New Professionals Day 2014

On Saturday the 1st of March I attended the New Professionals Day 2014 event in the John Paul II Library in NUI Maynooth. The day was broken into workshops and then ended with a very informative tour of the beautiful Russell Library. Many remarked at how serious we must be about cataloguing to give up our Saturday and I have to say it was most certainly worth the time and the journey to Maynooth.

In my current role I am involved in cataloguing older books, from as far back as the 1500’s, up to more recent books in our reference collection. When I began as a librarian I didn’t realise I would enjoy cataloguing as much as I do. There is something very cathartic in having such an ordered and logical approach, as is required when cataloguing, in order to maintain attention to detail. I wanted to attend the workshops to learn a bit more about other forms of cataloguing and I wasn’t disappointed because presentations by Grace Toland in the Irish Traditional Music Archive and Brid Dooley from RTE Archives were very enlightening in terms of cataloguing items that are not books. The presentations are well worth a look and are available on the NPD site here

I think people get the impression that cataloguing, be it books or other items, can be a boring and monotonous task but in fact there is a lot more to cataloguing than meets the eye. I have found that while cataloguing you have to be able to take on and manage various different things:

  • Language (Google translate can be a godsend when cataloguing books in Latin, German, Italian etc. etc. all in one day)
  • Data protection V Freedom of Information – This was highlighted very nicely by Captain Claire Mortimer’s workshop. More of an issue in archives than in libraries but I think it is good that she made the attendees aware of this. I have come across this in my current role where we deal with patient information and it is something that is of huge importance.
  • Preservation while allowing public access – This is especially important for older materials. The more information that you can give about an item in a catalogue record the more likely it is that members of the public can identify whether or not it is the item they need and this prevents the materials from being handled and moved if it is not necessary.
  • Time management – This leads on well from the previous point because you have to make as detailed a record as possible but be aware that there are constraints on your time, you have to find balance.
  • Indexing – At the end of the day it is about the user being able to find the information that they need to you need to use something that is relevant and understandable for the user.

There is a lot to think about and I’m sure others could add to this list.

I really enjoyed the final workshop of the day which dealt with rare books because I feel like it filled a gap in my knowledge. I still think that UCD should bring back a rare books module and possibly deal with the issues of digitisation and rare materials, but if groups like NPD continue to hold fantastic events and enlist such knowledgeable speakers then this becomes less of an issue, which is extremely helpful. Barbara McCormack, who led this workshop, then brought us on a tour of the Russell Library which gave us a great opportunity to see the items she had spoken about. For many people learning is a very practical and visual thing so incorporating this was a great approach.

Russell Library

Russell Library

Another notable part of the day was a tour around the new library in Maynooth. The building is a brilliant example of a library responding to the wishes of its users. The ground floor is open and collaborative with the addition of the bean-bag room where groups can work and discuss projects and ideas without the fear of the dreaded ‘shushing’. As you go upstairs the library becomes quieter with silent study areas on the top floor. This is a fantastic way of catering for all students and the different styles of learning.

The students wanted more power but less waste and the library has delivered by utilising green initiatives in an attempt to create a sense of balance.

There are full windows and planting that bring the outdoors into the students and this creates a great atmosphere in the building. My only gripe being that I haven’t had the opportunity to study there. Many thanks to Hugh Murphy for the tour.

A big thank you to all the presenters, Jane Burns (the wonderful MC) and all the organisers and helpers for what was a really informative day.

Unfortunately, my Twitter wasn’t working with me during the event but a fellow Class of 2012/2013 MLISer Shona has also written a great blog and added her Storify of the events.


Irish Library Camp 2013

On Saturday I attended the very first Irish Library Camp. The venue, ‘The Chocolate Factory,’ was actually very apt when you saw the cupcakeamount of chocolate and cake in attendance. Librarians are truly multi-talented, and they love cake! However, even though there were some truly amazing treats, by far the best thing about library camp was the informal setting and atmosphere which made it very easy to strike up conversation. From the minute I walked in I found myself chatting to people, many of whom I have ‘met’ on Twitter. It was great to finally put some faces to Twitter names. Some of my MLIS class were also in attendance so it was fun to catch up and see how people are getting on now that the madness of final assignments and exams is over and people are getting stuck into the various Capstone projects. In Ireland we know its a small world and funnily enough the first stranger I spoke to turned out to be from my hometown and there I was thinking I was the only librarian from my neck of the woods.

