Tuesday, 10 July 2012

MEG Lib Annual Meeting

This is my round up of the Mixed Economy Libraries group (MEG Lib) annual meeting. This was the first time I had attended this and I was presenting a paper with my manager. Sadly, my manager couldn't go, so I ended up having to do the presentation on my own, which was another first for me - or so I thought.

On the train to Birmingham, where the meeting was, I was trying not to worry too much about doing the presentation by myself. I quite suddenly had an epiphany and realised that actually it wasn't the first time I'd presented on my own. I, of course, had presented at University as part of my course and not only that but I was much more familiar with the subject I was talking about at this meeting, than anything I had done at University. Phew! Glad I got that sorted. So I continued my journey to Birmingham quite happy in the knowledge that I could do this.

The room that we were using was a lecture theatre and it was quite difficult to hear the people at the back, when I was at the front presenting. It was also a large room for the number of people attending. In my presentation, I had to try to remember not to touch the whiteboard as by doing so it moved the PowerPoint to the next slide, I have never encountered this before and it took me awhile to stop accidentally moving the presentation forward when I didn't want to. This is something I need to bear in mind when I present again. Apart from that little issue, I thought my presentation went well and again it provided much discussion.

Moving onto the other presentations:

EBSCO had a promotion slot talking about their new pricing structures for Colleges, based on JISC banding. This was of particular interest to me as I am tasked with increasing e-resources at work and these look like they will meet curriculum need. I will be looking into this soon.

Northampton College were presenting about their information skills programme and what I have taken from this is:

  • To pitch the ideas at the people paid to promote good practice
  • Self evaluate skills both at the beginning and end of sessions, to see where students have started and where they think they are afterwards
  • Put together a comprehensive programme but make all parts able to stand alone. This way students can dip in and out

Bradford College talked about their new building which they will move into in a couple of years time. It seems to be a cross between somewhere like I work and City of Bristol College, which I blogged about after the ARLG Conference. You can find that at http://traceytotty.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/arlg-conference-2012.html. Sue Caporn from City of Bristol College, also did a session here about her library.

Croydon College presented about their new library and how that was working. Points to note for me were:

  • They went fully self service
  • Customer service skills are more important than library skills, when recruiting new staff
  • Roving helps with behaviour management
  • Text messages are used to inform students about reservations
  • They have a room check board system (like in toilets) to help manage self contained areas

I have gained a lot of knowledge from attending this meeting and have new ideas about how to move the service forward. Some can be implemented immediately e.g. check board and others will require funding and planning e.g. self service

Sunday, 8 July 2012

York Minster Library and Search Engine, National Railway Museum Visits

For our summer workforce development, I arranged a visit to York to see the Minster library and Search Engine, the National Railway Museum's (NRM) library.

We started off at York Minster Library, which is very old and looks like something from Harry Potter. They have floor to ceiling shelving around the rooms with the small books at the top and the large books at the bottom. This is because of the shelving design, which has the taller shelving at the bottom and the smallest shelving at the top. The cataloguing therefore is rather unique, the bays are numbered, then the shelves are numbered and the catalogue number is finally completed by how far the book is along the shelf. Easy!

We were treated to the delights of 'The Cage', which is a caged off area where the oldest books are. We got to see a book from the 16th century which contained 'all the knowledge in the world'. It started with the biblical stories and went through political history up until the then present time. It was fabulously illustrated and had been annotated by a previous owner. We discovered that as paper was originally very expensive, people would use every bit they had to write things on (including shopping lists). From 'The Cage', we went up the obligatory spiral staircase to the balcony area, where we saw some elaborately bound books. My favourite one was like a small handbag.

The second visit was to Search Engine at the NRM. Now being a railwayman's daughter and a bit of an anorak, this was tremendously exciting for me. We started off by being shown around the public area, which is light, bright and modern. Then we were taken down into the bowels of the NRM, to see the library archive area. Wow! 

They have a huge collection of blueprints of engineering designs. There was the original (signed by Stanier) copy of the Duchess of Hamilton blueprints laid out on table. We moved on to the book collection, with rolling stacks. That's rolling stacks, a library thing, not to be confused with the rolling stock, a railway thing. Although I suppose libraries can have a rolling stock, if they want but it would have nothing to do with trains. Search Engine's archive has allsorts of ephemera too such as a collection of railway tickets and we saw Stephenson's written design for the Rocket. From here, we entered the seriously cool (that's refering to the temperature) poster collection and original art collection. Many of these were used for promotion purposes and because of the materials used, have to be kept somewhat refrigerated. We were all very jealous that their climate control system works far better than the one we have at work.

