UoL Library Blog

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FIL @British Library St.Pancras – Nov 2010

Posted by gazjjohnson on 29 November, 2010

On the 26th November I travelled down to London to attend, and participate, in the Forum for Interlending’s (FIL) biannual British Library event.

The day started with Graham Titley, current FIL Chair, providing the introduction welcome and overview of the day. One of the things that struck me was the costs to FIL of organising the event at the BL and the newsletter. One thing that was clear is that FIL needs engagement for and with its members, something that resonates with my recent engagement with CILIP.

First on the programme was Richard Scobie from the BL sound and music collections, who gave an overview of one of the many collections and services within the BL that a lot of people might not have used. As we don’t have a music dept of Leicester this wasn’t of immediate practical use. However, one could easily foresee some of our depts (e.g. Media and Communications) having some call on these materials. I think I was most interested as to practicalities of how one of our readers might get hold of one of these recordings – the formats etc.

Richard talked us through their acquisitions policy, everything from legal deposit through to collecting representative samples from around the world such as sending representatives to record events like WOMAD themselves. A lot of access to materials is through the reading rooms (aka listening rooms), although print and manuscript music can only be read in the Rare Books and Music rooms. SoundServer exists to provide access to digitised materials. Access to archival sound recordings is via a subscription, which is free to HE and FE libraries (unsure about public libraries mind you). I was quite interested to hear about Petrucci music library which appears wiki for music scores, although for the largest part within copyright.

I was a bit frustrated as Richard didn’t show us any of these services or various links he alluded to during the session; which given music support isn’t especially in my remit I’m unlikely to follow up after the fact.

Following this session the group broke in half, one set to tour the BL and the other to take part in a discussion workshop looking at the challenges facing inter-lending, how to overcome them and to generally share experiences with the delegates. This seemed to go down well (so well that we re-ran the workshop in the afternoon with the other half of the delegates).

After lunch Elizabeth Newbold from the Science, Technology & Med Collections at BL talked about her part of the BL. Like Richard, her overview was ripe with detail but thin on demonstration and I confess that I found it a little hard to pick out particular value from her session. One point she made raised my eyebrows – she commented that generally universities are more clued up in the delivery of digital content and materials than the BL; and that the BL aspires to offer the levels of service that we HE/FE librarians do as a matter of course. I was deeply complimented, if not a little concerned that our national library should feel it wasn’t leading the way on these things.

After the workshop re-run the afternoon was concluded with Jason Murray giving a highly entertaining, and hands on demonstration of the BL’s technology for dealing with disabled readers. This was by and far the best of the BL sessions in the day, with Jason’s delivery alone raising the slightly flagging attention of the audience. He raised some valid points about supporting disabled readers and included some interesting points about dealing with students with mental health issues as well. He explained that mentioning a disability scares some staff, but that with proper training and plenty of patience it is possible to offer them excellent service levels

One other thing I did take away from the day was the sheer cost of holding an event at the British Library, close to £8,000 for the day, which meant that even with close to fifty delegates that FIL made a loss on the day. I suspect future events may need to relocate to another cheaper location in London, and include visits to the BL as an add on to the programme. A shame as the BL venue is nice, but sadly the return on the group’s investment doesn’t really seem enough.

Due to my organisational hat wearing role for the day, I wasn’t able to tour the BL, but I’m pleased to hear from Lyn (my accompanying team member) that it was well worth the trip! Hopefully FIL will be able to arrange something along the same lines as this next year (there’s already a March 2011 event going up to Yorkshire), although perhaps at a less costly venue!  Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve outputs from the workshop to type up and try and turn into a useful resource for those folks who couldn’t make it to the meeting!

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