BellBefore we all lapsed into a sugar coma, the first event got underway. Speed networking, a pitch by Helen Kielt, was the perfect way to start proceedings. It allowed us to mingle and meet people and gave us the opportunity to think a bit about how we present ourselves. I really enjoyed it; I chatted to people I know, people I have chatted to on Twitter previously but have never met and complete strangers. Everyone had really interesting things to say and the only downside was that the 2 mins we had to chat seemed too short at times. I think this activity was particularly useful for the students who are taking their first steps into the ‘real’ world. I know I personally find meeting new people extremely nerve-wracking but situations like this force you out of your comfort zone and build your confidence.

Another fun aspect of Library Camp is that you can choose the pitches you want to take part in and that means that people can take away completely different things from the day. There were so many Tweets!! And I’m sure there will be several blog posts and they might all have something different to talk about which is great. You can check out the Storify by LAI CDG here to get a big picture of the day. I chose to attend a pitch by Laura Rooney Ferris, Marie Cullen and Aoife Connolly in the first session. Laura spoke about the issues surrounding being a solo librarian. I think the most important things I learnt from her pitch were the importance of being able to advocate for your library and your position within the wider organisation, being able to find projects where you can make a difference to show your worth, being able to multi-task or priortise projects and the importance of having a network for support. The idea of having a network for support led nicely into Marie’s discussion about membership of the Library Association of Ireland. I liked her suggestions that the process should involve more personal reflection on your CPD. On a personal note, I have found this blog extremely useful in thinking about what I have learnt this year and I intend to continue to utilise it for CPD in the future. Finally, Aoife wanted to think about our titles. I have come across a few instances this year where it seems the word ‘librarian’ may be a problematic one but how do we change perceptions? Do we try to find another word or phrase that establishes what we do in a way people can understand? Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer right now but it is a something I like to think about and I love to hear other people’s opinions on the subject.

After yet more cake, I chose to partake in the pitch by Emmet Keoghan which was looking at our qualification. I really enjoyed this Diplomachat because it made me look a little deeper at what I have learnt this year and what perhaps would have been beneficial additions to my learning. I think there is a case to be made that some things are omitted from library school that would be very useful, for example some business focused modules or a module that deals with the legalities of copyright and licensing etc. However, what I think is the biggest problem with the course, as far as the discussion we were having, is the different types of student involved and therefore the different needs or expectations of the students. Many students in the MLIS this year, like myself, did not have any practical library experience going into the course. Someone mentioned that all students going into the course should have 3-6 months work experience and then the modules could be better organised to provide more practical skills. I have to admit I think this is a brilliant idea; however, it is very very difficult for people trying to get into the library and information sector to obtain entry level positions without a Masters. The students of today are between a rock and a hard place in relation to getting qualified, getting experience and having the money to live. This applies to every student not just library students. Employers are expecting more and more for less and to be honest as much I would have loved to work in a library for free and get the experience I so desperately wanted, I couldn’t afford to eat and pay rent and pay college loans without working. Now I don’t feel sorry for myself, I’m very happy that I have been able to put myself through college. I have been lucky to get some work experience that is relevant in the last few months so I have achieved a great deal in a relatively short period of time and I’m happy with my progress. Would it have been better for me to have this experience before college? I’m not sure. Perhaps the Masters in SILS has changed to suit people trying to get into the profession rather than people that have been working in a library and are looking to up-skill. I know that my lack of practical experience hasn’t affected my ability to achieve very good grades. I know that as regards trying to get work after the course more experience would have been beneficial but I’m not sure if I could have afforded both low-paid or unpaid experience and a degree. I have enjoyed the Masters; I’m not sure how I’ll feel when I look back in a year or two after working in the area but one thing it has taught me is that I can adapt and I can learn. If the Masters has given me anything, it is confidence in myself and my abilities, the determination that this is the career I want to pursue and a thirst for more. To be quite frank I’m not sure how well any degree prepares a student for life in the ‘real’ world but I feel like if the degree gives them the same sense of confidence that their skills are relevant to their chosen career and makes them strive for more then surely it is doing something right. I understand that my views on this could be very different to someone who has worked in a library and has gone back to do the MLIS.

