Six Months Later

Some before and after photos:

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The cataloguing is still a work in progress. There is not much you can achieve in four hours a week! Of course, I have been putting in a lot of extra hours, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not helping the library profession by slogging away for free…

At least all the fiction is on the LMS, and the library is definitely up and running. Book reviews are being written online by the children, and they have embraced the new technology enthusiastically. Junior Librarian certainly has its limits, but for what it is, it works. There have been a few glitches with the search functions, but their helpdesk got on the case and sorted them out. I get the impression that most schools would not have the time or inclination to investigate all the features of JL, so many search functions may go unnoticed.

Printing out reports is a brilliant feature though, as I can create a top-ten of the most popular titles and authors by month, which generates interest among the children, and being able to show the head-teacher and head of English what the children are reading is really beneficial in charting reading trends.

Having poster boards up and the new stencilling on the walls has really made a different, and the library really feels like a proper functioning space now, although there is still plenty more to do. Once all of the non-fiction is catalogued (I’m about halfway through), I can start thinking about writing up a library management policy.

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Getting there…


New books

The school library is gradually improving. The display boards are up – although nothing is on them yet! I’m launching a competition for the children to draw a picture from their favourite book, although I’m not sure how much enthusiasm I’ll drum up before the end of term.

The books had disappeared upon my return

The books had disappeared upon my return

New books have arrived, and I was pleased to see that the display I had created with them on Thursday afternoon had completely disappeared by the time I came back the following Tuesday – because all the children had seized them to read! I’ve even had some book reviews back, so its great to know the children are interacting with the library. Choosing books from the Carnegie and Greenaway shortlist has helped to keep it relevant.


My new toy!

My new toy!

The best news is that the Library Management System has arrived today. Junior Librarian has been purchased, and I’m pleased that I managed to get that done in less than two months of starting the job! I’m still waiting for the software to be installed, but I aim to get all the collection on the system before school starts up again in September. Its been a long time since I’ve used Junior Librarian, and its changed a lot, but hopefully all my experience with other LMS’s will help.

One thing that has really impressed me with this job is how willing the school are to update the library. I have regular contact in person or via email with the head of English and the head teacher, and I really feel like we are all working together to make the library a central feature of the children’s school experience. The library budget is reasonable – enough to purchase Junior Library, with money left over for further book orders every term. Good links have been established with the local independent book shop, which should be of mutual benefit.

I would love to have the time to give this post my full attention, but with my dissertation to complete over the summer, I have to make that my priority for now. However, I have plenty of plans come September!





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The Adventure Begins…

This week, I started as a school librarian (I think its one of the few posts where you can officially call yourself a librarian regardless of qualification). It is not a strategic career move – its four hours a week in a primary school, fixed-term for a year. Fortunately for me, they are keen to invest in their library, and want someone who can improve the current service they offer, so it should be a mutually beneficial partnership where I get plenty of hands-on experience of project managing. The library is a decent-sized room with a skylight recently installed, new shelving, and swathes of blank wall-space which needs filling up with lots of posters! My aim is to get the library as visually stimulating and interactive as possible before the summer holidays, although its frustrating waiting for display materials and printing companies. I’d also like to create a changeable display area, and this term I want to tie it into the Summer Reading Challenge theme of the ‘Mythical Maze’. 


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    Blank canvas


The LMS..!

When I started, I was slightly surprised to learn they did not have a library management system. Their cataloguing system (and as an aspiring cataloguer this pains me to say) consists of a piece of paper with the title of the book on. THATS IT! Not even an author. No list of contents of the library, let alone a subject index. Books are issued by removing the paper title from the inside cover of the book and placing inside a cardboard wallet with the students name on. Its certainly ‘Old School’! My main priority for this year is to get a LMS installed, and get the library stock circulating efficiently. I have my work cut out, but I’m determined to show the staff and students how a library should operate. Getting the children to understand how to search the library catalogue and how to effectively locate books using the dewey-decimal system, are, I think, such important skills – and the more familiar and confident they are at using a library from a young age, the more relevant libraries will be to their future. And being able to view the stock as one body will enable me to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the collection, see which areas to need to be concentrated on, locate the books that will create unified displays and booklists, and generally just open up the collection to the children.

So far, the plants I have supplied and the posters I have displayed have met with derision from the children, but I shall persevere…Over the next year I intent to blog about the progress we both make!

