Thursday, 23 August 2012

Mapping library users...

Still on Thing 16, a useful online tool I wanted to mention (just briefly, this time!) is MapAList. It does more or less what it says on the tin, so if you have information on where your users are coming from, you can use this website to plot these as points on a map.

I've done this for our visitors to the Nightingale Centre, where I work, during the Academic Year 2011-2012 (the locations are taken from a spreadsheet I made using the Google Docs account which I set up in an earlier Thing of the CPD23 Things):

(For anyone concerned about potential data protection issues, I should point out that this shows only which institution each student, or group of students, is based at - as opposed to using individuals' home postcodes!)

196 separate academic institutions are plotted here which I feel promotes a positive image of our library (especially given the fact we are not exactly easy to stumble across!).

I have seen other HE institutions which have done similar things to depict the usage of services they offer, for instance the University of Delaware uses this map to illustrate its document delivery business, with the different coloured pins explained on its Interlibrary Loans Home Page:

This one was made using Google's Fusion Tables (a tool currently still in Beta mode which
I tried using too but had no success in trying to import the data from my existing spreadsheet)

The University of Huddersfield's Librarians are also doing some interesting things with their data, looking at library usage and retention rates, for example.

Reliable statistical information is particularly important for those libraries which are under threat and (following on from my previous post) it was encouraging to see visits to New Cross Learning have increased by an average of around 500 visits per month in the last year or so.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Advocacy and libraries...

Yes, it's one of those tired librarian clichés but as a profession we remain collectively reluctant to boast, brag, blow our own trumpets, big ourselves up... whatever you want to call it. We know, of course, that we provide an important and valued service but when it comes to sticking up for that service and proving our worth, our rallying cries all too often get drowned out by other interests in the ruthless scrap for political and financial support.

Since returning from Michigan earlier in the year, I read with interest all about the efforts of staff at Troy Public Library. Faced with library closure, these smart activists posed as a clandestine political group and used Facebook to invite those who opposed the tax rise which would save their library to attend a ficticious Book Burning Party. The campaign went viral and provoked such an outrage that 342% more voters than expected eventually went to the polls to vote on this 0.7% tax rise, which was passed by a landslide, with over 70% of residents wanting to keep the library's funding or even increase it. Here's a short video all about it:

I wrote about my involvement in the Brent SOS (Save our Six) libraries project in Thing 12 and I continue to try to help out with this campaign by signing petitions, attending various fundraising events and generally doing what I can. Yesterday I managed to get hold of a superfluous library trolley and somehow cram its unweildy frame into my (not very big) car, for example, so that this can be used by Preston Road Library. To my mind, there is a lot more those of us working in other library sectors could be doing to help those working in the public libraries which (thus far) are the ones which have been worst hit by spending cuts.
An example of successful direct action here in the UK was the sit in organised by staff and users of New Cross Public Library last February. This was blogged as it happened hereThanks in no small part to the dedicated band of protestors who were prepared to take part in the overnight 'read-in', the library managed to avoid closure and the New Cross Learning project is now run by the local community:   

New Cross Learning (previously New Cross People's Library) maintains most of
its former services and boasts an impressive programme of community events

I still feel a little guilty that my previous post on London libraries was so North London centred (especially as someone living south of the River myself!). In an attempt to redress the balance, I would recommend New Cross as an example of how library volunteers are doing it for themselves nowadays (with some help from local charitable organisations like the New Cross Gate Trust). If you are able to get there, I would also suggest popping half a mile or so down the road to the Deptford Lounge for comparison. This is one of the new breed of 'super-libraries' popping up in London and I feel these two libraries together provide as indicative a snapshot of UK public libraries in 2012 as you will find anywhere:

It should be noted that I visited both libraries back in January, which doesn't really give a fair reflection on either library. New Cross Learning (pictured above left) has had a lick of paint since then, courtesy of its dedicated volunteers, while the Deptford Lounge (pictured above right and below) had only just opened. The Deptford library has managed to secure a prime location by sharing its space with an Academy, appartments and a host of other activities (such as a top floor, open air basketball court!). I sensed these were uneasy living arrangements at times, it has to be said, with much of the building being unavailable to the public during the Academy's opening hours. The library stocked only a small collection when I visited, although all of these books were noticeably brand new too. There was a clear emphasis on providing a bright space for learning and on encouraging use of new technology:
Another shot of the exterior as unfortunately the photos I shot inside the Deptford Lounge didn't come out very well!
Clapham Library is a project which is similar in many ways, this time sharing space with a heath centre and a 12-storey appartment block. The library was able to keep its budget relatively small ('only' £6.5 million) as a result of this private-public partnership. It is a modern take on the round reading room style, as perfected by Sir Robert Smirke when he built the British Museum's Reading Room. It includes a long ramp which winds its way around a large hall and Children's Library at the centre of the building and a Guggenheim-esque spiral stairway on the other side:   

