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 – Hypermedia Module

Second in the two-part series on Semester 1 (Autumn 2014) of library school. For my previous post explaining generally about the course, click here.

This module was called Hypermedia for the Information Professional and introduced hypermedia, e.g. the web and digital technology. Tech skills was a key component that I wanted to do in this qualification and I was mostly satisfied with this module. We covered web design and learned basic web mark-up (XHTML and CSS). This part was ok and I think it definitely helped that I had a bit of knowledge of code already. I found the course material very lacking when completing the assignment which was to write code for a simple, two-page website. This deficiency was due to the content itself and the interface for the teaching material which was a kind of animated, power point type thing. I ended up watching videos on Youtube to solve various problems I encountered when creating my website. One of my “ah-ha” moments was watching a video of a guy talking through and creating all the elements for a basic webpage (sorry can’t give you a link, as I was a bad library student and did not note it down and now cannot find it again). This video made something click for me mainly because of the presentation. It was his voice over explaining the concepts and what the guy was doing, and then there was a split screen video with his text writer window open where he was inputting the code, and then the other side of the screen was the webpage itself being updated in real time, so you could see the effect each bit of code had on the page. As quite a visual person, this method really helped me understand because you could both see and hear what was going on. Anyway I got there in the end with my little website but I think this is a topic that’s best to learn by doing rather reading about about it and it would have helped to have a live person to ask all my questions.
html tattoo
We also looked at usability and information behaviour, both subjects I found absolutely fascinating. I ended up referring back to this material and the sources in later modules quite a lot. For the SEO (search engine optimisation) portion, the main thing I remember is reading through Google’s SEO guide for web developers. A very helpful document with practical advice on how to improve the SEO of your site – an important concept for library websites to understand since most people start an information search on a search engine rather than the library website nowadays! Social media was another area we studied. The set textbook, Managing Social Media in Libraries by Troy Swanson, was excellent and it’s on my list to finish reading.

I think each of the topics we covered in the module could easily have been an entire module in itself…which leads me to say that the main downside to this module was that there were really too many topics under the hypermedia umbrella to cover in one semester. It was very much an introduction, which is fine, but I would have appreciated more time and more depth.

Image: “html tattoo” by webmove available on Flickr CC license