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!

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: HD

“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.

“Sharing today, securing tomorrow” : the 2013 NAG Conference (Part 1)

A report on the 2013 Conference of the NAG (National Acquisitions Group) with the theme “Sharing Today, Securing Tomorrow” which took place on the 4-5th September at the Royal York Hotel in York, contributed by Nick (as it’s fairly lengthy, I’ve split it in two …)

The view from the hotel

The view from the hotel

This was my first NAG Conference.  I found it a well-organised, friendly and enjoyable event, attended by a broad cross-section of the profession from all sectors (though the presentations tended to have an academic bias), as well as representatives from other interested parties in the supply chain.  Some there were clearly conference veterans, others, like me, were first-timers.

Looking back at reports on previous NAG Conferences, it did strike me that the presentations this year were less narrowly focused on “Acquisitions” in the conventional sense (EDI, Buying Consortia) than they had been in the past and, looking through the list of delegates, there were fewer whose job titles implied that they were “Acquisitions Librarians” in the old sense.  Though none of the presentations were irrelevant, many could have been delivered in a variety of forums : taken together, they offered a useful survey of issues of contemporary professional concern.

Here is a brief summary of the presentations I attended (they have been made available to NAG members on their website  http://www.nag.org.uk/events/2013/07/nag-conference-2013/  (some of these – the more text-based ones – are more useful than others unsupported by commentary). 

Is the digital library our future? Carol Hollier and Susanne Cullen from the Humanities Library of Nottingham University outlined their implementation of the University Library’s “accelerated e-strategy”

“The University will accelerate the adoption of digital information resources, including e-books and e-journals, in order to make efficient use of library space, and promote their use by providing simple tools for discovery and access”

and how successful it had been in their specialist library.

Some of the statistics quoted were that printed books added to the University collection had declined from 40,000 in 2005/6 to roughly 27,500 in 2011/2, while the number of e-books (in stock) had risen from just under 50,000 in 2008/9 to 325,000 in 2011/12.  Digital databases and journals had also increased in number over that period (though the rises were less dramatic).

Most e-resources had proved popular with users (journals and databases, of course, and especially digitisations of key readings), but there had been drawbacks (specifically, it was implied, in the field of Arts and Humanities).  These included key texts not being available electronically, texts in non-Roman scripts failing to display properly and resistance from users, particularly to making core texts (full-length monographs) available in electronic form only.

In a survey, when asked “Would you be likely to use core texts in an e-book format if they were available?” 76% of respondents said that they would be “highly” or “fairly”likely to do so.

On the other hand when asked “The library provides access to e-books.  When would you use an e-book?” 12% answered “Always, I prefer e-books to print books“, 43% “Only if a print book wasn’t available”  and 24% “Rarely, I prefer to reserve print books rather than using e-books”.

The answer to the question in the title of the presentation seemed to be “Yes”, but a qualified one, and with the implication that an identical e-strategy is not necessarily appropriate to all subject specialisms. (The presentation included some useful links to research which confirms the ambivalence of some academic users to e-resources, for example

http://repository.jisc.ac.uk/5209/1/UK_Survey_of_Academics_2012_FINAL.pdf

Living with standards by Gill John of Newport Libraries presented a generally positive view of the Public Library Standards still in force in Wales, though in reduced number.  She felt they helped to achieve the aims of “safeguarding the improvements achieved since 2002 whenever possible”, “protecting library services from disproportionate resource reductions” and “providing a suitable tool to support the management of services through what could be very difficult times”.

(As Public Librarians will be aware, the PLS are no longer in force in England.)

Legal dimensions to content acquisition and management by Laurence Bebbington of the University of Aberdeen was a “personal, high-level overview of various things, with a legal dimension … in terms of aspects of content acquisition and management”.  Some of the themes included uncertainties over the long-term future of digital resources (how far should we trust “trusted digital repositories“? is it possible to have “perpetual access”?) and balancing the threats from censorship with the dangers of promoting terrorism, defamation or fraud (particularly in the context of open access publishing).

(This was one presentation which I would recommend reading, if you have access to it – the “slides” are very detailed and text-based.)

Bookmark your library by Russ Hunt was an update on the progress of the OCLC website (BYL) that is intended to provide a promotional national website for English libraries (they already exist in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) and features the FabLibraries “national catalogue” based on a subset of OCLC’s WorldCat.  149 libraries (mainly public) currently participate.

