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eMRSG Meeting

Posted by selinalock on 17 September, 2012


I had lunch with Katie Fraser overlooking the lake at the University of Nottingham.

On Tuesday 11th September Helen Steele & I visited the University of Nottingham for the East Midlands Research Support Group meeting.

The first half of the meeting was about the creation of online learning resources for researchers (presented by Wendy Stanton & Helen Young), which you can find out more about on the eMRSG website. Some of the interesting points the group found when creating the online resources and talking to researchers were:

  • Researchers prefer online tutorials to be 10-30mins and include visuals, links, quizzes and screencasts.
  • They also prefer peer support, which was not an option for the current online tutorial project.
  • Skills they rated highly and think researchers should develop = literature search planning, assessing quality information and in-depth knowledge of published literature.
  • Tutorial creators thought they would need to present a balanced view – researchers wanted to know how to advance their career in three amazing leaps.
  • Tutorial creators thought they should include high level content such as ‘how to start a journal’ but many researchers were bemused as to why anyone would want to do that!
  • Calling the tutorial ‘Promotion of Research’ was perceived as too aggressive so changed to ‘Dissemination of Research’
  • Content more important than aesthetics – both were important.
  • The ‘Dissemination of your Research’ tutorials are now available under a creative commons license.

The second half of the meeting was a discussion of what the various libraries represented were doing to support research and the future of the group.

Keighton Auditorium, University of Nottingham

Main themes of research support were:

  • Work closely with Graduate School, Research Office, Staff Development/Learning Development.
  • Blogs, websites or Blackboard sites to bring scattered resources together as a one stop shop for research support within institutions.
  • Research Data Management – big theme for the future, how to support, where funds are coming from, working closely with IT Services etc.
  • Looking at different ways of engaging researchers – training sessions, Elevenses, attending appropriate committees, blogs, social media.
  • Mapping training and support on to the Researcher Development Framework.
  • Library support costed into research bids e.g. systematic reviews
  • Institutional repository data and REF.
  • OA publishing – how Finch Report will affect things – how/where OA funds placed and managed – what about institutions not receiving extra funds from Government?
  • Modules or moderated courses on information literacy and research skills for PGRs.
  • How to measure impact of training provided.
  • Contacting new staff/researchers on arrival (if possible).
  • Reference Management training and support.
  • Some libraries (like our new team at Leicester) have staff specifically responsible for research support, others it is part of the remit for all subject librarians.
  • Catalogue of Research Equipment (across the M5 group, as announced today here at Leicester) – could the equipment catalogue be linked to research data and research publications? (Loughborough investigating this).
  • Research Support Space within the library.
  • Challenges = time, resource, funding, do we know what researchers really want/need?

It was a really useful afternoon and everyone in attendance agreed that it would be useful to have a few meetings every year and keep in touch regarding developments to research support within the East Midlands. The next meeting will be hosted here at the University of Leicester in March, provisionally on Open Access Publishing Funds and the affects of the Finch Report.

Posted in Meetings, Research Support | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

DREaMing of a Library and Information Science research network

Posted by katiefraser on 1 November, 2011

Last week I attended the first workshop of the AHRC-funded DREaM project. DREaM stands for ‘Developing Research Excellence and Methods’ and the project aims to create a network of Library and Information Science researchers across the UK. As an academic librarian with a research background I’m very enthusiastic about the potential for research to improve our practice, and I was delighted to be given a new professional’s travel bursary by the DREaM project, and to have my attendance supported by the Library. In return for my support from Leicester, I’ve been asked to think about how the methods discussed in each workshop might contribute to better understanding the community our academic library serves, and improving our services.

The DREaM workshops are being very thoroughly documented by the team running them: both slides and videos of the presentations are available at the Workshop 1 webpage. I’ll link to, rather than replicate, that content, and focus on my personal thoughts about each method from my own practitioner-researcher perspective.

Introduction to ethnography – Dr Paul Lynch
Ethnography is an approach used to understand culture, usually through immersion within that culture. Better understanding the culture of academic library users, students and staff, is clearly key to improving our service. My MA Librarianship dissertation used ethnographic interviews to look at how students viewed and understood library space, and I think there’s a lot more to be done on understanding how students use and want to use libraries.

