Deep South travelogue – Culture

We were recently back in the USA and had an absolutely fabulous time traveling across four states. Great food, hospitality, shed loads of culture and history, consistently warm weather – the Deep South has a lot going for it in my view! We didn’t do too much tourist stuff but here a few cultural highlights from Jackson, Mississippi. Foodie highlights coming in another post.

I hadn’t planned on visiting any libraries, but two serendipitously appeared on our programme. And by programme, I mean laid-back mooching around Jackson during the second week of the trip. My dad took us around Jackson State University, a historically African American university where he lectures and we got a tour of their recently refurbished library. The ground floor was revamped to be what would be termed a ‘learning/information commons’ here. They’ve dubbed the space ‘digital intellectual commons’ and it was primarily flexible study areas and zero book stacks (those are upstairs), and also a makerspace and an A/V recording area. Since it was summer it was quiet, but apparently it’s a buzzy atmosphere in term time. I loved all the colourful furniture and though I prefer a quiet study space, it would be great for group work. (Sorry for my poor quality phone photos!)


My sister took us to visit the Carroll Gartin Justice building which houses the Mississippi Supreme Court and the Mississippi Law Library. The building is a stunning, grandiose neo-Classical behemoth completed in 2006 (for better pictures click here). We took a peek in the beautiful courtrooms (I pretended I was in Law & Order) and we were given a tour of the State Law Library by the Librarian Stephen Parks. He defied all librarian stereotypes by being young, male and super friendly. The library is old school…I’m talking wooden desks, light gently filtering through big windows, brass sconces, and beautifully bound law books everywhere. The library serves all the State Courts, law school students and the general public. Stephen pointed out a framed photograph of a Victorian looking lady and said this was Helen D. Bell, the first female state librarian and, if I remember correctly, the first female state employee. The policy in the 1800s was that a man would be elected law librarian and then appoint a woman to actually do the job – until 1896 when Bell was elected in her own name. Way to go 19th century Mississippi feminists!

Another highlight was meeting Mr. Elbert Hilliard, living legend and director emeritus of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History (MDAH) where my sister works. I saw his signature on many a document when I was volunteering in the MDAH Collections department. And also I have to mention the wonderful Elizabeth Coleman, MDAH volunteers coordinator, and the reason for our visit that day who apparently has some aristocratic relations in the UK! I would love to stay in the family castle sometime, Elizabeth. Just saying.

We also got an aerial view of the two new museums that MDAH are currently building, the Museum of Mississippi History and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum, opening in 2017 to celebrate the bicentennial of Mississippi’s statehood. Exciting times! I can’t wait to visit when they’re open!

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My twin sister and I (can you tell who’s who??) in front of the Museum of Mississippi History (on the left with the columns) and Civil Rights Museum (on the right) linked with that glass bit.

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IAML (UK & Irl) conference 2016 – part 1

Last month I attended what I can barely believe was my FIFTH music library conference with IAML (UK & Irl)! A short trip across the Pennines in Manchester this year, I had a great time and seem to get more jobs to do every year with my Music Libraries Trust hat on and this year I also led a ‘quick-fire’ session on professional networking. To keep the post from getting too unwieldy, I’ve split it into two. This one is on the excellent marketing session titled ‘Effective Library Marketing and Methods of Demonstrating Value.’

Neil MacInnes (Manchester Libraries) gave a talk on the marketing strategy of Manchester’s library service. We all know about their capital investment programme having seen the beautiful Manchester Central Library, but Neil said they are still actively trying to improve the service and promote what he termed their ‘universal offer.’ He made the crucial point that even though public libraries are a statutory service, it is still a ‘service of choice’ and so needs promoting to and uptake by the community.

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Pretty! Image credit: ‘Branding’ by EdgeThreeSixty TM http://www.edgethreesixty.co.uk Flickr CC license.

