Glucksman Library, my perspective has changed, and so has the UL Library. With expanded digital resources and a physical extension to the building, the Glucksman Library of 2023 is almost unrecognizable to my past student self. If I didn’t work here as a Library Assistant, I’d be jealous of all the new spaces students get to experience.

Since 2018, in addition to doubling the amount of available study space, introducing smart systems like the Automated Storage and Retrieval System (ASRS) to store books, and creating novel learning spaces for collaborative work, the Library has kept a close eye on student’s evolving needs.

Students gathered around a table in the Glucksman Library
05.06.2019 University of Limerick, Glucksman Library Digital Scholarship. Photo by Alan Place.

More Than Books
As we prepare for the new semester and a new cohort of students, we acknowledge that for many, the UL Library has become more than a study space. Students are seeking out alternative spaces to just be—the cost of living is increasing, so students are commuting in, or sharing crowded rental homes (Cathal, 2022). The Glucksman Library provides students with reliable WiFi, group study rooms, temperature-controlled air, soft seating options, late opening hours, and a café right outside our access gates. We have become the place where students can work, attend online lectures, relax, and re-energize. 

As COVID restrictions disappear in the country’s rear-view, the University of Limerick has turned its focus onto directly impacting student’s mental health and wellbeing. UL officially signed the charter for Healthy Ireland earlier this year with the Higher Education Authority. As the campus continues its commitments to better the health of students and staff through Healthy UL promotional initiatives, the Glucksman Library, with guidance from the Library Spaces Manager, a librarian in the Collections & Spaces team, has turned its attention to promoting student’s wellbeing within the Library itself. With the goal of improving mental and physical health, the UL Library has recently acquired ten standing desks, three desk bikes, and two MetroNaps EnergyPods for students to use. It is well documented in decades of research that students need rest to help improve academic performance and maintain positive mental health (Zhou et al., 2022).

EnergyPods & Their Benefits
Imagine how nice it would be to be able to safely take a twenty-minute break during a hectic workday if you were feeling overwhelmed, or not awake enough to drive home. It sounds too good to be true! I once suffered from a migraine in between college lectures and had to nap on a mud trodden carpeted floor in a high-traffic hallway. I certainly could have used an EnergyPod during my time as a student.

MetroNaps EnergyPods are described by their creators as “the world’s first office nap chair.” Although they look like something out of a sci-fi film, EnergyPods are modern chairs designed for relaxation, with a privacy visor, reclining leg rest, and a speaker/headset for calming music and meditations. Users can rest for up to twenty minutes at a time.

A MetroNap EnergyPod in the Glucksman Library.
21.07.2023. MetroNaps EnergyPod in Glucksman Library. Photos by Maeve Shanahan.

The Library in the University Hospital Limerick installed an EnergyPod in 2020 and found it successful in battling fatigue and stress in student doctors (Mindo, 2020). In a recent study of 93 NHS staff members using the EnergyPods during night shifts, researchers surveyed the staff before and after using the EnergyPod for three months. The results concluded with 81% of NHS staff feeling more alert and 83% were more energized after their twenty-minute rest (Dore et al., 2021). 

Starting in university is a time of intense change and stress. Academic pressure, social pressures, and personal issues can affect student’s mental health. As students spend more time in the Library, we want to help them maintain good physical and mental health. We hope that by introducing EnergyPods to the Library, we will help students relax during high stress times, and allow our users to embrace the Glucksman as more than a book-filled brick building.

Cathal (2022). “UL Student Life release stark findings from their Accommodation Survey.” UL Student Life. 21 August. Available at: https://www.ulstudentlife.ie/ulstudentlife_accommodationsurvey/ (Accessed: 26 July 2023).

Dore, Eoin et al. (2021). “Sleep is the best medicine: How rest facilities and EnergyPods can improve staff wellbeing.” Future Healthcare Journal, 8(3) pp. 625–628 [Online]. Available at: https://doi:10.7861/fhj.2020-0261 (Accessed: 26 July 2023).

Mindo (2020). “‘Energy pod’ launched in Limerick to fight fatigue in hospital staff.” The Medical Independent, 31 July. Available at: https://www.medicalindependent.ie/in-thenews/breaking-news/energy-pod-launched-in-limerick-to-fight-fatigue-in-hospital-staff/ (Accessed: 26 July 2023).

