Rare – and very well done!

Rare - and very well done!

Contributed by: Chris

With time always at a premium, training courses can sometimes feel like a luxury and self-indulgence.  I have recently been on two short courses on rare books.  One was a day course arranged by the Historic Libraries Forum and held at Cambridge University Library; the other just a half day organised by the Association of Pall Mall Libraries at Middle Temple Library.  The trainers at each – Will Hale and Renae Satterley  – were excellent: richly informative but with a light touch. And in each case, the cost of the course was inconsequential. Remarkable that when training in most areas is so expensive, in the area of rare books the attitude is so generous.

The Cambridge course gave a truly expert overview of the topic. The first session covered the history of book-making: from the making of the paper (until the 1820s, linen rags were used to create a pulp, which was then spread like porridge over the surface of a kind of sieve) through the process of type and different forms of illustration (type ornaments, woodcuts, engravings), explaining with great clarity how the printing process related to the final structure and order of the book, and finally to the binding process.

The second session built on this by explaining about bibliographic format.  This involved much folding of paper and closely resembled a childhood origami session – good fun, and much laughter. It then moved on to an effective explanation of Format signatures – the method of expressing the structure of a particular book.  For example, a simple one might be A – P4; a more complex one π’a2 A-04, P4 (-P4).

The success of the course was in revealing how what often today seems esoteric and slightly mysterious to many of us is actually based on simple and practical considerations in the manufacture of the books.  This was reinforced at the end when we visited a workshop in the basement, where we could examine many of the traditional tools of print-making.

The half-day session at Middle Temple Library focussed on provenance specifically ie. the history of a specific copy of a book and the interpretation of the book-plates, signatures, mottoes and jottings of all kinds that appear on books.

Renae gave an amusing summary of the different kinds of evidence (from simply-interpreted through to very difficult and impossible); an informative explanation of the kinds of resources available to help; and useful tips on approaches to cataloguing.

The session ended with informal discussion of actual examples from the Middle Temple and Athenaeum Club Libraries.

Far from being a waste of time (and certainly far from being a waste of money), these training seminars have provided instruction and inspiration.  Should I have gone?  Definitely.

Practicum placement at The City of London Libraries

As a requirement of my Bachelor of Arts-Librarianship in Perth, I chose to spend my three weeks with the City of London Libraries Information Services Section (ISS).

What a great choice this was! Suddenly all the theory from previous units of the degree have come together with much more speed and clarity than I thought they would. From cataloguing, classification and authority reports to purchasing, retrieval and information services. It’s all about how your library items get to the shelf and how you are able to access your library resources.

My special interest in all things historical and especially in the historical information that may be gathered through the books that have survived from the past, brought me to select the City of London Libraries for my practicum placement. The Guildhall Library has an extensive number of books, items and manuscripts that chronicle the history of London and other exciting things such as Shakespeare’s First Folio printed in 1623. During my placement I was lucky enough to spend some time with the Guildhall Library Incunabula project, an amazing thrill to examine these books from the 1500’s. This project adds more information to the provenance evidence of the books, building up a record of the books historical journey of ownership to the documented information of the contents and historical information about the book itself. Guildhall Library’s trade directories were also a great cataloguing experience.

During this practicum placement I have been able to visit each of the City of London Libraries. I have worked at the enquiry and loans desks of Shoe Lane Library,Barbican Children’s Library, Barbican library,and the wonderful Barbican Music Library.I also have spent time in the Guildhall Library and the City Business Library and a lovely afternoon at the Artizan Street library and Community Centre,which provides a community centre and services to the local residents and city workers. These visits to the branch libraries have provided a great insight and a wealth of practical knowledge about working in a library as well as showing the links between the City of London Libraries Information Services Section and the branch libraries.

I want to thank all those in the City of London Libraries ISS who have helped and hosted me for this practicum placement and especially all the staff at the branch libraries who have let me hover and shadow them and who have pass on valuable information.

- Sam Bowen

Innovation, inspiration, creativity : i2c2 in Manchester

i2c2logowithdateRecently, two of our basement dwellers went roving up to Manchester to attend a conference on innovation, inspiration and creativity: the i2C2 Conference. This was a conference aiming to encourage out of the box thinking to achieve practical solutions (which seems timely because apparently libraries don’t just offer access to information, we also offer solutions to problems).

