Thursday 29 December 2016

2016 In Review

The end of year blog post is becoming something of a tradition for me. I like to use it as a chance to reflect on the previous twelve months and make some plans for the future - if I share them there is more chance that I will actually stick to them!
This time last year I was only a few weeks into a new role and still figuring out how everything in my new office worked. After just over twelve months in the job I hopefully have everything figured out by now! This role marks my first permanent full time role and aside from the relief of not having to constantly apply for new jobs it's been a relief to actually put work plans into place and know that I'll be there to see them through. Short term contracts are great for getting experience but you sometimes feel like a placeholder and it can be frustrating not to see projects that you start through to the end. One of the largest elements of my current role in the Office of Scholarly Communication is supervising the Research Support Ambassador Programme which aims to educate library staff in order to provide a higher standard of support to the research community. The second cohort of participants has recently completed the programme and there are plans for another run in 2017.
One of the highlights of 2016 was the chance to attend IFLA WLIC in Columbus, Ohio. This came about thanks to a grant from CILIP and I learnt so much from the process. A series of blog posts about my experiences can be found here so I won't go into too much detail. The only thing I will say is that if you ever get the chance to apply for similar bursaries then go for it. It took me a while but I was eventually successful and it was a great experience. I've also attended other conferences this year, both large and small. Two that stick in my mind are Internet Librarian International and the CILIP Conference and each provided a different experience. CILIP have recently announced that Dr Carla Hayden, the new Librarian of Congress, will be a keynote speaker at the CILIP 2017 conference so I'll definitely be looking to attend.
I also attended the LISDIS Conference in November. This conference is aimed at allowing recent library graduates to showcase the research they have undertaken and I was really impressed with the quality of their presentations. I attended the conference to give one of the keynote presentations on carrying out Research in the Workplace which was really interesting to research and deliver. I'm currently in the middle of conducting some research into the educational background of people who work in scholarly communications - another project for 2017. I've also submitted abstracts for a couple of other presentations and I'm currently waiting to hear if they have been successful. One I do know about is our local Cambridge Libraries Conference which will happen in January. I'm presenting a poster on the Research Support Ambassador Programme and talking about my professional failures as part of a panel discussion (another blog post to follow on that in the new year).
Although I've been busy at work I've tried to keep up my extra-curricular professional activities. I completed the CILIP Leadership Programme in the summer which was a great experience that gave me a lot of practical tips to put into practice. I feel much more confident in my leadership abilities as a result of the programme and would recommend a repeat run to anyone. As part of this I wrote articles about my experiences for CILIP Update, including an article on attending IFLA WLIC. I've also been busy developing my writing skills in other ways including submitting my first peer reviewed article. I'm currently waiting for the feedback but hopefully there will be some good news to report in new year. Finally I've been working on conducting and writing about my own research both on this blog and others, including this literature review posted on Brain-Work - the blog for the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice.
I've been active on the committee front as well, continuing to work as Candidate Support Officer for CILIP East and Social Media Manager for CILIP Cataloguing an Indexing Group. As my work interests have changed I've expanded my committee positions in 2016 by working on the Editorial Board of the New Review of Academic Librarianship. I've learnt a lot from this role and it's interesting to see the publication process from another perspective.
All in all it's been a busy year but that doesn't mean I don't have plans for 2017. I started a teaching course in 2015 but was unable to complete it due to work commitments. I hate leaving things unfinished so I'll be starting that again in the new year. I do a lot of teaching in my role so this seems like a sensible qualification to pursue. I'm also looking at Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy for similar reasons. I also have another goal in 2017 - to address my work/life balance. The images in this post were taken when I visited Chicago in the summer on my way back from IFLA (for those that don't know it's the Cloud Gate sculpture which I felt fit the reflection theme well!). I had a great time and it was nice to have a few days break from work. People often ask me why I do so much outside work and the short answer is that I have been trying to secure a permanent job and add to the CV. For now at least this goal has been accomplished so I can devote a bit more time to relaxation. I think this is something people often forget to do for various reasons but I'm aiming to make it a priority next year - and maybe even have another holiday!
I hope you all have a great 2017!

Monday 19 December 2016

Research in the Workplace

One of the 'perks' of my current role is that I get to carry out some research. Working in scholarly communication and dealing with the research community in Cambridge conducting my own research helps me to better understand the process they go through.
A few weeks ago I was asked to speak about doing research in the workplace at the LISDIS Conference. This conference is a chance for LIS students and recent graduates to share the research they have undertaken as part of their qualification. What happens when you have finished your qualification though? During your studies you are supported to undertake research but what happens when you're in work? How do you fit research into your day job?
This were the questions I set out to answer in my keynote on Research in the Workplace. Preparing the presentation was actually a great learning experience for me and helped me to focus on some of the things I have been doing over the last few months. The slide deck is included below:

If you're thinking about carrying out some research in your workplace then my advice would be to go for it. It doesn't have to be a massive, complicated research project. It can be a small change that you want to look into or a problem that has been niggling you for some time. Hopefully this presentation will give you a few ideas to try and overcome common barriers and plan your own research project!

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Changing Roles and Changing Needs for Academic Librarians

The Office of Scholarly Communication (OSC) has recently joined the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice (C-EBLIP) Research Network and as part of that commitment will be producing regular blog posts to Brain-Work, the Network blog. The first of these posts is a literature review that I conducted with Dr Danny Kingsley as part of a larger piece of research into scholarly communication education. The blog has previously appeared on both Brain-Work and Unlocking Research - the blog of the OSC. The post is reposted here via a CC-BY licence.