Neil shared their six step marketing plan: 1) Brand – for a large public library system with many branches like Manchester, consistency was key. 2) Signage – with the introduction of self service, it became even more important to have clear, concise instructional signage. Neil also emphasised having positive messages rather than loads of signs with all the things you’re not allowed to do. 3) Customer segmentation and targeting (here’s where it got a bit jargon heavy!) – they researched community trigger points, i.e. what triggers people to start using the library in Manchester, for example starting studies or having children. They also plotted heat maps of who lives where and how various age groups are concentrated around the city. All of this information then helped to inform library services. 4) Promotion, programmes and channels – this aspect of the marketing plan included running events, collaboration with local partners and wider city-wide events (e.g. Manchester Jazz Festival), and promoting the library via social media. 5) Online presence and customer journey – this involved revamping their website along usability/user experience lines, basically making it easier to do things online. 6) Review of experience, feedback and data – probably everyone does a bit of this, whether a user survey or informal chat at the counter to get feedback. Neil mentioned a survey project where they got teens to survey their peers in the library, which seemed to be an effective approach. My final impression was that even though this was quite an elaborate, multi-pronged and formal marketing plan for a very large, urban library system, there were points in each step that any library could take on board.

 

Next Penny Hicks (University of Manchester Library) shared on the topic of marketing campaigns that work and aren’t scary! She gave a bit of a marketing crash course and said marketing in a library context is about connecting with customers: finding out and supplying what they need, when they need it and supporting their work in a relevant, timely manner with appropriate training. Their marketing methodology follows this step by step process: robust research, identifying areas to change/innovate, remaining grounded in an understanding of the offer, identifying what success would look like, implementation, and evaluation. Simple, right??

She went on to give an example form Manchester University that helped flesh this out. They decided to ‘measure changes in perception’, and if I remember correctly, this is to do with figuring out if there is a gap in what library staff think students think about the library, and what students actually think about the library and whether this has changed since the last time they looked at this area. So they proceeded to do some customer journey mapping, and actually followed students around the library with a video camera as the student attempted to complete a task, such as finding a book. It turns out this simple task was far from easy, requiring much wandering around and repeatedly going back to ask directions from staff. The research prompted a painful realisation that the library needed to get back to the ‘core business,’ i.e. back to the basics of providing information that is accessible and well organised. The research resulted in changes to for example signage and more visible library staff wearing T-shirts that said “Ask me.”

Finally there was a Q&A with the panel. Neil responded to a question about promoting library services and said they’d done a campaign called ‘Meet the neighbours’, basically getting staff out of the library into the community. This was done through pop-up libraries on the high street and in businesses.

Another question about getting user feedback and survey fatigue prompted the panel to talk about strategies such as student ambassadors who can both give feedback and recruit their peers. Timing of a survey is important, e.g. don’t clash with the NSS. Penny mentioned the valuable qualitative feedback they’ve gotten from researcher groups.

So that’s your crash course in library marketing! Part 2 of the conference coming soon.

Academic Libraries Seminar 2016

I attended the Academic Libraries Seminar last Friday at University of Manchester which was part of the IAML (UK & Irl) annual study weekend (of which more to come). About 20 people were in attendance from various academic music libraries and conservatoires and now is an opportune moment to thank Geoff Thomason of Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) for organising the event! The seminar theme was library users, getting feedback from them and training them.

First up was myself giving a short talk on my dissertation research as part of my librarianship qualification at Northumbria University. I will be exploring user resource format preferences at Leeds College of Music Library and used the opportunity to start a discussion with participants about any trends they’ve noticed in their institutions in this area. Themes that came out were: music students’ format preferences are nuanced, for example CD issues are generally down, print books still preferred, and some students prefer digital scores for their portability; promotion and lecturer buy-in is a massive key to online resource success; online resources can potentially address complaints about opening hours since the virtual library is open 24/7.

Next, Anna Wright (RNCM) shared about their experience gathering user feedback via annual surveys. The current survey aims to gauge user satisfaction with library services and resources, user confidence in using the library, what type of resources they prefer and what they use from both library and, interestingly, free resources (e.g. YouTube). However the conservatoire as a whole is facing ‘survey fatigue’ and low response rates, so they are wondering how to improve this situation.

Richard Chesser (British Library) shared about their researcher training programmes. An important theme in his talk was the benefit of these programmes not only to the researchers, but also to the library since they generate evidence on user engagement and collection use, validate what they’re doing in terms of the custodianship aspect of their mission (i.e. our stuff’s being used!) and contribute to advocacy since the programmes are explicitly linked to one of the BL’s core purposes, research. The BL runs music research days for postgraduates which are very successful and intentionally made open to multi-disciplinary researchers. They also have initiated AHRC collaborative doctoral programmes, which Richard said were also a feedback exercise (finding out about current research and research methods in order to inform services) and also part of being visible and relevant.

