14 Dec 2023

The Lower Decks: A Symposium on Janeway and Open Access Publishing

This post includes the abstracts and streamed recordings of most talks delivered at the inaugural Janeway Symposium, which took place at Birkbeck, University of London on 7th and 8th September 2023.

The itinerary consisted of five panels: (1) Janeway/Open Library of Humanities Report (links one & two), (2) Innovative Uses of Janeway, (3) Content and Creativity, (4) Editorial Innovation and, (5) Open Access, Communities and Activism.

Ronan Cox, Jim Rogers and I had the opportunity to speak about the School of Communications Undergraduate Journal (panel 5: Open Access, Communities and Activism), published by DCU Library in partnership with the School of Communications.

Learn more about Janeway here.

12 Dec 2023

Libfocus Link-out for December, 2023

Welcome to the December 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 man wearing white gloves, the interior of a large library building, a woman sitting between library book shelves, a black and white photo of library staff with the text tiktok on it,  a word cloud graphic with the prompt: share one word that describes your feelings about the challenges/tensions of working with RDM, a picture of a woman

“Our job is to fight against entropy”: Narayan Khandekar on the Straus Center and the Forbes Pigment Collection
Read or listen to this interview with the director of the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies. Learn how the center's research reveals the artistic processes used to create the works of art in the Harvard Art Museum collection as well as the best ways to preserve them.

Margaret Kellerman, MRIA, Professor of Literature
Margaret Kellerman looks back at the year-long fellowship she completed at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library (NYPL). She describes her research and often moving discoveries among the papers of Irish literary figures Mary and Padraic Colum.

Exploring the challenges and opportunities of research data management (RDM)
Sobering summary of challenges that RDM practitioners face when they run data management services. Hope comes via imagining how a better RDM ecosystem could work.

Open access at a crossroads: library publishing and bibliodiversity
This opinion piece argues that the gold open access model is destructive to the knowledge production ecosystem by addressing the importance of bibliodiversity and the ways in which library publishing can contribute to sustainable and equitable knowledge production.

Developing a library strategic response to Artificial Intelligence.
As libraries move to adopt AI, it will impact services in different ways - a working document from IFLA provides considerations when developing a strategic response.

2024 guide to Instagram for Libraries
Social media platforms can provide a valuable form of outreach for libraries - here are some tips to maximise the audience.

Not your mother's Library: how libraries are evolving
With resources that range from teaching kitchens to 3D printers, libraries across the U.S. are innovating to meet the changing needs of urban communities.

2023 Holiday Gift Guide for Librarians and Book Lovers.
It's that time of the year... Holiday gift guide for librarians and book lovers.

Low level of expenditure on Irish language books in libraries ‘disgraceful.
Éanna Ó Caollaí looks at a report from an Oireachtas sub-committee looking into Irish language written media. It includes criticisms on library spending on Irish language materials and the absence of a dedicated Irish language policy in the National Strategy for Public Libraries 2023-2027.

How to teach primary source literacy skills in universities.
Read about primary source literacy instruction using Special Collections and how it is instrumental in teaching transferable critical thinking and research skills that help prepare students for their academic careers and real-life scenarios.

Everyday Evidence-Based Practice in Academic Libraries: Case Studies and Reflections.
Wherein Claire Walker Wiley, Amanda B. Click, and Meggan Houlihan collect solid, thorough examples of evidence-based practice across functional areas of academic libraries, including many evidence types in a variety of contexts. Five sections are under scrutiny: Understanding Users, Leadership and Management, Instruction and Outreach, Collections, Open Initiatives.

How American Librarians Helped Defeat the Nazis.
In war, as in everything, information is power. And for the United States and its allies in World War II, an epic battle from an analogue age that meant obtaining and transmitting by hand useful intel. This included information about the development of destructive new weapons - before the Nazis could prevent their enemies from getting it. Enter the librarians, tapped by US government officials to help in this effort. These librarians adopted technology from other fields to photograph an array of documents, including those that were rare and/or archival, and found means of sending them across continents. They used both microfilm and microphotography - technologies that came to play a key role in the wars of the twentieth century.