Zhou, Jingxin et al. (2022) “Research trends in college students' sleep from 2012 to 2021: A bibliometric analysis.” Frontiers in Psychiatry, 13, 20 Sep. Available at: https://doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2022.1005459 (Accessed: 26 July 2023).

11 Sept 2023

Open Access in Sweden - moving beyond transformative agreements

Post by Hardy Schwamm, Open Scholarship Librarian at the University of Galway and member of the libfocus team. This interview below was originally posted on the Hardiblog on 11 September 2023.

In this interview of the Open Voices series Hardy talks to Wilhelm Widmark, Library Director at Stockholm University Library, about the Open Access strategy of Swedish universities and research institutes who are organised in the Bibsam Consortium.

Hardy: Hello Wilhelm. Thanks for talking to me. To start our conversation can you introduce yourself, please?

Wilhelm: Sure, I'm Wilhelm Widmark and I'm working as the Library Director at Stockholm University and have done that for the last 12 years. I'm also the Senior Advisor to the President of Stockholm University in questions regarding Open Science. I work as the Vice Chair of the Swedish Bibsam Consortium where our University President, Astrid Söderbergh Widding, is the Chair and we work closely together in the Consortium. I'm also Director of EOSC, the European Open Science Cloud. In Sweden, we have the Rectors Conference of The Association of Swedish Higher Education Institutions which has different subgroups, and one of the groups is the Coordination Group of Open Science. We work together among universities on how we should pave the way forward for Open Science, and that is what the Coordination Group does.

Hardy: Can you summarise where you are with regards to Open Access in Sweden?

Wilhelm: We have a mandate from the Swedish Government that we should have reached 100% Open Access in 2021. It was in the latest Research Bill. But we didn't reach the target in 2021. Currently, we have around 80% Open Access to Swedish research articles. You mentioned the ESAC Registry of Transformative Agreements where Ireland is among the top 10. Sweden is sometimes on the top spot, sometimes it is Norway, sometimes Finland. [As of 1 September 2023, Finland is number one, Sweden number two, see below or check ESAC].

Screenshot from ESAC Market Watch
So, we are currently at around 80% Open Access but we strive to get to 100%!

For Swedish researchers Open Access is not a question anymore. For them it is obvious that all publications should be Open Access. They don't think that Open Access is anything strange or undesirable, it is part of their academic life.

Hardy: How does the Swedish approach differ from other countries in Europe?

Wilhelm: I think the most important thing we have done is to delegate the decisions to a higher level than library directors. At all annual meetings of the Rectors Conference, we have discussions about the different publisher agreements and strategies. The Steering Committee of the Bibsam Consortium is elected by the Rectors Conference. So, both rectors and library directors sit on the Steering Committee of the consortium. We discuss everything with the rectors. Open Access is not a library question, it is an issue that has a place in the income trays of the presidents of universities!

Hardy: What has your experience been with transformative agreements?

Wilhelm: Well, we have worked very hard to get a lot of transformative agreements. We have made a lot of mistakes on the way, and it has cost a lot to have them. But if you see the rates of how much Open Access we have now, that has been a success. How the transformative agreements are driving the transformation towards Open Access that is a bigger problem. Because I think today, many of the publishers want to stay within transformative agreements as the basis of their new business model and that won't work for us. So, we will keep on having both systems for a while, both open and closed, and I don't think that the transformative agreements will change that.

Hardy: What are your next steps forwards? You mentioned the subscription elements of these agreements. What is the Swedish approach to that?

Wilhelm: We started a strategy group in Sweden two years ago which is called Beyond Transformative agreements, where we had a lot of discussions during two years on what will happen in the future. What kind of strategy should the Consortium have to go beyond transformative agreements? The group was composed of university management, negotiators from the Bibsam Consortium, researchers from different disciplines and the funders as well. I think it is important that we have all stakeholders within the research system in this group. The strategy group has finished a report that will be published soon, both in Swedish and in English, because many colleagues in Sweden and internationally are interested in what we are doing.

This group made some suggestions on what we should do concerning the negotiations with the publishers. One of the main strategies is that during a certain period we should not pay for anything but publishing as a service. Right now we are trying this out in some negotiations: with Elsevier, Sage and ACS (American Chemical Society). We are testing our ideas on these three publishers.

