“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


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 …

We’re changing …

We’re changing …

Our role as a section (and as individuals) has changed dramatically since we first adopted the name Bibliographical Services Section and to reflect that we have decided to adopt the new, more accurate and up-to-date name Information Services Section (ISS).

We are in the process of re-branding – replacing BSS  with ISS wherever it appears (including the old sign that used to be on our door)

BSS sign

You may already have noticed some changes on Twitter and at the head of this blog.  You will still come across the name BSS in some of the older posts, but from now on remember – “For BSS read ISS”.


Photoblog: Chap Books & Tracts

Chap Books & Tracts

In our last photoblog, we showed you a unique cookbook which temporarily resided in the CATALOGUING CUPBOARD (think of a vault, a scary vault, not from IKEA). This time we bring you Chap books and tracts.

A tiny little treasure trove of interesting things, this book includes poems, tracts, stories, a dream dictionary and an oraculum that may answer questions like, ‘where did I put my keys?’, ‘what did I come into this room for?’ and ‘do I need so many books?’ (oraculum says yes, always yes).

Probably intended as a bit of disposable pop culture, this item has luckily lived past its sell by date and is now a part of the Guildhall Library collection. Do take a look inside by visiting our Pinterest page, or an even closer look by visiting Guildhall Library.

Contributed by: HD

‘Phlebotomy made easy?’ : a day with W.F. Howes

WF Howes showroom event: 14th-16th May at the Grange Langham Court Hotel, London

Contributed by: Lynn

Although many of their products have passed through my hands over the years, this was my first time attending a WFH showroom event.  These events offer an opportunity for library staff to browse and order audiobooks, playaways and large print stock and for the company to meet their clients face to face and promote their online services.

The day included a presentation on WF Howes’ digital services including One Click digital, which our libraries use. It provides our readers with access to a collection of e-audiobooks which they can download for free. The good news for digital content borrowers is that Pimsleur language courses and titles from Audiogo (unabridged audiobooks as well as BBC radio recordings) are being added to One Click.

We also heard about Zinio, which is an e-magazine service and is described as the ‘world’s largest newsstand’ offering hundreds of the best complete digital magazines.  Another product on offer is Universal Class, an educational service providing online courses for library users. There are over 350 courses covering a range of subjects from spiritual studies to cooking. These courses consist of video based lessons with tests, writing and hands on assignments.

 I looked at the complete list of courses available when I got back to the office and there are some very interesting sounding ones including ‘Angel healing’, ‘Trick horse training’, ‘Working with your animal allies, teachers and totems’ and my personal favourite, ‘Phlebotomy made easy’. Special mention must also go to the online Universal Class course entitled ‘How to take an online course at Universal Class’.

The final presentation was by Simon Cox on LibraryPressDisplay, an online collection of over 2300 national & international newspapers from 97 countries covering 55 different languages (it was emphasised that this is not an archive service – back issues are only kept for 90 days). These digital papers are complete replicas of the physical editions. We were shown the different ways you can search for information on the site (e.g by the publication title, country, language, person, subject and date) or narrow your search to specific areas of the newspapers (e.g business pages or sports sections). The site also allows you to translate newspaper pages into other languages, email articles and even have the text read out to you if you are visually impaired (or just too lazy to read it yourself!).

With so much information available at the click of a mouse, I did find it interesting to learn that the most popular search on the site is for … well here’s a clue: Puzzles in which an arrangement of numbered squares are to be filled with words running both across and down in answer to correspondingly numbered clues (10 letters).*

The event also included a talk from author Rowan Coleman, a writer of romantic fiction who also writes teen horror fiction under the name Rook Hastings. She started her talk by saying how much libraries meant to her as a child and how, growing up dyslexic, she felt that, although she probably read books in a completely different way to everyone else, every book she borrowed was a gateway to another world. She re-iterated her support for public libraries and said all her writer friends felt exactly the same. She then went on to tell us the story behind her latest book ‘Dearest Rose’.

She had been looking for an idea for her next book and decided to ask her Facebook friends for subjects that they would like her to write about. To her surprise, the topic which came up again and again was domestic violence. She then asked for people’s stories of domestic abuse and received 400 emails from women describing their experiences. At that time, this was about a third of all her friends on Facebook!

She was so moved by the responses that she decided that she definitely needed to write about this decidedly unromantic topic. So she set about writing the novel.  She said it wasn’t easy and at times she really wanted to give up, but she persevered and when the book was published the positive feedback she received from her many readers confirmed to her that it had been the right decision to tackle the issue in her fiction. The book won the Festival of Romance’s Best Romantic Read Award in 2012 and Romantic Novel of the year (RoNA) Best Epic Romantic Novel 2013.