Changing roles

There is no doubt that libraries are experiencing another dramatic change as a result of developments in digital technologies. Twenty years ago in their paper addressing the education of library and information science professionals, Van House and Sutton note that “libraries are only one part of the information industry and for many segments of the society they are not the most important part”.

There is an argument that “as user habits take a digital turn, the library as place and public services in the form of reference, collection development and organisation of library resources for use, all have diminishing value to researchers”. Librarians need to adapt and move beyond these roles to one where they play a greater part in the research process.

To this end scholarly communication is becoming an increasingly established area in many academic libraries. New roles are being created and advertised in order to better support researchers as they face increasing pressure to share their work. Indeed a 2012 analysis into new activities and changing roles for health science librarians identified ‘Scholarly communications librarians’ as a new role for health sciences librarians based on job announcements whilst in their 2015 paper on scholarly communication coaching Todd, Brantley and Duffin argue that: “To successfully address the current needs of a forward-thinking faculty, the academic library needs to place scholarly communication competencies in the toolkit of every librarian who has a role interacting with subject faculty.”

Which skill sets are needed?

Much of the literature is in agreement about the specific skill set librarians need to work in scholarly communication. “Reskilling for Research”identified nine areas of skill which would have increasing importance including knowledge about data management and curation. Familiarity with data is an area mentioned repeatedly and acknowledged as something librarians will be familiar with. Mary Anne Kennan describes the concept as “the librarian with more” – traditional library skills with added knowledge of working with and manipulating data.

Many studies reported that generic skills were just as much, if not more so, in demand than discipline specific skills. A thorough knowledge of advocacy and outreach techniques is needed to spread the scholarly communication message to both library staff and researchers. Raju highlighted presentation skills for similar reasons in his 2014 paper.

The report “University Publishing in a Digital Age” further identified a need for library staff to better understand the publishing process and this is something that we have argued at the OSC in the past.

There is also a need to be cautious when demanding new skills. Bresnahan and Johnson (article pay-walled) caution against trying to become the mythical “unicorn librarian” – an individual who possesses every skill an employer could ever wish for. This is not realistic and is ultimately doomed to fail.

In their 2013 paper Jaguszewski and Williams instead advocate a team approach with members drawn from different backgrounds and able to bring a range of different skills to their roles. This was also the argument put forward by Dr Sarah Pittaway at the recent UKSG Forum where her paper addressed the issue of current library qualifications and their narrow focus.

Training deficit

Existing library roles are being adapted to include explicit mention of areas such as Open Access whilst other roles are being created from scratch. This work provides a good fit for library staff but it can be challenging to develop the skills needed. As far back as 2008 it was noted that the curricula of most library schools only covered the basics of digital library management and little seems to have changed since with Van House and Sutton identifying barriers to “the ability of LIS educational programs to respond” to changing needs such as the need to produce well-rounded professionals.

Most people working in this area learn their skills on the job, often from more experienced colleagues. Kennan’s study notes that formal education could help to fill the knowledge gap whilst others look to more hands-on training as this helps to embed knowledge.

The question then becomes should the profession as a whole be doing more to prepare their new recruits for the career path of the 21st century academic librarian? This is something we have been asking ourselves in Office of Scholarly Communication (OSC) at Cambridge. Since the OSC was established at the start of 2015 it has made a concerted effort to educate staff at the one hundred plus libraries in Cambridge through both formal training programmes and targeted advocacy. However we are aware that there is still more to be done. We have begun by distributing a survey to investigate the educational background of those who work in scholarly communications. The survey was popular with over five hundred responses and many offers of follow up interviews which means that we have found an area of interest amongst the profession. We will be analysing the results of the survey in the New Year with a view to sharing them more widely and further participating in the scholarly communication process ourselves.


Wherever the skills gaps are there is no doubt that the training needs of academic librarians are changing. The OSC survey will provide insight into whether these needs are currently being met and give evidence for future developments but there is still work to be done. Hopefully this project will be the start of changes to the way academic library staff are trained which will benefit the future of the profession as a whole.

Dr. Danny Kingsley and Claire Sewell

Originally posted on Unlocking Research on November 29th 2016.

Tuesday 6 December 2016

IFLA WLIC 2016 - Conference Report

Attending IFLA WLIC has definitely been one of my professional highlights of 2016. In case you didn't get enough insight about my experiences via the blog you can now read my conference report here. For more detail all of my live-ish blog posts from the conference can be found here. Enjoy!

Friday 2 December 2016

From CopyWRONG to CopyRIGHT: Updates from the CLA

One thing I am always asked for is copyright training. From years of sitting on various professional committees I know that I’m not alone in this – librarians always want copyright training. It can be really hard to know where to start as everyone has slightly different needs so it’s best to just dive in!

Working in an academic library I have become quite familiar with the CLA (CopyrightLicencing Agency) Licence which allows educational institutions to reproduce material from copyrighted materials legally. The CLA itself is a collection management organisation which provides different types of licence depending on the needs of the licence holder. Already we are starting to get into confusing territory so I thought it best to call in the experts so I arranged for a representative from the CLA to come and talk to Cambridge library staff.

The obligatory warning: this post is a write up from notes taken at the above talk and does not constitute legal advice.

CLA Licence Overview 
The Licence covers books, journals and magazines in both print and digital format. I hadn’t realised that the CLA actually predates the Copyright Act by five years, having been formed in 1983 to deal with the growing use of photocopiers in schools.