27 Nov 2023

Creating Engaging Fire Safety Resources - Reflections from a new Library Assistant

This blog post by Declan Synnott from UCC Library was highly commended in the CONUL Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Award 2023.

An early project
I began working as a library assistant in UCC Library in April, and like anybody would, I immediately
felt I had a huge amount to learn.

I was recently part of an ongoing Library initiative to improve our messaging and resources around 
health and safety in our buildings. I was tasked with creating engaging fire safety resources. This was 
a perfect chance for me to get to grips with my new role, and to get to know my new place of work.
It felt like an interesting and relevant project, and I was keen to get involved.

There is also a universal relevance to this project: all of us working in libraries must take health and 
safety into account. We must also consider the capacity of users to safely evacuate in emergency 

The planning stage
For this project, I had several things to consider.
  • for these resources to be engaging, I needed to make novel and accessible something which is probably not the most exciting or engaging.
  • These resources were to be used for self-training. Potentially a daunting prospect, but there was a useful freedom in devising training that would be engaging and approachable, to boil down the necessary information into a user-friendly format.
With these considerations in mind, I decided to make video tutorials. These would have value added
through an interactive quiz, via H5P software (short for HTML5 Package, a tool for easily creating 
interactive content). My next consideration, then, was how to structure the video to ensure it was
informative, engaging, and accessible.

I began storyboarding using existing resources on fire safety procedures, took several walks around 
the building to tour its fire exits, and examined floorplans, attempting to view the relevant 
information through the eyes of the least informed library user, i.e., the user with the greatest 
learning need.

A screenshot from one of the fire safety videos highlighting the emergency exits on one library floor.

Building the video: keeping faith in trial and error
With a script written and approved by the University Fire Marshall, I had a view of the core learning
objective ‘what do you do in the event of a fire, or a fire drill, when in the library?’ I could then build 
from this, (though I was working on the basis that trial and error might guide the project still.)

As I had chosen a video format, the logical progression for me was to show a video of each fire exit 
being entered and followed to its route out of the building. I eagerly set to filming, capturing a 
panorama of the space surrounding each exit, and capturing the routes to safety. I gathered my 
video files and set them into a structure: the floorplan zooms to each exit in sequence, then cuts to a 
video of this exit being utilised. This sounds logical and useful; however, after reviewing a draft video 
in this format, I found it was not very engaging. I found that as the video moves through the footage 
of exits being followed, the pace lags and I imagined the audience’s attention dwindling.

I am a firm believer in trial and error in creative endeavours, and I now had my first problem to set 
about solving. I returned to the library website to study the existing floorplans, observing how they 
are set up with interactive hotspots showing relevant areas (Library Floorplans: Q+3). I decided to 
use a static image of the exits in their locations, and of anything relevant such as an emergency 
phone. I set to constructing another test video, this time, the pace was more engaging, and it felt 
easier to parse the location of each exit. The video was now three minutes long, which, crucially, felt 
like a digestible length, without needing to rush essential information.

A look at the video project in construction

The voiceover brought its own considerations, I was certain it wasn’t as simple as reading a script. 
Once I began recording, it quickly became apparent that there was a certain tone of voice needed, 
certain inflections and stresses in relevant areas, and an awareness that I needed to sound 
approachable, engaged and calm.

I found the process of recording the voiceover interesting; aspects of the script needed to be 
tweaked, as things needed re-wording to be clearer when spoken aloud, and syllables became 
important. Some language was simplified, and instructions were adjusted to be clear and linear.

Conclusion: reflecting on the finished product
With a successful first video, the next challenge was replication, as I decided to make a video for 
each floor of the library, allowing time and space to give a comprehensive overview and allow for 
discussion of the intricacies of each floor.

In all, I enjoyed making these resources.

As a new library staff member, it was a useful means of getting to know the physical space, and to 
begin to gain in-depth knowledge into the various procedures in place. As I have a background in 
video editing, I enjoyed working on something functional, to use my existing skills to build a learning 
tool. At the time of writing, these videos are set to be integrated into the library website, and they 
will become part of the orientation material for students in September. 