Most of the collection (of 20,000 items) is located on the
ramp which runs around the outside of this main hall

The ramp also hides alcoves which house quiet PC areas

Look closely enough and you might spot cute little plastic
figures atop these L-I-B-R-A-R-Y letters!...
 Of the 'super-libraries' I've seen, Clapham has to be my favourite so far. There's a lot of fun ideas, from its unique spiral signage to the jagged shapes carved out of the walls.

...See! There they are!! (Oddly enough, upside-down
plastic legs seemed to feature prominently here!)
This talk of spirals has reminded me to mention aMAZEme which is on Royal Festival Hall at the moment. Some 250,000 books (enough to fill a medium-sized academic library!) have been collected and featured in an installation created by two Brazillian artists which puts visitors right at the very centre of an ambitious book labyrinth... hurry if you are thinking of going along as it is only on until this Sunday, 26 August!:

An audio-visual literary tour washes over aMAZEme participants as they browse the stacks

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Wie geht's dir?...

Thing 15 is all about Seminars, Conferences and Other Events. The last seminar I attended was Managing Yourself: how to be productive with your time - hosted by Jo Alcock of CPD23 fame! This introduced strategies for being effective with your time (both at work and outside) including the 'Getting Things Done' (GTD) methodology, which is this...
The basic workflow - based on David Allen's GTD concept a nutshell! I felt the seminar format suited this training session as it gave participants the chance to exchange ideas on how they manage each of the five stages shown above. Some stood by very traditional methods, such as in-trays or notes scribbled on hands, whilst others embraced the internet age with talk of Evernote (I do quite like Evernote!) and Remember the Milk.

Probably the best library event I attended was a Summer School in Stuttgart, Germany in 2008 on Evidence Based Library and Information Practice. The subject matter was fairly dry, it has to be said but it gave me the chance to mix with librarians from all over Europe, some of whom I still keep in touch with now. It was a useful course too, setting out how to set about research projects effectively in a library context and I have been able to use some of this in my own work since.

Conferences, I suppose I'm not so keen on. I actually worked for an exhibitions company, once upon a time, which organised large-scale conferences in Frankfurt. Trying to keep exhibitors and clients happy was a pretty relentless and sometimes thankless task and this was one of the things which drove me into librarianship in the first place! Having said that, there are non-traditional conferences I would like to attend with October's Library Camp being one of them (the trendy "unconference" format attracts me). The CILIP New Professionals Conference is also on my list for 2013. In future I would like to present at events like this but I think I'll stay well away from the organisation side of things! I would also have liked to have attended today's CDG Summer Social at Brighton Museum but sadly there isn't the time to do everything and I have rather been enjoying my travels of late.

In keeping with the emerging German theme of this blog post, last week I escaped to a town called Münster in the North of the country - around 50 miles from the Dutch border:

Münster in bloom!

Münster is bike central, with around two times as many bicycles as people in the city! It also boasts Gothic architecture originally dating back to the 14th century. 98% of these buildings were destroyed during the War but most have since been carefully restored, often with great attention to detail to ensure these remain faithful to the original buildings. 

The central library is a postmodern building which caused quite a kerfuffle among local residents when it opened in 1993 because of its bold design:

The front face of Münster City Library, designed by Julia Bolles-Wilson
It has some unusual architectural features, such as this slightly Dr. Who-esque exhibition space in the IT area on the 1st floor: 

One of the more impressive display stands I've seen so far!
This table & chairs combo is a fine example of the reuse value of old books!

The second library I visited was the Art, Architecture & Design Library at the University of Münster's Leonardo Campus. The campus was converted from a former army barracks stables and (as at the University of the Art's old granary library building) many of the original features have been retained. Use of funky lighting and sculpture, along with a glass extension has breathed new life into the old building and has brought the study area and main collection out into the open:

The entrance to the Bibliothek remains true to the stables which it replaced

The reading room looks out onto the leafy Leonardo campus

Trendy lighting has helped to transform the library building into a bright space
The library features in Architizer's Top Ten Libraries list, which is well worth a look!

Something else I liked about the region were the libraries which seemed to pop up everywhere - particularly on street corners and under bus shelters. Apparently this is quite common in Germany which is great to hear!:

A pop-up library inhabits a bus shelter
in Drensteinfurt, south of Münster

Boating on Lake Aa on a sunny day in Münster

Sunday, 5 August 2012

A London Thing...