In one of the two keynote speeches, Brendan Dawes talked about his approach to data visualisation. Data can be artistically presented. It can be made interesting and it can be made to interact with people. It does not have to be static or boring. Information as art can still be informative whilst being engaging. Raw data is interesting, but a graphical representation might be more memorable, not to mention enjoyable (even if some of us do enjoy numbers and lists without pictures).

Penny Anderson talked about LibraryBox, an open source, portable digital file distribution tool. Inexpensive and easy to operate, LibraryBox is inspired by PirateBox, a mobile, anonymous file-sharing device. Penny Anderson talked about using LibraryBox to create spaces for the sharing of fanworks and creating open libraries. Though some couldn’t see the advantages of such a device in academic libraries, perhaps even public libraries, LibraryBox certainly seemed to show a lot of promise for use as an advocacy or maker-space tool.

David Parkes took us on a psychogeographic library exploration, or a dérive, an unplanned journey around a small block. He suggested finding new approaches for looking at our surroundings, reflecting on the changes in history that must have taken place in the last hundreds of years. Parkes said he used this approach in campus inductions for university students, to make a place imprint on their minds, by going beyond the usual signs and directions.

Sam Helmick (read her post on the conference here) and Mallorie Graham talked about tapping into Generation Y’s tolerance and openness while also trying to find a way around GY’s digital proficiency, which makes them a small library user group. They both talked about making public libraries attractive to this group by offering alternative services, by luring them into the libraries through fun and inventive methods. We liked their ideas so much we invited them down to London for some library chatter.

Other sessions at i2C2 covered topics such as ways to promote library services in a more personalised and less traditional fashion, libraries collaborating with each other in order to complete projects, guerrilla ethos in the libraries and the employment of tactical urbanism, innovation through discussion, using typologies to create informal learning spaces, and library maker spaces that can take library users on creative journeys.

There was also a short presentation on Cityread London, which is of course of interest to us, and begins on April 1st. Andy Ryan’s talk was on how to generate big bucks through partnerships and collaboration. Working with 33 London library services (and booksellers, publishers, schools, museums), each library involved in this project contributed £500, expecting a return of over £15,000 per service.

Overall, the insights we took from the conference were to seek out opportunities for collaboration, to consider any and all ideas, even if only for a second (before asking yourself, really?), and to be open to change and innovation. If/when this conference takes place again, it really is worth attending.

Contributed by: Harpreet

E-books at City of London Libraries : our new video

Chris Newman, who devised it, introduces a new video on our Youtube channel, intended to introduce our users to our e-book collection (make the most of it while it’s available as it will soon be superseded as our collection and catalogues develop) …

It is scarcely Alfred Hitchcock: it lacks the suspense somehow. In fact, the new video we have created sets out to avoid suspense: it is deliberately carefully paced and instructional in tone. The subject of the video is e-books and it is simply an explanation of how to get started in enjoying the varied e-book service provided by the City of London Libraries.

Our hope is that people less familiar with these kinds of resources will be encouraged to put a toe in the water and try out the service. We feel that the real challenge is to try to engage with those who might be less likely to experiment with newer formats and in that way promote a much-improved take-up of the service.

Have a look at the video and let us have your feedback.

 

ISS away day visit to the Library of Birmingham

Library of Birmingham

ISS had an away day earlier this month, leaving behind the City and venturing northwards to the Library of Birmingham. This was a novel experience as there has never been an outing which has involved the entire section before! The purpose of the visit was to not only check out the new £200 million library but also to discuss the results of the ISS survey 2013 and to generally have a think about the work we do as a section.

The Shakespeare Memorial Room at the top of the library seemed to be a favourite feature, as was the intriguingly named Secret Garden (an outdoor green space on level 7 which offers fantastic views of the surrounding area and will be a very popular spot in the warm summer months but was unsurprisingly pretty empty of people on a freezing January afternoon!)

Secret Garden

After lunch we reconvened in our meeting room and undertook SWOT analysis sessions. These sessions enabled everyone to think about the good bits and the ‘could do better’ bits of what we do and how we do it. They also helped us to consider what the future could hold for us (both positive and negative) and the services we provide. The thoughts, ideas and suggestions that were generated by these discussions were duly noted and will go towards improving and developing the work we do both as individuals and as a section.

So our first ever away day was a success; an opportunity to get out of our office en masse, take in the splendour of Europe’s largest public library (it really is huge!), reflect on all the good work we’ve been doing and plan ahead for all the work still to do!