It’s important to realise that the CLA Licence doesn’t cover material that students copy for their own private research and study. This is an exception to the Licence as long as people are using the materials for themselves.  It should be noted that this is NOT the same as using things for group study, that falls under the terms of the licence. More details on legal exceptions not covered by the CLA Licence can be found hereThe Licence also excludes films or images where they are not used in published works or music.

Material copied under the CLA Licence needs to be owned or subscribed to by the University to be eligible. Under the Licence material can be copied for students on a course of study e.g. a defined cohort participating in a class. Students can access the material for the rest of their degree of study, making revision easier. This access must be restricted to the ‘originally completing cohort’ – if another group wishes to use the material that means a reassessment under the terms of the Licence.

Works published in the UK have an automatic indemnity – everything is available to copy unless expressly forbidden. However there are always exceptions and changes so the CLA recommends using their Permissions Checker tool just to be absolutely safe. This operates on a simple traffic light system of red, amber and green with over 90% of material being tagged as green and therefore available under the Licence.  

Changes to the CLA Licence
As of August 1st 2016 the Licence has been updated, largely in response to feedback from bodies such as the UK Copyright Working Group. There were a number of changes, the most important of which are highlighted below:
  • Exceptions for parody or quotation – copyrighted material can now be used for ‘parody, caricature or pastiche’ without having to obtain express permission from the author. This has to be under fair dealing (ensuring that you are using a fair amount of the work rather which doesn’t infringe on the ability of the copyright holder to make money). Further details are available here.
  • Increase in the extent limits – under the terms of the Licence it is now allowed to copy either a defined amount (one whole  chapter from a book, one whole article from a magazine/journal issue etc.),  or 10% of the total publication whichever is the greater. This is an increase from the previous amount of 5%. Articles in particular often come in at under 10% of the total publication which means that more may be copied.

The changes and an overview of the Licence are available via a handy user guide from the CLA website.

CLA and the VLE
Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) are possibly one reason why so many librarians have a copyright headache.  Institutions need to make sure that digital material is available via secure access which is only available to staff and students and this is typically done via a VLE.  The material needs to be confined to an area accessible only to those enrolled on a particular course of study. Libraries need to make sure that they are not in effect creating an online library of work accessible to all.

The CLA recommends trying to use the digital format of a work wherever possible rather than scanning a paper copy and uploading this. Under the Licence single chapters of a book may be uploaded to a VLE and this can help to overcome access problems with ebooks. If a lecturer sets a chapter from an ebook as required reading this can cause issues when more users than are allowed try to read the chapter concurrently. Uploading the chapter (as long as it’s within the terms of the CLA Licence) can be helpful to students here.

Copyright notices are required on all copyrighted material that is used on the VLE. This should include the course name, title of the work, author and publisher details. The name of a designated person responsible for copyright matters at the institution is no longer required. 

Any digital copies of material must be reported annually to the CLA. This is important not only as good practice but so that copyright holders can be reimbursed correctly. Material does sometimes come out of the Licence so it’s important to check that only appropriate material is included.  The CLA will not ask institutions to remove any material during the year to avoid impacting student learning but it will need to be removed the following year if needed.  The CLA have a new tool to help with reporting – the CLA Content StoreThis is available as part of the Licence and reports automatically to the CLA.

Further information
Below are some websites which might be useful if you want to learn more about copyright:

I hope the above information is useful for anyone looking to learn more about copyright. As stated at the top of this post this is not intended as any sort of legal advice (I really don't get paid enough for that!). Please use this information as guidance only and double check everything. Also if you spot any errors please let me know so I don't leave up incorrect information.

Monday 14 November 2016

Copyright: Playing the Game

I freely admit to not being the biggest fan of teaching copyright. I like to be able to have a concrete explanation for things and that doesn't always happen when discussing copyright! However needing to know about copyright is unavoidable when working in an academic library and providing training to librarians. It's a topic I often get asked about so I've tried to educate myself about it since I took on my role last year.
One problem with teaching copyright is that it can often be hard to keep people interested as there is a lot of information to take in. The good news is that Naomi Korn, Chris Morrison and Dr Jane Secker have developed a great interactive way to teach copyright: The Copyright Card Game. They have generously made all of the resources for teaching the game available via a Creative Commons licence so last week I ran it for some colleagues through Cambridge Librarians in Training.
I've played the game before with someone else running it but never invigilated before. The good news is that everything needed is already prepared - instructions, cards and presentation. I always find it hard teaching from someone else's slides. This is by no means a criticism as the slides are very well laid out and explained but it's always easier when you've developed something yourself. I ran through them a couple of times myself before the actual session and this seemed to solve most problems.

The session itself went well. There were only three attendees which was a bit of a disappointment at first but in the end I think this ended up working to our advantage. Participants were able to have a proper discussion about the various problems covered and they all said how much more interesting the workshop was as a result.

The workshop itself built up from simple to more complex scenarios which eventually allowed participants to conduct a copyright audit of various situations. This is the real advantage of the game approach over normal teaching - it allows the participants to get some hand-on experience of applying copyright licences and exceptions to real situations. Hopefully this will help their new knowledge to stick. Whilst it was easier for me as I had the answers, running the game also helped me to learn more about copyright and it brought up some interesting discussions which made me think.
If you're new to copyright or want to learn more I think running or participating in the game is a great way to expand your knowledge. Whilst it's still not my favourite topic I'm less worried about teaching copyright now which is saying something!