Since the launch in March (when publicity included being referenced in “The Sun” and interviews on national and local radio) it has been visited 8,455 times and has 219 followers on Twitter, which is possibly fewer than they would have hoped for.  Problems identified include trying to connect to a multiplicity of “OPACs” and “politics”.  Future aspirations for the site include adding additional partners, particularly more academic libraries.

The site itself is here – http://www.bookmarkyourlibrary.org.uk/

Part 2 to follow shortly …

Why go to a conference?

WHY GO TO A CONFERENCE?

Conferences are like holidays in this respect – that they are exciting in prospect and exhausting in reality.  When the announcement is made, I am all enthusiasm and really want to go; as the day draws closer, I start to wonder if I can spare the time and find the energy; and I leave the house with marked reluctance and a lot of moaning. Once there, of course it’s an absolute blast; by the time I come home I am utterly knackered; and for a week afterwards I bore everyone rigid by telling them how wonderful it was and how they ought to have been there too. Then it all quietens down until the next event is announced.

Conferences are unlike holidays in that it is entirely possible – indeed, it’s what usually happens – that you never see any more of the glorious countryside or historic town in which you are staying than you glimpse in the taxi ride to and from the railway station. You will probably never set foot outside the grounds of the university or hotel during the whole period of the conference.  To that extent it is more like being inside a particularly liberal open prison.

I am told that in prison you learn much more to benefit you in the future from your fellow prisoners than during the course of organised education and training. That’s true of conferences too. If it has been well-planned, the programme should offer topics ranging from those with which you are already familiar enough to have an opinion and to be able to discuss them with a degree of confidence, to those which are completely new to you.  You will take lots of notes and make lots of good resolutions to follow up on references and contacts later.  Sometimes you will hear someone say that there is no point in going to a conference in person when all the papers and presentations will be published afterwards but, useful though this is if you really do not have the time or the opportunity to attend, it misses the point. The most valuable thing is the opportunity to talk to your colleagues, people who share the same interests, challenges and problems as you do. It is the breaks between the papers and the presentations where you will learn the most. It is also in those breaks where you will have the opportunity to contribute something yourself. While it is great to learn from other people, it is enormously cheering to find that you might sometimes be able to say something to help them in return. 

The library community, even in these straitened times when we all have too much work and too little time, is hugely generous and cooperative. Social media facilitate this, certainly, but do not yet match the simple pleasure and satisfaction of finding the brightest and best of your colleagues all together in the same room at the same time. And that is why you go (and should continue to go) to conferences.

Contributed by: Heather Jardine

Changing rules, changing roles: being a cataloguer in 2012

Changing rules, changing roles: being a cataloguer in 2012

The text of the paper that Heather Jardine delivered at the 2012 Cataloguing and Indexing Group Conference in Sheffield

The one thing that everyone is agreed about is that change is the new normal, which makes for anxious times.  

The first sort of change that we are facing is changing rules.  Rules have always changed – before AACR2 there was AACR1, and before AACR there were rules which have replaced each other down the centuries, all the way from the Library at Alexandria. The same is true of formats – we’ve seen UKMARC change to MARC21, and now we are anticipating the end of MARC altogether. So changes to rules and formats are nothing new, and although they are uncomfortable and unsettling, as professional cataloguers we can cope with them.

The second change is in the sorts of things we are cataloguing and, again, we’ve always had this kind of change.  I remember when everyone was fearful about what we then called “audio-visual materials”, when we were wondering what we were going to do with sound or (even worse) video cassettes. Today this sort of material is mainstream, and we don’t think twice about cataloguing a Blu-Ray or a Playaway or any of a wide range of formats. Now we are facing a challenge in cataloguing everything “e-“ – but we’ll survive, we’ll cope, as we did before.

The next kind of change has happened before as well, but it is different in that we can’t control it because it’s not happening within our world, but happening to our world as a result of influences from the wider world outside. Very often the immediate driver is a restructuring and the immediate effect is that we are required to play a different role within the organisation to the one we were used to.

Restructures almost always result in an overall loss of staff, which means that there are fewer people to do the same amount of work or, to be more precise, to achieve the same outcomes. However much it is possible to streamline and review workflows, it still means that everyone finds themselves doing tasks that they are not familiar with, and these can be regarded variously as an unfair demand, a challenge or an opportunity.