I’m really looking forward to seeing my work on the library website. And hopefully seeing them used by others The format of these videos is clear and linear, it could be applied to any library building or a similar approach could be adopted, using an instructional video with a built-in quiz to test users' knowledge of fire safety procedures.

21 Nov 2023

Bringing Collections to a Wider Audience - Digitisation @MU Library

This blog post by Bridie O'Neill, Edel King and Laura Gallagher from Maynooth University was highly commended in the CONUL Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Award 2023.
The Digital Publishing and Data Services (DPDS) department in Maynooth University (MU) Library purchased a new Zeutschel scanner last year. After training on the scanner and its accompanying software, Omniscan, we paid a visit to the National Library of Ireland to view their scanning suite. We have since received some reprographic requests from universities. In this blog, we will detail how we fulfilled these requests using the scanner as well as our DSLR camera.
Digitising using the DSLR camera
We received a request to digitise the Bloomfield maps of the Loughton & Redwood Estate by MU's Arts and Humanities Institute. The maps consisted of 34 maps and ledgers dating 1836-1840. The maps were oversized so we chose the digital camera as the best medium to digitise the maps.

Image from the Bloomfield collection
We ran tests using different exposure settings to gain the depth of field required for the maps. We placed the maps on the floor supported by backboards and the copy stand was adjusted to allow the maps to be photographed.
The best exposure for the maps could be gained from turning off the overhead fluorescent lights and engaging the flash function on the camera with even tungsten lighting. We documented all our findings for future use. 
The photographs were captured and saved as TIFF format. The files were then converted into JPEG format to assist data transferring and ease of editing.

Using the camera and copy stand
Digitising using the scanner
We received a reprographic request from an academic in Durham University for the digitisation of a 1595 book called Essais de Michel de Montaigne. This was the first request we received where we could properly utilise the scanner.

Image from Essais de Michel de Montaigne
The scanner has some excellent features. One of these is Interleaving. Interleaving allows you to scan one half of the book entirely, for example solely the right-hand pages. After that, with Interleaving mode on, you can scan the left-hand pages. Interleaving puts each scan in its correct place automatically so that page 3 is followed by page 4 etc.
We found this feature useful when scanning the Montaigne book. It allowed us to set the book on the scanner with the relevant supports, scan one half of it and then set up the other half.

Interleaving equipment
The requestor wanted a full view of the book including the spine and leaves. These areas were not possible to capture using the scanner, so we took the images using our camera and then worked on them using Photoshop.

Spine of Montaigne
We created a proper file structure. Images are scanned as TIFFs, then copied into another chosen format. For testing purposes, we used one folder for all formats. As we would only be sending one version to the requestor, we separated formats for each project so that everything was more easily accessible.

Using the scanning software
Teams has proven to be a useful collaborative tool. Creating a channel or folder and either uploading or copying the files to that location means that the files are available for the team to work on no matter where they are. It also provided us with a useful location to store backups.
We purchased some book supports for digitising which are useful to us with regard to handling of the sometimes fragile material.

Book supports that we purchased
We are currently working on a curatorial request to digitise the Wardell Archive, housed in our Special Collections and Archives department. This collection comprises the personal papers of the Wardell family, which are mainly letters and are handwritten front and back. This project has over 600 items.

Image from the Wardell collection
As the collection is so vast, a good naming convention is vitally important so that once all the letters are digitised and converted from TIFFs to JPEG, they are easily identifiable and easy to ingest into our Digital Library. For example, Item 1 in Wardell, a handwritten letter with writing front and back was named PP2- 1-001 (front) and PP2-1-002 (back) to clearly identity that the item generated 2 scans. We used a naming feature set up with the OmniScan software which allows the user to name each scan they digitise on a project.
We use colour cards beside each item and a grey back board underneath. This allows for the requestor to see the full depth of the paper and the ink used in writing.
The feedback we received on the digitisation of our projects to date has been extremely positive. Digitising allows academics and researchers to see items without having to access the original item. We are looking forward to working with both the camera and scanner on future reprographic projects.

