What do librarianship and parenting have in common?

Working on a library counter and looking after a baby actually have a lot in common. Like what, you ask? Well let me tell you…

  • Constant interruptions – not much explanation needed really, the half finished labelling job/half empty dishwasher says it all.
  • Complex systems/information – library catalogues, online renewals, they can be complicated although there is a growing UX (user experience) movement in librarianship seeking to make library stuff work more better. In baby land, pretty much every thing is complex, mainly due to too much choice, but some things are just plain complicated. Cloth nappies, I’m looking at you.
  • Unsociable hours – library users and babies want a 24/7 service, simple as that.
  • Acronyms – DD, DS, DH, STTN, CC, RDA, OA, OPAC, LCSH.* Parents and librarians love our acronyms!
  • Dealing with puzzling problems – in the library this takes the form of inquiries. The book I want is not on the shelf – where is it? My singing teacher wants me to get the music for this piece, called (insert unintelligible foreign language song title here), I think it’s by Mozart, but I’m not sure. At home, there are lots of puzzles, the main one being, why is baby grumpy?
  • Manual handling required – Babies and books (and orchestral sets and scores and printer paper) require carrying around. Though I’ve gotten better results from baby power lifting.

What else? Leave me a comment and I will reply in four months. [Post originally drafted in October (four months ago)…]

*Dear Daughter, Dear Son, Dear Husband, Sleep Through The Night, Controlled Crying, Resource Description and Analysis, Open Access, Online Public Access Catalogue, Library of Congress Subject Headings

Music Libraries – do you still shush people?

A topical post as I am going to be attending the conference of the professional association for music libraries, IAML (UK & Irl) this weekend.

What is a music library and do you still have to shush people? The short answer is yes, yes we do still have to shush people! I remember telling the pupils at my previous job in a school library that I was leaving to work in a music library. The conversation went something like this:

‘I’ve gotten a job in a music library.’

‘What’s a music library?’ ‘What’s that?”Does it still have books?’ [They all tended to speak at once.]

‘It’s like this library only with music and CDs and stuff.’

‘Ohhhhh.”Oh right.”Ok.’


A pretty cool school library ‘The Unquiet Library’. Image Credit: CVHS Students Gather @ The Unquiet Library for the Roots Music Club Meeting, November 2011, Flickr CC.

So that in a nutshell is what a music library is, a specialist library (in the literacy, information, empowering people sense of the word) with music-related resources both physical and digital. My music library, being in an educational environment, is entirely focussed on supporting and facilitating teaching, learning and research. This could look like digital skills tutorials for students or getting in an orchestral set for a Stravinsky symphony a College ensemble is performing. We also provide a quiet study environment and PCs (hence the shushing) amongst many other things!

BBC Radio recently featured some music libraries in its ‘Music Celebrates’ broadcasts, notably the British Library Sound Archive and Manchester Central Library’s Henry Watson Music Library.

Some Leeds College of Music Library social media for you to follow:

Twitter @LeedsMusicLib

Facebook – Leeds College of Music Library

Pinterest – LeedsMusicLib

IFLA WLIC – Part 2

This is part 2 of my conference experience at IFLA WLIC last August. For Part 1 click here.* Again, it’s a long one but I blame that on their being too many fantastic sessions!

In addition to school library related sessions, the second thread I followed was the IFLA Trend Report. The Report was released at the 2013 WLIC and consists of five high-level, societal trends affecting the information environment. Information professionals devoted last year to discussion of the Report. This year’s Trend Report sessions were focussed on receiving feedback from the discussions across the world and thinking about how librarians and library associations will move forward into action and adapt to a changing information environment.


The Cultural Evening was great fun. It was held in a former sugar warehouse, very ‘industrial chic’. Highlights were trying oysters for the first time and attempting group dances that were directed by an animated Medieval chicken/creature/thing on the big screen!

IFLA by its nature brings together globally prominent, intelligent people and I felt quite privileged to hear their ideas, especially on the Trends. The President’s Session included a Trend Report component focusing on e-participation for strong information societies. Speakers addressed the Trends as a whole from the perspective of their sector, including digital and information literacy, publishing, parliaments, policy advocates, think tanks and the EU justice system. Interesting points raised included that libraries are well-positioned to build capacity in digital and information literacy (Trend 1), a hyper-connected society means more voices but also more ‘noise’ (Trend 4) and that there is a pressing need for data protection reforms to address the alarming possibilities of Big Data (Trend 3).