Thing 14 (referencing tools) of the 23 Things to follow below but first off it can't have escaped the attention of anyone reading this that the Games of the XXX Olympiad are now in full flow! Even before Danny Boyle's suitably bonkers Opening Ceremony, there was a buzz of excitement here in London which has been tangible and this has just grown and grown ever since!

If any blog readers are in town for the event and wondering what else to check out during their stay, you could do a lot worse than to visit some of the brilliant libraries we have here in London! I have put together a handful of libraries which are putting on activities and exhibitions linked to the Olympics in some way:

Hackney Central Library

No. 1 Reading Lane (the single best address for a library ever?!!). This is the home of Hackney's main branch:

Hackney Central Library & Museum underwent
a major refurbishment in 2001
Olympic events are being shown on a big screen TV in the library
The library is attached to Hackney's Museum which contains permanent exhibitions charting the growth of the borough, ever since its very first inhabitants arrived in log boats!There is a great temporary exhibition on at the moment all about the Games which includes some frank views from residents on their opinions of the Olympics being on their doorstep. The views expressed were not all entirely positive, it has to be said(!) but overall, Hackney residents are a sporty bunch - I learnt there are more cyclists in the borough than anywhere else in the UK!:  

Hackney Museum includes an Olympic Exhibition with some
fascinating facts and figures about all 30 Olympic Games
Nearest station: Hackney Wick (London Overground). Website. 

Just a quick mention too for the new Dalston C.L.R. James Library, also in Hackney. This opened earlier this year and is evidence of real efforts to regenerate the area, with much of this North East London borough being developed as a positive outcome from the Games. It is also opposite the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, which is a fantastic new community garden, created from the remnants of the former Eastern Curve railway line.

Photo extracted Delphine's blog post in her Paradis Express Blog
Nearest station: Dalston Kingsland or Dalston Junction (London Overground). Website. 

The Wellcome Library

The Wellcome Collection encompasses a unique and technically sophisticated collection of health artifacts. This outstanding collection manages to take in the old and the modern, the physical and the virtual all in the one building. It contains a range of exhibition spaces, museum spaces and library spaces which contain something for every type of user. The library is one of my favorites in London and can be found on the second floor of the building:

The main reading room at the Wellcome Library includes the names
of prominent scientists on the gallery wall above the staircase
One of the things I like about the collection is that it is constantly changing. For the Olympics, the Wellcome Collection has given pride of place to a 'Superhuman Exhibition'. There's a trailer about it here:

The exhibition is on until 16 October at the Wellcome Collection more details here: 

Interactive exhibits, forums and activities are
also part of the Wellcome Collection
Nearest stations: Euston (National Rail + Northern & Victoria Line)/Euston Square (Metropolitan Line). Website.

The British Library

A few hundred yards' walk down the Euston Road from the Wellcome Library is Britain's National Library. Ok - it's an obvious choice but at the moment the library is adorned with Olympic banners banners for the third London Games

The British Library is embracing the London 2012 Olympics
The Library is hosting a free 'Olympex' exhibition profiling some of the collectibles from each of the previous 29 modern Olympic Games. These include a large selection of stamps, letters and postcards, as well as books from the 1908 and 1948 London Olympics. You can also have your photo taken with the Olympic Torch!

If the Olympics are not your thing then I would recommend having a look around the Writing Exhibition: Wastelands to Wonderlands which is on until September. The exhibition features draft manuscripts of famous works about Britain in the writers' own hands, for instance an early draft of 'In my Life' by John Lennon which included some of his most intimate memories of growing up in Liverpool (many of which disappeared in the completed version, although some were later used in 'Penny Lane'). The real focus of the exhibition, however are the landscapes which have shaped literature in Britain, from the heathlands to the waterways to the suburban and city streets...

British Library poster - available here.
 (Seemed appropriate!)

The exhibition is on until 25 September 2012.

Nearest station: King's Cross (National Rail + Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria Lines). Website.

The University of the Arts, King's Cross

King's Cross is a transport hub for Games visitors and this is the third of three libraries I would recommend visiting within a mile of the train station. Through my work, I had the opportunity to visit this new building last Wednesday and was amazed by what has been achieved and by the sheer scale of development in this area. It is the largest development in London for 150 years, in fact and the library (seamlessly integrated into a Grade II listed Granary building) offers great views over this part of London. 