A very common outcome is that bib services are combined so that acquisitions work is integrated more closely with cataloguing, under the same manager and with the tasks spread more widely across the whole bib services team, so that cataloguers find themselves doing acquisitions. Of course, if we had wanted to be acquisitions librarians, that is what we would have chosen to be, so there can be a certain amount of bewilderment and resentment.  Of course there is a lot of sense in mixing acquisitions with cataloguing, because it isn’t like the old days, when the acquisitions team created paper records and then passed the books across to the cataloguing team, who created a whole different set of paper records.  We’re all joined up now with an integrated LMS and probably accepted long ago that acquisitions staff have to learn a certain amount about cataloguing in order to create or download bib records. The real problem with cataloguers doing acquisitions, though, isn’t that we don’t all like it, but that when we are doing it, we are not doing cataloguing.

Of course it isn’t just bib services that lose posts and people in a restructure.  So, as we struggle to keep on top of a growing burden of work, and perhaps we don’t do it very quickly because we’re learning it as we go along, our colleagues need more than ever that we get it right, because they too have less time and fewer staff to pick up any errors. Unsurprisingly, this leads on to a loss of tolerance and a loss of engagement.  Just as we are facing changes to rules (RDA in place of AACR2), changes to data structure (whatever follows after the end of MARC) and changing materials (e-everything),  my colleagues would probably say that none of this matters to them as long as it doesn’t affect the speed with which we get their books onto the shelf. We’re not going to have a great long intellectual discussion about any of it. Even the best-intentioned people don’t have the time or the energy to be interested.

After acquisitions, the next logical area for bib services to take on is management information, especially when library systems teams are also reduced or done away with altogether. And it makes sense, because we create the database, we put the information in, and we know how to get the information out. We also understand the business, in a way that centralised IS teams don’t (and can’t be expected to). If we run a query and find out that one of our libraries had 39 borrowers, we know that there is something wrong with the query, whereas a central IS team wouldn’t necessarily recognise it as odd.  I think we’re well qualified to take over the management information, because we know what we’re talking about.

Speaking personally, I have got the best team ever. They can and will turn their hand to almost anything, they rise to challenges and they enjoy doing new stuff. I could not have taken on all the new work that we have taken on, if I had been dragging a reluctant and resisting staff behind me. I also think that as managers, in the current climate, we have a duty to give our staff as many transferable skills as we can. The only problem is that when we’re providing management information, we’re not doing acquisitions and we’re not doing cataloguing.

It would be nice to think that system management would be the next area to be passed to bib services because it was recognised that we had the best, the most adaptable, the cleverest, the hardest working, the most logical staff, with the most creative solutions, in the library service (which is true).  More often it will be because , once everyone realises that handing it to over central IS isn’t a good idea for the same reasons that apply to management information, they also realise that bib services staff will do it for nothing, whereas outsourcing it to the LMS supplier would cost several thousand pounds a year. While our colleagues in the libraries may not have time to care about RDA, they most certainly care if books are issued for the wrong period of time, or attract the wrong charges, or if overdues aren’t sent out. Therefore managing the LMS will make a bib services team more crucial to the running of the service, and more involved with it, and makes us seem a bit more relevant to the day-to-day business, which is certainly a benefit for everyone. The disadvantage is, of course, that while we’re doing system management, we’re not doing management information, and we’re not doing acquisitions, and we’re certainly not doing any cataloguing.

Because any restructuring, or hint of it, or just the general economic situation and the fears of redundancy, make us all feel uneasy, we cannot afford to neglect advocacy and all it involves. We must explain what we do, how we fit in, what we contribute to the service and how we support it, because bib services can be an easy target when the axeman comes a-calling. We must promote ourselves to fellow professionals and the library community at large, and to our immediate colleagues, and as well as persuading them that we are essential we must persuade ourselves, because too often we believe the poor opinion that others have of us. Therefore we take on a range of different activities – blogs, Twitter accounts, behind-the-scenes tours, anything and everything that makes us more visible (including going to conferences and speaking at them).  If we can make ourselves look like big beasts, we’ll be harder to take down.