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Another term done

So – two more modules completed. (Well, the lectures anyway – now the hard work really begins with essays and assignments.) This term composed of Cataloguing, one of the compulsory modules, and Historical Bibliography, which was my second optional module of the course.

Image courtesy of Jonanthan Gibbs

Image courtesy of J. Gibbs

I’ll start with Cataloguing, as some may think its the least exciting of the two. I may be going out on a limb here – but I’m not ashamed to admit that I really enjoyed it. Perhaps its because cataloguing is undergoing significant changes at the moment, so it was interesting to learn about the older AACR2 rules alongside the young upstart RDA. It enabled us to see the differences between both cataloguing standards, and hopefully will prepare us for dealing with either system. I’m quite willing to embrace RDA as the new standard, but I can understand how people who have been cataloguing under AACR2 rules have reservations. We had some really great guest speakers, such as Andrew Preator from Senate House Library talking about discovery tools, and a couple of practical sessions entering cataloguing records on UCL’s LMS (Aleph) which was a really useful exercise.

The printing presses at St Bride Library

The printing workshop at St Bride Library

My second module was Historical Bibliography. I spent most of this module thinking – ‘I cannot believe I am getting the opportunity to do this!!!’ As well as learning about the history of the book and the birth of printing (which is interesting enough on its own), we had amazing practical sessions and visits to other libraries. UCL has such a fantastic special collection, and being allowed to view their rare books was such a privilege. We were able to handle the pages of a manuscript made from parchment and compare them to early incunabula with processed paper, as well as examining bookbindings, printers marks and watermarks. Seeing a Wynkyn de Worde printers mark was quite a moment for me! As a result of handling these wonderful collections I now volunteer for them once a week – cleaning books and records, and gaining more valuable ‘hands on’ experience. It has really brought to life everything I’ve learnt in Historical Bibliography about title pages, collation, printers ornaments – and the frequency of printer mistakes!

Another highlight of the module was visiting St Bride Library, a gorgeous library tucked away behind Fleet Street that holds collections on printing as well as many printing presses. It really was such a fantastic treat to go there, and to see their many treasures – such as a copy of Caxton’s Boethius, William Morris’ Canterbury Tales and original road signs designed by Kinnear and Calvert.

Caxton's Boethius, St Bride Library

Caxton’s Boethius, St Bride Library

The overwhelming feeling I took away from both modules, with all the visits and practical sessions – is just how amazingly welcoming and friendly library people are. They are passionate about their collections or library systems, and have a genuine desire to share this knowledge with others. This term has definitely ended on a high for me, and now I’m even more keen to pursue a career in this sector.

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CILIP New Professionals Day 2013

Yesterday I attended the CILIP event for new professionals (even though I am probably neither new nor professional). It was a great opportunity to visit the CILIP headquarters, and also to catch up with my full-time LIS friends who had already finished the course.

It began with the keynote speech from Barbara Band, Head of Library and Resources at Emmbrook School and CILIP vice-president. She is a very inspiring figure, clearly passionate about libraries and their future. She impressed me immediately by referring to her children – a personal element can make a speech much more engaging. She made the important observation that the starting point of any library or resource centre must reflect the vision and mission of the organisation you are working for – otherwise you make yourself irrelevant. Also, she raised the issue that school libraries face the double challenge of changes to librarianship, but also changes to the education system as well, so school librarians have to be really on the ball! Altogether, she painted a really positive image of working as a school librarian, and persuaded me that it could be a career worth following. A final point she raised was that of career development, and how to fit it in to busy lives. It’s cheering to hear that contributions to forums and blog-posts count as well as attending conferences. That experienced professionals are sympathetic to the restrictions faced by upcoming professionals (such as childcare and inflexible employees) is very encouraging.

Next up was Laura Williams, Media Logistics Coordinator, who spoke about her experiences of working for ITV as essentially, a TV Librarian. I have to admit, it had never occurred to me that such a job existed, but it sounded fascinating. I was surprised that so much television content is still in physical tape format, I had imaged lots of complicated file transfers – but, as Laura explained, much of the material borrowed are tapes sealed in jiffy-bags and transported in a van. She gave an excellent overview of the positive and negatives of her job. Working in television is fast-paced and competitive – everyone wants to climb up the ladder, regardless what type of position it is. However, as a non-traditional role, you quickly become a specialist in the field.