The University of the Arts impressive list of Alumni includes several British designers involved in the Olympics, such as Stella McCartney (designer of the Team GB kit) and Anish Kapoor (creator of the bold and equally bonkers 'Orbit' Olympic statue which sits beside the Olympic Stadium). Located just outside the library is one of over 700 public table tennis tables which a company called Ping has been putting up all over the country in conjunction with the Olympics (there is another of these in the British Library's courtyard - nestled in-between Paolozzi's Newton statue and the Anne Frank tree):

A large atrium space connects the library with the rest
of the impressive University of the Arts building
A view from the library to the vast King's Cross development below

Nearest station: King's Cross (National Rail + Circle, Hammersmith & City, Metropolitan, Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria Lines). Website - Please note: visitors to the library are required to make an appointment.

British Film Industry (BFI) Library

Further South and in the very heart of London, the new BFI Library offers more social space and longer opening hours than previously, as well as a sleek new design, following suggestions from the library's users. To coincide with the Olympics, this has been accessible since June 2012 but will formally open in September:

The entrance to the library at the BFI has an appropraitely cinematic look

Lamps in the study area are evocative of Pixar's logo
 The library has released a video from the first London Olympic Games, held in 1908, with events including Tug-of-War:

The BFI Library is also currently giving out free Oyster Card wallets (just what I needed as my existing card holder fell to pieces recently!):

Help yourself to a souvenir Oyster Card holder at the BFI Library!
Nearest station: Waterloo (National Rail + Bakerloo, Jubilee, Northern, Waterloo & City Lines). Website.

There are literally thousands of libraries in London, of course (I haven't even started on South London!) so this list could go on and on.. These were just a few suggestions which might make for an interesting visit as an alternative to all other exciting Summer 2012 events happening all over town. 

As this week's Thing is all about referencing, I've tried using the tools suggested (Zotero, Mendeley and CiteULike) to create a list of references for the citations mentioned in this blog post. I found Mendeley the most useful of the three as it enables the easy collection and transfer of references. I found both CiteULike and Zotero to be heavily focused upon the referencing of academic papers. I think I would find this frustrating as sources of information I have used for assignments (and which I will use in my Chartership) are so varied nowadays and generally are not centred upon academic literature alone. Mendeley offers the option to save citations and references in a number of different formats too, although often these did not come out in the format I had anticipated. I tried using the Harvard Style in the list  below, for instance but looks quite different to the Harvard style which I used during my studies:

List of references 

The British Film Institute, 1908. The 1908 London Olympics, Available at: [Accessed August 5, 2012].

The British Library, 2012. Writing Britain poster 1. Available at: [Accessed August 5, 2012].

Delphine, 2012. paradis express: Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, London. Available at: [Accessed August 5, 2012].

Ivanovic, V., 1936. Archives - Information Services - Kingston University London. Available at: [Accessed August 5, 2012].

Wellcome Collection, 2012. Superhuman Trailer (HD), Available at: v=FGjojbh6-Hg&feature=player_embedded [Accessed August 5, 2012].

(Compiled using Mendeley)

At Kingston we recommend students use RefWorks as it enables them to create references which automatically comply with the various styles specified by the University's five faculties. RefWorks is another tool which can handle a range of different document types and users can usefully sign in using their existing University login details.  

We have also been showing off our very own slice of Olympic legacy at Kingston recently, pride of place in which is this picture from the 1936 Berlin Games - signed by the likes of Jessie Owens and Harold Abrahams & Evelyn Aubrey (of Chariots of Fire fame). It's a remarkable piece of memorabilia and the charismatic Vane Ivanović (whose collection this is extracted from) must have gone to a huge effort to compile all of these signatures!

Well done to all of those who are also still blogging away for CPD23 Things, by the way. I'm still enjoying reading about some of the unique things people have been up to in their libraries. Please do comment if you have been doing your own events tied into the Olympics!

A view of the main stadium from the Olympic Park's gardens. The wildflower
gardens inside the park were co-designed by a Kingston University Student

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Working together online....

Over half way through CPD23 Things now and a chance for a bit of interaction in Thing 13. This is all about Google Docs, Wikis and Dropbox - all of which encourage online collaboration.

I like the freedom Google Docs offers, with the option to create of a variety of documents (spreadsheets, presentations, drawings and so on) "on the fly" without the need to save these locally. On a cautionary note, CPD23 Bloggers are an astute bunch and several of them how noted there to be issues over Google's recent changes in privacy policy. This makes me reticent too about using Google Docs for any serious work and there are potential problems in terms of Data Protection too. I have created a Visits wish list!, though as a test document. This lists the 43 libraries I have visited so far for this blog in one column and then shows those I would like to visit in the other (some of which are more realistically visit-able than others!). Usefully, I can access and update this from anywhere...and anyone else can too, in fact, if they like! Of course this also means that there is potential for the list to be damaged or deleted entirely, if someone were being careless or even malicious, which is one major drawback of shared files (I do have a backup, just in case!).