Tuesday 1 November 2016

The Future of Academic Librarianship?

It's been a busy few months at work as I've spent the summer organizing and delivering a programme of training for library staff. As I'm based in the Office of Scholarly Communication naturally this training revolves around developing skills to help support the research community. Cambridge library staff are in the fortunate situation of having this training available to them but it has got me thinking about how people in other institutions develop their knowledge of this area. Together with my manager Danny Kingsley we have decided to conduct some research into the suitability of traditional training routes for academic librarians. Our survey has just closed and my blog post from the Office of Scholarly Communication blog - Unlocking Research - is reposted below and I'll be sharing outcomes and developments as we move forward with the research. As always, comments and feedback are welcomed!

Are academic librarians getting the training they need?

The problem

Few people would deny that the world of the academic library is changing. Users are becoming more and more sophisticated in their information gathering techniques and the role of the academic librarian needs to adapt accordingly or risk being left behind. Librarians are changing from the traditional gatekeeper role to one which helps their research community to disseminate the outputs of their work.

This shift offers academic library staff new opportunities to move into research support roles. An increasing number of libraries are establishing scholarly communication departments and advertising for associated roles such as Repository Managers and Data Specialists.  It’s also becoming common to see more traditional academic library roles advertised asking for at least a working knowledge of areas such as Open Access and Research Data Management.

This is an issue that we have been considering in the Office of Scholarly Communication for a while. My role as Research Skills Coordinator involves up-skilling Cambridge library staff in these areas so I’m more aware than most that it is a full time job. But what happens to those who don’t have this type of opportunity through their work? How do they find out about these areas which will be so relevant to their future careers?

For many new professionals studying is their main chance to get a solid grounding in the information world but with the profession undergoing such rapid change is the education received via these degrees suitable for working in 21st century academic libraries? This is a question that has been raised many times in the profession in recent years so it’s time to dig a bit deeper.


Our hypothesis is simple: there is a systematic lack of education on scholarly communication issues available to those entering the library profession. This is creating a time bomb skills gap in the academic library profession and unless action is taken we may well end up with a workforce not suited to work in the 21st century research library.

In order to test this hypothesis we have designed a survey aimed at those currently working in scholarly communication and associated areas. We hope that asking questions about the educational background of these workers we can work to determine the suitability of the library and information science qualification for these types of role into the future and how problems might be best addressed.

After a process of testing and reworking, our survey was launched to the scholarly communication community on October 11th 2016. In less than 24 hours there were over 300 responses, clearly indicating that the subject had touched a nerve for people working in the sector. (And thank you to those who have taken the time to respond).

Preliminary findings

We were pleased to see that even without prompting from the survey, respondents were picking up on many of the issues we wanted to address. For example, the original focus of the survey was the library and information science qualification and its impact on those working in scholarly communication.

When we piloted the survey with members of our own team we realised how diverse their backgrounds were and so widened the survey to target those who didn’t hold an LIS qualification but worked in this area. This has already given us valuable information about the impact that different educational backgrounds have on scholarly communication departments and has gained positive feedback from survey respondents.

Many of the respondents talk of developing the skills they use daily ‘on the job’. Whilst library and information professionals are heavily involved in lifelong learning and it’s natural for skills to develop as new areas emerge, the formal education new professionals receive also needs to keep pace. If even recent graduates have to develop the majority of skills needed for these roles whilst they work this paints a worrying picture of the education they are undertaking.

The survey responses have also raised the issue of which skills employers are really looking for in library course graduates and how these are provided. Respondents highlighted a range of skills that they needed in their roles – far more than were included in the original survey questions. This opens up discussions about the vastly differing nature of jobs within scholarly communication and how best to develop the skill set needed.

A final issue highlighted in the responses received so far is that a significant number of people working in scholarly communication roles come from outside the library sector. Of course this has benefits as they bring with them very valuable skills but importing knowledge in this way may also be contributing to a widening skills gap for information professionals that needs to be addressed.

Next steps

The first task at the end of the collection period (you have until 5pm BST Monday 31 October) will be to analyse the results and share them with the wider scholarly communication community. There are plans for a blog post, journal article and conference presentations. We will also be sharing the anonymised data via the Cambridge repository.

Following that our next steps depend largely on the responses we receive from the survey. We have begun the process of reaching out to other groups who may be interested in similar issues around professional education to see if we can work together to address some of the problems. None of this will happen overnight but we hope that by taking these initial steps we can work to create academic libraries geared towards serving the researchers of the 21st century.

One thing that the survey has done already is raise a lot of interesting questions which could form the basis of further research. It shows that there is scope to keep exploring this topic and help to make sure that library and information science graduates are well equipped to work in the 21st century academic library.

Originally posted on Unlocking Research on October 27th 2016.

Monday 24 October 2016

Internet Librarian International 2016

Last week I was given a last minute opportunity to attend one day of the Internet Librarian International  (ILI) Conference in London. This is a conference that has always been on my wish list so I jumped at the chance!

I attended on the Tuesday which was the first of two days of sessions on the theme of innovation in libraries.

Towards a sustainable environment - what libraries can learn from the 2030 agenda for sustainable development
Stuart Hamilton from IFLA began the day by talking about how libraries can contribute to the goal of sustainable development. Looking at the United Nations Development Programme goals it's easy to see how the mission of libraries fits with many of these. Perhaps the most important of these is access to information which is vital to sustainable development. Libraries can also be seen as safe spaces in an often complex world and they need to work to make sure this is known. Hamilton concluded by asking libraries to be ambitious and pursue a global agenda. 