In the workshop, Paul Lynch discussed the dual role of the ethnographer – as insider (participant in a culture) and outsider (observer of a culture). I suspect my ability to produce an ethnography of library users is limited by my increased distance from both student and academic roles, so this method may be out for me.

Introduction to social network analysis – Dr Louise Cooke
Social network analysis looks at the networks which exist within groups, and patterns in links between individuals, by asking members of a group to report on their own relationships. During the workshop I could immediately see the relevance of this method to my own work: a major part of my role is acting as liaison between the Library and academic departments, and recording the existence and nature of links between librarians and academic staff would be absolutely fascinating.

I could never use this method with my own departmental contacts: asking individuals to report on their relationships with yourself would be ethically unsound (and probably produce inaccurate results!) However, there is clearly potential to apply this technique elsewhere within the university: perhaps looking at networks between librarians, other academic support staff, and lecturer / researchers within one of the Colleges I don’t directly support.

Introduction to discourse analysis – Professor Andy McKinlay
Discourse analysis is a technique for analysing gathered data, rather than a method for gathering data itself. It involves analysis of what people say (or write) through understanding of the context in which it is said: the social norms embedded in that context, and how language is used to construct a way of seeing the world.

There’s clearly expectations, norms and values implicit in how users talk about the Library. One of the most common comments at from students walking into the David Wilson for the first time is ‘Where are all the books?’ I think that one sentence (and all its implicit assumptions about libraries) could keep a discourse analyst going for days! I could see focus groups, or even analysis of how students describe the Library to each other, on- and off-line, as a really useful way to surface these concepts, and work with, or think about changing them.

Unconference and ethics discussion
The workshop also included bonus research-related sections. In the middle of the day, an unconference session encouraged us to discuss what we wished: I outed myself as a methodological pluralist (i.e. one who believes there is no one best method for studying the world, and has dabbled in several!) and learned about the research interests and priorities of others in our emerging network. At the end of the day, Professor Charles Oppenheim led a section in which we debated ethics in a number of research-related scenarios.

Both these additional sessions really got me thinking about my role as a practitioner-researcher. There are a limited number of participants with dual roles in the DREaM network, but plenty of participants who have been on both sides of the divide at different times in their careers. I think there are lots of interesting discussions to be had about how practitioners use and carry out research, and I look forward to these workshops starting a few. Perhaps we can even kick off here: I’d be pleased to get feedback on some of my suggestions so far…

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USTLG Winter Meeting 1

Posted by selinalock on 30 November, 2010

On 25th November 2010 I attended the University Science & Technology Librarians’ Group Meeting at Keble College, University of Oxford. The theme for the day was “The role of libraries in the research process.” I nearly walked straight past the little wooden entrance to Keble College, but was greeted with a magnificent vista on entering…

Keble College

Keble College

An academic perspective on libraries supporting research. Professor Darton, Dept Engineering, Oxford University.

Professor Darton expressed his love of books, talked about his ancestors being publishers of children’s books and having founded the Darton Juvenile Library. He also talked about how he had fought to keep the Engineering Library at Oxford under the control of the Department as he felt it played an important part in their culture.

He had brought in a couple of classic engineering texts and said it was difficult these days for academics to find time to write “classic” types of textbooks and they were hvaing to find other ways of conveying information to students.

In his time as an engineer he thought that libraries/librarians had moved from being a status symbol (the bigger the library the more knowledge) that was protected and guarded by the librarians for their specific patrons, on to being providers of information which encouraged access for all and finally, these days, being more of an online gateway with librarians as web managers.

He then went on to argue that for science and engineering researchers the library is no longer needed – they rarely use physical texts, there is a huge amount of good quality information accessible via Google (as long as you have the skills to judge quality) and more movement towards open access materials online (e.g. in his are of sustainability). He argued that he would be happy, as a researcher, for there to be a subscription team who oversaw journal subsciptions on behalf of the University, a storage/retrieval service for older print items and for the sciences to stop funding the expensive physical libraries needed by the arts. Or even move to a model where all researchers are given a portion of the library funding to “buy individual article on demand” instead of having a central library service! As you can imagine this was a controversial point of view…

The audience asked if he thought the same applied to undergraduates and he thought up until their 3rd year projects that might have different needs, but by project time they might still need a budget to buy relevant articles.

