A world turned upside down

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You are probably thinking to yourselves “these people are so incompetent that they can’t work out how to post an image the right way up. LOL” – or words to that effect.

But no.  The image is the right way up, even if its unfortunate subject is not.  To discover the full story, investigate one of the latest boards to be added to our Guildhall Library’s Pinterest …

https://www.pinterest.com/guildhalllib/broadsides-another-appalling-catastrophe-suicides-/

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First-time view : National Acquisitions Group Conference 2014

Ann Martin and Sara Pink receiving the award from Corina Petcu of Nielsen Discovery Services

Ann Martin and Sara Pink receiving the award from Corina Petcu of Nielsen Discovery Services

First-time view

by Sara Pink (Head of Guildhall and City Business Libraries, City of London)

This was an event of many first-time experiences for me: attending a NAG conference; visiting the beautiful York (to which I had never previously ventured) and winning an award for Guildhall Library.

And first-time experiences didn’t stop there!

I submitted an entry to NAG for the 2014 award for excellence in innovation and original thought for the Guildhall Library Incunabula project. It’s a project which really does embrace the omnipresent themes of increasing access to collections; digitising collections to make them accessible via online platforms and to utilise existing and emerging technologies to engage new audiences. It also encouraged us to look at books differently, not for the content of their text, but for all the other things they could tell us about the value of the book as an object such as who owned the book, what do the annotations mean, whether there is evidence of the readership of the book passing down through generations within the same family, how it is bound together and who and why did someone draw all those lovely pictures in the margins! It really was a fascinating way to get to grips with pre-15th century books and to challenge our perception of the ‘important’ things about a book.

And so it was wonderful when I got the call to say that the Guildhall Library entry had won and I would need to go to York to collect the plaque! From photo-shoots to presentation speeches, we were made to feel like royalty and it was lovely to have the opportunity to share our aims and objectives of the project with so many interested and enthusiastic attendees we were meeting for the first time.

 

I knew this was the conference for me when we were quickly introduced to the idea of libraries as ‘pleasantly mad places’ and when the themes of the conference got into full-swing we looked at everything from the provision of free hard-copy textbooks for students at Coventry University to the National E-book Pilot Scheme and, my personal favourite, ‘Future libraries and the technological singularity’ presented by Dave Parkes.

This session included the opportunity to try out the revolutionary new Google Glass and to see the Tuttuki Bako in action (Google that and you’ll find out what everyone in my family is getting for Christmas!) and we even ended up signing up to two new services as a result – the Internet Archive of 17th and 18th century material and Easy Proxy authentication.

Technology and its future explored means that we next ‘met’ the fascinating book-fetching robots at the University of Chicago – an ambitious project to use drones for book retrieval which is really paying off there.

Finally, it was time to make new friends over a fantastic Conference dinner and try our luck at the Casino table. If only it were real money I would have made enough to catch the next flight out to Las Vegas, complete with my newly acquired Conference Cat bag! (thanks to YBP)

I was a sponsored guest of the NAG Committee and my thanks go to them for successfully organising so many first-time experiences in so few days!

Introducing our new partner : St Bride Library

Everyone who visits the St Bride Library falls in love with it. It is an amazing collection of books and journals, type specimens and printing presses, anything and everything to do with printing, typography and graphic design, housed in a higgledy-piggledy beautiful building of 1891.

St Bride 1

Between 1992 and 2004, St Bride Library was part of City of London Libraries. We made a big effort to retrospectively convert the existing catalogues and 34,264 monograph records, 11,000 in-analytic records and 3,300 serials were put online.

Then, in April 2004, St Bride Foundation took over the running of the library and the ownership of its collections. Although their holdings were still contained and still displayed in our catalogue and although a limited number of records continued to be added, it was not nearly enough to keep pace with the Library’s acquisitions and a considerable backlog built up.

But now we are beginning a new project to catalogue as much as possible of that backlog and make those new acquisitions available to the enthusiasts, experts and students who use the library. Thanks to the generosity of the Foyle Foundation, a lucky cataloguer has been appointed to work part-time for a year on the project. These are some of the things we have catalogued already, in our first two weeks – books and pamphlets, old and new, in a variety of languages St Bride 2– and soon they will be available to St Bride Library staff and users.

I hope to update from time to time with reports on our progress and news of especially interesting treasures we discover, but in the meantime click here to see the latest additions to the catalogue.

Contributed by: Heather

Picturing the past : digitisation at Guildhall Library

Picturing the past : digitisation at Guildhall Library

Vendula (who features in the film) introduces a new video on our YouTube channel. The film was put together by Chris and the narration is by Lynn.

A project has been taking place at Guildhall Library. The aim is to digitise almost 300 items. Most of them are pamphlets from the 17th and 18th centuries including bills, acts, petitions and other legal material. The project is a result of a contract between the City of London Library Service and ProQuest, which is the body which publishes EEBO (Early English Books Online).

