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.


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.

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.

Behind the scenes

Behind the scenes

Contributed by: Heather

For many years, Bib Services has been running occasional “behind-the-scenes” tours under the heading “Journey of the Book” – which we thought was an original title until we Googled it, when we found that there is nothing new under the sun. These tours, which follow a book through the processes of ordering, receipt, cataloguing and processing, were devised as a means of introducing new library staff to the work of our department – because, as a centralised department, we have contact with everyone, everywhere, at some time or another and because most people like to be able to put a face to a name. We wanted to be able to demonstrate not only that we existed, but that we were helpful, friendly and that the work we did in the back-room had a direct impact on the work they did on the front line.

After a while it occurred to us that perhaps library users would also be interested to see behind the scenes, and we started to offer a similar tour to the public. This covers pretty much the same ground, but we have to be careful to explain things in layman’s terms and not to assume that anyone knows, for example, what a catalogue is, what it does or why it might be useful.

Gradually we noticed that some of the people on these public tours were, in fact, colleagues from other library services – and who doesn’t like to have a look and see how another library does things? This did give us problems sometimes, when a group might include curious but uninformed library users alongside fellow cataloguers who were looking for a lot more detail.  And so we devised a third “flavour” of tour – one specifically for professional colleagues.

Although it takes time and work to organise the tours – setting up displays, preparing handouts and “goody-bags”, and devising and collating feedback forms – and although it can be tiring and slightly stressful to be suddenly in public view and acting as a tour guide, we have found the experience to be well worth the effort.

Sometimes “to see ourselves as others see us” can be uncomfortable. Working in the back room tends to be isolating and we make assumptions about our customers’ knowledge and expectations that turn out to be wrong. Things which we regard as being self-evident, often aren’t. And so we learn as much as our visitors and, in the case of professional colleagues, often make contacts that endure to the benefit of all concerned.

 As always, we’d be pleased to hear your comments.  Perhaps you have tried something similar and would like to share your experiences, or perhaps you are contemplating a similar project and would like to ask further questions about ours?

Our next tours, which are Public Journeys of the Book, will be on Wednesday 8th of February.  Unfortunately, these are now almost sold out, but we will be announcing the details of any future tours on W&E.

If you would like to be sent details when the next tours are announced, please leave your contact details here, or e-mail us at