Hardy: That also means if you don't agree a publish agreement you would “walk away”. Is that an option?

Wilhelm: That will always be an option if we don't reach our goals. We can walk away from the negotiations and leave the agreement. We have done that once before with Elsevier in 2018. The Bibsam Consortium was without an agreement with Elsevier for one and a half year, and that is definitely a possibility for the future as well.

Hardy: If you walk away from a Publish & Read agreement, you will not fall back to a read-only agreement? There is a consensus in the Bibsam Consortium that this is how you will act?

Wilhelm: You need to have a lot of communication before you walk away from an agreement. When we did that with Elsevier that was a decision by the Rectors Conference. All the universities were behind it. The decision did not come from the Consortium, it was made by the Directors Conference.

If you walk away, you really need to explain why you are doing it and then also have strategies in place at the affected universities of how to handle questions, and we have experience with such a situation. When we didn’t have access to Elsevier journals for one and a half year, most researchers understood why we did it, and they backed us up. All rectors stood behind it, and no university arranged any subscriptions with Elsevier during that period. You really need to do this strategic work before the negotiations, and you have to stand by your decision! After that, help your students and researchers in the best way you can do.


Wilhelm Widmark

Hardy: You mentioned that a lot of senior academics were involved in your discussions. What about the grassroots of the academic community?

Wilhelm: We can't work with everybody, but we have to have communication aimed at everyone and explain what we are doing. I think many researchers see it as a shame that the profit margins of the big commercial publishers are so high. It is money that should stay within the research system and not go to for-profit publishers. But at the same time, they are forced to publish with them. It is really hard not to!

We had many researchers who when we cancelled the Elsevier agreement wrote to us and said that they accept this decision and stand by us. Regarding the Read-access libraries will manage to get access to publications in some way.

Hardy: You mentioned that you are doing these negotiations with these three publishers as a trial or pilot. How long is your pilot period?

Wilhelm: We are negotiating the new agreements during this year, and the pilot will start in 2024 if we reach agreements.

Hardy: What do you think other countries like Ireland can learn from what you've done so far?

Wilhelm: One important thing is to have all universities engaged. The university management must be involved in those discussions because it's a question about money, and it's a question about institutional strategy. We are also working with the big Swedish research funders on how we should finance the different agreements. We have discussions with all stakeholders, that is really important.

You shouldn't rely only on transformative agreements. You need to have discussions about other paths towards Open Access. How can researchers take back the control of the publishing system? We are talking about a national or European publishing platform like ORE (Open Research Europe). We need to have alternative publishing routes, for example we need to look at Diamond Open Access. You also need to look at the copyright issues and you need to have strategies for that as well. You can't work just with transformative agreements. You need to have different routes to make Open Access work.

Hardy: You are referring to the Rights Retention Strategy?

Wilhelm: Yes, definitely. No university in Sweden has implemented it yet, but we are talking about it. For instance, The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) has introduced its Rights Retention Strategy last year, and we are looking at how that works. I don't know how it is like in Ireland, have you looked at Rights Retention Strategy?

Hardy: We are expecting a national project funded by the National Open Research Forum that will look at Rights Retention in the Irish context. We are also talking to colleagues in the UK who have implemented a Rights Retention Strategy in their institution [see for example this Open Voices interview with Emma Francis from Aberdeen University]. I think we have learned in the last few years that maybe we were too keen on transformative agreements as a single solution for Open Access?

Wilhelm: Yes, and that is also the advice from the transformative agreement group that you need to work on different routes to have a complete and diverse picture for the future. Also, we should not accept to pay for hybrid journals and subscriptions in the future. We really have to discuss with the publishers how that can work.

I think what others campus can learn from Sweden is that we have made a lot of mistakes initially with transformative agreements. Now we have got good transformative agreements in terms of Open Access coverage, but they are too expensive, and we don't want to keep on paying into that system. We would like to change the system, to drive the publishers to more Open Access beyond transformative agreements. Sweden is a small country, and we need more countries to tell publishers that they will not accept to pay both subscription and Open Access fees in the future. But we need to do it all together across the world!

Hardy: My final question: You said you have an Open Access rate of around 80% in Sweden at the moment, which is brilliant and a lot better than for example Ireland. Will you succeed to reach the final 20% with your current strategy?