The project was scheduled for 4 – 5 weeks and was carried out by two people from EEBO and by our library staff. The pamphlets were identified and brought up from our store. Then the digitising started. Pamphlets were sorted, scanned and the digital images were made. At the end of the project all digitised items will be available through EEBO to many users around the world.

The project will have a positive impact for our library. It will open up access to our collections for researchers and make it easier to discover the content of some of the material. It will help preserve some of the rare items because the originals will need to be handled less frequently. Also it is a great opportunity to promote some of our collections, make it accessible to users outside London and generate some income for our department.

Book launch events in Guildhall Library 2012

Book launch events in Guildhall Library 2012

Contributed by: Karen

In spring of this year Sara Pink, Head of Guildhall Library, launched a programme of evening talks at Guildhall.  These have proved very popular, and indeed the schedule for next year is almost complete with only one slot left to fill.

The format of the event is that firstly a talk is given (which may be illustrated) with a Q&A session afterwards.  Once this is complete attendees may adjourn for a wine reception, with a chance to meet the speaker, and – where a book is being launched – purchase a personally signed copy.

I volunteered to assist at the first event in March of this year, and my contribution was initially meeting and greeting, setting up of the event, and assisting visitors.  My role has since expanded to include design and production of publicity materials, marketing of events in the programme (and others in the City of London complex) and identifying potential participants for future events.

I now present a selection of the materials I have produced to date.

As you see, where a book is being launched at the event, I use the cover artwork as the starting point of my design. 

When on display in the library they look very striking, and draw the visitor’s eye.

 

As a further design development I used the postcard produced by the publishers as a ‘pop-up’, where the card was trimmed, folded and an invitation placed inside for visitors to take with them.

 

For the above event, where no book was launched, I used a montage of sewing materials and images.

Here I felt the book cover was striking enough to stand alone.

Following from the ‘pop-up’ for Square London, I produced these tickets for issue at our last event, which visitors could have as a reminder of the event, and which also advertised the next event on the reverse.

 

This is my latest poster, for our next event, in October.

I am very committed to my work on these events, and do all I can to aid their success.  I now dedicate a day’s work per week on contributing to the events programme.  It has added a new dimension to my role in the library and in Bibliographical Services, as I seek out books on relevant themes that can be used at the events.

In fact, at our last event I attended in full medieval garb!

We try to keep these events as informal as possible, and we now have several regular attendees.  I recommend that anyone interested in finding out more should check out the current timetable of events on the City of London website, or call us on 0207 332 1870.

Communicating with library users via the catalogue

Contributed by Ann, the Assistant Librarian who has taken the lead in responding to user comments on the catalogue:

In previous posts, Chris and Heather have written about two of the ways in which we have tried to promote engagement with our users (our behind the scenes tours and our promotional video). Another, more everyday, way of engaging with them is by giving users the opportunity to provide feedback directly via the catalogue itself. 

When we were designing our new catalogue , we chose to make a feedback link one of the main options on the home page. This has yielded a regular stream of comments and suggestions. In line with our Service Level Agreement, each email receives an automatic acknowledgement and a further substantive response, if applicable, within 10 working days.

As one might expect, a substantial number of e-mails have been related to circulation queries  (for instance, ‘Why can’t I renew my items?’). However, a significant number of comments and suggestions we have received have been about the catalogue itself.

One of the common themes to emerge from our feedback is the expectation some of our users have that our catalogue should function in a similar way to many well-known commercial sites. Users expect to be able  to browse the collections rather than retrieve details about known items. Typical emails include ‘What DVDs does my local library have?’ or ‘What are the new items in stock?’. Other examples have been requests for ‘shopping carts’ and the ability to rate or append comments to titles on the catalogue.  Some of these requests have been taken forward by the catalogue development teams and have been incorporated into the development of our catalogue.

It is interesting that the feedback we have received does not always support the common assumption that all of our users will want to search the catalogue using  simple keyword searching. Users have asked questions about more complex topics such as the use of classification and date range searching  – and one comment queried the apparent duplication of English as a filter in a drop down list on our advanced search.

Finally, receiving feedback has made us increasingly aware of the visibility of our catalogue online. We have had enquiries from colleagues in other libraries requesting details about bindings, illustrations and  signatures of rare books that we have in our collections. We have also received queries from individuals using our catalogue in Europe, New Zealand and the Americas, who are using our catalogue in the course of their private research.

Though very welcome, this can sometimes lead to a little cross-cultural confusion.  One reader queried why she was unable to log in to her account.  We eventually worked out that, although she was a member of the library of the Corporation of the City of London, it was the one in Ontario, Canada – and not ours!