Another session I attended on the Trends was entitled ‘What’s next? Moving on from the IFLA Trend Report’ and was sponsored by the Management of Library Associations Section and FAIFE Committee. Each speaker addressed one Trend in order and I took eight pages of notes! David Souter (ICT Development Associates) highlighted the growing ‘dataification’ of government and business and asked, where does information power reside? Access to this data is an important issue as it depends on factors such as access to analytical resources, computer processing capabilities, etc. He saw the role of libraries in this area as institutions who can increase diversity in information and access. Pierre Dillenbourg (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne) spoke about online education and quipped that it will ‘democratise, maybe; disrupt, yes’. He saw potential in using MOOCs for teacher training and for training purposes in businesses. He proposed several theories on what the future holds:  that small universities could disappear, universities will lose the monopoly on higher education, and the future for open access is not looking rosy. He saw the role of librarians as resource managers in online education. David Greene (Electronic Frontiers Foundation) asserted that data protection was a human rights issue and described the alarming realities of digital life such as direct surveillance and the mass collection of data. He proposed that librarians should be advocates for privacy and data protection and libraries themselves should provide secure internet connections and use user data responsibly. Anniette Esterhuysen (Association for Progressive Communications) gave a fascinating talk on hyper-connected societies. Individuals have a voice now, but is there more noise online and who gets heard? She saw librarians as the ‘worriers’ for the public interest, agents for inclusion, facilitators of access and as challengers of power structures. In short librarians she said, echoing Souter’s talk, are human rights advocates. Finally Loida Gracia-Febo (IFLA Governing Board) talked about librarians facilitating knowledge exchange through new technologies. She saw librarians adapting to this trend by becoming experts on new technologies, connecting people, helping creators and contributing to sustainable development.


Rose garden in the massive park next to the conference centre.

The final Trend Report session I attended was held by the IFLA President-Elect, Donna Scheeder. There were a series of lightening talks from speakers representing the regions of the world and then we had round-table discussions. It was interesting to hear varying responses and priorities from the different regions such as infrastructure and internet access being a big issue in Asia and Oceania, Dutch libraries exploring reconciling the physical and digital, the USA pushing for policy change and in Africa, prioritising inclusive digital literacy, access, and IP ownership and indigenous knowledge. For the round table, the discussion was all about action. We discussed the need for library design and infrastructure to cater to an increasingly tech-saturated culture, e.g. having lots of plug sockets, sufficient bandwidth and also considering the environment and sustainability in design. Accountability was another theme:  we need to show the ‘value add’ that libraries provide, and not just in terms of money; senior managers need to release talented staff to do great and creative work; we need a clear, simple message and/or metrics for effective advocacy. Change was a buzzword on the table. Librarians need to change their mind-set and we need more variety of qualifications within libraries to address the changing information environment. We also need to understand our users’ needs and everyone agreed this entails getting out from behind the desk and talking to people! New definitions of ‘library’ were batted around including intermediary to knowledge and information, facilitator of learning and helping people understand their ability to build capacity. We then talked about what problems and opportunities faced IFLA, our national association and our local region. My main personal takeaway from this was that I need to embed myself in my school by getting out of the library and talking to teachers about what they need and how the library can help meet that need, e.g. information and digital literacy skills.


Collége La Tourrette, Lyon – this was their quad area.

On my final day I visited two libraries and several museums. I went on a tour of a local secondary school library at Collége La Tourrette. The school opened a year ago after an extensive refurbishment of the historic building. The library was spread across four rooms, which prompted a lot of questions about security of stock and staffing. The rooms were a mix of classrooms, IT rooms and the main library proper. I was interested in their set of tablets since we were looking into e-readers at my school at the time. The system they use is students have an ID which corresponds to a barcode on each tablet, but they cannot be taken out of school. I also visited the Bibliothéque Part Dieu, the main public library in the city. It was a busy place on a Saturday morning and I enjoyed their exhibition of ‘Trésors!’, showcasing treasures of the Lyon Municipal Library. I also got to visit the Musée des Beaux Arts and the Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation.


French Harry Potter books at Collége La Tourrette library.


Tablet storage trolley at Collége La Tourrette library.

I found this conference experience incredibly rewarding and want to thank the John Campbell Trust again for supporting my attendance.

*An adapted (and shorter!) version of these two posts appeared in CILIP Update October 2014.

Library A to Z

This week a great library advocacy campaign, the Library A to Z, is launching. As a backer of the project, I also wanted to do my bit by promoting it on my blog. The Libray A to Z is a simple concept really. They’ve created “a visual A to Z celebrating the wide range of services, resources and facilities that make libraries so fantastic.” This week a whole mess of important people and the media will be receiving the Library A to Z packs. Check out the website for more information and to access the materials which are available to share under a Creative Commons license. I’ve also got some spare postcards if you’d like one!

A is for access; advice; answers; archives; art; audio books…

An illustration created for the Library A to Z project www.libraryatoz.org by Josh Filhol. Images released under a CC by 4.0 licence.

An illustration created for the Library A to Z project http://www.libraryatoz.org by Josh Filhol. Images released under a CC by 4.0 licence.

Here are a few reasons (if you need any more) why I think libraries are fantastic, from my perspective as user and library staff.