Wilhelm: Initially, our Open Access rate might even drop because if we walk away from certain agreements that will have a negative impact on the rate. But that is important, as we can't accept that the old transformative agreements will be the ongoing business model. At the same time our goal is to reach 100% Open Access, but not at any price.

Hardy: Wilhelm, thanks a lot for our chat.

Wilhelm Widmark is the Library Director of Stockholm University since 2012. Since 2020 he is also Senior Adviser for Open Science to the President of Stockholm University. He has a Master of Arts in Literature and a Master of Arts in Library and information science from Uppsala University. Wilhelm is active in the Open Science movement in Sweden and Europe. He is the Vice-Chairman of the Swedish Bibsam consortium and a member of the Swedish Rectors Conference Open Science group. He is also a member of EUA’s Expert Group on Open Science and one of the Directors of EOSC Association.   

The interview was conducted by Hardy Schwamm, Open Scholarship Librarian at the University of Galway.

10 Sept 2023

Libfocus Link-out for September 2023

Welcome to the September edition of the Libfocus link-out, an assemblage of library-related things we have found informative, educational, thought-provoking and insightful on the Web over the past while.

Shows: a lifebuoy floating in water; a blurred image of a person writing in a book;  two people; an illustration of a girl holding a skull; an infographic; a printer's mark; a woman in a hat, a hand browsing bookshelves and the author Stephen Fry
Images featured in this month's libfocus link-out articles

Widow Printers of the 16th Century: Charlotte Guillard and Édmonde Toussain

This blog post by Madeline Birnbaum, Trinity College Library (Cambridge) Graduate Trainee 2022-3, about the lives of two widowed women who inherited their husbands' print workshops, delving into the often unseen work of women in printing and publishing at the time, and the ultimate intersection of Guillard and Toussain's lives.

An article by Janet Manley for LitHub on how children's literature gets chosen for and prescribed to children by adults, and the weight of that influence, as well as nostalgia, which then drives publishing trends.

Report from Equity in Open Access workshop #3: Making waves in APC & waiver practice

More and more evidence is emerging that Article Processing Charges (APCs) in Open Access publishing have unintended consequences, mainly putting up a barrier to publishing for authors in lower income regions. This OASPA workshop report by Malavika Legge discusses seven proposed principles of practice to increase equity in Open Access publishing.

All Things Must Pass

This opinion piece from Andrew Barker and Elaine Sykes (Lancaster University) reflects on the role of libraries in changing the institutional research culture that puts openness and equity at its centre.

What do you get when you combine artificial intelligence with human stupidity? There are, unfortunately, numerous responses to that question. But in this particular case, as detailed by Arwa Mahdawi in The Guardian, the answer can be found in Iowa’s Mason City Community School District, where school administrators are using ChatGPT to help them ban books.

I don’t think many people would argue with the idea that it’s your attitude that makes all the difference in life. Your attitude also makes a huge difference when it comes to public speaking and presenting too, which is often something many people overlook. Learn more in this post by presenting coach Maurice DeCastro.

Melina Spanoudi writes about The University of Wolverhampton's Big Bookshare project in The Bookseller. This project aims to boost the literacy and wellbeing of over 1,000 prisoners in four Kent prisons. Stephen Fry and Kit de Waal will take part in the pilot project, which also seeks to increase the volume and diversity of reading in prisons. 

This article by Éadaoín Lynch of The Scottish Book Trust looks at the many ways public libraries in Scotland positively impact society. Though visitor numbers have increased since 2010, government funding for libraries has decreased, despite research that suggests that every £1 invested in libraries returns between £5 and £7 a year for the UK economy.

This new report from the OCLC Global Council focuses on libraries of the future and how they will drive change to meet the evolving needs of users.

Wired writer Amanda Hoover presents a recent example of a published academic paper with a curious sentence included within has shed light on the relationship between AI and the research process.

Lam Thuy Vo contemplates the troubles of a world, perceived through an algorithmically curated lens, and the effects this has on us as people and as a society.

