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

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

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.

Sex, flies and smoking terminals : a look back through our archives

Sex, flies and smoking terminals

We’ve been clearing out the office of our recently retired Bibliographical Services Librarian, and have uncovered a cache of documents in that transitional stage between ‘clutter’ (nasty stuff, to be thrown out) and archival material (invaluable stuff, to be, in due course, catalogued, conserved and made accessible).

Many of them are memoranda.  These are probably only familiar to younger readers from period dramas set in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies.  You may, for instance, have seen a Boss instructing a Secretary ‘Take a Memo, Miss Peabody” and wondered what was meant.  In the days before e-mail, they were a means of communication between different sections and levels of an organisation : inevitably a “top down” form of communication (‘memorandum’ is the Latin for ‘must be remembered’) they did not generally invite or expect a response.  They did, however, have the advantage that the Boss had to read their thoughts aloud to another human being before sending it, which may have helped to avoid some of the worst excesses of the e-mail genre.

Some of these memoranda provide valuable evidence of how earlier generations responded to Change in the Workplace.   For instance, we often think of ‘information overload’ as being a modern phenomena (typically managers complaining of having more e-mails than they can cope with) but this memorandum from 1968 indicates that the problem goes back as far as the invention of the telephone.

“It has come to my notice that two members of the staff have recently telephoned the Principal Lending Librarian with a view to making appointments to see him.  He is extremely annoyed by these incidents.  Apart from the irritation they cause – he may be in the middle of important discussions at the time – such calls are not the correct way to secure an interview.  They must be arranged through the proper channels. 

Any member of the staff with reasonable cause for requiring an interview with Mr [Redacted] will in future make application in the first place to me.  Permission will never be refused. although it must be realised that the Principal Lending Librarian is a busy man with many calls upon his time, and any interview granted will take place when convenient to him.”

(Perhaps because they never ‘ad the Latin, the staff clearly failed to remember this, because the memo had to be recirculated in 1971.)

But it was not only new technology in the obvious sense that caused problems.  Even the advent of the humble paper handkerchief proved challenging, as this memo from 1971 suggests:

DISPOSABLE PAPER HANDKERCHIEFS

It has come to my notice that some members of the staff have been using the metal waste-paper bins to dispose of used paper handkerchiefs.  This unpleasant and insanitary practice must cease.

Apart from the fact that the bins were never intended for this purpose, it should be obvious that to fill them with such germ-laden matter exposes the rest of the staff to an unnecessary additional health hazard.  In a centrally heated building, especially, they would become fertile breeding-grounds for bacteria, as well as flies and other vermin.  Moreover the porters, whose task it is to empty them, are being unfairly exposed to a much higher risk, since they are obliged to handle the contents of each bin, as they are sacked each morning. [The handkerchiefs, presumably, not the porters – Ed.]

I am arranging for each waste-paper bin to be thoroughly disinfected, and shall be glad if the staff concerned will, in future dispose of their used handkerchiefs either in the toilets, or, preferably, in the incinerator expressly provided for such purposes.

Of course, it was not only changing technology that offered a challenge to the managers of days gone by – changing social attitudes, too, could be hard to come to terms with.  The 1960s saw the arrival of the Permissive Society, as hippies preaching Free Love and Women’s Liberationists demanding equality thronged Carnaby Street  … (no, actually, hang on a minute, this memo dates from 1984):

“Further to my memo of 6 December,  I have now been able to discuss Sheila Kitzinger’s Woman’s Experience of Sex with the Director and he has consulted with a doctor who is personally known to him.  This has served to confirm our impression that it is an exceptionally well written work and one that we need not be ashamed to have on the shelves in our lending libraries.  It may, therefore, be added to stock forthwith.”

(What the Director’s doctor friend would have made of the 25 copies of ‘Different Shades of Grey’ that we currently have in stock is hard to say, though it seems unlikely that he would have thought it was ‘exceptionally well written’.)

And then there was New Technology proper.  What is often forgotten today in the age of hand-held devices and cloud computing is the degree of physical danger than the pioneers of library automation had to endure.  Rather like early aviators or the operators of mediaeval artillery, they were constantly at risk of injury from their own machinery.  This memo is from 1994:

 

“SMOKING TERMINALS

If a terminal starts to smoke please switch off immediately (if possible) and contact Gary or the ASM.  Do not use a fire extinguisher on the terminal as this will destroy the terminal and invalidate our repair warranty.