When asked if he saw any role for librarians he thought there was still an important role in training people to be critical of information, and recommends library training to his students. Also that journal subscriptions would be more cost effective than buying individual articles so perhaps librarians should become/be seen as skilled negotiaters. Librarians need to show how they can help researchers.

Professor Darton was also critical of the current peer-review system, and as an editor of a journal it was becoming very hard to find good reviewers. He suggested that publishing the names of the reviewers might improve the quality of the reviwing. He was also suprised to find younger researchers don’t have a concept of what a journal is as they have never held a print copy in their hands.




Update on REF, Kimberley Hacket (REF Team)

Main points of interest:

  • REF will be a process of critical review and some will include bibliometric information.
  • 3 elements: Outputs (research) ~60%, Impact of research ~ 25% and Environment ~15%.
  • 4 outputs per researcher (less if early career).
  • 36 sub-panels looking at different subject areas.
  • Outputs selected by HEI
  • All types of outputs can be selected as long as they conform to REF definition of an output, including open access outputs.
  • Citation information can be used by a sub-panel if they wish. However, it will be used to inform expert review and not on it’s own.
  • If panels request bibliometric information then it will be supplied by REF (not by institution) and will conform to agree simple metric methods.
  • Panels being selected and will be announced early 2011.
  • Impact is not just economic but also social, quality of life etc.
  • Do not want to discourage curiosity-driven research.
  • Data collection will be built on the RAE system – pilot in late 2012, live in 2013.
  • Assessment in 2014 – results by end of 2014.
  • Any bibliometric data used will come from a single supplier appointed by REF.

    Old Bodleian Library

    Old Bodleian Library

    Research Metrics, Anne Costigan, University of Bradford.

    Anne talked about looking at metrics with researchers and the issues around metrics:

  • Metrics can be used at author, article, journal or institution level – journal level most known.
  • Citation metrics available from Web of Knowledge, Scopus & Google Scholar.
  • Journal Citation Reports (WoK) – impact factors most famous – attempts to measure importance and quality of journal.
  • Citation Reports usually ignore books, conferences and non-journal research information/citations.
  • Researchers tend to get hung up on journal impact factor – seen as “league table of journals”. However, be wary as different subjects have different amounts of journals listed, impact factor can change over time so look at trend, encourage people to also look at ranking.
  • Often asked “what is a good impact factor?” = how long is a piece of string? Varies tremendously by subject e.g. a specialist area might have many citations missing as journals not indexed, or papers in conferences etc.
  • Self-citation can skew figures.
  • Review journals tend to be very highly cited.
  • Editors have been known to insist that articles always cited articles from within the same journal to inflate impact factor.
  • Controversial papers are usually highly cited and can skew figures (could be a “bad” paper).
  • Other options to look at: Eidenfactor (WoK) – complex algorithm where citations from highly ranked journals hold more weight. H -index e.g. 34 papers which have at least 34 citations = H-index of 34. H-index does favour those with a longer career.
  • Article metrics – times cited (WoK, Scopus, Google Scholar) – different results from each. Scopus & Google Scholar tends to include more non-journal citations.
  • Author metrics – WoK can create citation report & remove self-citations. Problems with identifying papers belonging to certain authors (e.g. similar name to someone else.)
  • Can use ResearcherID (free service via WoK) to register articles under your author name.
  • Scimago – uses Scopus data for free.
  • What about repositories?
  • MESUR – combines citation & usage data.
  • Rise of Web2.0 – vote for your favourite article?
  • Researchers like easy to undertsand metrics e.g. H-index.
  • Uses of metrics – where to publish, what to subscribe to, in recruiting researchers, at Dept or Institutional level for marketing…
  • No measure perfect – always look an a combination of things.
  • Posted in Meetings, Research Support, Service Delivery, Wider profession | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

    Visit to South Leicestershire College

    Posted by selinalock on 12 November, 2010

    On Wednesday I represented the University Library at the College-University of Leicester Network (CULN) Librarians meeting. This meeting was hosted by Lesley John at South Leicestershire College, and we got a tour of the new College building, as you can see from the photos below.