Open Access Author Contracts and Alignment with the Open Ethos: A Global Study 

Melissa H. Cantrell and Sarah Wipperman report on the findings of their DOAJ survey, which explores the implementation of rights and licensing expectations (“open access ethos”) in contracts between authors and publishers.
Posted on Sunday, September 10, 2023 | Categories:

24 Aug 2023

11 tips on how to make strategic thinking a habit

Guest post by Mairéad Mc Keown (BAHDipLIS), Capability & Knowledge Manager at Bord Bia - The Irish Food Board.
Shows a chess Board with two chess pieces
Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Recently I dialled into LinkedIn Learning's Live Office Hours session on How to Make Strategic Thinking a Habit and it was a fantastic time investment. Why? Because at this session Columbia Business Professor Dorie Clark shared her tips and strategies to help make strategic thinking a daily habit, so that you can make the best use of your time, energy and effort at work.

In this libfocus blogpost I will summarise 11 tips shared by Dorie, so that Library and Information professionals can build their knowledge of how to make strategic thinking a sustainable habit, in the most time efficient way possible.

1. Time:

Strategic thinking is not just something that senior library leaders do, it is in fact something everybody should be doing no matter what level you are at in your career. So what exactly is strategic thinking? According to Dorie, the quick back of the envelope definition for strategic thinking is asking the question "what is it I can do today that makes tomorrow easier and better?" So, if you can slow down and answer that, that’s being strategic. The good news is it doesn’t require a huge amount of time per se, it’s about reframing the way you see the world.

Now what? To kick start this habit it’s important to assess where you are right now. Complete Dorie’s Free Long Game Strategic Thinking Self-Assessment so you can benchmark where you are starting from. Then begin to include short buffers between meetings/library instructions so you can remain focused, get tasks completed and reflect. Also set aside 30 minutes on a Friday afternoon to further develop your strategic thinking habit. The bottom line is this, to develop the habit you need to be strategic with your time.

2. Alignment:

The things you’re doing today represent what you’re focusing on and what you’re focusing on cycles up to who you are as a person.

Dorie recommends creating three lists:

  • To Focus list = a big picture reminder of why you’re doing the things you’re doing
  • To Be list = a reminder of what you’re striving for in the world and who you want to be as a person
  • To Do list = the things you’re doing today
Now what? Once you create these lists it’s important to take the time to reflect and ensure they align.

3. Execution:

There are two things that get in the way of strategic thinking execution:

  • Tip of the iceberg – things you can see, too many emails, too many meetings
  • What’s underneath the iceberg - Busyness which has become a form of status and is often used for emotional avoidance. For instance, when we don’t know how to do a thing or when we are in emotional pain.
Now what? Watch Dorie’s TED talk, The real reason you’re so busy and what to do about it to delve a bit deeper on execution. Then try working with an accountability partner/LAI (Library Association of Ireland) group peer or indeed your manager to help keep your strategic thinking goals accountable.

4. Decision diary:

In most of life you can control the process of strategic thinking and not the outcome. Therefore, you should analyse past mistakes and importantly past successful decisions because it’s useful to analyse the process and ultimately this helps make your strategic thinking sharper over time.

Now what? Treat your decisions as learning opportunities. Keep a decision diary, record the rationale behind successful decisions and mistakes and take the time to learn from past decisions that you’ve made.

5. CAN framework:

Using the CAN framework to think about strategic decisions, can help eliminate a lot of wrong strategy. CAN is an acronym which stands for: 

  • Clear – am I clear about what I should spend my time and energy on today? 
  • Align - is the thing I’m doing today aligning with the long term goals that me, my team and my university/institution/agency/company has identified? 
  • New information – have circumstances changed since I put the plan that I’m following into place – is there new information that needs to be considered?
Now what? Use the CAN framework to get Clarity on goals, Alignment on your previously mentioned lists, New information on macro forces. Then re-orientate yourself to shift from short term to long term thinking.

6. Inspiration files:

Re-orientate yourself in that way, so that instead of just reacting and responding to things, you are proactively making choices to try to see things on the horizon. Planning in advance, and asking what is it that I can do now that can make it easier to get to that place tomorrow, helps switch the paradigm from short term to long term thinking.

Now what? Leverage your libraries’ collections/other library collections and quality sources to create an inspiration file on topics to inspire and help you reach future goals.

7. Multiple strategies:

When evaluating multiple strategies, the more upfront research you can do the better. It’s really useful to ask questions like – has anyone else been in this situation before and if so what did they do, and how did it work? And use that research to reverse engineer and to begin to see patterns that can help you make smarter choices about which approaches are more or less practical for you. Also figuring out what’s the smallest bet you can place, can allow you to test multiple strategies. This prevents you from wasting time and money on something half baked.

