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 – 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?

IAML (UK & Irl) conference ’15 – short post

Two weekends ago I attended the IAML (UK & Irl) annual study weekend, which you may recall me plugging in my previous post about music libraries. I went to represent Leeds College of Music and the Music Libraries Trust. I also had more jobs to do this year, namely reading reports for the College and MLT and also meeting all the MLT bursary winners, of whom there were 10!

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New Library of Birmingham

It was another great weekend with highlights including a tour of the new Library of Birmingham, updates on other new libraries (Birmingham University, The Hive, Manchester Central Library) and thinking about digital technologies – the impacts, opportunities and various projects. I will blog more in depth at some point but in the meantime you can read two posts I’ve done for the IAML (UK & Irl) blog and a multitude of others by various contributors!

Blog 1 on the Academic Music Librarians seminar

Blog 2 on the ‘New Libraries – what can we learn?’ sessions

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.’

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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

Articles worth a read – Neil Gaiman, Woody Caan, John Harris

These two articles have been sitting in my Evernote blog notebook for months now. They’re still interesting so I wanted to share them.

Neil Gaiman, the author and a big supporter of libraries, gave an interview where he discusses among other things, the library as a safe place. This was an issue I thought was very important for school libraries. He talks about it more in the context of a public library. Read it here.

Woody Caan writing in Times Higher Education about the vital role librarians play in the university context. Read it here.

Here’s a more recent article by John Harris in The Guardian that was relevant to an essay I was writing and also my current work context in a music conservatoire with a significant (and in demand) vinyl collection. My library, based on student demand, recently brought out more LPs into the main stack area and bought another record player. This article highlights the growing synergy or tension in the music industry, also reflected in my workplace, between rapidly evolving technology and a desire to return to roots. Read it here.