    South Leicestershire College 5

    The new building brings all their departments together in one place, where they were previoulsy on several campuses. Including those such as construction (below). Each subject has their own teaching area or Pod, which includes an area where the students can drop in to use computers or do group work.

    South Leicestershire College 4

    Lesley told us that the library being integrated into the new building has meant more visits from students and staff, including harder to reach users.

    South Leicestershire College 3

    South Leicestershire College 2

    South Leicestershire College

    Posted in Meetings, Service Delivery, Wider profession | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Libraries of the Future dissected

    Posted by gazjjohnson on 23 July, 2009

    Watching the recently released JISC Libraries of the Future video.  Some reactions and thoughts, with time stamps so you can jump to the right point.

    • 00:20 Long intro for a 9 min video
    • 00:32 Indeed, the physical space of the library isn’t the be-all and end all anymore.  Nor has it been to be honest all the years I’ve been a professional.
    • 00:45 Who are these people?  On screen names might have been a good idea – most of these talking heads haven’t got immediate recognition factor (I know if I’d been on there no one would know I was without a caption!)
    • 01:12  First mention of Google.  Is this the library of the future?  These two guys I will say are pretty typical of most of my students.
    • 01:25 Oh that’s who she is, Director of Oxford Libraries. Would have been useful to know earlier.
    • 01:39 Yep, mobile devices are the future (and indeed present) of an increasing number of students accessing information.  How many of our information resources we provide are m-compatible?  Indeed hands up those of you who have access to mobile devices comparable to the students to test them out?  Thought so…
    • 01:50 More clued up information literate student comments.  Uses books too, that’s a shocker – can’t be a scientist.
    • 02:12 Technology as enabler not driver?  I think it’s a bit of both personally.  24/7 global access is real demand, and usually satisfied I’d say.  24/7 support on the other hand…
    • 02:40 Really warming to Sarah Thomas (Oxford).  Never met her, but she seems an insightful individual.
    • 02:53 Oh now you suggest technology is a catalyst for change as well. 
    • 03:00 Technology lets you work smarter, but you have to change to make use of it. Yep, agree, old paradigms just don’t hold in Library 2.0.
    • 03:20 Popular themes for libraries of the future.  First talking head still talking about the library as a physical space, I think less and less that the space will be so crucial.  But that’s only opinion.  But a fair point raised about study space, rather than storage space as a crucial continuing role.
    • 03:58 The library will be like a bee hive?  Filled with workers, and drones thrown out to die when their purpose is through?  Not quite the enabling metaphor I’d have hoped for.  I don’t think bees show excitement, more a work ethic.
    • 04:25 Sounds like the DWL fullfils many of these criteria for a future library, which is quite heartening.
    • 05:06 Libraries as contributors to knowledge base.  Nothing new, this is what we’ve been doing for years, exposing our catalogues, websites and information and making sure the metadata is discoverable.  Certainly the repository is doing this!
    • 05:13 What does the future hold for the librarians?  Early retirement somewhere hot would be nice.
    • 05:29 The old fashioned librarian is a “detail oriented, highly introspective individual”. Erm, not me then, ah but the modern librarian is an entrepreneurial, enthusiastic and more outward looking.  Yeah, that’s me, clearly I’m future proofed.  But what do we do with all the old librarians who don’t meet this specification? Retrain?
    • 05:55 Loss of face to face contact with users.  Sad but true, hence the need to engage with them through other channels.  Blogs, twitter etc.
    • 06.28 Academic image and card catalogue juxtaposed.  Surely no one is using those in academia anymore?
    • 06:39 This video brought to you by JISC and the number 9.
    • 07:12 Libraries need to change the way they work and support learning, teaching and research.  Ah, but many of us are already.  Good to hear about levels of investment from JISC though towards this end.
    • 07:51 The sound track hardly screams modern with its classical violins.
    • 08:16 Global environment, but no mention of potential competitors for library services.  Whither Google University and the like.  I think there are some big sharks out there that we need to be aware of, ready to pounce unless we’re more mobile/adaptable and promoting the real USPs that we libraries and librarians offer to our fee paying users.
    • 08:29 This year long JISC campaign and debate, don’t recall engaging in it myself.  Or is this the start of the debate, discuss!
    • 08:56 Libraries are happening places.  Groovy man.
    • 09:12 Agree, libraries need to act now and plan to meet the future challenges. 