It also includes working more closely with our colleagues – getting ourselves on working groups, doing 1-1 training, going to their staff meetings.  Every time someone sends in a complaint, whether justified or not, we to try to send back a polite and reasoned explanation. Put very simply, we’ve got to win hearts and minds. But when we’re blogging, or tweeting, or writing those polite replies, and it all takes time, we’re not doing any of the other tasks.

And then there’s income generation, the besetting requirement of the public sector nowadays.  As a result, along with everything else, we’re trying to sell our skills either by providing training, or by cataloguing other people’s collections. The money we can bring in does two things – it demonstrates that our skills really do have a market value (in other words, if other people are prepared to pay us, we must be worth something) and it offsets some of our staff costs. After all, there is really no way that you can reduce the cost of a bib services section without cutting staff, as we have no materials budget to take the hit.

Does it matter if we lose staff – aside from the human cost, that is? Yes, it does. Our bib services staff are hugely skilled and hugely knowledgeable about our collections, how to exploit them and how to get them into the hands of the people who need and want them. That skill, that knowledge, once lost can’t quickly or easily be replaced. And those skills and that knowledge are exactly what we need in a time of cuts to minimise the effect on the service. We must do all we can to retain skilled staff, who can make the best of the lean times and be ready when the cycle turns (and the cycle will turn) to get back immediately into growth.

So here we are, in a period of reduction and restructuring, with bib services taking on all kind of new tasks and responsibilities. As well as all the hard work, anxiety and stress, there are a lot of good things coming out of the changes. Firstly, we have learned new skills and tried all sorts of things we’ve never tried before – and mostly we have enjoyed it. We have certainly taken on a more crucial role in delivering services and we are working more closely with our front-facing colleagues. We are demonstrating that our skills are relevant and even marketable. We have come out of the shadows and become visible. We have even embraced social media. These things have not destroyed us but made us stronger.

Of course there is a downside too. The workload has increased for all of us, the constant pressure makes us irritable and we can’t often find the opportunity to think, to plan, to look forward.  We spend our time fire-fighting, and not even putting the fires out, just  damping them down before we have to rush off to the next one, knowing they will flare up again behind us. And we don’t have enough time to spend cataloguing.

That is the real risk, because all the jobs that we have taken on, we have been able to take on because we have good and accurate data and because we have been able to exploit the skills that we have as cataloguers. If we neglect our cataloguing, if we cut corners and start to get slovenly, the whole house of cards will come tumbling down around our ears. If the data is wrong, then the management information will be wrong. If the data is inconsistent, then the LMS will not operate reliably. If we make mistakes, then when we get those books sent back to us with complaints, we will not be able to explain anything, we will just have to apologise.  Our colleagues will lose confidence in us and we will lose confidence in ourselves. And we certainly will not be able to sell skills that we cannot demonstrate that we have.  So whatever else we do – and for sure we will be doing many other varied tasks – we must continue to catalogue accurately, consistently and with good judgement and imagination. However tempting it may be to do so, we must not cut corners and we must never think that “good enough” is good enough, because it is not.

Getting to grips with developing and managing e-book collections

Getting to grips with developing and managing e-book collections

Another summary of a recent course we’ve attended, contributed by Nick

Like many public libraries, our lending libraries have recently begun to offer an e-book collection, some of which can be downloaded onto e-book readers (other than Kindles), some of which have to be read online.  We are involved with managing the collection.

The course was organised by the UK eInformation Group of CLIP, took place in the Learning Centre at the University of Birmingham and was presented by Chris Armstrong, of Information Automation Limited.

Definitions of e-books

The day began by offering a definition of what is meant by an e-book.  The term is often treated as being synonymous with commercial e-books, downloadable onto handhelds, but here the presenter offered a wider definition –

“Any content that is recognisably book-like, regardless of size, origin or composition, but excluding serial publications, made available for reference or reading on any device (handheld or desk-bound) that includes a screen”.

They may be digitised or born-digital, in a variety of formats (PDF, HTML, ePub), purchased, subscribed to or free, and 95% of them are currently scanned versions of printed books.  So this definition includes not only the kind of mass market e-books that we are now introducing, but the type of “electronic resource” that we have been making available for some time.   

Trends in e-book publishing

A survey of the ways in which e-books are being made available began with publishers themselves. University presses were generally the first, then academic publishers (who may offer a choice of whole books or “granular access” – the option of buying individual chapters), followed by publishers of specialist non-fiction, educational publishers, general non-fiction, fiction and children’s fiction.  Other options include

Aggregators, such as Credo Reference  who offer packaged access to works from different publishers.