Anyway, after this chat, I stayed to talk some more and on my walk home I found I had a lot to think about. We were discussing how certain things were left out of the MLIS and someone made the point that things like budgeting and legal issues are not things that you are likely to deal with in your first library job out of college. I began to think that because CPD is so important it would be great to be able to learn about these areas after college and when it becomes relevant. There were suggestions of being able to complete courses at a modular level, possibly negotiating a lower rate considering the huge expense associated with college tuition. However, as I strolled along I thought to myself, wouldn’t it be great if librarians could collaborate with other groups to facilitate learning. Librarians have a lot to offer, we could help people with their information literacy skills, or with social media and very many other things while small business owners or lawyers or publishers could contribute with their expertise in budgeting or copyright law. By collaborating with others librarians could increase the profile of the profession and begin to change the outdated perceptions. The public library would be a perfect place to hold informal ‘learning camps’ and costs could be kept low enough if people had the attitude that it would be collaborative learning, people learning different things from each other. The difficulty would be that there would be no certification for anything learnt at an event like this and it might be very difficult to get up and running.

Anyway, that is just an idea but it goes to show that Library Camp was a success because I met other library and information professionals, took part in great pitches and I came away inspired and thoughtful.

Thank you very much to the LAI Career Development Group and the Academic and Special Libraries Section of the LAI for such a fantastic and thoroughly enjoyable day.

New Professional’s Day Ireland Event


Storify of my #npdi2013 tweets

Some excellent blog posts have been written about the NPD event so I thought I’d try something a bit different for this post.

I’d love to recommend my classmate Shona’s post and the post on the NPD site for those of you who would like to read more in-depth posts about the day.

You will get some idea of the topics of the day from the Storify above and I’ve made a Prezi that outlines the major lessons I have learned from the day.

NPD Prezi

A&SL Annual Seminar 2013

Firstly apologies for the length of this post, I did try to keep it as short as I could.

Today I attended my first conference, the Academic and Special Libraries Annual Seminar. I am so busy with college work at the moment that I have to admit I had to talk myself into going this morning but I don’t regret it for a minute. The talks today were 481193_4075959862231_955646740_n
insightful, interesting and inspiring. I would love to write about every minute of today but for the purposes of effective time management, and to illustrate that writing literature reviews has taught me something, I am hoping to synthesize the information in a way that gives you a good overall view of the main topics on the day. The Annual Seminar was entitled “Content Creators: The Digital Frontier” and there was a wide range of speakers.

Simon Tanner – Deputy Head of the Department of Digital Humanities and its Director of Digital Consultancy at King’s College London.

Julia Barrett – Manager of UCD Library’s Research Services and heavily involved with UCD Library’s Digital Library and Institutional Repository.

Commandant Padraic Kennedy – Officer in charge of Military Archives.

Niamh O’Sullivan – Research Officer/Librarian with the Irish Blood Transfusion Service (IBTS)

John Duffy – Sub-Librarian at the Bar Council Law Library, Dublin

Ailish Farragher – Managing the legal imformation centre in Eugene F. Collins Solicitors.

Karen Skelly – Information and Resource Officer with the Irish Cancer Society.

Michelle Dalton – Librarian in University Hospital Limerick.