How big data is changing libraries - and librarians 
Big data is a term with no given definition and can often be a contentious topic for the information profession who are being asked to cope with another change. 

Rafael Ball from ETH Zurich courted controversy when he talked about the advent of big data being the end of the 'ideology of accuracy' that has ruled libraries for years. Previously the information profession has dealt with comparatively small data which they could spend time analysing and creating perfect records for. This just isn't possible with big data but that doesn't mean that our skills are not still in demand. Librarians have always been able to adapt to changing formats and sources of information and I don't think big data will be any different. It will require us to think in a slightly different way, something Ball referred to as shifting the librarian way of thinking (structured data with expected results) to the big data way of thinking (unstructured data with surprise results). Hopefully colleagues will view this as an opportunity to develop their skills rather than a threat to their work.

Tools for the library innovator
This session featured two presentations on using innovative tools to showcase your information service. The first was a fascinating session from Kenn Bicknell from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Strategic innovation tools for every library type. Bicknell highlighted different ways to reach out and engage both new and existing audiences using examples from his work with the transportation archives of LA. The library uses different social media tools and websites to create engaging content using both text and images and the response has been positive. Bicknell's key message was to link all of the tools together rather than using them in isolation. Too many people start using these tools without a clear reason other than wanting to use the latest site available. If you spend some time planning and creating a strategy you can start to push people towards the content you want them to see and achieve great results.

This was followed by a demonstration of 15 sites for library innovators from Marydee Ojala. These included some sites that I had heard of and use regularly but I also picked up a few tips. The Directory of Open Access Journals provides a well indexed list of open access publications whilst Science Open allows authors and researchers to share their research in an open way. One site I hadn't come across was Smart Briefs which skims the internet, collates information on certain topics and then delivers it to you. This has the potential to be a real time saver for librarians and users.

Something to learn, something to teach: the mentoring librarian
I've taken part in the International Librarians Network (ILN) twice now and found it a really worthwhile experience. This talk by Alyson Dalby, one if the ILN founders, looked at the programme as a mentoring relationship. ILN offers a semi-structured peer mentoring relationship for participants with guided discussion topics. Unlike traditional mentoring relationships where one person has more experience and guides the other, participants can be from any career stage. Having an international online relationship can also help to overcome some other mentoring problems such as finding time to meet face to face. The group have recently published a research report on their website outlining their success which I'll be exploring in more depth.

The responsive librarian
Milena Kostic and Vesna Vuksan from the University Library Svetozar Markovic in Belgrade talked us through their approach to being The responsive librarian. Every year they run courses aimed at training their colleagues in new skills such as digital marketing, digital storytelling and social media. These courses are linked to a wider learning plan and attendees receive credits which they can use towards their annual professional development total. These in person courses have proved very popular with attendees and new courses are being developed. The courses are also well supported by library managers which is great to see. I took a lot of lessons away from this session to incorporate into my own teaching practice. 

Digital scholarship: new technologies and new behaviours
Following on from this Mia Ridge gave the second keynote of the day on her work with digital scholarship at the British Library. Some librarians are afraid of the impact of digital scholarship on their work as they are used to people coming through the doors to use the physical library rather than working online. However there is no way to avoid this so it's a good idea to develop new skills. Ridge showed that the best way to learn about digital scholarship is to actively participate but it can be hard to keep up with the tools. The British Library have developed several ways of learning about new tools from formal training to 'Hack and Yack' sessions where participants gather together to work through an online tutorial on a tool.

This keynote also included my favourite statement from the conference - that metadata is like being promised cake but instead being given the recipe. Users think that they will see the whole digital resource when what often happens is that they can access the metadata. We need to give them the tools to make the cake which means we need to understand how to use them.

Open all hours: using shared and open data in learning and the teaching of data skills
Virginia Power talked about her work educating new library professionals at the University of the West of England. Unless these new professionals improve their data literacy they will be adrift in the library of the future. Librarians need to know how to interrogate the data and there are few courses which teach this through the traditional methods. Power is currently developing a module to meet this need and I can't wait to see it. This is an issue which is very close to my professional interests and I am currently involved in research to explore the area (more on that in future blog posts).

Digital data labs
The remainder of the session was a presentation on digital data labs in Copenhagen. A data lab is "an open platform and space for education and events focusing on digital methods in the academic sciences". These online learning spaces are reflective of the fact that a lot of human activity now takes place in the digital domain. Regardless of what you think about this it does mean that it's a place where libraries need to get involved. Building data labs also helps cooperation between libraries and faculty - something which many academic libraries strive for.

A collaborative approach to developing new library services
Much of Julia Barrett's talk on developing a new scholarly communication service at University College Dublin (UCD) struck a chord with me as I've been working in a similar area. Barrett spoke about the confusion researchers have around the terminology of scholarly communication and compliance issues. Library staff need to work to demystify this, something we have been actively doing in Cambridge. Currently UCD are working to develop a single portal which brings together all of the services on offer to researchers at UCD and tie this into the research cycle. Again this is something we are currently working on in Cambridge so I look forward to seeing the results. 

From vision to reality: developing a collaborative library and information service for nature conservation
The last presentation I attended was given by two Cambridge librarians - Andrew Alexander from the Judge Business School and Lizzie Sparrow from the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI). The presenters talked about their roles in creating a new library service from scratch - an opportunity that doesn't come up every day. They wanted the library to be central to the new conservation centre but at the same time to be a user centred service that reached out to people at their desks. With the idea that the librarian is more important than the library they have created an effective and well used service which is at the heart of the CCI.