Library suppliers, such as Overdrive and Askews, who make more mainstream titles available in what is intended to be a library-friendly way.

Bookshops, such as Campus .

Free e-resources (often made available through libraries). These include Text archives (scanned archives of print works), collections (such as the International Children’s Digital Archives) single works ( City Sites), examples of social publishing and reading (‘Mortal Ghost’).

Library Projects – such as EOD (e-books on demand) .

Interface and reading issues

The second session gave us an opportunity to experiment with a range of e-books, guided by worksheets.  One was a subscription publication produced by a publisher (Oxford Scholarship), three were aggregators (Ovid Kluwer, eBooks at EBSCO and Credo Reference) and five were freely available (City Sites, Open Library, Penguin, International Children’s Digital Library and Spartacus). 

After the session we discussed the ‘interface and reading issues’ that we felt had arisen.  Most had experienced some problems with overly complex navigation and readability when looking at the subscription services – but not so the free services.  The presenter emphasised that when reading non fiction e-books the primary need was to extract brief pieces of information quickly, and that the printed page, in his view, was still the preferred format for extended reading. 

He admitted, though, that “e-fiction does not appear to present any problems for public library users”.

Business models: acquisition

The two main models are purchase and subscription.

The purchase model means that the library has to download the book and find its own way of making it accessible, mounting it on the library server and determining how to lend it.  When a library buys (as opposed to licenses) an e-book the same copyright restrictions apply as to a paper copy.  There are also issues relating to the meaning of “perpetual access”.

Under the subscription model the library pays a hosting fee and lending and use is managed by the provider.  The subscription model is the more library-friendly of the two.

Licenses 

The main point here was that a licence agreement is –

“an invitation to negotiate the terms and conditions … and the use of licences and therefore the introduction of contract law to regulate the use of digital resources, has brought the status of existing copyright exceptions into question.  Contract law means that the parties to a contract are free to negotiate the terms of copyrighted material or even [mistakenly] waive the rights granted to them by copyright law.”

 To avoid this the licensee should press for the conclusion of wording such as

The licence shall be deemed to complement and extend the rights of the Licensee under the national Copyright Act and nothing in this licence shall be construed as diminishing permitted acts or as constituting a waiver of any statutory rights held by the Licensee from time to time under that Act or any amending legislation.”

if it is not already present in the licence.

Facilitating access

The best way of facilitating access remains OPAC (catalogued titles are apparently used 70% more than uncatalogued ones).  Others include providing access from the main library website and Virtual Learning Environments.  Libraries may also want to consider whether they want to make handheld e-book readers available to their readers. 

Promotion and marketing

Some of the more imaginative suggestions for marketing an e-book service included placing stickers on print copies and the use of ‘surrogate e-book’ wobblers.

This course was well-presented and offered a well-informed overview of the general subject, which assumed no previous knowledge or experience, although it was (understandably – I was the only delegate from a public library) not primarily concerned with the practicalities of providing an e-book service (in the usual sense of the term) in a public lending library context.

Reduced budgets? Increased impact! : MmIT2012 in Sheffield

Reduced budgets? Increased impact! : MmIT2012 in Sheffield

When one of us has attended a conference, seminar or training event we try to share what we have learned by making a brief presentation at our monthly staff meeting.  In some we cases, we thought it would also be useful to write about it on our blog.

This account of the 2012 MmIT Conference was contributed by Nick

MmIT (Multimedia and Information Technology Group), a special interest group of CILIP, evolved from the merger of the AV Group (who originally dealt with gramophone records) and the IT Groups of the Library Association.  This – their first conference for some years – was held at the University of Sheffield, was well attended (mainly by delegates from the academic and special library sectors) and exceptionally well organised.  It was unsurprising that an interactive voting session – another feature of the day – was heavily in favour of resuming Annual Conferences.

The theme of the day ‘Reduced budgets, increased impact!’ was implicit in the two plenary sessions, the four workshops (delegates could choose to attend two) and the series of 5-minute sessions held immediately after lunch.  One thread emphasised the potential of cloud technology to overcome the difficulties traditional library management systems have in offering unified access to conventional and digital content, the other highlighted the ways in which libraries can make use of free (or low-cost) web-based technologies to enhance their services.