The making of BSS – the Movie

The making of BSS – the Movie

Chris (one of our Assistant Librarians) reflects on the making of the video that featured in the last post:

In BSS, we have recently produced a video and uploaded it to YouTube.  The idea is to give an introduction (a very brief one) to the work done in our section.

Having decided in principle that it was a good idea to produce a video, we were faced with some difficulties.  The work we do in BSS, though important, interesting and central to the public library service provided by the City of London is distinctly not photogenic.  Most of us spend a high proportion of the working day sitting at computers, working to a high level of concentration.  Secondly it is very hard to give sufficient detail to make the explanation interesting, yet not so much that it is simply underwhelmingly overwhelming.   Finally none of us who were involved in the project seemed to have much (if any?) experience of producing any kind of audio visual production.

A look around at what similar places had done was reassuring to an extent. There are plenty of library / bibliographic outfits who have produced superbly professional representations of what they do.  However they seem either to have invested in heavily expensive equipment or even have contracted the work out to professionals.  On the other hand there are plenty of other organisations who have produced something themselves.  We were clear from the beginning that ours would have to be done on a shoestring to the best standard we could but with no frills and relying chiefly on the message.

Cooperation has certainly been one of the principle ingredients – people willing to be photographed, to be filmed, to offer advice, to look up quickly how something can be done, researching websites for music and offering supportive comments when some of the results became showable.  There was no shortage of timely help and this undoubtedly had a good effect on the working relationships within the office.

Early on in the project, we agreed a format – basically a narrator speaking to still and moving pictures with a brief interlude of somebody speaking direct to camera.  We gathered pictures and video clips to add to an existing collection we had.  Having this collection made it comparatively easy to insert pictures at will, though some pictures which went in the final version were taken only days before the whole thing was completed!  Quite early too we drafted and settled on a script.  With this complete, we had a structure around which we could work.

From this point we produced a very rough first draft of the film – a crude recording of the script coupled with a high proportion of the eventual pictures.  This rough version we were able to show around and get some feedback.  Because responses were pretty positive, we were able to begin concentrating on the detail, like recording the narration and the video interlude properly, like finding appropriate music and working that in and creating captions and taking clips from the library catalogue.  Right up until the last moment of creation difficulties were emerging and being overcome, such as balancing the volume and tone of different voices recorded on entirely different machines and answering puzzles such as how you could allow someone who was speaking to camera to continue speaking but cut away from their face to show something else as they spoke.  The final version was only completed at 10.00pm the night before being shown to the two people heading our service.

It would be great to hear from others who have had experience of producing something of this kind.  It would also be wonderful to hear any feedback from those who have seen the film.

BSS – the Movie

BSS – the Movie

This is the first of two posts about the promotional video that we have recently made and uploaded to YouTube, based on the idea of a virtual Journey of the Book.  In this post we give you a chance to watch the video (and learn a little more about us), and in the second Chris (who was mainly responsible for making it) will explain how it was all put together. 

Chris adds –

It would be great to hear from others who have had experience of producing something of this kind. It would also be wonderful to hear any feedback from those who have seen the film. It takes only 6 minutes. Have a look and let us know what you think.

You should be able to view the video by clicking on the arrow in the middle of the screen.

Introducing Work and Expression

Welcome to Work and Expression, the weblog of the Bibliographical Services Section of the City of London Libraries (sometimes known as BSS).

To introduce ourselves briefly, we are a section comprising thirteen people who are responsible for providing services in cataloguing, acquisitions and inter-library loans for the libraries of the City of London – the local authority for the Square Mile – and this blog is our collective voice.

We intend to use the blog to publicise what we do, to reflect on what we do and share those reflections with our readers.  Our readership will, we hope, extend beyond our immediate colleagues in our own Department to our colleagues in the wider cataloguing and metadata community, the library community in general and the wider public beyond.

To discover more about who we are and what we do, watch out for the next few posts, which will include a promotional video that we have recently made and posted on YouTube, and an account of the Journey of the Book, one of the ways in which we are trying to promote a greater awareness of our work.

We hope that – like most good blogs – ours will, in time, develop a distinctive character of its own, but our aim is that the  keynote will be variety – a variety of subjects, tones, perspectives, voices and of types of writing, from short, spontaneous sharings of thoughts to longer, more considered pieces.  

We very much hope that what we write will prove thought-provoking and that our readership will feel free to contribute thoughts of their own by commenting on what we write – your comments will be very welcome.  We would particularly interested to hear from anyone who has – or is intending to – attempted a project like this.  Do share your experiences with us.

If you would like to keep up to date with Work and Expression then click on Follow on the sidebar to receive e-mail updates  – or, if you have a blog of your own, you might like to add us to your blog roll.  

So welcome again.  We hope to find writing our blog a useful and an enjoyable experience, and that you will feel the same way about reading it.