Now what? Lean into the LAI and its specific groups, libfocus, An Leabharlann and other good sources of insight and information in the Library and Information field. Use them to learn from the practice of others who have been in similar situations and carry out upfront research that can help answer relevant strategic questions. Also consider documenting and sharing your strategic activities with other Library and Information professionals so you can reciprocally share your practice for the benefit of the wider community. In addition, you could consider placing small bets to test multiple strategies to test and learn fast.

8. Goals:

The one most important thing a strategist should consider when making a strategy is the progression from the tactics and the techniques to the strategy, to the goal. What’s always important is to make sure that your strategy is in service of particular goals and to know what the goal is. Then it’s going to depend on the external circumstances and your analysis of that and there’s not probably one strategy that’s always the right one. It’s about putting out your feelers and understanding in a given moment what is right for that moment.

Now what? Make sure your strategy is in service of particular goals and understand what’s right in the moment. How it was before is not going to be how it is forever, the world is constantly changing, so developing current awareness is critically important.

9. Roadblocks:

The longer the goal the more room there is for unexpected annoying things to happen, like roadblocks. So make sure with the scoping upfront you devote enough time to research and conversations that ensure you’re less likely to be rattled when something unexpected happens. There are many ways to achieve a goal, it’s also important not to get wedded to just one idea.

Now what? Use this set of checklist questions to guide your strategic thinking upfront and leverage a reference librarian to help you find answers: What did it take for other people to achieve this goal? How long did it take them? What path did they follow? What did that look like?

10. Questions:

Library and Information professionals can encourage their directors/leaders/managers to be more strategic by periodically asking the right questions that foster a strategic thinking culture.

Now what? Practice asking your leaders the following strategic thinking questions:

  • Great I understand you want me to do x, y, z can you tell me more about the higher level objectives these tasks will help us achieve? 
  • Can you paint a picture for me of a year from now, where do you want to see our department and what does success look like? 
  • If we were able to win at one/two/three big things, what are the most important things for us to win at so that we can accomplish the goals that we want? Where’s the biggest leverage?

11. Shiny object syndrome:

Shiny object syndrome is essentially looking around and having FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) about what others are doing. But necessary strategic intervention is not about what others are doing it’s about whether market conditions have changed and weighing up do we need to change as a result of that. That’s the real question.

There wasn’t a market condition that necessitated Google plus and it’s now defunct. In contrast, taxi apps answered a need for better connections between consumers and taxi drivers and they digitally transformed that industry.

Now what? Start asking, am I looking at a change in technology, laws or government regulations or socio political morays that make something different? If yes then it’s probably worth a change in strategy, not just they’re doing that, so I should too.

Implications for Library & Information Professionals who want to build a sustainable strategic thinking habit:

After reading this article, complete Dorie’s Free Long Game Strategic Thinking Self-Assessment to assess where you are at.

Then leverage your new knowledge from the assessment and begin putting the 11 tips shared in this blogpost into practice.

Repeat the free strategic thinking assessment annually to track your progress and reflect on your journey to becoming a strategic thinker.

References and further reading on Dorie’s Strategic Thinking content:

Clark, D. (n.d.). The Long Game Self-Assessment. Dorieclark.com. Retrieved August 21, 2023, from https://dorieclark.com/reinvent/

Clark, D. (2021, October 26). The Long Game: How to Be a Long-Term Thinker in a Short-Term World. Next Big Idea Club. https://nextbigideaclub.com/magazine/long-game-long-term-thinker-short-term-world-bookbite/30275/amp/

Clark, D. (2021). Dorie Clark: The real reason you feel so busy (and what to do about it) | TED Talk. Www.ted.com. https://www.ted.com/talks/dorie_clark_the_real_reason_you_feel_so_busy_and_what_to_do_about_it

Clark, D. (2023, July 19). How To Make Strategic Thinking a Habit - With Dorie Clark | LinkedIn. Www.linkedin.com. https://www.linkedin.com/events/7084213438507311104

Clark, D. (2023b, November 7). How to make strategic thinking a habit. LinkedIn Learning | Login. Www.linkedin.com.

Clark, D. (2023c, November 7). Strategic Thinking. LinkedIn Learning | Login. Www.linkedin.com.