 

Geoff Thomason (RNCM) talked about library inductions and the challenges we face in making them effective: timetabling (RNCM timetable theirs in induction week), making a good impression because it could be someone’s first visit, and what to cover when students are facing information overload. Geoff then shared an innovative approach they tried this year of using a giant-size snakes and ladders game to deliver library inductions. We also gave it a go! Geoff said gamifying their induction has been a successful experience because it got students involved when most of the other inductions had been lectures, it created a relaxed atmosphere so students contributed more especially international students, and the Q & A format provided opportunities to cover various issues, e.g. asking “Can I photocopy scores in the library?” opens it up to address a bit of copyright.

Finally Karen McAulay (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) gave a short talk about promoting collections and the idea of ‘performing your archive.’ She asked people to share examples and I’m afraid the only one I can remember in detail was Royal College of Music doing an annual concert using material from special collections and promoting is as such with the original items on display for the concert AND get this, no white gloves!

Library School – Data, Law and Ethics module

I took this module last autumn, one of the last two of the PG Dip. For my general post about my librarianship course, go here.

I had really high hopes for this module. I thought we’d get into all kinds of meaty issues I was really interested in like privacy, surveillance and censorship. We did address these issues and others, but at a very high, broad-brush level. The module had to cram a lot in, so I felt I got an overview of the main issues but little to no in-depth engagement. It also placed a big emphasis on legal frameworks so we covered a lot of laws and government policy which was fairly dry. I would have appreciated learning about a law, say the Copyright, Design and Patents Act (1988) and then delving into a relevant example that raised all sorts of uncomfortable questions and applications. There were some attempts to engage via activities you were supposed to do which were helpful, but I felt this classes’ subject matter would work better in an in-person context where you can have discussions.

The module was structured as a series of workbooks that we worked through with some discussion board posting online. There were two assignments to complete. One was a discussion board post on a legal case or area of legislation and the other was a topical essay or critical analysis of journal articles. I would have loved to do the essay, but in the end time pressure forced me to do the article review because I knew I wouldn’t have time do all the reading I wanted to for the essay. One of the articles on the approved list was about the library’s role in disaster preparedness and looked at how libraries met people’s needs after Hurricane Katrina in 2010 on the Gulf Coast (Braquet, 2010). This was obviously of personal interest to me (here’s my Katrina post) and I found that the study and others on this topic showed that libraries basically kept on doing what they do best in the midst of terrible situations, viz. providing quality information, internet access and a safe space for all. This was of great value to those communities and of course is now a major talking point on the value of libraries. See for instance this article about Baltimore public libraries remaining open during the riots last year.

Reference:

Braquet, D. M. (2010) ‘Library experiences of Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans flood survivors’, Libres Library and Information Science Research Electronic Journal, 20(1), pp. 1-23. Available at: http://libres.curtin.edu.au/ (Accessed: 7 Dec 2015).

Library School – Dissertation Study School

Last month I visited Newcastle and Northumbria University for the first time since starting my course in September 2014! The occasion was a one-day study school for everyone carrying on to do the dissertation. A lot of people in my cohort have stopped with a PG diploma, but a handful are carrying on along with others who have taken up the option to come back within 5 years to get the Masters.

After a very early start, I arrived in Newcastle in a sublime blizzard that saw me arrive to the campus thoroughly cold and bedraggled after the 20 minute walk. The day was worth with it though. It was a mixture of presentations from lecturers, meeting with your supervisor and free time to visit the library, research etc. It was brilliant to meet people in person and put faces to email addresses. The talks were also useful in outlining the dissertation, what’s expected and what are the crucial things to consider right now and as you go along. It was a good jump start to the whole process.

My topic is the “hybrid music library,” using my library at Leeds College of Music as the case study. The term hybrid library is used to describe the state of flux where most libraries have a mix of print and digital resources. Though the term seems to have fallen out of fashion in the last decade, dovetailing with an increase in literature on digital libraries. My aims are to explore the characteristics of the hybrid music library and whether we are meeting the needs of our users in terms of resource formats, for example print books vs. e-books. A major objective is to be able to make recommendations for future collection development policy.

Currently working furiously on my research proposal and reading loads of literature. I’ve found some similar studies from US libraries but nothing yet closer to home or from conservatoire libraries. What resource formats do you prefer?