My day ended with Sean Melvin who is the Digital Products Manager demonstrating Universal Languages Online to myself and Janet, my line manager. He has been using it in his spare time to learn one of the Slavic languages, so was more than happy to show us how easy it is to use, while wowing us with the Bulgarian phrases he had learned so far!

(*yes, crosswords!)

(If you would like to read or listen to ‘Dearest Rose’ we have a copy of the paperback available here and an audio version here.)

Pinterest : citybibs

PinterestWe do love our social media down here in Bib Services, which is why we recently signed up to Pinterest. Pinterest is great because though its main aim is to enable collecting (‘pinning’) things of interest, it also functions as a great promotional tool, something that has been picked up by many libraries.

For those not acquainted with Pinterest, it’s a virtual pinboard where one can create and share themed collections, whether you are collecting knitting ideas or displaying a collection of historical photographs.  It’s image heavy, intended for photosharing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pin websites or blog posts to your pinboard to keep track of interesting things.

Bib Services will be using Pinterest to promote the work we do here and also to collect items of relevance to us (i.e. lolworthy library gifs, with a hard G), with perhaps the occasional picture of the abundance of woodwork in this place. If you’re inclined, please do check out/follow our boards.

Contributed by: HD

Dandelions, Digital Literacy and Development

Dandelions, Digital Literacy and Development

Contributed by: HD

I recently attended an event held by Dawson’s, which featured three talks I really enjoyed, the first by Ben Showers (@benshowers), programme manager with JISC. In A Presentation on the First Stage Findings of the Library Management System Programme, he discussed the three ages of library systems (the stand alone age, the age of integration, and the age of contingency) and the evolution of the LMS from back office tool to something which is presently more integrated, a product of collaborative effort, and moving towards an age of the continually evolving LMS, a product that will be being born of what Ben Showers described as a ‘dance between user and system’.

Ben Showers spoke of how user expectations are being shaped by sites like Facebook and Twitter, and how in choosing a LMS we will need to be aware of these expectations, to be open to enhancing our LMS through being a part of knowledge communities, making use of things like crowd sourcing, and to accept that the LMS is never complete and is on a path of continual change. I felt rather excited by the prospect of the third age with its focus on community based knowledge and crowd-sourced data, as open and collaborative endeavours can lead to some truly amazing things (Linux immediately springs to mind).

We might not be able to get the perfect product (has there ever been such a thing?), but between us we may be able to use the tools and skills at our collective disposal to collaboratively build something that suits our needs (the open-source ILS Koha might have been mentioned…). A lot of this will probably depend on open data and Ben Showers suggested that we ought to let go of data the way dandelions let go of their seeds (as inspired by Cory Doctorow). Data should be set free, allowed to settle or die wherever it lands and similarly allowed to flourish and prosper should it land on fertile ground. Let data be promiscuous, was the well-received advice.

The next talk was by University of Greenwich’s Mark Kerrigan (@MarkKerrigan), entitled How Digitally Literate are Students? He spoke about how students might have digital skills, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are digitally literate. He also asked whether institutions make assumptions about levels of digital literacy and make decisions based on these assumptions, suggesting that, in order to develop the student, the academic institution must look at what resources it has, the needs of the student, and how the resources meet those needs.

Mark Kerrigan illustrated the differences between student needs by describing four types of students. The digitally immersed student is at one with her digital environment. The adaptive student is capable and skilled, if not fully engaged. The digitally fixed student is good at what she knows, but won’t engage further than necessary. The detached student is, well, detached, not seeing the potential benefits of digital skills. Mark Kerrigan suggested that students should be guided towards being adaptive and that there is a need to align the teaching of digital literacy to the student’s journey which starts on entering an institution and ends with leaving prepared for working in a professional environment.

It occurs to me that the library can play a vital role in facilitating a service user becoming more adaptive (the library having a role in anything is great news, even if it’s The Da Vinci Code), but before we can start helping service users with digital literacy, are we adaptive enough to keep up with the changing nature and demands of our work? Do the institutions for whom we work do enough to facilitate our development to keep in sync with ongoing changes? People working in libraries/information environments have different levels of digital literacy and this is something we need to be aware of in terms of the services we provide and our own professional development (but mostly in terms of being able to talk to people in IT without wanting to catapult ourselves out of a window).

Finally, the keynote speaker at the event was Annie Mauger (@anniemauger), CEO of CILIP. Her talk was on Inspiring Information Professionals: a bright future in a digital world.  She spoke of the difficulty of working in austere times with cut budgets and loss of staff, with fewer people doing more work. She emphasised that it’s important to recognise our own value, though we may feel devalued at times, and also to continue developing professionally. She spoke of how information professionals need to be responsive to a changing environment. If technology is changing our role, then we must look at how to adapt to those changes.