We saw 2 very different libraries and both are seriously different to our FE library. They were incredibly interesting to go to and it was interesting to hear what kind of challenges they face, particularly regarding the preservation of each collection. The Minster was cool and their stained glass windows have had to have dark blinds put over them to keep the sunlight out. The NRM being a much more modern building has a state of the art climate control system, where we started off in a cool area and end up going into a very cold area. Any of these would be welcome at work, where our Office temperature can be quite tropical.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

ARLG Conference 2012

This post is going to look at the workshops I attended as a delegate.

Writing Right for Twitter by Meg Westbury. 

Meg was looking at how companies / institutions can engage and connect with their users rather than just putting information on Twitter. Her top tips are:

  • Know your audience
  • Clearly state the idea
  • Make the Tweets frequent and varied
  • Well thought out
  • Use short, descriptive and action words
  • Use headline formula
  • Write them knowing they might be shared i.e. don't use all 140 characters, leave room for comment

The workshop built in time for the delegates to rewrite example Tweets using Meg's tips. This was very popular and illustrated the need to think about Tweets before writing them. I will be trying to use these tips when Tweeting both at work and for my own account.

How to Make Yourself Almost Irreplacable by Steve Lee. 

Steve started the session with asking us to work in groups and write down what we dislike about supermarkets. The comparison being that as it is a customer facing business many of our dislikes of the supermarkets transfers to a library too.

His suggestion for improvement is to get out of the library. Go and talk to the tutors and find out what they want and need from the library, then see how we can meet those needs.

Top tips are:

  • Send new book and journal information to staff. This may take time initially but then the process can be automated, saving library staff time whilst still giving the tutors what they need
  • Respond in a timely fashion to any issues
  • Trial new ideas, if they don't work you can go back to your original way of doing things
  • Do surgeries in departments, you may need to be proactive to start with but it breaks down barriers and eventually work of mouth leads to people approaching you for advice and help. It was noted that roving skills are useful when doing surgeries.

At work there is a desire for the library staff to eventually become partly based in the departments. I think that if I can trial surgeries in the new academic year, this will help to make that transition.

LRCs and Flexible Learning Environments by Sue Caporn and Vicki Bowd. 

This was one of the most amazing ideas I've seen. Their library at City of Bristol College has no boundaries, basically if you are in a communal area, you are in the library. They have technology for people to borrow (all are catalogued on their LMS), the classrooms don't have PCs, they borrow laptops from the library and all the library staff have an ePICT qualification to ensure that they can help with any queries. They are hoping that eventually everything will be self issue.

This kind of idea, whilst innovative, would have to be a concept that is bought into throughout the College and might not work in buildings that have not been designed to cope with this strategy. I very much like the idea but somehow can't see it working where I work, although we do have equipment for loan and are looking to extend this.

Putting a Face to a Name by Leanne Young.

This looked at using technology with overseas distance learners. Leanne told us that currently distance learning is not done by VLE and that to help students she has been trialling free resources, as she doesn't have a budget to buy anything. She has used AnyMeeting to hold sessions with students. This requires a lot of preparation which she has done via Google docs to collate the information she has gathered in order to set up the meetings. She also makes heavy use of Tumblr, so that information is easily available to the students and in one place.

The scheme although quite small at the moment is very popular, with students being able to see Leanne and know that she is their to help them. She made the point that in some countries the librarian is not expected to be there to help students and part of what she wanted to do, was to get the message out that it is her job to help them and that they should feel free to contact her whenever they needed to. 

Although I don't work with distance learners per se, there are students who are not traditional learners and I think that some of Leanne's ideas could work with them. I look forward to trying some of them out.

I have totally enjoyed the Conference and have so many new ideas to think about. Some of them can be implemented straight away and others will take some planning. I hope that all will benefit and enhance the library experience. 

Making better use of e-resources

At the beginning of the year, or possibly late last year, an e-mail came through from Credo Reference informing me that some e-books had bee...