If anyone gets the chance to attend the conference in the future, it's definitely one I would recommend. I was only there for a day but I've come away with many contacts and ideas which is always the sign of a day well spent! 

Monday 3 October 2016

Reflections on IFLA WLIC 2016

This is the last in a series of posts about my experience of IFLA WLIC 2016. Other posts can be found here.

I've been back from Columbus for just over a month now and it feels like I'm finally catching up with everything I missed when I was away. Now is also a good time to think back and reflect on what I learnt at IFLA and how I'm applying it at work.

Firstly I want to say that everything you have read/heard about large international conferences is true - they are completely overwhelming. I don't necessarily mean this in a bad way but one thing I learnt was not to underestimate the importance of taking time out if you need it. I tried to go to EVERYTHING as I'm well aware this could be my only chance to attend an event like this. Thinking back I should have built more time into my schedule for downtime from the start. The days were really long with sessions lasting from 8.30am to 6.00pm and I was often hopping from one to another meaning that lunch was constantly eaten on the go (if at all!). I'm quite introverted so I need that bit of quiet time to recharge and I should have included this in my planning.

Another thing I learnt was that it is indeed perfectly normal to switch sessions. Each session was about two hours long and made up of several 15/20 minute presentations so there was a natural pause in proceedings if you wanted to get to another session. It took me a few days to work up the nerve to switch sessions but I'm glad I did as I wound up going to some great sessions I would otherwise have missed. It's not rude in any way, it's just about learning as much as you can. I'm still not sure that the practice will ever take off here in the UK but at least if it does I'll be prepared!

I've talked to a lot of colleagues (both in person and online) since I've been back and they've all been curious about the experience of attending such a big conference. It's one thing to read about people attending events like this but another to have someone you know describing it to you. Everyone has been curious about different aspects of the conference (the opening ceremony in particular!) and it has been really great to share my experience with them. Hopefully I've helped to demystify the whole conference thing a bit and other people will think of applying to attend in the future. 

One really useful thing to come out of the conference is the contacts I made. I did some 'pre-conference networking' online before I went and then met with various people at the actual conference. This turned out to be really useful as we were able to talk through plans and issues and get things off the ground. Having this personal contact has really helped to move the projects forward and I think they are in a much better place than they would have been had we just talked online. I also met lots of new people of course and it was a great way to expand my network.

Talking to people from around the world and listening to their presentations I found it very reassuring that we are all facing similar problems. One thing I particularly wanted to explore was the problem of staff engagement with professional development and many of the sessions I attended gave me some really good tips. Chats in the lunch line or at the vendor exhibition were also really helpful. I have to say that it was in situations like this where the elevator pitch we had to practice as part of the CILIP Leadership Programme really came in handy! It stopped a lot of awkward pauses and led to lots of interesting conversations. 

I've also been putting a lot of what I learnt into action since I got back. There will be times when I'm sitting in a meeting or having a brainstorming session and I find myself saying "I saw this thing at IFLA....". Many of the sessions I attended were really inspiring and I came away with lots of ideas of things to try. I have my previous blog posts to refer back to but I also filled a notebook with notes which are sure to come in handy! So many libraries around the world are doing really innovative things and having a chance to ask about them in person was a real bonus. I've also passed ideas onto colleagues where appropriate and I know they've found that helpful.

So this concludes my IFLA experience (on this blog at least). If you want to know more there will be a conference report on the CILIP website and a piece in Update very soon. IFLA 2017 is being held in Wroclaw, Poland and although nothing is certain it's possible I might get a chance to attend again to show off the fruits of collaborations started at IFLA 2016. I hope that these posts have been helpful in giving a flavor of the conference experience, including planning and preparation. If people take away nothing else from these posts I would just like to encourage everyone to apply when you see bursaries offered. The worst answer you will get is no but I promise you that if you get a yes it will be SO worth it!!

Saturday 20 August 2016

IFLA WLIC 2016 - Cleveland Rocks!

This is the tenth in a series of posts about my experience of IFLA WLIC 2016. Other posts can be found here.

Even though the IFLA WLIC officially finished yesterday I've planned one more library centric day before I leave Ohio. IFLA runs a number of library themed trips both during and after the main conference and being this far from home I didn't want to miss the opportunity to explore some libraries in the US. I chose to attend the Cleveland Rocks tour which visited the Cleveland Public Library and the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archive. I must admit, Cleveland has ever been top of my list of places to visit but the lure of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Archive was too much!

Our first stop was the Cleveland Public Library. The first thing I noticed was that it was guarded by large plastic animals including these colourful snails. This was part of an art installation taking place across public spaces in Cleveland and they certainly brightened up the outdoor reading garden. Hosting public art such as these animals is just one facet of the outreach that the Public Library practices. Inside we were treated to multiple exhibitions from a Shakespeare folio to signs made by homeless people asking for help. Both were interesting and moving in their own way.

The main library branch is made up of two buildings - the original building dating from 1925 and a modern extension added in 1997. Good use is made of the space which is connected by an underground walkway and even though the buildings are quite distinctive the library does feel like one entity. There are a mixture of traditional and modern services in each building including a learning commons, a computer lab and a well used makerspace. Our visit to the Rare Books department was a particular highlight. As well as housing the world's largest chess library the department was also home to a collection of material on Alice in Wonderland and an impressive collection of miniature books. The department also featured an exhibition highlighting past presidents as Cleveland had recently hosted the Republican Party Convention. One particularly interesting item was a signed copy of Donald Trump's autobiography which had also been signed by Meredith McIver - speech writer for Melania Trump! Given recent events this lends an added significance to this item!All of these items and services combined to create a really well used public library service - something more policy makers need to pay attention to when they say no one uses libraries!