I have spoken to the Vanitec engineer who repairs our terminals and he has informed me that even if the terminal isn’t switched off the faulty part will burn itself out and will not burst into flames.”

Luckily, of course, the modern librarian can rest secure in the knowledge that all forms of electronic communication spontaneously self-destruct after five years.  Otherwise – who knows? – our e-mails, tweets and blog posts might someday be retrieved from some dark hard drive or cache to make us look as strange in the eyes of our successors as our predecessors sometimes seem to us …

Contributed by: Nick

Photo blog: cookbook

Item catalogued for Guildhall Library

Recently we had a cookbook pass through BSS on its way to Guildhall Library, a delicate tome filled with recipes written over the years, in pen and pencil, and on pages and scraps. It’s an immensely interesting piece of human history (interesting is interchangeable with yummy here), something we thought would be worth photoblogging.

Many wonderful items pass through BSS to be catalogued. Some of these take up a short residency in THE CUPBOARD (feel free to imagine this as a large dark towering oak monster vault), usually items which are rare, fragile and expensive. Most recently Tottell’s 1556 Latin edition of the Magna Carta had a short stay in BSS, where it was catalogued before being handed over to Guildhall Library.

Our office has its own history too, hiding old catalogues, shelves with names like Arthur’s Bin, and some papery things. Admittedly, this place has an interior that would only look good on radio, but we thought it might be fun to do the odd photoblog, whether it’s of things passing through or some forgotten corner with a dusty librarian rocking back and forth whispering, “You can’t beat card catalogues. You can’t. You caaaaan’t.”

TLDR: Pretty pictures on this blog sometimes.

(Contributed by: HD)

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.

Montalbano and the Borrowers

Montalbano and the Borrowers

You may have noticed that a new feature has recently appeared on our sidebar – ‘We’ve been borrowing …’.  What’s it all about?  G.M. explains all …

We’ve been borrowing …’ appears as a series of regular updates on the BSS page of our catalogue and it does pretty much what it says on the tin!  It features anything on our catalogue that members of the BSS staff have been borrowing from our libraries (or at least will admit to borrowing from our libraries!) and would like to draw to the attention of both colleagues and visitors to the page.

It was initially introduced as a way of promoting the diversity of our stock to library users as well as personalising the catalogue a little and reminding everyone that there are actually real live people working here behind the scenes!    Since our work can sometimes be quite solitary, it was also an opportunity for us to share our interests, inspire each other and prompt some lively discussion between us. 

The list is updated at the beginning of each month. There’s no pressure on anyone to make suggestions – everyone is free to contribute on a regular basis or just occasionally, whatever suits them best. There’s no guarantee that all suggestions will make it up onto the live page either. It depends on things like space, formatting, visuals and other technical stuff. But our aim is to include ideas from everyone in BSS at some point so that we accurately reflect the borrowing habits of the section as a whole.

Anything and everything can be included. Any subject in any format … fiction, non-fiction, comedies, dramas, tragedies, reference items, children’s books, graphic novels, language courses, light reads, weighty tomes, hardbacks, paperbacks, DVDs, Blurays,  CDs, spoken word and scores … Anything we’ve been reading, watching or listening to … as long as it’s in the libraries and on the catalogue then it qualifies!

So far the contributions have focussed mainly on books, along with the occasional DVD or CD. But the subject matter and the genres have been quite eclectic and have included music theory, economics, comedy, animated films, Ethiopian jazz,  recipe books, travel guides, historical and classic novels.

Now and then a theme emerges … this month’s suggestions were made in the run up to a hot and sunny weekend and the list features gardens, barbeques and cricket. We in BSS obviously know how to relax, switch off and recover from our exhausting working weeks!  Sometimes suggestions can be seasonal … I think several of us were in spring cleaning mode when we became intrigued by the suggestion ‘Vinegar: 100s of household uses’ (Seriously! You’d be amazed!)

One of the first recommendations ‘Alone in Berlin’ by Hans Fallada has now been borrowed by several members of staff and has been much discussed and unanimously admired.  Sometimes there are strange coincidences … one staff member had just recommended ‘The Tin Drum’ by Gunter Grass and by the end of the morning the Bluray / DVD version had landed on her desk for cataloguing.

Some of us were slightly nervous about including the suggestion ‘Robin Ince’s Bad Book Club: one man’s quest to uncover the books that taste forgot’ … wondering how many of these so-called awful books we might have read and ahem … maybe even enjoyed! Or which ones may be lurking in our (otherwise quite tasteful) libraries! 

