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

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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

Book launch events in Guildhall Library 2012

Book launch events in Guildhall Library 2012

Contributed by: Karen

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Communicating with library users via the catalogue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The making of BSS – the Movie

The making of BSS – the Movie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BSS – the Movie

BSS – the Movie

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

Chris adds –

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

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

Introducing Work and Expression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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