Our next stop was the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library and Archive (which is sadly not in the museum but stored on a local university campus). For anyone wondering why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is located in Cleveland the term rock and roll was coined on a local radio show in 1951.

The library building houses a reading room with collections related to artists inducted into the Hall of Fame. This includes a vast range of material from biographies, image collections and journals to children's books. I spent some time reading a children's book from the early 1990s on Madonna - needless to say it glossed over some aspects of her career! In addition the library collects music such as box sets of an artists greatest hits. It has an impressive selection of CDs which made many on the tour jealous...

The real treasures of the collection are kept in the archive and we were lucky enough to be given a behind the scenes tour. The archive collects material related to its inductees, either collected by them or compiled by others. The material is available to researchers and is an invaluable source of information that they might not find anywhere else. Highlights of the collection include handwritten lyrics by Elvis, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. Another favourite was Buddy Holly's high school diploma. As well as preserving these items for research purposes the archive lends them for exhibitions and display in the Hall of Fame Museum. If I ever get back to Cleveland I'll definitely be making a visit to check them out!

That concludes my IFLA adventure and it's been a blast! Once I've settled back into the real world I'll be writing a final reflective blog post on how I have applied what I've learnt and what my next steps will be....

Friday 19 August 2016

IFLA WLIC 2016 - Day Five

This is the ninth in a series of posts about my experience of IFLA WLIC 2016. Other posts can be found here.
The conference is over and it's almost time to go back to reality. I've had a great time and learnt a lot but I can't deny that it will be nice to have a break.
Knowledge Café: Continuous Learning in Libraries and their Communities
The Knowledge Café is a guided discussion session where you move round to cover three tables/different discussions. This was a last minute session change for me but I'm glad I went as it proved one of the most useful sessions of the whole conference for me.
The first table I joined was discussing Learning strategies for staff. I got some great tips here which I can apply to my own role. A lot of the discussion focused on how to prepare staff when they first start in a role. This included ideas from traditional induction programmes to in-depth training where people take time out of their work to visit other departments and get a real feel for the organisation. We also talked about knowledge management in an organisation. Too often someone leaves an organisation and takes years of knowledge with them. You can avoid this problem by scheduling a formal exit and handover process. It sounds simple but often doesn't get done as there are other priorities. However taking the time to do this can really save time in the long  run and works well for the organisation. Finally we discussed skills assessments. One institution carries out both a self and management assessment of the employee's abilities. These are then compared, discussed and used to inform a personal development plan. We are looking at both our induction and appraisal processes so this was valuable advice.
The next table discussed Team building and team leadership. Having just completed the CILIP Leadership programme this really appealed to me. We mainly discussed the concept of trust and how fundamental this is to building a successful team. The team needs to trust each other and their leader but more importantly the leader needs to trust the team. It's important to remember that not everyone will want to be best friends with people on their team. Some people are there to get the job done and then go home and it's important to respect that rather than trying to force them into something. This way you will earn their trust and keep them happy in their role.
The final table looked at Sharing innovative programs. One of the best ideas to come out of this session for me was the Organisational Citizenship programme being planned at McGill University. This both supports and rewards staff for being good citizens in the workplace and for developing their skills, for example learning to communicate effectively in meetings. I really like this idea and I'm already thinking about ways to adapt it for Cambridge.
Evaluating our Worth: How Can we Quantify the Value of Libraries and Information Centres
I've done some research into impact so I know how complicated it can be. The room for this session was standing room only which shows how popular the topic is.
I was pleased to see that the discussion focused on both qualitative and quantitative measures of impact as I think both are important in their own way and incredibly powerful when they are used together. In the session libraries were described as a merit good which means that even though their value cannot easily be quantified they should be kept open by governments. If someone could tell the UK government this I would be very grateful!
The session also looked at the lack of understanding over what impact actually is and how libraries should be valued. We were told that we need to make a shift in our mind-set from thinking about a return on investment to looking more at ways in which libraries change the lives of our users. I know that this kind of impact can work wonders with stakeholders and I think it's a lesson we can all take on board.
The Role of Libraries and Librarians in Scientific and Technological Data Management and Archiving
I regularly teach research data management to both librarians and researchers so I was keen to attend this session. The most relevant part of the session for me was Mary Ann Kennan's talk on Knowledge and skills required in research, scientific and technical organisations. Kennan has carried out research into the skill sets needed to work in this area and identified several gaps that need to be filled. As well as the obvious topic related knowledge, people who work in this area need to develop their soft skills. They need to be good at communication in order to put together presentations and get the message across and they also need to be comfortable with change as the area is quite fluid. Kennan described the role as a "librarian with more" - something I am trying to create in Cambridge. She also talked about a new specialist course which has just been launched in the area at Charles Stuart University, something I will be following up on.
Closing Session
The highlight of the closing session was the review of the Columbus Conference and the look ahead to next year in Wroclaw in Poland. There was also the announcement that IFLA WLIC 2018 will be held in Kuala Lumpur which led to some celebration from our colleagues form that part of the world. The session also featured the closing address by IFLA President Donna Sheeder. She urged us to keep working as libraries were changing lives all over the world for the better.
Overall the conference was great fun and I've learnt a lot. It will take some time to process everything and think about how to fit what I've learnt into my work. Although today was the last day of the conference tomorrow features the post-conference visits. I'll be going to Cleveland to visit the public library and the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame Archive and it's safe to say I can't wait. I'll be blogging about the visit before I take a little break from blogging for a while. Stay tuned for the last onsite IFLA report tomorrow!