16 Nov 2023

Libfocus Link-out for November 2023

Welcome to the November 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 6 images: A line of people standing in a room; a warmly dressed woman and child reading at a table; a black bird sitting on a white triangle; the inside of a library building; the text cc in a circle surrounded by black cartoon figures and a woman sitting at a desk looking at the camera
Images featured in this month's libfocus link-out articles

The real impact of #BookTok on library circulation
Aline Zara crunches the numbers on how BookTok affects the circulation of backlist titles (titles that have been on the market for 1 year+) in Canadian public libraries.

Let ‘No’ be ‘No’: When Librarians say ‘No’ to Instruction Opportunities
Anna White looks at when, why, and how librarians say no to additional instruction opportunities, and whether we even feel comfortable saying no in a professional capacity.

Understanding CC Licenses and Generative AI
Creative Commons address some common questions, around CC Licenses and Generative AI, while acknowledging that the answers may be complex or still unknown.

Most libraries in UK to provide ‘warm banks’ again this winter
Library service schemes offering free, heated spaces last year in response to the cost of living crisis will resume at the end of October.

Sci-Hub presents a paradox for open access publishing
Sci-Hub has provided a popular, if illicit, access route to much of the scientific record. However, as unintended consequence being included in Sci-Hub decreases the Open Access citation advantage of publications.

Quantifying Consolidation in the Scholarly Journals Market
The market of scholarly journals has significantly consolidated since 2000 — when the top 5 publishers held 39% of the market of articles to 2022 where they control 61% of it. The data shows that the biggest companies get bigger, and smaller publishers seek the shelter of a larger partner.

Ensuring a vibrant future for LIS in iSchools
A recent paper examining how we can best position our research and education programs to lead the information field and future of libraries.

Feeling lonely? Go to the library
There is a higher demand for third spaces outside of the home and office where people can gather and libraries might be the answer.

Paying more attention to the health and social benefits of libraries is overdue
In this article Canada's Globe and Mail health columnist, André Picard talks about how public libraries have become essential community hubs. How can we help them flourish when their funding doesn't reflect the vital services they provide and they're struggling to meet demands?

Meet the University Librarian: Elaine Westbrooks on what her job entails, her vision for the Library—and what she’s reading for pleasure these days
In this article, inspiring University Librarian Elaine Westbrooks talks about her role, what makes Cornell University Library special and her vision for its future in the face of considerable challenges. 

The Evolution of Library Workplaces and Workflows via Generative AI
Wherein Mohammad Hosseini and Kristi Holmes reflect on how libraries and their existing workflows are evolving alongside the rise of generative AI.

Identifying key factors and actions: Initial steps in the Open Science Policy Design and Implementation Process
Wherein Hanna Shmagun and colleagues endeavour to understand and classify the factors influencing the adoption of Open Science. They propose possible actions for decision-makers to develop relevant policies.

14 Nov 2023

“Brewing up a storm” – Outreach to develop your professional profile

This blog post by Catherine Ahearne from Maynooth University was highly commended in the CONUL Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Awards 2023.

What professional growth means to me is, it is an active process and that involves more self reflection that I had realised. As someone who had lived by the phrase “self-praise is no praise,”  looking back at my career and truly examining it, is difficult. Aware of the library experience gap  in my C.V., my career path has not been a linear nor smooth one. I have worked in Law, Public,  Tax and Academic libraries, but have also done several years in an administrative role for one  the big 4 four accountancy firms. I worried that this would put me at a disadvantage when  compared with my library peers. But when I looked closely, I could see the transferable skills  that I bring to my library role. This also allowed for me to notice and focus on my weaker areas,  treating the process as a needs assessment if you will.  

I have spent the most recent part of my career looking at my professional development so that I  can progress and succeed in my position to the best of my ability. I have obtained the Associate  of the Library Association (ALAI), participated in conferences as a poster presenter even  speaker. But what I have had to acknowledge is that I qualified more than a decade ago and  through my various roles I have seen how much the profession has changed in that time. A  professional profile for librarians is now a crucial element of professional development. But  how do we create this? Networking is one way of building relationships with others in our field  allow us to share ideas and experiences. Outreach is a tool that not only benefits your  institution but also you on a professional level.  

