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?

Library School – Collection Management

This is the second of two posts covering the modules I completed in Semester 2 (Spring 2015) of library school. The first was on the Organising Knowledge module. Here is my general post about the librarianship course.

Collection management is considered a core skill in the librarian toolbox and encompasses developing and maintaining collections (physical and digital), understanding your users and their needs, the actual selection, acquisition and processing of the items, and the promotion and evaluation of your collections. I enjoyed this module because it addressed the classic principles of collection management and also wrestled with tough/emerging issues in the field such as censorship, the hybrid library and preservation of electronic material.

The format of the module was similar to others where we had course workbooks to work through, discussion board posts and readings in the set textbook, Collection Development in the Digital Age (2012) edited by Maggie Fieldhouse and Audrey Marshall.

The book was on the whole very good. The chapter on outsourcing (D. Edmonds ‘Outsourcing in public libraries: placing colleciton management in the hands of a stranger’, pp. 125-136) and subsequent discussion board posts were thought provoking. The chapter addressed the growing trend of outsourcing collection development in public libraries.  Instead of library staff selecting, processing etc. new stock, this process is outsourced to save money. The arguments against outsourcing mainly centre on loss of local input in the stock selection process and homogenisation of stock across the country. In other words the concern is that outsourcing does not address local needs and that suppliers tend to choose only bestsellers with wide appeal rather than niche or local interest books. The entire chapter was very defensive, positioning itself from the vantage point of protecting a ‘core professional activity’ and described collections as the ‘heart of the library’. When collection-centric attitudes such as this continue to be held, I get seriously concerned for the future of libraries. Considering the severe cuts in public funding, perhaps it’s time to embrace some change and the chapter actually presents good evidence for the efficiencies and savings that can be made by outsourcing. Anyway off my soap box…

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Hybrid libraries = print and digital collections. Credit: ‘Kindle and a book’, by Mobil Yazilar. Flickr CC-A.

Hybrid libraries were another hot topic we discussed. ‘Hybrid library’ is the the term used to describe the middle ground we currently occupy between the print, hard copy environment of the past and the potential for library collections of the future to be totally electronic or digital. Hybrid libraries have both print and digital collections. In the music library, this is definitely the rule, as printed sheet music is still preferred by musicians over the current options for electronic music scores (e.g. digital music stands). A university library in Texas made headlines a few years ago as one of the first libraries with no physical collections (it’s all online). This however is still by and large the exception rather than the rule. The module underlined the conclusion that collection management is undergoing many changes as libraries shift their focus from being places to access stuff to places to learn. It will be interesting to revisit this topic in even 10 years’ time.

A quick word about the assignments. We completed a resource guide (bibliography) and report that addressed all aspects of collection management. I also included a Pinterest board as part of my resource guide, as it’s a good virtual browsing tool if you also include links back to your catalogue. We also had to submit a PowerPoint presentation that basically summarised the report, with the idea of it being something you’d use to persuade managers to develop your collection.

UK Libraries, visited more than cinemas? Yes!

I often get asked when I tell people what I do something along the lines of, “Do we still need libraries? Isn’t it all online nowadays?” I have yet to come up with a correspondingly short answer to that (it’s normally something along the lines of what about lack of access / skills / literacy / money?!) but I read today some compelling evidence that public libraries in the UK, despite declining visitor numbers year on year, get vastly more visits than other places that at first glance you’d think would run away with the figures. And this is all in the context of city council budget cuts and lay-offs of staff. So here is a “re-blog” of that information from the ever-informative Ned Potter’s blog.

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If libraries aren’t relevant in the digital age anymore, than neither are cinemas, museums, galleries, theaters, churches or professional football matches because libraries were visited much more than any of those last year. Was that what you expected?

Check out the slideshows Ned has put together with all of this information and the sources:

Sway: https://sway.com/zs95B67Qe9I30cS4

Slideshare: http://t.co/yXlEhrNrnZ

Library Advocacy Unshushed MOOC wrap up

I recently completed another MOOC (massive, open online course) entitled ‘Library Advocacy: Unshushed’. It was run by the University of Toronto Faculty of Information on the EdX platform. While targeted at information professionals it really addressed basic principles of successful advocacy that would be applicable in other sectors. The quality of the material was good and was supported by research. Numerous experts from library world and beyond also had slots where they weighed in and gave practical advice.

The course ran over five weeks but I think it took me about twice as long to complete all the material. Content covered included defining advocacy, perceptions and reality of libraries today, and planning and implementing an advocacy plan.

Here are some of the main points I’ve taken away from the Mooc and that I actually remembered several weeks after finishing without looking at my notes.