Major Topics:

Engaging the community/users: Simon Tanner started the day by bringing us on a journey to Krakow where we visited a church and visualized a way in which we could visit that church and find a myriad of information about it on our phone or tablet without having to go to 9/10 different sites. This illustrated to us the power and possibilities of digital media. He showed us how providing people with access to Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts Digital Edition could inspire them to write by illustrating that she wasn’t the perfect writer. I know that was great for me to hear! He made the point that people are interested in information about themselves; stories, families, histories and they are interested in engaging with the information. Crowd-sourcing was a hot topic of the day. It helps the community feel involved and it helps the library or archive to identify people, items, places. Com. Padraic Kennedy also spoke about this in relation to the images in the Military Archives and Niamh O’Sullivan spoke about how she would like to find a way to allow tagging but without putting their images into a fully public domain. That leads very nicely into another issue of the day which was the challenges that surround allowing the community to be involved. Data protection and privacy issues with digital items. There is also the issues that crop up in relation to “trolls” although the general consensus was that when the community become involved they feel responsibility and monitor the incoming content.

Impact: Simon went on to speak about impact. Visibility is obviously something which can be increased exponentially by going digital. Audience bases increase, more people become aware not only of what is available online but as Padraic illustrated they become more aware of the other records that the library or archive may contain. Niamh has imagined a novel way to engage the community and create visibility by involving employee’s children in an art competition and including the images in the digital archive. As she so rightly states, “history starts today, what you do today becomes part of history tomorrow.” However, we cannot just look at the positive impacts, we must also consider the negatives. For many I’m sure increased visibility is a mixed blessing, increased awareness means the library or archive is seen as more important but it also means that there is an increased workload for librarians and archivists already burdened by the problem of having too little time in the day.

User expectations: Problems are faced by many digital repositories and collections in relation to this. People expect to be able to keyword search, they expect full-text search capabilities and they expect everything to be quick and interfaces to be simple to use. All of these things can be issues and when people spend their money on these aspects (which are clearly the more important) it means that the end product user interfaces and websites may not be the most attractive in the world. It is very difficult to find balance with limited budget.

Policies: Something that came across in quite a few of the talks was the need for Collection Development Policies and policies in relation to data protection and social media. It seems policies are essential so as to ensure that libraries know their priorities and so that work can actually get done. As Ailish Farragher mentioned, “you have to realise you can only do so much.” Policies help to take the muddling over decision-making out of the mix and create an opportunity to make things happen. There is so much information and data available already and more being created every second, there has to be a point where you can say enough is enough. This is especially relevant when you think that although we are going through an information explosion so to speak, budgets are being cut, funding isn’t easy to find and staff levels are dropping. You have to consider priorities and weeding needs to occur in the digital world just as it does in the physical. Preservation of digital material is becoming a huge issue and although, storage is becoming increasingly cheaper, the amount of data is impossible to even comprehend as far as I’m concerned.

Social Media: Karen Skelly and Michelle Dalton both took on the topic of social media but in very different contexts. Karen spoke of the Irish Cancer Society’s use of Facebook and Twitter to get information to the general public, to cancer patients and to friends and family of those dealing with cancer. It was fantastic to see social media being used in this way and the seeing comments which showed the impact of this kind of outreach was very touching and those in the Irish Cancer Society should be very proud of their work. I won’t pretend that they do not have issues. As Karen says, “You can’t please all the people all the time,” and you’ll find that out pretty quickly on social media. Michelle extolled the virtues of Twitter for us information enthusiasts and I have to say from personal experience I have to agree that it is a great tool for sharing knowledge and for current awareness. I will definitely be following #irelibchat and contributing if I can pluck up the courage.

Other things I took from today were some of the skills that will be important: Julia Barrett mentioned relationship building and opportunities for collaboration. Problem-solving (and letting go) were important messages from the law libraries. Researching what metadata standards, software etc. to use for your organisation. Communication with the community, whether with old or young (loved the midnight run/stroll idea) and re-appropriation of library space to stay relevant were issues Simon touched on. Advocacy in a logical way from Niamh who spoke about using the Harvard Business Review’s “Your Company History as a Leadership tool” to promote what she’s undertaking with the archive.

And there was so much more but this post is far too long as it is. Thank you to A&SL for such a great day and to all the speakers for being so fascinating. I hope for those reading this you get some sense of what an amazing day we enjoyed. Check out #asl2013 on Twitter for more from the day! And see the website where there will be more information about the presentation soon.