Thursday 18 August 2016

IFLA WLIC 2016 - Day Four

This is the eighth in a series of posts about my experience of IFLA WLIC 2016. Other posts can be found here.

It's now gotten to the point where I'm having to check previous posts on this blog to make sure I know which day it actually is! As much as I'm enjoying the experience my brain feels like it's on information overload right now. So much so that I've taken a break from this afternoons session and have come to write this blog post instead. 

It has taught me a valuable lesson about taking time out though. It can be tempting with an experience like this to try and cram in as much as possible, especially if it,s not likely to be repeated any time soon. However I would urge people to plan some downtime otherwise all of the sessions start to blend into one a little bit and you wind up not being able to take it all in. I'm quite introverted so a little bit of quiet time is always welcome.

Plenary Session
This morning began with an address by the David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States. He talked about his appointment under President Obama and his management of the forty-three institutions which make up the Archives, including the Presidential Libraries. One thing that the Obama administration sought to do was to create a culture of open government and the archives naturally played a big part in this. Holding the records of government, it's the job of the archive to preserve these and then make then available for the nation. In this way the people can hold the government accountable. At a time when political misinformation is a hot topic in the UK this can hopefully only be a good thing! Ferriero concluded his message by calling for all librarians to continue their work of sharing information to make the world a better place.

Hot Topics: Re-Envisioning or Re-Inventing - New Journeys for Academic and Research Librarians
The second session of the day focused on future roles for academic and research libraries and librarians. Given that my job is working to prepare librarians for a change future on academic libraries this session was a goldmine. The first speaker, Lorcan Dempsey highlighted a crucial marketing problem that libraries have. Over the past few years we have gone from thinking about the user in the life of the library and how we can provide services to thinking about how the library fits into the life of the user. This is exactly how it should be and how successful business models have done it for years. What libraries do need now is to position themselves as solving university level problems. What can we use our skills to help the university with? Answers include areas such as research data management and access to research. This is essentially what we have always done but we need to frame it in a different way and make it part of our story.

Another interesting talk from this session was delivered by Suzie Allard who talked about the role of the library in helping researchers to manage their data. Some academic and research libraries are already doing this and doing it well but a worryingly high number don't. A concept that Allard introduced that really appealed to me was the incubator model where a library that is having success with this mentors a different library through setting up the process. Is is something I'm very keen to be involved with. We do a lot of this type of education and training at Cambridge and I'd really like to help share this knowledge more widely. It's something I've discussed with my line manager so watch this space! After the presentations we had a great discussion at my table about the various issues raised and I came away knowing more about the international landscape and with more ideas to try.

Failing Successfully in a Librarian's Career: Is a Setback an Opportunity to Grow or Just an Unwelcome Incident on the Road to Success?
Failure is a funny thing. We've all experienced it but no one wants to talk about it. When it happens to you it's easy to feel that you are the only person in the world who this has happened to but this session contained some really good advice on dealing with failure.

New professionals are usually super keen and willing to try everything that comes their way. This will inevitably lead to failure due to both the law of averages and that fact that innovation is linked to risk. If you keep trying new things then some of them are bound to fail. There is no shame in this but you do need to be prepared for the fact that not everything will go your way. You can accept this and learn from it or let it get to you. The advice of the session (and my advice) is to go with the former!

Even when you get a bit further in your career and land that seemingly perfect job remember that things may not live up to expectations. Job satisfaction isn't something that comes automatically like a leave allowance or a salary, you have to work at it. This isn't about loving your job but rather about not letting the little things take over and turn into big problems.

Other advice from the session included trying to turn negatives into positives, addressing problems sooner rather than later, seeking advice from more experienced colleagues and if all else fails and nothing is working, consider removing yourself from the situation. The final conclusion to the session was to continue to take on new challenges, even if they're risky. Great advice that I know I wish I'd figured out sooner.

Looking Beyond Conventional Information: Big, Open and Research Data
Working with researchers and teaching them how to store their data is a big part of my job so I was interested to attend this session to find out about the international perspective. I was a bit taken aback to learn that colleagues in the US are finding getting the message across a bit of a struggle given how enthusiastically the UK community seem to have taken to it. Kathleen Shearer described research data management as a three legged stool comprising policies, culture and infrastructure/support services. We need to strengthen all three if the culture of open data is to be a success.

A phrase that kept cropping up was data literacy which is the ability to manage and store data. This is a good way to describe it and in a world familiar with information literacy may help understanding from both researchers and librarians. Libraries have a crucial part to play in supporting research data management so staff need to be up to speed.

General Assembly
The final session of the day was IFLA's General Assembly or AGM. The strategic directions for IFLA were outlined as below and updates given on each:
  • libraries in society - providing access and opportunities for all
  • information and knowledge - access in any format and at any place
  • cultural heritage - preservation and conservation
  • building capacity - strengthening the ability of IFLA to advocate for change
This was part one of the general meeting with part two closing the conference tomorrow. Thursday is the last official day of the conference followed by the visits on Friday. Since I'm visiting the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame I have a feeling that will be a blog post people will want to read!