  • Tell stories – people resonate with and remember stories much more than data and statistics. Libraries have so many great stories to tell so we need to share them in our advocacy and use stats to support when needed.
  • Craft your message – what are you trying to get across to decision makers? It needs to be concise, memorable and relevant to your audience. Think elevator speech.
  • Link your advocacy to wider institutional goals – The course repeatedly underlined the fact that your message and advocacy goals need to be explicitly linked to your wider institution’s goals, objectives and/or strategy. This makes sense because why would leaders pay attention or allocate funds if what you want to do doesn’t align with their goals? This approach also gets away from simplistic “save the library” type appeals which, let’s face it, probably translate to “save our jobs”.
  • Plan who to target with your advocacy – the course distinguished between decision makers (those who actually make the decisions), influencers (people who have influence with the decision makers) and stakeholders (people who have an interest in the outcome but not necessarily a decision maker). Successful advocates need to build relationships of trust and credibility with all three.
  • Advocacy is a responsibility for everyone, not just the chief librarian or head of department.

Some other points taken from my notes:

  • Defining advocacy – it is rooted in relationships of credibility, understanding and trust. It’s a long term commitment and requires communication, passion and courage.
  • Avoid jargon in your message, speak in terms your audience will be familiar with, and link back to wider institutional goals.
  • Essential concepts to tell decision makers in your communications- 1) What libraries and librarians do that’s valuable, 2) Why it matters in terms of their values and priorities, 3) Why it’s urgent.
  • Position your library as a ‘value add’ by thinking about how you can solve the problems of your community/institution.

For more information on this Mooc, here’s a link to the EdX page.

The Twitter hashtag for the ‘live’ portion of the course was #la101x

A look at digital communications

I recently attended a brilliant workshop put on by UKeiG (UK eInformation Group, a special interest group of CILIP). The course was on digital communications and was run by Ned Potter. I knew Ned’s work from his excellent blog and Twitter, and thought the material would be applicable to my current work, so I asked to go.

The day course covered the principles of digital communications and a plethora of tools and apps. There was also space for feedback and to hear from course participants about their experiences. I wanted to highlight a few points I found most interesting and useful.

  • One my favourite tools was Padlet. It is described as ‘paper for the web’ and is essentially a virtual pin/notice board where anyone with the URL can post. Ned recommended it for interaction and getting online feedback, with the obvious library application being using it in library inductions. We used it in the session to give feedback (less scary than putting your hand up!) and then Ned could respond in real time. It was also neat to see what everyone had written and I could see it being useful in this respect for collaboration and team projects.
  • I got intrigued by a use of QR codes to promote e-books. A QR code is a “quick response” bar code that takes you directly to a website when you scan it with your smartphone (rather than having to type in the URL or Google it). The idea suggested was to use QR codes to link the physical and the virtual by putting a ‘faux’ book or place marker on the shelf where the e-book would be and have a QR code on it which then directed the user to the e-book. The only drawback is that you need a QR code reader app on your mobile for it to work. I’ll be looking into this one for our library so stay tuned.
  • Video is increasingly how people learn nowadays, according to Ned. Long handouts and wordy power points just aren’t as interesting. Enter video and the good thing is that now you don’t have to have specialist equipment or hire someone to create a great video for you because there are a number of free/cheap apps available. A few that were recommended were Videoscribe (creates whiteboard videos by animating your raw material), Adobe Voice (like a cross between slideshow and video) and PowToon (cross between Videoscribe and Adobe Voice). Ned also was singing the praises of YouTube as a way to amplify the reach of your videos. An example of videos in libraries was shared by a participant from a university library. They created a Vine (very short looping video platform) to quickly show how to use their photocopiers and put a QR code linking to the video on the photocopier.
Photo credit- Tom (Flickr CC-A license).

Augmented reality… (Photo credit- Tom, Flickr CC license).

  • Probably the segment with the biggest cool factor was augmented reality (AR). AR is when you view a real object using a smartphone or tablet which then adds ‘layers’ of information or interactivity onto the experience. AR is still in the pioneering stages, but there a lot of potential applications for teaching and learning. For example, an augmented reality app was recently launched at the College for users of our recording studios.
  • One final point about social media, Ned proposed that interactivity is the key way to grow your following. ‘Engagement’ is one of those buzzwords floating around university/library/project land now. I don’t know whether this is part of seeing how big an impact (another buzzword for you) you’re having or maybe it’s just valuable because it’s starting a dialogue with your community. Either way it’s something to think about and I’ve been experimenting with asking more questions in my work and personal social media outputs.