Picture of the Russell Library taken by Catherine Ahearne  

The outreach experience that I am going to share is writing for RTÉ Brainstorm. An email was  sent to the Special Collections & Archive team based on our MU Library Treasures blog  exposure, that the editor of RTÉ Brainstorm Jim Carroll was available to talk to any of the team  who might interested in writing for RTE Brainstorm and can help define a story with them. 10- minute one-to-one feedback sessions were organised. The feedback sessions enabled staff to share an area of work with the editor. And receive suggestions on generating an angle for the story.  

Map taken from John Hall’s, Tour through Ireland: particularly the interior & least known parts (London,  1813)  

I went to the pitch a little unsure if I would be able to provide something that would be of  interest to Brainstorm. My pitch was about the opinion and attitudes of the Irish as expressed  through the travel guides of the 18th and 19th century. The Pitch was successful, and I was given  a word count and deadline. I began to write; I had some trusted colleagues review some of my  early drafts. Up to this point anything that I had written had been for a specific audience, “the  library world,” so before submission I asked the communications officer to review, and she  made some extremely helpful suggestions that would allow the blog to have an appeal to a  wider audience than just those interested in Special Collections. The 15th of March saw my blog  go live, People drinking whiskey, porter and punch” Travellers to Ireland and their thoughts on  the Irish”.   



Illustration “An outside jaunting car in storm” by Daniel Maclise is from John Barrow, A Tour round  Ireland through the sea-coast counties in the autumn of 1835 (London, 1836). The title page is from the  same publication.  

This exercise in outreach not only highlighted my profile within my own institution, but also  gave me positive feedback, and an opportunity to engage with academics about the blogs  success. Another benefit of completing the blog was that it allowed me an opportunity to  promote my colleagues that also write for our own blog “The Maynooth Library Treasures and  the celebrate the rich collections of the Russell Library. In recent weeks, the article has been  promoted again by MU Spotlight on research. My advice for anyone interested in developing  their professional profile is to take the opportunities you are offered; you need to be seen to be  heard. You can use these to gain experience, increase your confidence and as a form of  continuing professional development. 

7 Nov 2023

Unlocking Voices: DCU Library Creative Writing Competition and the Mountjoy Education Centre

This blog post by Grace O'Connor from Dublin City University was highly commended in the CONUL Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Awards 2023.

Since 1999, DCU Library has hosted an annual Creative Writing Competition for participants of adult reading and writing schemes in North Dublin. It aims to reward those who have returned to education to improve their reading and writing skills. Each year we receive entries from more than 12 literacy groups in North Dublin.

Library staff volunteer to participate in the judging and organisation of the competition, and an awards night for all writers and their friends and family is held each year. There is one overall winner announced by a guest judge, and 10 commendations given.

The competition has a real impact on winners, some of whom decided to pursue writing as a full-time career, or complete their Junior Certificate English exam.

Guest Judge Sophie White addresses attendees at the 2023 DCU Library Creative Writing Competition Awards Night in O’ Reilly Library Pic: Eilís O’ Neill

Involving Mountjoy Education Centre

In 2023, we once again emailed all eligible writing groups seeking submissions for this year’s competition. For the first time in the competition’s 24 year history, tutors from Mountjoy Prison Service got in touch to submit entries from members of the City of Dublin ETB Mountjoy group.

The aim of the CDETB service [in Mountjoy] is to help prisoners cope with their sentences and prepare them for release, and particularly to offer them the opportunity to discover and develop new potential within themselves.

“Everyone has a story to tell, and it’s [on] that basis that I run the creative writing classes” says Margaret Hannigan, an English teacher in the Mountjoy education centre. Margaret has taught here for 24 years and is always looking for different competitions and writing festivals for her students to enter. It was through a new colleague, Christine Smith, that she heard about the DCU Library Creative Writing Competition.

Christine Smith has only worked with the Mountjoy Education Centre since October 2022, but prior to this had been a tutor Cabra Adult Education Service, where she tutored many previous entrants and winners of the competition. She was aware of the positive impact it had on her students and their confidence as writers, so she was keen to have her new students in Mountjoy participate.

