Thursday, 28 June 2012

Pimms O'Clock...

So, I've been feeling a little blogged out lately but thankfully the jet lag has now finally worn off and I'm back and still every bit as determined to complete as many of the 23 Things as I can!

It's been a busy couple of weeks at work. I've welcomed the chance to continue to feed back some of the research I undertook in the US. I have been able to contribute to the Ask a Librarian/virtual chat project which I mentioned in a previous post and to a two day Loans Review which looked in depth at our circulation system and summarised our first year as an Ex Libris library. It was really interesting to hear other staff members' opinions on fines and invoicing procedures, in particular and hopefully there will opportunities to put some of these productive ideas into practice in the near future. With so many conflicting commitments during the academic year, the Review also provided a rare opportunity staff from all areas of the library to get together, bringing me neatly to
Thing 7 and Professional Networks.

Having rejoined CILIP recently, I've put my name down for a couple of upcoming events, including a visit to a prison library next week which I'm expecting to be something of an eye-opener as it occurs to me that I've never seen the inside of a prison before. This despite my multitudinous nefarious exploits and rather flagrant misuse of the CILIP logo above. Yikes! I've said way too much.. As far as furthering my involvement with CILIP goes (assuming I'm not ex-communicated for logo policy infringement!) I am at the stage where I'd be looking to register for Chartership soon and am just trying to track down a suitable mentor.

Another network I have been made aware of through CPD23 Things is The Library Society of the World which includes some good information on the importance of library visits and conferences. The forum (which has moved) is centred around American libraries, in truth, rather than providing a truly global messageboard but there is some good stuff in there too. I spotted a job ad for a post in Wisconsin, for example (tempting!).

On Monday I was down at SW19 for the tennis, which (along with libraries - naturally) is the other main obsession in my life! It's a little known fact but Wimbledon has it's own library. It's hidden away in the Museum building and is a great resource with books, annuals and periodicals from over 100 different countries, all about tennis (& occasionally badminton or croquet). It is one of an increasingly rare breed of libraries resolutely refusing to digitise its content, serving* to make the resource all the more unique and intriguing. *Not an intentional tennis pun!

The library is open all year round but during 'The Fortnight' it is a resource exclusively for the press to use. Staff tell me they are kept busy with reporters phoning up to check they've got their facts straight. The librarians were also kind enough to let me take some photos of the collection which includes the first ever rule books for the game of Spheristike (the original name for tennis) from the 1880s, without which the game as we know it would simply never have existed...

The Wimbledon Library's helpdesk mainly fields
calls from journalists during The Championships

The library has a comprehensive collection of all books published on
 tennis from around the World, organised by country

'Throwing Rackets & Breaking Records' is a book from the Irish collection, charting a
doubles team's efforts to break the World Record for continuous play (some 36 hours!)

Night falls on the first day of Wimbledon 2012

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Back in Blighty...

The jet lag is certainly taking its toll! I woke up last Thursday morning with no conception of what country I was in, let alone how to use my legs.. then promptly flung myself sideways into a table before tardily ambling into work! I've since spent some time presenting what I found out while in the States to colleagues and it's the complimentary ear plugs (seen at Grand Valley State and the University of Chicago) which seem to have sparked the most interest out of everything!

Online networks are the order of the day in Thing 6. Like a lot of other CPD23 bloggers, I do feel Facebook sits uneasily with work stuff but there again some libraries do manage to have a lot of fun with it! A quick glance at GVSU Library's Facebook site made me aware of a 'link' (circled below) on their Contact Us screen which you can click to transform this page into a version of the hit 1980s arcade classic, Asteroids!:

I've also 'Liked' the American Library Association which I'm hoping will help me to keep updated on what is going on with libraries across the pond now that I'm home. 

I did have a go at accessing a LinkedIn account which I set up some years ago and have subsequently ignored but I had no luck (possibly a good thing given recent security problems hampering the site). LISNPN is a site which interests me, though. To me it's almost (almost!) like a flash-mob forum for librarians! New events are posted up by the site's members all the time which other users can attend. I have registered and can see this being a useful source of info in future.

As something of an epilogue to my adventures in the US Midwest, before I left Chicago I did get to do a quick tour of Frank Lloyd Wright's Chicago Auditorium at Roosevelt University. This was only the 2nd building which FLW was commissioned to do and just about the last major masonry structure constructed in Chicago before the city became a heaving mass of steel and glass. I naturally also had a wander up to Roosevelt University's Library and was captivated by some of their posters. I was further impressed by the incredible view which you get from its high windows:

Frank Lloyd Wright's magnificent Chicago Auditorium which also
served as a bowling alley for American GI's at one time (below)

Decorative library posters adorn the
walls of Roosevelt University Library

"The Extraordinary Power of 100% Peer-
Reviewed Scholarly Full Text Journals"!!

View from the 10th floor reading room at Roosevelt University Library

Monday, 4 June 2012

Last but not least...

Hmm, well I've tried but just couldn't quite recreate some of the spectacular imagery Justin Kern came up with (included in this previous blog entry). The Collegiate Gothic style was in abundance, however with cloisters, gargoyles and arches everywhere. Ivy sprouts out from most of the older buildings and fireflies can even be spotted dotting in and out of the vegetation at night, adding to the "Chicagwarts" effect.