A recent TV series inspired a mammoth Montalbano readathon between two of our resident book-junkies. They tore through all of the Commissario’s titles that we held in stock and then had Barbican staff rooting through the stacks to find ‘The Day of the Owl and Equal Danger’ by Leonardo Sciascia, the ground-breaking ‘Godfather’ of Italian crime fiction. 

Interestingly, these particular titles provoked a discussion about what we should actually call this staff picks feature. (Not that cataloguers are pedantic or anything … just scrupulously accurate!)  Originally it had the heading ‘We really liked …’ but we later changed it to ‘We’ve been borrowing …’ – a subtle but significant alteration which (as well as conjuring up images of my colleagues as Poms and Ariettys scampering about the libraries scaling bookcases and winching books down to the ground with washing lines) meant that we were now free to include ANYTHING we’d been borrowing even if we hadn’t necessarily ‘Really liked’ it (sorry Montalbano).

Perhaps we’d just found something mildly entertaining, distracting, slightly useful or unsettling, disappointing, derivative or surprising in some way.  Maybe we’d been experimenting and trying something new and very different that didn’t quite meet expectations.  They all became valid reasons for inclusion in the list. The new heading also reinforced the fact that all the items featured can be found on the catalogue and borrowed from our libraries.

So! That’s a very loonnnnnnnnnnng explanation for how a very short feature ended up making an appearance on our blog! Check out this month’s list and feel free to comment on our choices … or explore our extensive, user-friendly catalogue and be inspired by the range of reading, listening, watching material available … but please excuse me now … must fly … I’m off to borrow books!

A star to steer her by : how our books (etc.) get to the library shelves

A star to steer her by: how our books (etc.) get to the library shelves

This is a piece that was originally written by the then Bibliographical Services Librarian, Chris, for the page on our catalogue that we use to make our readers more aware of our activities (and was written with the readers in mind).  It explains a little about the Service Level Agreement that we have with our libraries and how it affects the way we work.

Every year we place about 13,500 orders and catalogue about 22,000 items for the City Libraries.  These range from literary prizewinners to downloadable audiobooks, from OECD statistics to eighteenth-century broadside ballads recounting the last moments of criminals at Tyburn, from the latest blockbuster DVDs to programmes for pre-First World War airshows.  It’s quite a mix, but all in a day’s work when our job is to see that everyone who uses our lending libraries, the City Business Library and the historical reference libraries at Guildhall and the London Metropolitan Archives has access to what they need.

There’s a bit more to it than popping to the local supermarket for a trolleyful of bestsellers or even logging into an online bookseller to fill a virtual basket (though we do that sometimes).  Orders are placed with several suppliers and we also receive many donations.  Just as obtaining the stock is sometimes straightforward and sometimes complicated, so with cataloguing.  We are able to download many catalogue records with minimal intervention, but other items have to be catalogued locally and sometimes the research can take a while (when, exactly, was that malefactor hanged?).  The key thing is that you should be able to find what you want, whatever it is, when you look at our online catalogue, whether you are sitting in one of our libraries or at home anywhere in the world.

So, how do we manage?  One of our most important tools is our Service Level Agreement (SLA) with our “internal customers”, the libraries.  This sets out the standards to which we work and covers a wide range of activities.  Much of the focus, however, inevitably falls on the parts of the SLA relating to the speed with which we process orders and, subsequently, the incoming stock.  There are separate standards for urgent orders (mostly requests from our readers) and routine ones.  Urgent orders are placed within 24 hours of receipt in BSS.  When the stock arrives it is catalogued and sent out to the library in no more than three working days.  For ordinary stock the standards are respectively 5 working days for placing orders and 15 working days to have the stock ready and sent out to the libraries.  Of course we are always trying to do better than this, but as well as giving us targets to aim for, the SLA does also allow us to manage workflows to take account of all the complications mentioned earlier, while still meeting acceptable standards agreed with our libraries.

And why do we do it?  Well, of course we do it for our library users.  Although the SLA is an agreement between BSS and the libraries, the point of it is to make sure that our customers can find what they need in as timely a manner as possible.

How I went from disliking computers to feeling way too comfortable about making unnecessary upper case declarations

How I went from disliking computers to feeling way too comfortable about making unnecessary upper case declarations

Contributed by : HD

Several of us in BSS took part in the recent thought-provoking CIG e-forum on social media in the cataloguing community.  Prompted by that, we asked HD – who has long been an enthusiastic advocate for social media – to share some of her thoughts on the subject. 