Anonymous Judging for Fair Evaluation

Judges receive the stories anonymously, with all author and writing group details removed, so they can judge the entries on their own merits. However, entrants' names and details are recorded on entry forms, and any shortlisted writers are asked to attend the awards night to read their story. All stories along with the entrant’s full name are included in a booklet for attendees to take home.

Navigating GDPR and Confidentiality

In a phone discussion about the entries, Christine let us know that because of GDPR/confidentiality reasons, only the first names of the finalists should appear on the booklet, website and on social media. It wasn't difficult to accommodate that, but we had to be careful with aspects like the certificates all shortlisted entrants receive, which were photographed showing the surnames of the finalists. These were removed from the images before posting them on the website and on social media.

Mountjoy Education Centre tutor Clare O’ Connell accepting the Creative Writing Award from author Sophie White, on behalf of her student Dermot Pic: Kyran O’ Brien/DCU

We understood from the start that the finalists from Mountjoy Education Centre wouldn't be able to attend so Outreach librarian Eilís O’ Neill encouraged the tutors to invite their family and friends to register to attend, to represent them on the night. While Christine suggested playing pre-recorded readings, it was decided that live readings would create a more engaging experience for the audience. Thus, the CDETB Mountjoy tutors presented the finalists' entries on the awards night, and recordings of the writers reading their own pieces were made available on the library's website.

 Standout Entries and Performances

Julie, a library assistant who has been judging the competition since its inception, finds that the personal stories resonate deeply with her. She noted that the 2023 entries exhibited a raw quality, providing profound insights into the authors' experiences. Among the exceptional submissions, "Surprise" by Dermot emerged as the clear winner, captivating the judges with its compelling narrative. Library assistant and judge, Alana, praised this story for its ambition and execution. Alana also particularly enjoyed hearing the audio recordings of the authors from Mountjoy Education Centre reading their stories. She said of one (Hardcore by Eric) “...while I read this poem initially as a stand-alone piece of writing, I think this post- competition performance emphasises the art of language and how some stories sing once performed orally.”

The 10 runners up and winner of the Creative Writing Competition 2023. Runners-up from Mountjoy were represented on the night by their tutors. Pic: Kyran O’ Brien/DCU

Fostering Connections

The competition held special significance for Margaret, as one of her learners became a runner-up, receiving a certificate, book voucher and a DCU Library tote bag. Margaret expressed her delight at this achievement and eagerly looks forward to entering the competition again next year. Recognising the value of the creative writing classes at Mountjoy Education Centre, DCU Library seeks to foster a meaningful relationship with the institution. As a gesture of support and appreciation, the library has been invited to attend one of Margaret's creative writing classes in the near future.


Listen to the winning 2023 story via the Youtube link here: Surprise by Dermot


25 Oct 2023

Cataloguing an Archival Collection of Private Papers

This blog post by Selina Collard from University College Dublin was highly commended in the CONUL Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Awards 2023.

As a trainee archivist undertaking the MA in Archives and Records Management in UCD, and working in UCD Archives, I have been learning how to catalogue archival collections. My colleagues worked on collections from the Royal Irish Academy for their cataloguing practice. As I work in a busy archive, I worked on two unprocessed collections in UCD Archives.

Archival collections consist of original and unique material which require careful handling to ensure their survival far into the future. There are professional standards and best practice procedures for processing archival collections that archivists carry out daily, in collection management (preservation and access), and archival cataloguing (arrangement and description). The aim of archival cataloguing is to establish physical and intellectual control of a collection to make it accessible for research.

Shows a sponge, a plastic tub full of paper clips, a roll of ribbon and a brush
Archivist's tools: Smoke sponge, plastic paperclips, cotton ribbon and a cleaning brush

The collections I have worked on consist mostly of paper records from c.1900 – 1960s. When beginning a cataloguing project some basic preservation work is carried out to prevent the papers from deteriorating. Metal fastenings are removed, as these rust, and are replaced with plastic alternatives if necessary, or cotton ribbon to keep bundles of papers together. Cleaning may be required, using a smoke sponge to remove dirt, and a soft brush to remove surface dust or rust. Folded items are usually flattened using weights, as paper often tears along creases.