Annie Mauger mentioned a quotation I really liked by Wayne Wiegand, who said, “Rather than the user in the life of the library, think about the library in the life of the user”. She asked whether the physical library really is about what is held there, or whether it’s about the purpose for which the patron wants to use it. Annie Mauger also stressed that universities especially need libraries to be physically at the heart of their institution, so students can see them and make use of them. After all, if our libraries are going to be hidden away like secrets, it doesn’t do much for the visibility of the people working in them or the services on offer.

During this talk I really felt that the library doesn’t have to be a dying institution at all (as someone once kindly described it to me, oblivious to the fact that libraries have been dying for quite a while now). Library spaces aren’t just about collections in the same way those who work in libraries don’t just deal with books. Libraries offer space for peace, privacy and quiet. The people working in libraries connect the user to the useful. If libraries are truly built to be cultural and educational hubs, places where you can access a variety of resources, activities and space, they can find new life in an age where space, quiet and privacy are becoming ever elusive.

I came away from this talk feeling that the library’s image needs to be recast into something visibly in sync with a changing information environment. This means not shoving libraries away into invisible nooks, but showcasing them and their staff as places and people who can offer traditional services, as well as help bridge the digital divide. Let’s market ourselves better and make it easier for people to find us, to join up, to ask for our help and just generally offer them the ease of connecting with us.

There’s a lot happening on the digital landscape which is having an impact on traditional librarianship. Maybe the library profession seems dusty and oaken in comparison to the dynamism of new technology, but here’s the thing, information is for use. Every user has his or her information need. Every bit or byte of information has its user. We can mediate that space between user and information, saving the time of the user. The digital environment is a growing organism in which we can still play a role developing technologies and strategies, educating users to become more digitally literate, and continuing to guide people in their search for information.

FRBR for the Terrified : a workshop at the University of Kent, 25 March 2013

FRBR for the Terrified : a workshop at the University of Kent, 25 March 2013

Another report back from a course that one of us has attended.  This time Chris braves the terrors of FRBR.

This course was arranged by the Cataloguing and Index Group of CILIP. It had already been run at several venues and the intention had been (and still is) to put at least one on in London, but since the opportunity came up of attending it in Canterbury, I clutched at it.

A Powerpoint display had been put together by various members of CIG. This formed the basis of the workshop that Robin Armstrong-Viner, Head of Collection Management at the University of Kent presented.

FRBR, the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records was published in 1997. It is not a format (like MARC) nor a set of cataloguing rules (that is RDA) but is an abstract model for cataloguing that underpins RDA. It says fundamentally similar things to previous sets of principles, like Cutter in 1904 and the Paris Principles in 1961 but uses more general terms and itself comes from outside the library world and from database models.

There is a lot of new terminology in FRBR that you either like or dislike! The early part of the workshop took us through a lot of this – entities, attributes, relationships. This was all reasonably familiar to me but it was good to hear it explained right through and the first exercise involving one sheet of blue paper and two sheets of white was useful. We were required each to think of some invention (however implausible). We were then asked each to write our idea in a sentence on the blue sheet and pass it to our neighbour who then copied the sentence, first onto one white sheet and then onto the other. Finally we were required to tear off the corner of one of the white sheets. The explanation of this crazy party game was that the idea in our heads was the “work”; the writing it down on the blue paper, the “expression”; the writing of it on the white sheets was the “manifestation”; and we ended up with two “items” one of which (the torn sheet) was a damaged item – in my case particularly so because I had been scribbling notes on my sheets not realising they were to be props for an exercise!

If the first half of the workshop was about the terminology and structure of FRBR, the second was almost entirely about “relationships”. This is the very heart of what FRBR is trying to achieve – making clear to the catalogue user the relationship between this film and the book it came from and the music which was composed for the film and the translation of the book into Punjabi – even the Lego kit which was brought out based on it. These relationships are many and sometimes complex. FRBR aims to provide a kind of structure which enables these connections to be made and visualised. We were shown a disambiguation page from Wikipedia as an example of how an FRBR-ised catalogue should look – each different thing differentiated (and “disambiguated”) and then a link for you to follow.

The final exercise of the day was mind-bending, involving placing different bibliographical concepts (eg. “free translation”, an “annotated edition”, a “facsimile”) on a spectrum of whether it was equivalent to, a derivative of or descriptive of the original work. Your decision affected whether you would look on it as being a new “work”, a new “expression” or the same “expression” as the original. Some of us staggered for the door at the end!

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.