Posted on Thursday, August 24, 2023 | Categories:

21 Aug 2023

Reflections from winners of LIR's 2022 Show and Tell competition

Guest post by LIR HEAnet, Niamh O'BrienStewart Killeen

My experience entering and winning the LIR Show and Tell Competition 2022 by Niamh O’Brien 

I was having lunch with the Systems Librarian at my library when she told me about the LIR Show and Tell Competition. Having graduated from UCD with my MLIS in 2020, she suggested I enter. While I completed numerous projects throughout my MLIS, my work on the OER project stood out as an obvious choice for me. I had undertaken this project as part of my Service Learning module in college, and a year later, I returned to the same library to work full-time. This provided me with an opportunity to discuss my project and share insights into its benefits in transitioning from my MLIS into the field of library work. 

 OER PechaKucha from Niamh O'Brien 

As I created my presentation, I carefully sourced images and designed my slides to adhere to creative commons licenses. Recording the narration, however, made me realize that my initial script required extensive revisions to fit the format better. While I am content with the presentation I submitted, I acknowledge that there is room for improvement, particularly in the flow between slides to avoid stiff and awkward pauses. 

When I received the email informing me that I had won first place in the competition, I was absolutely thrilled! I eagerly looked forward to watching the other presentations that were uploaded to LIR's YouTube channel. As someone who has attended both online and in-person conferences before, I always enjoy watching presentations from other librarians who are new to the field. The LIR Show and Tell Competition proved to be an excellent platform for new librarians, and I'm excited to see the submissions for this year's competition. 

Reflecting on this experience, participating in and winning the LIR Show and Tell Competition was a significant challenge that ultimately bolstered my confidence as a presenter and strengthened my ability to concisely deliver a compelling presentation on a broad subject. Additionally, it led me to attend the LIR Seminar in DCU, where I had the chance to expand my network and connect with other librarians while learning about web security. 

Niamh O’Brien currently lives and works in Athlone, Ireland. She is a library assistant and provides ICT support to run the Laptop on Loan initiative at the Technological University of the Shannon. 




 LIR Show and Tell Competition Blog Post by Stewart Killeen 

Librarianship, and academic librarianship in particular, is in a constant state of flux, brought on by the rapid pace of change in digital technologies. Today’s professional librarian needs to be both proactive and dynamic to respond to and reap the full benefits of these changes.  


When in September 2022 I saw the advertisement for the LIR Show and Tell Competition (https://lirgroup.heanet.ie/index.php/lir-show-and-tell-competition/), I knew that this was an excellent opportunity to put my presentation and digital skills to the test. Not only that, but I would also have the chance to showcase my research into digital preservation and Irish institutional repositories to the wider library community.  

 After familiarizing myself with the requirements and instructions for entry to the competition, I set about researching the presentation format.  

 I take great pleasure in the art of storytelling, and the presentation format relies on the power of pictures or images to tell one’s story. As they say, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” However, choosing the right pictures to narrate the story of my research required me to carefully consider several important factors:  

  • the aims, methodologies and rationale behind my research question  
  • the salient points to convey in the presentation  
  • the content and quality of the images chosen and  
  • The expectations of my audience.   

It was also essential to ensure that I used images that had an open license. Google images provides a handy tool to search for images in the creative commons (https://creativecommons.org/) using their advanced filter fields while there are many websites on the world wide web that provide images with open licenses.  

 Once I had chosen the images, I then had to write corresponding text to bring out their full meaning. Before finally recording my presentation, I added alternative text to each of the images and turned on the text-to-speech feature in PowerPoint.  

Institutional repositories and long-term digital preservationPechaKucha from Stewart Killeen

Recording the presentation was, I admit, the trickiest part of this journey. It demanded of me a little learning and sometimes a lot of frustration. However, with a little trial and error and several minutes of how-to videos on YouTube, my entry to the LIR Show and Tell competition was ready: Institutional repositories and long-term digital preservation (https://youtu.be/qt12lRFmuQ8).  

 Participating in the LIR Show and Tell Competition was both exciting and challenging, and it ignited many creative sparks. There are so many free resources available on the internet to choose from which will undoubtedly help you. Practice a few times before finally submitting your entry, but most important of all, have fun. 