An avid user and supporter of social media, I’ve been asked to give my take on the subject. Since my take amounts to ‘YAY SOCIAL MEDIA \o/’, I have decided to take a bit of a meandering path through my discovery and my <3ing of social networking and media. Blogging was the thing which was taking off when I first got online about ten years ago. People were beginning a tentative migration from the talking in a circle format of mailing lists to the interacting from a podium format of blogs, but it was those lists that really drew me in. I initially signed up for an e-mail account with no intention of using it much, but once signed up and online, a Yahoo directory of interest based groups caught my attention.

It seemed a very odd thing, from my newbie point of view, groups of strangers scattered across the globe engaging with each other despite never having met. All anyone had in common was the one interest on which a group was formed (and time stamps indicating that they were up at three in the morning). Did they talk about anything other than their shared interest? Of course they did, because the internet is great at being off topic and it’s also where all the interesting questions get asked. Can anyone recommend some free virus protection? Tell me more about this open source thing. Are there any free archiving tools out there??I’m sorry, what does GTFO mean? Oh, I see, well that was unnecessary and impolite. You get the picture.

 There are of course corners of the internet filled with stupid questions that result in either equally daft answers, or brilliant stupidity-defeating responses, but more often than not, if your question is not completely insane, the responses will be enthusiastic and helpful and it’s this enthusiasm for discussion and sharing which is a major driving force behind the evolution of social networking and media. The media-makers can see that we like to interact, that we like to share, so they create products that are geared towards making it easier to do these things. When I joined my first Yahoo group, I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to blog, or tweet or share my musical tastes through sites like LastFM, but wanting to be part of wider circle of enthusiasm coupled with the potential of discovering more new and awesome things is a pretty big lure.

Over the years it’s become easier and easier to observe other people’s content flow by subscribing, friending, following or watching blog rolls and friends lists. When certain platforms introduced tagging, some of us were just waiting for that kind of functionality, the ability to index our content as well as content produced by others, not only for ourselves but for the countless others using hive-mind vocabularies, searching for similar things, i.e., #lulz. Increasingly, sites and services were appearing with common elements like the ability to create networks and find/share content through tagging. It’s hard to imagine any new service now being introduced without the options to tag or follow.

Social media has become a remarkable professional and political tool, now that we’re mobile, wireless and iPadded (and if we’re none of these things, at the very least we’re probably close to a location that might offer free internet access to help us on our way – if the local library hasn’t been shut down… yet). Social media has given us the opportunity to become speakers, reporters and educators, if we want to be, and that’s no bad thing. Sure, it comes with a pressure to be liked, retweeted, reblogged, but the result of this regurgitation of content is that you might just reach the people you wanted to, even if you do get flamed, trolled, blocked or defriended on the way.

I suppose this potential for reaching any and all is what I most like about social media. I’m fairly certain Twitter was never intended as a platform for educating, informing or protesting, but Tweeters have used the immediacy offered by mobile technology to speak from the one to the many, to tell us about more than just what they had for breakfast. There will always be the people who detract from the potential of social media, concentrating on its trivial nature, while boasting about how they don’t even own a phone, barely know how to use the internet and cycle to work on their penny-farthing (not that I’m bothered by tech-haters or penny-farthings).

The fact that we have this option to communicate to so many people from a phone, using a free wi-fi hotspot, that’s amazing, especially when you think back to the days of modems screaming painfully in an attempt to connect, dying half away through loading a page with a hundred flashing graphics on a fuchsia background. Remember when you couldn’t use the internet and the phone at the same time? There are ten year olds using diamante covered pink BlackBerrys who will never be able to imagine that such a thing was even physically possible, in fact sometimes I do wonder if this is a fabricated memory…

Social media, with all its trivial uses, is a very powerful tool when used with a bit of common sense and imagination, but it requires us to be willing to engage and participate in a very big conversation. The downside is encountering people who will use anonymity to be offensive and hurtful, but the upside is that businesses might just find a few more customers, artists might find a few more admirers, causes might find a few more supporters and on the way, we might make a few more useful connections. That is a not a bad thing at all.

I’m sure we are all – in the cataloguing community, and in the world of libraries generally – well aware of the need to find more customers, admirers and supporters and of how essential it is to make useful connections.  No doubt the question of how we can best harness the power of social media is a topic we shall be returning to in later posts.

As always, any comments would very welcome.