New Image

Following on from Laura was Nick Stopforth, Head of Libraries and Information, Doncaster Council. In his talk, he outlined the problems facing public libraries and emphasised the necessity to keep up to date with digital advances. At the heart of his speech were the core values of libraries – the user, and how we need to constantly meet their needs in a challenging world. He made an excellent point – that whether we like it or not ‘the world has changed, and we have to change with it’. Librarians have never been great marketeers, but now we have to be. With government services increasingly moving to online only access, libraries can provide this access and also facilitate the teaching of digital skills. He also emphasized the mutually beneficial relationship between publishers and libraries, believing that libraries can become a ‘shop-window’ for publishing companies. One point Nick did raise that I wasn’t totally comfortable with was his belief that libraries should use user data to track user habits in order to deliver a more personal experience. I may be a bit Luddite, but it irritates me when amazon etc make recommendations for me based on previous purchases, and would not want my library behaving in the same way. However, in this changing world, we do need to market, collaborate, negotiate, develop and above all, communicate.

After a very tasty (and filling!) lunch of hot burritos, I attended the talk by Chris Billing on working in a Prison Library. It was an interesting insight into a hidden world. She gave some statistics to start – there are 132 prisons in the UK (only 11 are female), and every prison is required by law to have a library, offering access for at least 30 minutes each week for every prisoner. One thing that makes prison libraries different from other libraries is that their funding comes from NOMS (National Offender Management Service) and that money is ring-fenced for the library, no one else can take a cut of it. The underlying message from Chris was role of the library to reduce re-offending. By offering their services, they aim to educate prisoners and empower them. A great range of schemes are run, including the six-book challenge and Storybook Dads, all designed to build confidence and open up new avenues. Storybook Dad is a great idea, where a prisoner records onto CD a reading of a children’s story, which is then sent to his family for them to listen to. Chris played a recording from a prisoner, which was an incredibly emotional moment and certainly brought a lump to my throat. If anyone is any doubt of the social inportance of libraries, I dare them to listen to that and fail to be moved. However, as Chris emphasised, you must never lose sight of the fact that you are working with prisoners and must always remain professional. Mobile phones are not allowed on the premises, and staff must not mention personal details, such as family or possessions, as prisoners are always listening. Pointers like that reminded us just what a different environment this is. However, it sounded like a tremendously rewarding experience, and helping prisoners to empower themselves through books and education is such a worthy cause.

Unfortunately I could not stay for the last talk (childcare issues as usual), but I really learned a lot from the day. It gave me plenty to think about, and a fascinating insight in just how different library jobs can be. What was really inspiring though, was how much the speakers clearly love their profession, and as a library student, knowing that people in the information sector are striving onwards really made me feel positive for the future.

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Back to Library School

My guest blog on the LISNPN website

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DigiPal Symposium 2013

I attended the DigiPal symposium today at King’s College. It was amazingly interesting to see all the different projects people are working on, all to aid the deciphering of manuscripts. Now I am a relative newcomer to palaeography (I am so far only covered in a thin layer of dust) and know even less about digitisation, so I was there in an observatory capacity rather than an academic one. There were a lot of mathematical equations to do with pen angles and such like that went WAY over my head.

However, the thing that I really took away from this was the wonderful resources that are becoming available to us through digitisation, and the disappointment that some lofty academics have recently raised objections to this ‘mainstreaming’. I have worked in museums and galleries, public libraries and a school library, where the whole point of them is to share knowledge and actively promote resources. My current course at UCL constantly drums into us the need for libraries and archives to stay relevant and accessible, so to me, digital manuscripts are an extension of that. The British Library (and others) have done a fantastic job of digitising their collection, with one of their priorities to make available fragile manuscripts that would not normally be seen by anyone. As was pointed out, as soon as you capture an original manuscript image digitally, you have downgraded it – but the quality is still pretty impressive. And if people want to use these images (as the British Library are happy to let them do) does it really matter if they use them as mousemat? By promoting these resources – in any way – we are keeping history and books relevant in the digital age.

And thanks to the symposium today, I am aware of many other interesting online resources available. I imagine I will be adding a few more layers of dust over the next few weeks…

ImageHenry VIII Psalter Royal MS 2 A XVI 

Image from British Library

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