  • ‘Third space’ – Working in a school library, I saw this aspect of libraries very clearly. The third space is somewhere that is not home or school where young people can go. The library while not exactly heaving after school still met a real need for students who needed somewhere to stay for various reasons and provided a safe and conducive place to do homework. Student groups would also use the meeting room space.
  • Literacy, especially digital literacy – No one would deny that libraries have a positive impact on literacy. Nowadays we talk about ‘digital literacy’ which includes online searching, digital know-how, and helping meet people’s information needs in today’s information society. It also covers issues such as authority/credibility and plagiarism. I’ve read about digital literacy in the news recently and in my studies. Research is showing that people struggle with digital literacy, yet it is highly desirable by employers. From first hand experience I can also attest that literacy is a huge focus in education now! The work that school (and other) librarians do in this area is brilliant, unmistakably needed and should be championed and expanded by leaders.
  • Facilitate and support knowledge and learning – This aspect of libraries has been so evident in my work in a conservatoire library. It is truly a living, breathing thing. Students come all the time to borrow sheet music to study and perform, books to support their learning in modules, CDs to inspire their creativity and to use the study spaces. We support many performances around the College by providing orchestral and choral sets, and even jazz vinyl for a guest DJ.
  • Place to save money! I love buying books, but it is nice to save some money by using my local library!
  • Place to discover new stories, authors, local news and events – My local library, as the local information hub, is a great place to browse new books and also learn about what’s going on locally.

But that’s enough from me, check out the Library A to Z, which puts this all together in a much more interesting and graphic way!


Report on NLPN Summer Event

I attended the recent Manchester New Library Professional Network (NLPN) Summer Event held in July in Manchester. This was my first NLPN event and I was thrilled to finally be able to make one! In their usual innovative fashion, NLPN shook up the traditional conference format. The event featured two speakers and then presentations from members on topics of their own choice. The aim was to give members an outlet to get presentation experience and I think this idea was very well received.

The theme for the day was employability and interviews. The first speaker was David Stewart, the NHS Director of Health Libraries North West. He was fantastic, down to earth, current and incredibly funny (I particularly remember his impression of a “vellum stroker” librarian and demonstration of appropriate men’s tie length….). He also brought a wealth of experience as a senior figure in librarianship who’d done loads of interviews and shortlisting/interviewing. Some points that stood out from his talk were:

  • Think about yourself and your career. What kind of job or sector are interested in? Are you mobile? Are you ambitious? That last one really got me thinking!
  • Register to do CILIP Chartership, even if you’re not planning to start straight away, as this can make an impact on an employer.
  • Each application must be crafted, yes crafted, from the person specification. If you don’t meet all the criteria, say how this job will give you that experience.
  • When it comes to interviews, it’s all about planning and preparation. Visit the organisation before, both to show your face and to find out where you’re actually going to avoid getting flustered and lost on the day. Be early in case another candidate doesn’t show. Proper preparation means you arrive as confident and calm as possible.
  • The loo’s, yes the loo’s are an important part of the interview. It’s your own handy dressing room!
  • We brainstormed an extensive “interview pack” list of what to bring to your interview including umbrella, charged phone, make-up, interview letter, originals and copies of documents like qualifications and IDs…
  • Be yourself (and friendly and interested) in non-interview scenarios such as tours. Watch out for using “We” when you mean “I”. When asked if you’ve got any questions, your backup one should be to ask about professional development opportunities.

Next were the three presentations from NLPN members. Evelyn Webster, a law librarian at Pinsent Masons LLP, talked about the process of moving her library. The moving process seemed to offer many possibilities (chance to weed stock, planning/customising/optimising new space) but also some challenges (unpacking when you didn’t pack yourself, figuring out where things will go when you’re moving to smaller space). Next was Helen Gaffney and Nicola Grayson, from University of Manchester, who talked about building a new learning development service. This was a really interesting look at how librarians are making a positive impact on students by training them up on various learning essentials. Finally Emily Wheeler, a library student, gave an inspiring talk on how she set up a Library Society at Sheffield University. Not only was this an experience that benefitted the university and raised the profile of libraries amongst students, it also gave Emily evidence of soft skills employers are after such as teamwork and project management. A highlight of her experience was protesting against library closures in Sheffield and getting the Students’ Union to approve a policy statement supporting libraries.

The final presentation was from Neil Donohue, Learning and Teaching Services Manager at Leicester University, on the interview presentation. Having never done a formal interview presentation, this was a new one for me (I’ve done a short presentation on a book to children as part of an interview before). His talk was structured around the different questions you might be given to present about, keeping in mind that the panel is looking beyond your answer to what skills and attributes you’ll bring to the job:

  • Action Question- “If appointed what would you do in the 1st, 3rd, 6th and 12th months to engage more students and staff in the library?” Key things to include were your vision, realism and a plan.
  • Scenario Question- “Feedback from a lecturer: ‘The library has nothing to offer my students’. What strategies and types of information would you use to change this attitude?” Key points were advocacy, knowledge and practical examples.
  • Knowledge Question- “Do students need libraries in the digital age?” Key points were showing knowledge, understanding and advocacy.

Neil also talked about practical aspects of presenting like deciding your key messages, less is more when it comes to slides, practice out loud in front of someone, and ask to see the room in advance. Also before you spend 90 hours on your slides, check what the weighting is and balance your prep for interview, presentation, etc accordingly.

Getting out on a very wet Saturday morning for this was definitely worth it and I even got to see all the costumed Comic Con folks! Manchester Comic Con was the same day, kudos to the Gandalf I saw.

Check out the excellent Storify of the day here http://manchesternlpn.wordpress.com/