 Stewart Killeen is a recent graduate of the MSc in Library and Information Management with Dublin Business School (DBS). He took up a position as a Library Assistant with Technological University (TU) Dublin during his studies and is currently the Senior Library Assistant on the Blanchardstown campus. He thoroughly enjoys working in an academic library, especially as it allows him to engage with a diversity of information needs.  




The LIR HEAnet User Group for Libraries is running its very successful Show & Tell competition once again. 

This time we have opened the competition up to all early career library staff with five years or less experience of working in library environments on the island of Ireland, as well current LIS students and/or recently qualified library professionals from LAI or CILIP accredited institutions. 

This competition provides you an opportunity to showcase your work to the wider library community. We are interested in hearing about any research or collaborative projects/ initiatives you have contributed to, or are currently engaged in. 

If you would like to improve both your presentation and communication skills this competition is an ideal platform to make an impact. 

We would like you to record a PowerPoint presentation (maximum of 5 minutes), following a template. 

Prizes will be given to the top 3 submissions (vouchers) and participants can win a LIR branded hoodie. A selection of videos will be showcased on the LIR Group website. 

For more information, visit LIR Show and Tell Competition 


16 Aug 2023

Conul Conference 2023 Report: Brian Bredin

Post by Brian Bredin from the University of Galway Library who was awarded a bursary to attend the 2023 CONUL Conference. All the images featured in this blog post were captured by the author.

Shows a conference poster with the title UCD Library Outreach
UCD Library Outreach: Signs of Sustainability conference poster

I have just completed my second year of the LIM course at Ulster University, and it’s been bit of a whirlwind experience. I was about three weeks out from my final deadline when a colleague on the course mentioned the CONUL student bursary. Already in writing mode I applied, not thinking I’d hear anything about it again. So, I was really delighted to receive the fantastic news that I was lucky enough to be one of the recipients.

This year's conference was held in the Clayton Silver Springs in Cork, and what a fantastic first day it was to have a conference. Beautiful sunshine greeted the attendees, and a warm atmosphere surrounded the event. Lovely garden furniture on the lawn allowed old friends to catch up in the sun and the bright and airy event halls were lovely and cool settings for the talks and exhibitions.

This year's conference title was Sense and Sustainability: Environmental, Economic and Social Sustainability and what academic libraries are doing in these areas with some fantastic speakers and leaders in the field presenting their findings and information.

There were some excellent and very professionally produced posters in the entrance foyer for the poster competition, really excellent examples of some of the work being created by academic libraries around the country.

Shows a conference from Glucksman library with the title Inter-library loans and sustainability: not just good on paper
Inter-library loans and sustainability: Not just good on paper
Conference poster from Glucksman Library, University of Limerick
Fiona Morley and Sandra Collins gave their welcome speeches and introduced the event to those gathered, then introduced the first key speaker, Rebekkah Smith Aldrich. Rebekkah gave an incredibly engaging speech about the greatest challenge facing the world today, climate change, and what we all, especially librarians, can do to shift the balance. Rebekkah is obviously very passionate about sustainability, and she had the audience riveted with her laid-back style and the important message she delivered. She certainly got the conference off to a buzzing start and her thought-provoking presentation really got people talking.

There were several super presentations from academic libraries from around the country, the standout for me being from UCC’s Martin O’ Driscoll who spoke about some of the measures UCC library has taken in reducing its carbon footprint. It was a glimpse of what can be achieved with proper strategic planning and well-thought-out communication methods.

Day 2 started with another engrossing presentation, this time from Steven Gonzalez Monserrate, CONUL’s second keynote speaker. He detailed the impact data centres are having on the environment and communities. It was a subject I knew very little about and found some of the information both disturbing and enlightening.

Workshops and show and tells were ongoing throughout the second day as per day 1, but I decided to stick with the “Lightning Talks” in the main Tivoli suite. These consisted of 4 speakers giving 10-minute presentations each, and the quick turnover meant it was easier to stay engaged and focused on the content. Questions were always encouraged at the end of each session, and this led to some good discussions.

All in all, it was a great first conference experience for me. A well-run event that had the advantage of beautiful weather on its side, combined with the relaxed atmosphere, it felt more like a social event than a work outing.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank CONUL for allowing me to attend the conference through their student bursary, it was a fantastic experience. I would also advise any students of LIM to get applying for bursaries as they are great opportunities to get out there and see how the industry works.


Posted on Wednesday, August 16, 2023 | Categories: