I was recently able to attend the third annual UK Web Archive (UKWA) Conference, which took place over Zoom on November 18th. I found it really interesting, and since it’s a topic which hasn’t come up too often in day-to-day library work, I thought I’d turn my notes into a blog post. UKWA is a partnership between the six UK Legal Deposit Libraries, which are permitted to take a copy of any UK digitally published resources under the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013. This is done through a combination of annual “capturing” of all .uk websites, ongoing “crawls” of certain sites and subjects, and the rapid formation of collections in response to current events. These copies are then preserved in perpetuity and made available on Legal Deposit Library premises. Captured sources range from official publications to social media posts, and sites can be nominated via an online form. However, it is not technically possible to capture everything – for example, Facebook currently cannot be harvested, and Twitter can only be captured through manual intervention. The conference featured presentations about a range of recent collections and projects, offering a broad insight into UKWA’s work over the last couple of years.
The first guest speaker was Joe Marshall, Associate Directions of Collections Management at the National Library of Scotland. He spoke about the Archive of Tomorrow, a new collaborative collection focusing on the impact of Covid-19. The collection aims to tell both the official and unofficial story of the pandemic, featuring government guidance, public dissent, and consequences for communities and industries. An interesting point here was the issue of metadata: as the project intends to avoid retrospectively labelling anything as ‘true’, ‘false’, or similar, there is a small possibility of someone encountering the collection and mistaking old captures for current guidance. However, this neutral attitude towards a huge breadth of content is crucial to the collection’s sense of completeness: to select and record an “official” version of the pandemic would not tell the full story. The Archive of Tomorrow is an ongoing project, and is currently recruiting web archivists across the Legal Deposit Libraries to continue curating and preserving the pandemic.
After a short break, the next two talks focused on specific collections within the UKWA. Nicole Bingham, Lead Curator of Web Archiving at the British Library, spoke about the Covid-19 collection, which can be found as a subsection of the pre-existing ‘Pandemic Outbreaks’ collection. There are obvious challenges in attempting to record global events through UK-centric sources, and so this talk also featured UKWA’s collaborative work with the International Internet Preservation Consortium (IIPC) Content Development Group, a partnership which enables researchers to combine and compare the Covid-19 collections of various national web archives.
Saskia Huc-Hepher and Xiao Ma then spoke about two diaspora collections focusing on French and Chinese speakers in London. Their presentation discussed archives in a more theoretical sense, exploring how the concept of a “community web archive” might be conceptualised differently according to varying connotations of the term “community” within the relevant groups. They also highlighted the importance of including these “microarchives” as a way of broadening UKWA’s scope beyond an Anglophone-centric perspective.
The next presentation was from Teagan Pyke, a PhD researcher currently working on the preservation of New Media Writing Prize (NMWP) entries. The NMWP is a competition for pieces of writing which cannot be expressed through “old media” alone; shortlisted entries from 2020 include several different styles of games and interactive webpages. Like the earlier talk from Joe Marshall, Teagan’s work involves the idea of completeness, focusing on the criteria for attaining a “good capture” of these works. Some of these factors are purely technical, such as attempting to ensure that links follow through correctly, while others are more abstract; Teagan determined that if some element of the work’s narrative, themes, or atmosphere were missing from the capture, it had not been preserved in full.
The final speaker was Tom Storrar, Head of the UK Government Web Archive (UKGWA). The UKGWA comprises captures from over 800 government-related websites and social media accounts, and, unlike much of the rest of the archive, can be accessed outside of the Legal Deposit Libraries. One project which stood out from UKGWA’s work in the last year was the EU Exit Web Archive. As the National Archives are responsible for publishing legislation, a decision was taken to capture all content published on Eur-Lex (the European legislation website) ahead of 11pm on December 31st, 2020. The result is, as described on the archive itself, “a comprehensive and official UK reference point for EU law as it stood at the end of the implementation period.” Future UKGWA plans include continuing to capture the government’s response to Covid-19, the integration of Instagram archives into public services, and generally improving the archive’s functionality as a research resource.
The conference was hosted by Jason Webber, Engagement Manager at UKWA, who also gave two talks during the morning. The first was a basic introduction to UKWA, while the second demonstrated how to access and navigate the available resources. As someone new to web archiving in general, I particularly appreciated this extra context to the various presentation topics, and found the conference as a whole to be a fascinating introduction to the area. As well as the annual conference, the UKWA also runs online training for staff and readers at Legal Deposit Libraries, and I would certainly recommend keeping an eye out for upcoming sessions.
Based at The British Library and officially a collaborative effort between all six legal deposit libraries, UKWA has been at work since 2005, although their scope and reach have expanded since then and have records going back to 1996, even if their team is still small for such an encompassing endeavour. To put that in perspective, the World Wide Web only came into existence as a publicly accessible network in 1990. Jason Webber, the team lead, tries not to worry too much about those intervening six years, although you can tell that if anyone had that data he’d want UKWA to incorporate it.
In 2013 UKWA made their first full annual trawl of everything that could be considered a UK public website. That’s millions of websites, billions of individual assets, and hundreds of terabytes of data every year, and it’s growing all the time. They don’t get anything private, no emails, nothing from behind a log-in, and the rise in streaming is proving a challenge, but everything they do get is captured to look and work just as it did when it was live. Jason is keen to make it clear they do their best, but there may still be bad links here and there in the vast amount of data they process, and some websites, retail especially, are too much to handle in their complete form. “We collect a representative sample of the UK web space” is the line they’re comfortable with for now.
The event which myself and Hannah attended on November 4th was described as a “mini” conference, and with only maybe 30 to 40 delegates it’s not an inaccurate name. The whole UKWA team consists of eight people, four technical and four curatorial staff. This small staffing means that for all their efforts there are still difficulties accessing the archive, and, along with legal deposit restrictions, that there’s a major limit on what’s possible in terms of Big Data analysis and research. Most collected websites are only accessible in legal deposit libraries. The website for BUDDAH (Big UK Domain Data for the Arts and Humanities), as presented by Prof. Jane Winters from the University of London, summarises the current situation in most fields best:
Despite the limitations, improvements to the user interface are a top priority at UKWA. There’s hope that as the archive “becomes history” and its relevance grows that increased interest will see increased use and development. The achieve was able to save a database of Conservative party speeches that was otherwise removed from public domain back in 2013 while the privately organised Internet Archive was blocked from doing so (UKWA had its legal obligation to gather the data to protect it). 90% of UKWA is no longer live, so instances like this are likely to occur more often in the future – their Brexit collection is already seeing higher traffic than previous curations and holds evidence of the notorious bus-pledge on the Vote Leave campaign’s website.
More events of this kind are planned and it’s evident the UKWA team want to see the project grow. Presentations by researchers at the mini-con showed the breadth of what the archive can be used for. Public assistance also helps – archiving a website is an option for anyone and can be done easily and rapidly at https://www.webarchive.org.uk/en/ukwa/info/nominate Sites like this one with a “.uk” domain are atuomatically included, but anything else requires nomination. Don’t hold back – as the team made sure we were aware, every website matters.
Rhiannon and Evie (Old Bodleian trainees) recently attended the CILIP New Professionals Day, held at CILIP headquarters in central London. The day was a worthwhile introduction to CILIP as a network of Library and Information professionals, and a great way to find out more about potential career paths and job sectors – and of course there were some freebies in there!
It was really useful and
reassuring to meet other new professionals who were all at very different stages in terms of their roles, their interests, and their educa-
tion. From a historian who is completing his masters while working as a Roving Support Assistant at Coventry University, to a former zoologist who is now Local Studies Librarian at Cheshire County Archives, there were so many different backgrounds and career paths amongst the attendees. It was very helpful to chat to people who have recently completed a library qualification, and to get their opinions on different universities, the Postgraduate Diploma versus the full Masters, and which modules they most enjoyed.
The talks were generally very interesting
and gave plenty of insight into the vast scope of the Library and Information field, covering sectors and employers ranging from corporate banks to humanitarian organisations, with employees and former employers of the NHS, Civil Service, and Microsoft represented.
One of the most exciting talks was about the role of the prison librarian, which debunked many misconceptions surrounding the job, and gave an honest and fair assessment of the challenges and rewards of working in a prison library. We were also surprised and gladdened to hear about the many charities and organisations providing support and funding for prisoners who want to further their literacy and education. It was gratifying to learn what an incredible difference prison libraries can make to children whose parents are in prison, by encouraging parents and children to engage with books and learn more together.
Evie also enjoyed the talk about Library and Information professionals working in the Civil Service, finding it inspiring to learn about the pivotal role of LIS professionals in researching, organising, and collecting data for important governmental reports and projects, such as the report into the Grenfell Tower fire. Again, the talk worked to counter pre-existing assumptions about working in the Civil Service as an LIS professional, and offered an intriguing introduction to the sector as a potential avenue for our future careers. The speaker was clearly a passionate individual with a love for the Library Services and this was particularly inspiring.
One of the most important things we took from the talks was the understanding that a career does not have to be a linear trajectory ‘up the ranks’ in one sector or organisation – it is always possible to transfer skills as an LIS professional from one sector to another, always branching out to new opportunities in different environments, or to build on your experience in one area and specialise further. The event also gave me a better understanding of what sectors might not appeal to me, as well – business and corporate sector information work, as an example. It was helpful to learn more about CILIP and their role as a supportive network for people in the field, and to find out about the events and qualifications available to CILIP members as they progress in their careers, such as their Chartership programme.
After the New Professionals Day, both of us feel much better equipped to articulate our own priorities and desires for the LIS careers we would like to build, and more informed about the realities of some key sectors within the field. We are excited to share this with our fellow trainees who weren’t able to attend!
(The following is part one of a two-part blog post on the 2019 OxCam Librarians’ Biennial Conference. It features individual recollections of the day’s events, kindly contributed by some of the Oxford and Cambridge University Graduate Library Trainees in attendance.)
The 2019 OxCam College Librarians’ Biennial Conference, hosted by Worcester College, Oxford, took place on the 19th March in the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre. The event provided an opportunity to share ideas and updates on developments currently impacting the library services of Oxford and Cambridge University colleges. An exhibition space had been set up in the conference centre’s anteroom, allowing delegates the chance to network throughout the day with representatives from numerous organisations, including Cambridge University Press, Temple Bookbinders, Blackwell’s, and Gresswell. Upon arrival, attendees were given a welcome pack which included a programme of proceedings, some helpful maps and floor plans, a register of delegates and, of course, a complimentary bookmark.
The first talk on mental ill-health in the workplace, delivered by Dan Holloway, was warmly received by the delegation and provided a positive, constructive foundation for the day ahead. Jenna, Graduate Library Trainee at the Bodleian Law Library (BLL) details the conference’s opening prelection:
‘Dan Holloway’s presentation was the first of the day, and he set a really good tone for the remainder of the conference by delivering a very thoughtful and open talk which conveyed important information in an informal and accessible way. Dan ran through some of the issues contributing to and exasperating mental ill-health in the work place; he considered the things we can do to aid workers with mental health difficulties and to break down stigmas, using facts and statistics alongside experiences from his own mental health story.’
After a round of informative and thought-provoking presentations, breakout sessions ran contiguous to the morning’s plenary session. The Graduate Library Trainees were asked to attend a special session led by Eleanor Kelly of St Hilda’s College, Oxford. Ross Jones, Graduate Library Trainee at the Bodleian History Faculty Library, recounts his experience in the passage below:
‘The Graduate Trainee Special Session took place in the Smethurst Studio and served as a platform for sharing our experiences as library trainees. In all, a total of twenty trainees attended, including a party of six from Cambridge University colleges.
Discussions opened with a brief ice-breaker exercise in which we were asked to share our name and our place of work with the group. We were also asked to describe our respective libraries in one word – ‘accommodating’, ‘comfortable’, ‘warm’ and ‘antiquated’ were some examples. After a round of introductions, Eleanor organised us all into five smaller groups and prompt sheets were circulated to guide conversation towards specific talking points. These points centred on aspects of our experiences such as the skills we’d attained, any accomplishments we’d achieved, the challenges we’d faced, and the types of library work we were involved in. I think structuring the conversation in this way helped to determine the significance of any similarities or contrasts that stemmed from working in different libraries.
Towards the end of the session, the group I was in broached the possibility of applying for postgraduate courses in library-related fields and discussed whether it was preferable to enrol as a full-time or part-time student. We also speculated which career paths might suit us best in the future. It was equal parts interesting and reassuring to hear from my compeers about the various activities trainees were involved with day to day; despite the differences, it seems inevitable that every trainee will, at one point, find themselves book processing, adhering bookplates and spine labels to new acquisitions!’
Once the morning breakout sessions had concluded, the delegation broke for lunch in Worcester College Hall. It was a hurried affair as visits to an Oxford archive, museum or college library were scheduled to run concurrently in the early afternoon. Natasha, one of the visiting trainees from Pembroke College, Cambridge, reflects on her tour of the Queen’s College Library in the passage below:
‘After lunch we split into groups for one of the most anticipated parts of the day, the library visits, and the Queen’s College Library did not disappoint. Amanda Saville, the Librarian, raced through the College and Library’s histories before letting us into the Upper Library.
This space is the oldest part of the Library and it remains open as a student study area. A staircase connects it to the Lower Library which houses much of the modern teaching collection and before the extension the shelves were full. The New Library is the most recent extension and it opened in 2017. Hidden beneath the Provost’s Garden, it allowed the library to expand and houses the special collections and archives in a secure and environmentally controlled storeroom. Multiple new reading rooms allow for better access to the special collections and cater to a wider range of student needs. It was great seeing how popular the New Library is, even in the vacation, and how well Amanda’s team did in supporting their users throughout the different Library spaces.’
Meanwhile, Bethan, a trainee at the Old Bodleian Library, was among those visiting Exeter College’s Cohen Quad. Elaborating on her experience, she says:
‘I was given the chance to visit Exeter College’s Cohen Quad which contained a purpose-built facility for the College Library’s Special Collections. William Morris is a notable alumnus of Exeter, and some of his possessions were donated to the college. This included his many pipes and a lock of his hair. We were shown an array of artefacts, including books produced by Morris’s printing house, Kelmscott Press; there was a beautifully illustrated edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which apparently is the original ‘Kelmscott Chaucer’ and belonged to Morris himself.
The Special Collections Librarian showed us the new facility which houses the collections and archives. This included the colour-coded rolling stacks and a purpose-built metal gate used to keep the rarest items secure. She discussed the logistics of moving over 30,000 rare books and manuscripts to the site and the challenges she faced in the process. The collections themselves were originally held in poor conditions, so each item had to be individually cleaned and restored before being moved. There was time afterwards for questions and a brief discussion about the promotion of Special Collections.’
‘Mark Bainbridge, the Librarian of Worcester College, was our knowledgeable and enthusiastic tour guide. I think I can safely say everyone in our group had a very pleasant visit. We first climbed up an eighteenth century cantilevered spiral staircase with over 60 steps to reach the modern (upper) library, which was created in the twentieth century. It is open 24/7 and holds 65,000 volumes across two levels. These are all digitally catalogued and can be borrowed via a self-service machine. The card catalogue was discontinued in February 2006, but is still available for consultation. They acquire around 1,000 books each year and have approximately 6 years of space left before the library is full, although there is some weeding to be done which should give them a little more time. The first professional librarian to work here introduced an in-house classification system in the 1960s, which is still used today.
Naturally the highlight of our visit was the handsome Lower Library, completed in 1736. Most of the shelves hold Dr George Clarke’s large bequest of books, manuscripts, prints and drawings, a great deal of which are not digitally catalogued. Sadly, we did not get to walk along the gallery, but we were a big group so this probably was not feasible. The Lower Library is open from 8am until midnight each day. Unsurprisingly, it is a popular place for students to work, so much so that they have to set out modern desks and chairs during particularly busy periods.
The library team had kindly selected and displayed a few interesting items for us to view in a small room next to the Lower Library…’
Across town, Jenna (BLL) and Eva of Newnham College, Cambridge, were welcomed into the grounds of Oxford University’s largest college, Christ Church. In detailing their experiences, they recount the awesome purlieus and inspiring collections of the college library.
‘It is futile to try to describe the overwhelming grandeur of Christ Church and its libraries in terms of beauty. An oddball of my generation, I am not a big fan of photographing things, preferring to just experience events and commit them to memory. The whistle stop tour of Christ Church library however had me almost instinctively reaching for my iPhone and snapping away unashamedly with the crowd around me.’
‘The visit to Christ Church library began with a small introduction to the college and the library by the College Librarian, Steven Archer, in Tom Quad with assistance from Emma Sillett who is the Reader Services Librarian. The grounds of the college are impressive – Tom Quad being the biggest quad of all the colleges – and you can see why Christ Church has a reputation for being one of the grandest colleges in Oxford. We then walked through the cloisters to what is actually the ‘New’ Library, which was completed in 1772 as a result of the Old Library becoming so full that they had to build another building to accommodate the amount of books that were being donated.’
‘What was striking about the New Library was how spacious and accommodating the surroundings felt, as well as elegant. The silence felt hushed as opposed to suffocating. It was as though the prestige of the college’s history and status created an atmosphere of inspiration, rather than intimidation.’
‘The Library’s reading rooms are on the ground floor of the New Library, which holds the working collection, and is a pleasant mix of antiquated and classical design with beautiful iron spiral staircases and wooden shelving, contrasting with white columns and domed archways. I really enjoyed seeing students using the reading rooms, which shows that the ground floor is comfortable and accessible for students to borrow and work from.
In contrast to this though, the Upper Library was arresting in its grandeur and the smell of old books – addictive to anyone working in libraries. The upper floor consists of the college’s rare books which are mainly arranged under named shelves referencing the benefactors who bequeathed the collections. This room also holds a large amount of interesting objects, such as a hat which apparently belonged to Cardinal Wolsey and a full horse skeleton which was being used by an anatomy class at Ruskin School of Art.’
‘The magnificent upper library, where the special collections are held is overwhelming. Our tour guide and head librarian Steven was at pains to emphasise the main function of the room is for the collections to be used and consulted, and that this was actively encouraged to potentially timid students.’
‘Steven had arranged for items from the college archive to be brought out for us to see, including an illuminated manuscript, one of Elizabeth I’s bibles, the foundation charter of the college, and a photograph album and draft drawings for Alice in Wonderland which belonged to Lewis Carroll who was Sub-Librarian at Christ Church during the second half of the 19th Century.’
‘The literary association with Christ Church that gets most people excited is Harry Potter, its cloisters and staircase having featured as settings for various scenes in the film series. I, however, was far more excited by another fantasy staple of fiction embedded in its history: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. To be able to stand in the same spot as Lewis Carroll did, beside his desk, and look out of the window at the ‘Cheshire Cat’s Tree’ was an eerily wonderful moment, as was being able to look at handcrafted figures of the characters made in 1900 and see original sketches Carroll’s brother drew of the book’s illustrations. I doubt I am the first to tour Christ Church and leave feeling rather like Alice.’
‘Overall, it was a really superb and informative tour which was well-structured but also allowed us freedom to explore the dizzying double-height Upper Library ourselves – I feel very lucky to have had such knowledgeable guides in Steven and Emma and I felt very inspired being ‘let loose’ in such a beautiful library.’
See part two of this blog post for details on the afternoon sessions attended by Oxford and Cambridge University Graduate Library Trainees!
Hello! Now that Michaelmas term is coming to an end, Bethan and I thought we would do a round-up post about some the things we have been up to so far.
In September we had the opportunity to participate in an information literacy training session for new PGCE students with the Education Librarians. This included helping the students utilise the online library catalogue and make the most of the libraries to aid their studies. We also showed them tips and tricks on sourcing academic journals, articles, and books.
Beth says – This session highlighted the importance for new students to learn key skills about using the library catalogue and finding e-resources to aid them in their studies. We got the opportunity to participate in the group work parts of the session to offer suggestions and help when needed, as well as the individual exercises. Although I was supposed to be helping with the teaching, I ended up learning a lot myself!
Emma says – Teaching the PGCE students really helped to confirm what I knew about the library system and it was a great opportunity to put some of the training into practice in a different setting. We worked with other members of staff from the Education library and two Swiss interns so we had a lot of support! The PGCE students were really friendly and it was a good session to be a part of.
Training sessions: which have we enjoyed so far?
During this term we’ve had the opportunity to have practical and theoretical training at Osney. Training sessions have been varied this term, including an interactive session on customer care, an introduction to cataloguing using the Oxford library system, as well as a presentation on applying for courses in library and information studies. Here’s what we each enjoyed the most:
Beth says – In November we got the opportunity to visit the BSF, a warehouse where over 11 million of the Bodleian’s collections are held. There was an informative presentation about the challenges and logistics of the facility, as well as how it is developing. This includes issues of storage space as the collections grow, and improving sustainability to reduce its environmental impact. We were also given a tour of the facility, which highlighted how efficient the process is to ensure that the books are delivered to the libraries on time, twice a day. Indeed, apparently it takes experienced staff members less than 45 seconds to pick a single book – which is very impressive considering the size and scale of the warehouse.
Emma says – The visit to the Weston Library and having an introduction to the Special Collections in October was a real eye-opener. After an £80m refurbishment the Weston Library, originally called the New Bodleian Library, opened in March 2015 after work began in 2011. The library now has a lot more space including areas for research, public galleries, and a cafe. It was a pleasure to be shown around the conservation department, to see the archivists at work, and to see behind the scenes at the library. As the Weston is so different from the Business library, it was a worthwhile opportunity to see the different roles within librarianship. It was great to see how the conservationists take care of the old books, maps and the libraries themselves.
The Book Storage Facility, aka the BSF, in Swindon
Internet Librarian International (ILI) conference, London
In October we were fortunate enough to go to the ILI conference in London due to the sponsored places offered by FLIP and NLPN. There were six of us in total that went from the Bodleian libraries and we all took away a lot from the experience. There were lots of different talks and presentations, from AI to tips for searching relevant information.
Beth says – A session I particularly enjoyed was about how libraries can utilise digital technology to increase reader accessibility. For example, a case study discussed the DAISY Consortium, which is an organisation which aims to improve the reader experience for people who are blind or print disabled by making digital talking books an industry standard across libraries worldwide. Indeed, the clear theme across the conference was about how libraries can develop in the digital age, as well as the challenges this brings. Myself and a few of the other trainees who attended contributed to a blog post for NLPN about the conference here: https://nlpn.wordpress.com/2018/11/01/internet-librarian-international-info-today-sponsored-places/
Emma says – During the conference we were invited to a session by Liz McGettigan about how to be an information professional in the 21st century. This was an informative session about how to advance our careers, what skills we would need to move forward, and how best to develop them. This was a great opportunity to see what paths were before us and give us an idea of what we could do in the future. Working in a library we are able to learn many new and transferable skills, some of which we’re not always able to recognise, so this was a great session to bring out in us what we’ve learnt so far and what sort of roles we would like in the future.
Outside of the training programme the trainees meet up fairly often after work. For example, some of us went round the Oxford Open Doors event in September together, visiting Baliol College, Blackwells, the Examination School, and the New Theatre. We’ve frequented a game board café, where we played a variety of card and board games. Luckily, we didn’t fall out too much! Two trainees, Elspeth and Lauren, started a book club. So far, we have read Annhiliation by Jeff Vandermeer, Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, and we’re currently reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. We had the weather on our side on Bonfire Night when we went to watch the fireworks at South Park. Recently we had our Christmas dinner which nearly all of us attended. It was a great night with great food and company.
Next term looks to be quite busy. We’re looking forward to a new set of training sessions, which includes a visit to Oxford Brookes library and a visit to the digital archives. We can’t wait to see what the next year will bring!
From across the academic, public and specialist sectors, we were a varied group of library and information professionals gathered in Oxfordshire County Library. Ayub Khan, CILIP’s president and deliverer of today’s presentation, pointed out how distinctive this makes our profession: libraries, knowledge and information are an essential part of a uniquely wide variety of industries.
For CILIP, he explained, this is both an asset and a challenge. Very few other organisations have such a range of expertise, but how does CILIP speak for members across all these sectors? How, with the ‘international’ theme of this year’s presidency, does it become globally relevant? And who is included in the ‘family’ of L&I professionals in today’s shifting information landscape?
What unites us, CILIP has concluded, are our ethics and values. During a recent consultation reviewing its current and future role, the organisation developed a diagram of the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base. With its circular design, the PKSB diagram visually echoes the circular seal of CILIP’s Royal Charter, but updates it to specify the skills relevant to the twenty-first century. Ethics and values were placed at its heart.
We can explore what our ethics and values are, but we also need to put them into practice. CILIP’s 2020 goal is to
‘put library and information skills at the heart of a democratic, equal and prosperous society.’
Built on five priorities (things to do) and six enablers (to help do the things), it gives us a professional framework during this time of ‘revolution’ in how information and technology are integrated into everyday life. The goal is true to the Charter, but with a clear vision of the instrumental ‘benefit’ to democracy, equality and economy.
Making this benefit visible to the public, though, can require active promotion of libraries and information; in fact, it was discussed how ease of information access can prevent people from noticing the work that goes into creating that ease. Advocacy is therefore one of CILIP’s priorities (along with workforce development; member services; standards and innovation; and governance and operations). Ayub showcased some recent campaigns. Utilising social media, radio appearances, ‘Facts Matter’ badges and more, perhaps these efforts are working: we were shown an independent poll suggesting that we are viewed as trusted professionals. Still, the impact of our own role is one piece of information that we can sometimes neglect to share!
Our core identity as stewards of information is unchanged by technological advances and new social contexts. Yes, many of us share a certain delight in books, but, while books continue to be relevant, they are being joined by new ways to organise and access information and knowledge. Ayub encouraged us to work together in adapting to these fresh opportunities. As a graduate trainee, only joining CILIP this year, I am excited to continue this tradition while being part of the future shape of the profession.
Even with the help of a library, it’s hard to find the answer to what to expect from the information revolution. There was limited time to discuss future challenges – but one thing we took away from this session is that having a strong sense of who we are as a profession is a starting point for facing these challenges.
Written and edited by:Micha Cook, Codrington Library; Andi Glover, Bodleian Law
Library; Hannah Hickman, History Faculty Library; and Becca Wray, Social Science Library
Our highlights from the open day, 15th April, at CILIP HQ, London – continued!
BBC (Media Management)
Laura Williams, a Media Manager in the BBC Archives, spoke about ‘embedded
librarianship’. Embedded librarianship “moves librarians out of libraries”, so that they pop up in unexpected (and exciting) places, such as TV companies, zoos and hospitals. Laura is
embedded within Entertainment Production North and BBC Learning, although she is
formally part of BBC Archives. The centralised Archives services perform more traditional
“library” processes like cataloguing and digitisation, while media managers are based around the country working within production teams. Media managers are responsible for a diverse range of core tasks including records management, photo archive work, selecting material for the archives, and navigating the BBC’s holdings on behalf of researchers.
The range of duties involved in such a multifaceted role means Laura has to be very
flexible. As her team might not necessarily realise how an information professional can support their work, she has to be proactive about promoting these services; whether that means scheduling official meetings to discuss record-keeping, or simply using a catch-up over coffee to chat about how library services could assist new projects. As a qualified
librarian, working for an archive service, with the job title of ‘media manager’, Laura uses the identifiers interchangeably, depending on which term has the most meaning or value to her audience: an adaptability that I found really striking given the traditional divide
between library/archives as vocations.
Community and network is especially important in an embedded role: if you are going to work as an embedded librarian, it is important to be an integrated member of the team. That said, you may well be working solo, which can be lonely, so it’s important to reach out to librarian networks too… such as the SLA! – Hannah
British Library of Political and Economic Science, LSE
Maria Bell gave an instructive talk about her work as Learning Support Services Manager for LSE’s library. Founded in 1896, the library moved to its current well-known location in the 70s, and recently became home to the Women’s Library. It provides a research base for LSE’s students, researchers, academics and visitors, covering subjects as diverse as gender, law, accounting and sociology. Having a background in law librarianship, Maria gave
guidance on the particular skills needed to work with an academic law collection; these
include knowledge of legal terminology and academic standards for legal citation and
research; managing and developing a relevant and sustainable collection that reflects
readers’ needs; and, in HE, teaching legal research skills to your users.
Developing a relationship with readers is of key importance for creating an accessible learning environment that underpins research; and Maria suggested that in future, it will become increasingly important for librarians to demonstrate how their skills are relevant for supporting researchers. That might be worth thinking about when putting your CV
together. To those starting out on library careers, Maria strongly recommended signing up for relevant training sessions, and taking opportunities to network; as she put it, “Building relationships takes time and must be maintained,” so it’s never too early to start making connections. – Micha, Andi
Karen Tulett and Susan Ryan, from the Corporate Information Management Team
of major multinational investment bank, Morgan Stanley, shared their experiences of
something you wouldn’t immediately expect when thinking about careers in libraries and
information. They are both involved in making sure that bankers within the organisation have the documents and research they need in order to do their jobs. This involves
working on a global scale to provide a 24/7 information service to the different offices that need it. Both also emphasised the skills important for a librarian in the banking sector:
creativity in the way you do your research, and keeping up to date with banking news in
order to work out what information might be needed before you are asked for it.
Research Manager Karen started her career as a Trainee in the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, before her Masters, and has since worked for several different banks in
Information Manager roles, including involvement in overseeing an outsourcing project. Susan, in contrast, has spent most of her career with Morgan Stanley, working her way up
through various different information and research posts to become Vendor Manager. She mentioned an ongoing movement in many banks to make some aspects of research off-shore, creating a team in another country. She spent several months in India setting up a new office and training new research staff who she now works closely with. – Becca
Mishcon de Reya (Law)
The British and Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL), co-organiser of the open day, represents information managers in the legal sector, be that in the Inns of Court, law firms or academic libraries. Sandra Smythe, from private, international law firm Mishcon de Reya, talked about her role as Knowledge Manager. The KM is in charge of supporting the sharing of knowledge in an organisation; for example, through collaboration tools on the intranet, to promote information-sharing amongst colleagues. Key skills needed in this role are openness, communication, and the ability to work in a team.
Formerly, Sandra was Mishcon’s Senior Information Officer. Amongst other duties, this
intensive, varied job involves legal research, and remaining informed both of legal
developments, and of the organisations and individuals with whom Mishcon works.
Sandra has found her career in law librarianship fast-paced, confidence-building and
rewarding; and she assured aspiring law librarians that new entrants to the field are not
expected to arrive with legal research skills fully-formed, but will be trained. In her
previous role with a firm handling maritime law, she was sometimes called upon to aid with the interception of ships; which just goes to show that law librarianship is
full of variety! – Andi
Looking back, this was an informative day broken up with engaging tours. It was
interesting to hear about the different, sometimes surprising, forms librarianship and
career paths can take. We also learned that, for aspiring librarians, networking, passion
and curiosity are essential, along with an ability to recognize our transferable skills, such
as communication, collaboration and current awareness. Some of us got a clearer idea of where to take our careers next; others discovered interests in previously-unconsidered
sectors; overall, attending this event was greatly valuable for our personal development.
We’d like to thank the SLA, BIALL and CLSIG for organising this impressive open day. — Primary editor, Andi Glover
Written and edited by:Micha Cook, Codrington Library; Andi Glover, Bodleian Law
Library; Hannah Hickman, History Faculty Library; Becca Wray, Social Science Library
In April, seven of the Bodleian trainees headed off to CILIP HQ in London for the SLA Europe, BIALL & CLSIG New Professionals’ Open Day: a chance to hear presentations
by information professionals from several well-known “special libraries”, and to network with the speakers, other trainees and Master’s students. Here, we report back on our
experiences of the day: what we learned, and why the next Open Day might be useful to others considering careers in library and information science.
NERA Economic Consulting
In the first talk, Hanna Shearring spoke about her role as Associate Information Resources Consultant (IRC) at NERA (@NERA_Economics), which undertakes research on behalf of mostly corporate clients. Her job is similar to a subject librarian’s role with academic
researchers; she works closely with clients and uses specialist knowledge to ascertain
exactly which information they need, and which sources and institutions could provide it. This may entail persisting with enquiries involving several institutions and individuals, such as tenders taken on for the EU: more negotiation than is usually necessary in an HE
library. IRCs are less desk-based than many Graduate Trainees, and, interestingly, work with fewer book-based sources than most of our readers.
For Hanna, her post offers a chance for continual learning, for gaining new skills and knowledge; she also said that socialising with colleagues after work helped to build her network and professional identity. For trainees, chatting with fellow librarians can be a good way of finding opportunities, such as chances to volunteer; and indeed, Hanna left us with the advice to follow our natural curiosity, asking established professionals about their careers and pursuing any intriguing leads. – Micha, Andi
Danny Rees’ talk on the Wellcome Library and his role as an outreach librarian touched on and accentuated the diversity of the library’s collections and the active involvement of the Wellcome Trust with the dialogue on access, outreach, and hot topics like the digitisation of manuscripts. Getting excited about cataloguing makes me a rare beast in our group of trainees and it was Danny Rees’ answer to my question about the structure of the
cataloguing department at the Wellcome Library, including specialist librarian and
archivist cataloguers working on specific parts of the collection, which sticks with me.
His talk was complemented by the fact that it was followed directly by a fascinating tour. The latter took us to the library and the newly incarnated reading room filled with a bizarre collection of singularly remarkable objects. We were told during the tour that every staff member at the Wellcome library had come to the job with different academic backgrounds and interests and so brought something unique to the greater team. From the fondness with which this reading room/ gallery/social space was described, I like to imagine that the displays included exciting discoveries made by the staff!
Looked at in unison, the library and this hybrid space confirmed that the Wellcome is not only a multi-faceted institution, but the outcome of a concerted effort to incorporate the pursuit of knowledge, with the preservation and promotion of culturally and historically significant objects relating to the medical sciences. The library, open to anyone who wished to join, felt exactly like an academic research library made more by the beautiful paintings from the Wellcome collection which were unaffectedly exhibited throughout. Small things like the colour-coded finding aids on the shelf-ends, both considered and
decorative, hinted at a careful guardianship and respect for the space and collections on
behalf of both readers and staff.
The leaflet for the library boasts the heading “the free library for the incurably curious” and adorns my wall as a reminder that I have yet to walk up to the reception desk, identity proof in hand, to officially join the ranks of the inquisitive. That said, I expect it’ll stay there; it gave me great delight to see what I hope was an intentional medical pun—the readers are incurable, not terminal, you see! – Micha
Extract Information (Intellectual Property)
As trainees, many of us are most familiar with academic librarianship, and perhaps with working in public libraries; so Jane List surprised us with her talk about Extract Information, the patent research company she founded in 2013. Jane works
primarily as a consultant involved in research to solve her clients’ IP-related problems.
She set up her business after a career in research and development librarianship, and
database-testing for scientific research bodies. She has built up a wealth of experience of
information roles in intellectual property, with one of her areas of expertise being Asian patent information; an area that is fast growing with the advance of technology in the Far East, particularly in Korea. She told us that this has created a demand amongst businesses and legal organisations for translators of Asian languages; so Korean-speaking information
managers could find they have an unexpected skill to offer in the field of IP. – Andi
Careers tips from Suzanne Wheatley and Victoria Sculfor, Recruitment Specialists
• Make the personal profile on your CV reflect what you’re doing at the moment: recruiters want to build up a picture of you to help them find the most suitable opportunities
• Also on your CV, list your achievements, technical experience such as the software you regularly use at work, and professional activity (training, forums, open days you’ve been to)
• Recruiters are very willing to work to your timescale: let them know when you’re looking to start work, and they’ll bear this in mind when finding opportunities for you
• Creating a profile on a site like LinkedIn makes you more accessible to potential
• Find a job you love: you will be more productive at work, and much happier
This is the first of a 2-part series of blog posts on this excellent open day. The next
instalment features the BBC Archive, Mishcon de Reya, Morgan Stanley and the LSE Library!Primary editor: Andi Glover
This year, Taking the Plunge: art librarianship as a career option was held on the 20th of April in the Stuart Hall Library at Iniva. The day garnered interest from delegates at different stages of their careers and from a variety of institutions, and brought them together with an equally interesting range of speakers who spoke informally about the ways in which they had progressed into art librarianship and the nature of their work at present. The interludes, led by Darlene Maxwell, gave continuity to the day, drawing similarities from each presentation to address the role of the art librarian in general. The intimate setting encouraged a conversational tone and truly made the event a “workshop”, encouraging an easy dialogue between delegates and speakers.
Without apparent coordination, the speakers echoed each other in their view of art librarianship. They painted a picture of a multifaceted profession that drew from a wide skillset. The speakers spoke of the “art library” as a broad term as well, describing institutions in a wide range of physical spaces, with collections that covered more than one subject-area or interest group. Consequently, their advice often revealed the value of thinking laterally; the career histories of each of the speakers made clear that art librarians can exist in different incarnations and use their skills in roles that do not overtly declaim them as “librarians” or “information professionals”.
Andrew Gray and Nicola Saliss stressed that the “art library” must be different for the users of visual resources have a visual approach to learning in general. Gray explained the fundamental need to evaluate the concept of “data” in an arts context specifically, thinking broadly about the forms these can take and questioning the semantics of the word “data” for the user of the arts repository. Unexpectedly, he also stressed that the digital interface of the art repository had to be aesthetically pleasing as well as functional to prevent resistance from art practitioners in making use of the provision. From her experience working as the Information Specialist for Art, Design and Architecture at Kingston University, Salliss, spoke about working in an arts library integrated in a larger academic institution. She drew out the notion that artists and tutors present an entirely different audience to those in a typical academic setting by addressing the joys, and challenges, of working with (and for) a diverse user-group with a range of interests, unpredictable research skills, and often alternative approach to learning.
On the subject of getting into the field, the need for internal and external advocacy and professional awareness through all levels was made paramount. In each of their talks, Helen Williamson, Evelyn Jamieson, and Ayesha Khan (in their range of experience) emphasised how a thoughtful positive and proactive approach to work could directly lead to career progression or a betterment of the workplace and your role within it. Williamson’s account of the Library Closure Project and her efforts, and success, in saving the Horniman’s Museum Library were particularly astonishing and inspiring. Interesting, she stressed the importance of knowing when to be dispassionate and when to ask for help. Her insight into the life of a sole librarian corroborated the advice of the other speakers on the advantages of networking and how this could be done successfully using social media.
The more practical aspects of each of the talks, in providing helpful hints for applying for work in the sector were well-balanced and coordinated. It was refreshing to hear from Sue-Hill representative Donald Lickley, a recruiter with personal working experience in the library sector. Jamieson and Khan, that had both recently sought, and acquired, a new job in the sector, presented an illuminating parallel. Jamieson, still early in her career, was very relatable and counterbalanced Khan’s voice of experience. She spoke about the various opportunities for training offered by ARLIS, CILIP and other professional organisations and exemplified, with personal anecdotes, that they were not as out-of-reach as they might seem. She also offered advice on how to maximise the output of training, explaining that by writing reports and sending feedback she was able to ensure a continued allowance for professional development after she became employed. Khan’s talk brought valuable insights into how a librarian with greater experience markets herself for interview. She stressed the importance of being involved and mindfulness within a larger organisation and team; it was her view that “soft skills” become more important as you progress through your career and the public person becomes more visible and as such shouldn’t be ignored from the start.
The day ended with a short history of the Stuart Hall Library by Nicholas Brown and a walk through of the libraries collections through time. The depth of knowledge about how the collections were built through relationships with art movements and individual artists over time was impressive; one to aspire to should we ever end up in charge of a library of that kind.
I am sure I speak for all attendees in saying the day was incredibly helpful and has certainly met all expectations in providing helpful insight into art librarianship. Thank you to all the speakers, the staff of INIVA, and ARLIS for organising the workshop.
Michelle Cook, Trainee at the Codrington Library, All Souls College, Oxford.
This piece will also appear in the ARLIS newsletter. Thank you to the committee for letting me publish it here.
I’d intended to take a photo of it as it was looking gorgeous in the spring sunshine but I accidentally took a picture of the cake counter in the café instead.
As for the conference itself, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect…but what I found was an interesting and engaging conference bringing together academics, professionals and artists to talk about their perspectives on IPR.
While the first two sessions were geared more towards the creators rather than the users of works and weren’t really applicable to me, it was good to hear their preception of how IPR works and how it affects them.
A common thread that emerged was that IPR legislation in its current state is both baffling to the uninitiated and hopelessly behind the times. Most speakers seemed to agree that there needed to be a demystification of IPR and/or a move away from using IPR. Perhaps because legislation is better at addressing actions rather than intent when it comes to IP?
There’s quite a grey area between inspiration and imitation that current IPR doesn’t address and a fear that excessive reliance on legislation will stifle creativity. In their close-knit communities artists rely heavily on self-policing and reputation, but this only works if you are personally invested in the group. Once their IP moves to a wider (and relatively anonymous) audience this framework breaks down.
Design and Artists Copyright Society talked about how they helped people manage their creative legacy and its disposal, but as far as I could tell they did not have any consultants with curatorial or archival experience (or indeed any experience with the heritage sector except as artists), which seems a bit one sided. How do they address the needs of future researchers who might be interested in an artist’s creative process or social context rather than the end product? Is it even on their radar?
It was a shame that the session on ‘Making the Most of Cultural Assets’ was at the end of the day as it ran a bit long and there wasn’t really time left for discussion. I thought it was quite relevant because much of the day dealt with the need for addressing what becomes of a work once it leaves an artist’s sphere of influence and certainly know what people actually want or expect to take away from it (rather than assuming) would help in formulating policy.
My favourite talk of the day was probably Ben White’s from the British Library. It was mainly about copyright and how it affects the heritage sector. He also touched on recent legislation regarding orphaned works and the EU Observatory’s Office of Internal Harmonisation (which he assured us was not as Orwellian as it sounded). He was quite enthusiastic about the way collective licencing works in Scandinavia, France, and especially Germany; it sounds like a model that would really benefit us! So I do hope that that’s the direction licencing goes in in the UK.
For those who don’t know (including me before this talk!) extended collective licencing means that an organisation (e.g. screenwriter’s guild) can extend their mandate to cover non-members and grant licences on their behalf. The problem with this in the UK is that it’s a limited licence subject to renewal after a few years, so an organisation could potentially end up investing significantly in a collection or work only to not have its licence renewed.
A bad deal!
At the end of the day the conference certainly got me ‘questioning rights’ and where IPR will go in the future.