The first plenary session was ‘Paradigm shift: a slate of new automation platforms’ delivered by Marshall Breeding, Director for Innovative Technology and Research at Vanderbilt University.  Breeding, a long-time observer of the evolution of the uses of information technology in libraries, argued that we are at the beginning of a ‘paradigm shift’. He expects library management systems that are rooted in print and not well-suited to adapt to new content forms (so that digital content has to be provided through parallel systems) to give way to library platforms that enable a unified approach to content management. 

He sees the key to achieving this shift as being a move to ‘web-scale’ technologies and a cloud-based environment where libraries make use of hosted multi-tenant software accessed via the web on a subscription basis to replace self-managed and discrete library management systems.  Libraries would no longer own and manage their own data – the data will be “in the cloud” and libraries will make use of it in the way that suits their collections.

Breeding did make it clear that he was thinking, in the first instance, of the academic library environment, where the majority of funds are already spent on electronic content and that the 10-year ‘cycle of transition’ he foresaw might not apply to the public library sector, where he expected the older model to persist for longer.     

The first workshop I attended was Dave Pattern’s ‘Discovering Discovery: experiences of implementing Summon at Huddersfield University’. He outlined the problems that Huddersfield had previously encountered with providing access to e-resources, such as needing multiple passwords and different interfaces (these seemed familiar to the academic library staff – and students – in the audience). A Library Impact Data Project had found evidence of a strong correlation between usage of e-resources (particularly journals) and academic achievement, but also a worryingly low usage of these resources.

After an e-resources review they had chosen to implement Summon, which allows the user to search the physical library stock, e-books (mainly digitised full text), journal and newspaper articles with a single search, thus satisfying the users’ preference for a ‘Google-like’ search without diminishing their ability to make use of the full range of library resources.  The result has been a significant reduction in the number of complaints and a substantial increase in usage.  (It should be remembered that the context here is one where users primarily need to have access to journal literature for the purposes of research).

Summon at Huddersfield can be seen in action here and the slides from a similar presentation here .

In the second workshop ‘A free web toolkit for the modern library’ Claire Beecroft and Andy Tattershall of ScHAAR (School of Health and Related Research at Sheffield University) offered an entertaining survey of some of the (mostly) free online tools that are available to enhance and promote the service provided by a modern LIS.  They divided them into ‘Pliers’ (how to pull people in), ‘Saw’ (how to cut costs), ‘Hammer and nails’ (how to pull things together) and ‘Trowel’ (how to spread the message).  The tools demonstrated included various Google apps that can be used to replace Microsoft software, Mendeley (a reference management database), Prezi (an alternative to Powerpoint for creating presentations) and Vimeo (which ScHAAR use as an alternative to YouTube for posting online tutorials and publicity material).

They also (on a sobering note) stressed the importance of making sure that apparently free content taken from the web really is free and not the property of a copyright holder and (rather dampeningly) were doubtful about whether it was really possible to write an engaging institutional blog.

Their own blog is here .

Unfortunately Ross Mahon (Apps Edu Evangelist @Google) was ill and unable to present the second plenary session in person, so presented it from Ireland via Google Hangout, thereby demonstrating the potential of one of Google’s products (although – to be honest – I didn’t think this was an unqualified success).  His presentation was mainly a demonstration of how various Google Apps for Education can be used to communicate better with the ‘Digital natives’.

In between the morning and afternoon sessions there were a series of five-minute presentations (including one from a Sheffield student about designing attractive QR codes) and the day finished with a Q&A session with all the speakers.  Asked specifically about public libraries, one speaker said that free applications potentially offered public libraries the greatest opportunities precisely because we have the least money. When asked what he felt the greatest threat was, Andy Tattershall replied that it was that “the rug might be pulled from under our feet” – meaning that some of the things we have become used to getting for free might not always remain so.  

The official  MmIT blog contains an account of the day, with the slides from some of the speakers’ presentations and summaries of the workshops I missed.  It has also been blogged by Michelle’s Library Stuff , Lady Pen’s Treasure Trove and Sensible Shoes and entertainingly live-tweeted (the tweets were displayed at the sides of the stage) by some of the students who were helping organise it and by some of the delegates (using the hashtag #MMIT2012).