I spotted an Online Forms function on Google Docs which I thought I'd also have a play with as an experiment in collaborative working online. Please do type in any recommendations you have as to libraries which might be worth a visit in the 'Suggestions Box' below (although I can't promise I will be able to visit them all!):

At work, we use SharePoint which does a similar thing to Google Docs in allowing users to collaborate. Individual sites are often created for specific procedures and projects. Documents can then be uploaded in these shared work spaces and edited by any staff with the relevant permission. We will soon be ugrading to SharePoint 2010 and it will be interesting to see whether will encourage further online collaboration.

I had a go at creating my very own wiki using PBworks. Creating a simple page was reasonably straightforward, once I got around some of the quirks which the editing function churned up when I tried to create links. I understand that anyone can go in to edit this page, just as anyone can do on Wikipedia - the company's unofficial motto encourages users to "Be bold" in editing their constantly updating and ever-expanding global encyclopedia. Wikipedia is clearly another site which should be used with caution but (rather like social media) should not be underestimated as a learning tool and remains an invaluable starting point when researching new topics.

I have downloaded Dropbox and have started to experiment with syncing folders created on my PC in a similar way to synchronising the tunes which are on my iPod, making these available on multiple machines. The 2GB free storage space is limiting but I would mainly foresee using this as a temporary measure to transfer current files I am working with easily to other machines. Being able to quickly drop documents into a folder which lives in an readily accessible virtual space is something which I am sure will be useful when it comes to building my Chartership portfolio too.

...and this brings me to my good news for this week, which is that I've met up with my Chartership mentor and have now completed my registration for my MCLIP! We had a very useful chat about how to identify what  my development needs are and where to find useful sources of support and literature to get me started on building a portfolio. My mentor works in a public library setting and has had experience of being a Music Librarian so it has already been valuable for me to find out about another whole different side of librarianship. If I were to go into a subject area in future then Music would be one which would certainly appeal to me as a keen musician myself, albeit a highly unskilled one (although I do manage to toot away on the trombone with the University's brass ensemble at Kingston!). We have agreed to meet again in the Autumn and I hoping to have come up with a development plan and personal statement by then.

This has been quite a long ramble already so I'll try to make this a quick roundup of some my latest wanderings. It was the libraries of Suffolk this time, specifically University Campus Suffolk (UCS), Ipswich County Library and Bury St. Edmunds Library. 

UCS is a new breed of campus which acts as a learning hub for courses accredited by other educational institutions (predominantly the University of Essex and the University of East Anglia with support from several Suffolk colleges - more details here). There is a real sense of collaboration in the Ipswich Campus's vast and smart-looking, glass-fronted buildings. The Atrium Studios (pictured below) house the library and other University functions but some of this space can also be rented out by local companies:

Atrium Studios: Companies renting office/studio space also
have access to the University's facilities, including the library
Bean bags, bookable pods and mobile furniture are prevalent
in the UCS Ipswich Campus Library's group study area
Suffolk New College is another sponsoring institution of UCS
and is situated directly opposite the Atrium Studios building

UCS had the feel of some of the universities I had visited in the States in some ways, with sports facilities featuring prominently and a healthy emphasis on peer support. The facility opened in 2007 and is due to expand from around 2,000 students last year to around 7,500 across its 6 campuses, which are spread all across the county, by 2014 (according to the Independent). The new tuition fees structure in the UK, which starts to take effect at the start of the next Academic Year, will mean Universities will start having to compete in new ways. It is likely innovative forms of Higher Education institution like UCS will start to proliferate in years to come.

Next it was on to Ipswich County Library, which had some fantastic displays on show to celebrate the Queens' Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics. I also really liked the stained-glass windows in the building's research library:

Ipwich County Library ties in its StoryLab activities with London 2012

Geoffrey Chaucer is immortalised in one of a set of
stained glass windows at Ipswich County Library
Finally, I visited Bury St. Edmunds library which opened a couple of years ago following a £2 million refurbishment. It includes a children's centre and a Learning and Enterprise Access Point (LEAP) - a project maintained by the East of England Development Agency in conjunction with UCS:

Bury St. Edmunds Library: Re-opened in September 2010

The library's café  (called Cafe Libra) has a policy of employing
people who are disadvantaged or who have disabilities:

An unexpected sand sculpture I spotted
being crafted on the streets of Ipswich