Archival arrangement involves identifying which materials belong together, putting them into a logical order (although we try to maintain the original order where possible) and assigning a hierarchy.  Broad subjects are arranged as a series high up the hierarchy, with more specific topics arranged as sub-series or files beneath, and single items at the bottom. 

Shows seven paper documents that have a mix of handwritten and typewritten text on them.
A file of documents written by Michael Collins (UCDA P342/4)

Detailed descriptions of the materials are written to create finding aids so that researchers can discover what is in the collection, and reference numbers are given to each file and item so that the archivist can retrieve the material and researchers can give accurate citations.   

Shows a page with typed text on it beginning with: P342/4, 1919-1921, 7 items, items from Michael Collins
The catalogue entry for the items from Michael Collins

Papers are stored in acid free archival folders to keep them secure and to help preserve them.  The reference numbers are written at the top of the page in pencil, and on the front of the folder, so that the items can easily be identified and matched to the finding aid.  The folders are then housed in an archival box, which is labelled, and stored in a strong room.  

An open grey folder containing handwritten documents clipped together and four brown labelled folders
An acid-free archival folder with four flaps and folders labelled with the collection name and reference numbers

Research forms a large part of a cataloguing project, as understanding the context of the papers is crucial for arranging and describing them. A biographical history of the person whose papers are being catalogued helps to make sense of the papers, for both the archivists and the researcher and is therefore included in the finding aid.

The provenance of the papers is very important.  As much information as possible is provided about how the papers came to be in the archive, this includes when they were deposited, who deposited them and their relationship to the person.  A record is made of any changes to the original order and the reason, and any conservation work carried out.  This helps to maintain the integrity and authenticity of the material.  

Papers housed inside a labelled box and rolling shelving storage inside the strong room

Collections can contain some unexpected items. I recently finished cataloguing the papers of Dr Robert Farnan (UCDA P342), which is a small collection with items relating to the 1916 Easter Rising, the War of Independence, and the Civil War period. I found an archival gem amongst these papers! I came across a sealed envelope with a handwritten note on the front:

Bullet removed from Right Radius of Tom Clarke first President Irish Republic. Feb 1916 by Dr F.

Writing on a brown piece of paper stating “Bullet removed from Right Radius of Tom Clarke first President Irish Republic. Feb 1916 by Dr F.”
UCDA P432/1

I was eager to open the envelope, but I didn’t want to cause any damage to either the envelope or anything else that might be inside.  Glue dries and turns brittle overtime, so most of the glue used to seal the envelope was unstuck, I carefully used a sharp scalpel to slice through the remaining glue.  This was a success, and I was able to retrieve the bullet which was wrapped inside a note confirming the information on the envelope. 

A metal bullet
Metal bullet (11mm x 6mm) UCDA P342/1

I used a very small archival box filled with cotton wool to store the bullet (see image below).

Discovering these kinds of items make being an archivist so interesting, it was very satisfying knowing that I was the first person to see the contents since the envelope was sealed.

An open box containing a metal bullet
The bullet is stored in archival box P342/1



Posted on Wednesday, October 25, 2023 | Categories:

23 Oct 2023

My work on the Crawford Art Gallery’s Library Catalogue Project

Libfocus presents another post for the CONUL Training and Development Library Assistant Blog Awards 2023. The author of this post is Mona Power, Library assistant at University College Cork.


In August 2021, I had the chance to work on a deeply intriguing project at the Crawford Art Gallery in Cork - cataloguing the contents of the gallery's library.

Yes, the gallery has a library. It is located in a part of the gallery which is not usually open to the public, in a beautiful wood-panelled room filled with cabinets and curios. The collection housed within these walls is a unique mix of modern and historic books, journals, and exhibition catalogues, accumulated over the course of the Crawford’s rich and storied past.

The Library Catalogue Project’s main objective was to create a complete index of this collection. This undertaking was driven by the gallery’s desire to make our cultural heritage more accessible, but also motivated by needing to prepare the gallery’s holdings for potential storage off-site during major upcoming architectural works.