Contributed by : Lynn

(Photographs courtesy of Carol Boswarthack)

What kind of people would work in an office like this …? #deskspace

46da8511305b4e4039cf9a0ffab0f2a4Since it’s Friday, as a bit of fun we’ve decided to share our desk spaces, which you can see here on Pinterest.

We’ve also included this Christmas tree which was so offensive to the senses it was taken down immediately after its poor construction.

Please don’t be sad – we have a proper one now, put together by people who understand the concept of ‘tree’.

“Sharing today, securing tomorrow” : the 2013 NAG Conference (Part 2)

Part 2 of the report on the 2013 National Acquisitions Group Conference in York (the papers are available here to members – http://www.nag.org.uk/events/2013/07/nag-conference-2013/)

Adopting RDA by Stuart Hunt was an updated version of a paper I’d heard previously at other events, adapted for non-specialist cataloguers.  The key points were that going live with RDA would be a sequence of events for most libraries, with many of the timings being dictated by the timetables of external record sources and suppliers.  Other significant issues would be how to manage unavoidable hybridity and data in multiple environments (“classic catalogues”, discovery layers).

RFID Update: Mick Fortune surveyed “the evolving RFID landscape”, concentrating on new applications, new concerns and new standards.  Using RFID only for access control, membership smartcards and security (as most libraries in the UK currently are) was, he said, “Like buying a smartphone and using it to make calls”.  Development has been inhibited by being driven by RFID suppliers, not libraries, a lack of involvement from LMS suppliers and a lack of agreed standards for data or frequencies.

New applications in development worldwide include stock management, supply chain monitoring and mobile apps that interact with stock.  Cooperative working has, though, promoted the adoption of common standards.  For instance, a UK initiative – LCF (Library Communication Framework) (version 1 published in September) – aims to standardise exchange between LMS, RFID and third party apps.

Privacy continues to be a concern (Libraries will be obliged to complete PIAs in 2014) as does the discovery that RFID tags are potentially vulnerable to alteration by smartphones.

BIC, UKSLC and Accreditation by Simon Edwards explained the history, structure and role of BIC (for those who weren’t aware of it): jointly set up by CILIP, the BL, the Booksellers’ and Publishers’ Associations, it works to establish shared standards among all those incolved in the supply chain. He also outlined the Accreditation process (which we at the City have achieved) and introduced UKSLC (UK Standard Library Categories).  Formerly known as eLibraries, these are versions of the BIC subject categories adapted to organise the stock in libraries and provide subject access, though Edwards stressed that “they are not a substitute for Dewey“.  Most cataloguers would be surprised by the assertion that “patrons have changed because of the internet” in that they now want to “search by subject” (is there anything new about this?) and it wasn’t clear to me what he envisaged the relationship between UKSLC and classification should be.

David Stoker, in a heavily visual presentation, described the lengthy and challenging process of renovating the Liverpool Central Library and the PFI initiative that financed it.  The new library is an undeniably impressive achievement and has apparently proved hugely popular with its users.  This promotional video gives as idea of what it is like …

Lastly Ben Showers introduced the National Monographs Strategy initiative from JISC, designed to answer the question “should libraries be collecting the same books as each other?” Presumably the implied answer is “no” and the question is being asked in the context of potentially replacing physical collections by space-saving e-resources rather than simply a revival of co-operative purchasing schemes such as the old MSC.

The co-design pilot project is running for six months and is due to end in December 2013.  Showers explained that is based on the principles of “thinking in the open“, being “evidence based” and “community-led” and “iteration not repetition”.  Involvement from all interested parties (potentially all libraries with any kind of research function) is actively encouraged via their blog, which is intended to be the main focus for the project and is here … http://bit.ly/monographsuk .  So do have a look and feel free to contribute!

The titles of these conferences do tend to be designed to attract attention by snagging on contemporary concerns, rather than providing a coherent theme.  “Sharing today, securing tomorrow” would, perhaps, suggest one thing to a public librarian (in the context of “shared services”) and it was interesting to be reminded of the different meanings that it might have in an academic or research context.

If there was a thread through these apparently disparate papers it might have been the question of how to foster sharing and co-operation in the absence of the kind of centralised, top-down governmental intervention represented by the Public Library Standards (and, I suppose, the national library websites for Scotland and Wales).  Ben Showers’ community-led and crowdsourced approach certainly offers a theoretical alternative, and it will be interesting to follow its progress.