“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 …

‘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.)