Ivy-clad colleges (based on Oxford University) at the University of Chicago

An Alumni event happening at the University of Chicago last weekend

The University of Chicago is a private research institution which has a whopping $6 billion (£4 billion) in endowment funding (money donated to the University) putting it right up there with the elite of US academic institutions. The most recent addition to UC's impressive campus is the Joe and Rika Mansueto Library which is well-known for holding all of its stock, some 2.5 million volumes, underground in a massive ASRS (Automated Storage and Retrieval System). This caused controversy amongst those who prefer to see books but it should be noted that the University has taken great care to only include materials which do not lend themselves to browsing, such as bound journal volumes and special materials which need to be safety housed. The adjoining Regenstein Library also houses 4.5 million volumes, the vast majority of which are on open shelves. An extensive project to move over half a million item from a rolling storage facility in the basement of the Regenstein to the 12-aisle-wide ASRS at Mansueto was taking place while I was there and (as at GVSU) complimentary earplugs were available from helpdesks to help cope with the noise during a busy exam period! (UC students study on a quarterly system, unlike at the previous Universities I had visited, so most students were still around here). 

The Joe and Rika Mansueto Library's Grand Reading Room
The Mansueto Library's above ground space 
 also houses a hi-tech preservation facility

The Law Library at the University of Chicago -
Barack Obama was a Law Lectuer here until 2004.
Another area of the research I've been doing out here in America revolves around fines and invoicing. It's been interesting to note that none of the academic institutions which I have visited charge any fines on regular loan materials which are not on hold. In the University of Chicago's case this has long been engrained into the library's procedures, the main reason being that it helps to foster good relations between the department and their students, especially given that those not on merit- or means-tested places are paying around $43,000 (or £28,000) to attend.

It is a common theme in Universities in the US elsewhere too, with fines often having been dropped due to the administrative costs involved or to create good PR for the service (as at the University of Wisconsin) and to reduce barriers restricting student engagement (Grand Valley State University cited this). It is a trend which has not taken off in the UK so far (I am only aware of a handful of  institutions - including the University of Southampton and the University of East London - which have done this) so it will be interesting to see whether libraries back home start to follow suit in the next few years as many have done in operating longer opening hours and more liberal practices in managing the learning environment. It is worth noing too that higher tuition fees will be levied on Higher Education students in the UK from the next academic year and these will generally not actually be too far off the $43,000 being paid by University of Chicago students. 

After two days spent on the campus, I walked back along the South Shore Line to the Big Onion (said to be the inspiration for Gotham City, by the by) watching the skyline shine as the sun set over the City. Yesterday I spent much of my time at the famous Art Institute of Chicago, which was followed by some (equally famous) Chicago Deep Crust Pizza! I fly home today but will blog on about the time I've spent here when I get back. I'll be sure to get around to tackling CPD23 Thing 6 too.

Marc Chagall's America Windows at the Art Institute of Chicago
(as seen in the 1986 teen movie Ferris Beuller's Day Off)
Taken on the walk from the South Shore Line
up to Navy Pier on the North side

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Ask a Librarian...

With a stonking great 162,933 students, the University of Wisconsin is one of the largest Universities in the World. In pratical terms it is really a University System which is split into 13 different Universities. Nonetheless, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Campus has a student population of around 42,500 and a massive 40 (yes, forty!) separate libraries!

The largest of these is the Memorial Library which I visited on Wednesday and Thursday of this week. Finding effective means for reaching all of their many, many students is crucial to what they do at Winsconsin. Interactive digital displays are used extensively to advertise events and provide general way-finding and other visitor information. Their Ask a Librarian service has also played a big part in this. I have always thought of an Ask a Librarian service as an exclusively virtual thing but here the idea is marketed heavily everywhere you go, dominating physical spaces as well as the Library's web pages. There is an Ask a Librarian sign writ large above library enquiries desks, along with numerous posters, pamphlets and QR codes scattered around the building:

A poster located beside a lift at the Memorial Library
Digital signage is also prominent within the building
Ask a Librarian signs feature at helpdesks too
The chat system used here is something called LibraryH3lp. This is one I had not heard of before but is now used by over 300 library systems in the US (including the University of Chicago) and is just starting to get a foothold abroad. The service was setup by a husband and wife team, Pam & Eric. Pam works as a librarian at the University of North Carolina and Eric is a computer programmer. Together they were able to pool their collective skills to create a chat service which is specific to the needs of libraries and they even have their own Library H3lp Blog charting the success of this project.

The Memorial Library itself is absolutely huge, with some 3 million items in over 350 different languages (mainly Arts and Humanities texts). The building is also immediately opposite the ornate Madison Historical Society Library which includes a range of miscellanea written or created by notable Wisconsin Alumni such as Naturalist John Muir:  

The main reading room of the Madison Historical Society Library

John Muir's Desk Clock (1861) would regulate the 
time John could spend reading a particular book

I only had limited time to explore Madison but did manage to hire a bike from the University's very own Bicycle Resource Center (as a keen cyclist I do get a bit fidgety if I'm away from a bike for too long!). I also made it down to Der Rathskeller which is a German-style pub on campus boasting a quite mesmorising array of tankards along with an associated Stiftskeller menu of "Sehr Teuer" and "Teuer" (expensive) items! I also found out that Scottish folk dancing and Morris Dancing are big amongst the library community in Wisconsin. So that was unexpected!

Der Rathskeller: an underground lair at the Memorial Students' Union