This blog post shares my own journey as the cataloguer on the project, highlighting the project’s key objectives, our methodology, and some of the fascinating discoveries I made along the way.

Image showing "Pleiades" design by J. Flaxman, engraved by William Blake
"Pleiades" design by J. Flaxman, engraved by William Blake. From "Compositions from the Works, Days, and Theogony of Hesiod" (1817)


Working under production manager Kathryn Coughlan and with guidance from consultant librarian Marie Jennings, my role on this project was to catalogue the entirety of the library’s holdings - in excess of 3,000 items.

Our goal was to create a catalogue that catered to the specific needs of the Crawford Art Gallery's curatorial staff and researchers. To achieve this, I focused on creating information-rich records with particular emphasis on provenance such as inscriptions by artists, authors, and members of the Gibson 
and Penrose families. I also cross-referenced certain exhibition catalogues with the Crawford Art Gallery’s permanent collection, to highlight any mention of works or artists represented in it.

The project’s remaining key objectives were to identify duplicate copies of library materials, identify rare and historic volumes, and categorise and re-shelve materials by subject.

Also, the possibility that some or all library materials would be moved off-site required fragile materials be carefully preserved in acid-free tissue paper and archival grade boxes.

Image showing Hand painted colour plate from "The Botanical magazine, or, Flower-garden displayed." (1790-1800) by William Curtis
Hand painted colour plate from "The Botanical magazine, or, Flower-garden displayed ..." (1790-1800) by William Curtis

Marie developed the methodology for this project. She determined how many collections and sub-collections were required. She designed the library catalogue in Excel, using MARC 21 Format for Bibliographic Data, so that the completed spreadsheet could be later assimilated into a library management system.

We employed the Dewey Decimal Classification (DDC) system and several free cataloguing resources such as Library of Congress Authorities. Each volume received a specific call number derived from its collection, size, DDC number, and author's initials, and was shelved accordingly.


One thrill of the project was regularly discovering hidden gems in the collection. Many books in the Crawford Art Gallery’s library had been waiting in their cabinets, untouched and undocumented, for decades. Among them: books published by the Golden Cockerel Press, illustrated with exquisite wood engravings by the renowned Robert Gibbings; a first (and only) edition of Cork and County Cork in the twentieth century by Rev. Richard Hodges; an early publication of philosopher Edmund Burke's seminal work A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful.

Many books in the collection were ex-library books from the Cork School of Art
 (now the Crawford College of Art and Design), which at one time resided in the gallery’s building at Emmett Place. These books came with all manner of library stamps and donation labels, as well as marginalia, personal notes, and letters left behind by 20th Century art students.

Another unforgettable find was discovering a collection of prints by the artist Estella Solomons
, hidden at the back of a locked cabinet. These prints were considered missing from the gallery’s collection for some time. The joy of reuniting these works with the registrar was an unrivalled highlight, and a testament to the significance of our project.

Image showing A first edition of "The Year's at the Spring", an anthology of poetry illustrated by Harry Clarke (1920)
A first edition of "The Year's at the Spring", an anthology of poetry illustrated by Harry Clarke (1920)


Cataloguing the Crawford Art Gallery's collection of library materials was an enriching experience, made possible by a tailored approach and close collaboration with gallery staff. Recording provenance details, cross-referencing exhibition catalogues, and preserving fragile volumes contributed to the preservation and accessibility of the gallery's collection. The resulting catalogue will undoubtedly prove an invaluable resource for future generations of art enthusiasts, researchers, and curators. With the architectural works on the horizon, I am confident this project contributed to the safeguarding of the collection for the gallery's exciting future.

Image showing photo of book "A Mirror for Witches" by Esther Forbes (1928), with woodcuts by Robert Gibbings
"A Mirror for Witches" by Esther Forbes (1928), with woodcuts by Robert Gibbings.


Throughout the project, I had the privilege of working closely with Kathryn Coughlan and Marie Jennings. Kathryn's expertise and Marie’s guidance were invaluable in ensuring that the cataloguing process aligned with the gallery's vision and requirements.