    Well that was well worth watching, despite my misgivings at the start.  Quite a bit of food for thought, even if most of the conclusions and points raised were hardly news to me.  So the debate has begun.  But at what level will it happen?  Since all these talking heads were either very senior librarians or students, I didn’t see a lot of input from those of us exploring, experimenting and adapting technologies and techniques.  Then again, I am blogging about this – so maybe I am starting to kick into the debate. 

    Okay people – what do you think?

    Posted in Digital Strategy & Website, Technology & Devices, Wider profession | Tagged: , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

    Ejournal investment and academic productivity

    Posted by gazjjohnson on 21 July, 2009

    There’s an intriguing article in the July issue of CILIP update (Does e-journal investment lead to greater academic productivity by Rowlands, Nicholas and Jubb, CILIP Update, July p45-47).  This comes at exactly the time that we, and many other universities, are looking closely at the journals we subscribe to.  Here we are very lucky as we’re in the privileged position of keeping our subscriptions, and just adjusting the titles according to academic demand.  But I know many colleagues elsewhere are not so fortunate.

    So I was quite interested to see what conclusions the three authors reached.  Interesting facts I spotted in their study include:

    • In 06/7 on average each registered HE library user downloaded 47 full text articles
    • 3/4 of journal access is 9-5, though Saturday/Sunday are also almost as active in terms of access
    • Oct-Nov is the busiest season for downloads (a suprise) with September the quietest (pre-term start not the best time for research)
    • Access in increasingly via third parties (e.g. Google Scholar) rather than via institutional ejournal access pages (e.g. like Leicester E-link)
    • Average age of articles accessed varies between disciplines (3-4 years old for bioscience, typically 8 years for History)
    • Life Scientists are biggest user of ejournals over all, Economists work more on Weekends than others and Historians are the biggest users of Google as access route (?!)
    • Average download cost (calculated from total cost of 06/07 subscriptions) was 80p

    In the end the study concludes that yes, ejournals do represent good value for money, and that “per capita expenditure and uses of e-journals strongly correlated with numbers of papers published, of PhD awards, and of research grants and contracts income.”  Interestingly though they end with a question: does good ejournal provision enable an effective research environment, or does a strong research environment create the need for good library services?

    An interesting question that this paper from Oppenheim and Stuart (Is there a correlation between investment in an academic library and a higher education institution’s ratings in the Research Assessment Exercise? Aslib Proceedings 2004 56(3), 156-165) has already considered.  Their findings (in brief) seemed to indicate that there is a correlation between spending more money on access to research publications and better research assessment outcomes.  Does that mean better research?  Well, I’m not one to judge.  But a question we shall doubtless come to again as the REF 2013 comes slowly into view.

    Either or both of these areticles are worth a read if you get the chance.

    Posted in CILIP, Research Support | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

    CILIP Umbrella 2009 (Part 2 of 2)

    Posted by gazjjohnson on 17 July, 2009

    After a good breakfast the final day of the conference began with more breakout sessions.

    Maltesers mean answers: a sweeter service for students based on user feedback: Angela Horrocks & Davina Omar, Kingston University.
    Kingston University talked about their annual survey run every March for many years by the library with a chance to win Wii or Ipod, but maltesers for everyone. The incentive was small but drew in a good number of students. This survey is in addition to national student survey, but helps gets them in the answering frame of mind to complete the major one. The library survey fills a very important need that the NSS doesn’t cover, for both students and library services. Having a clear purpose for the survey is very important, as otherwise the risk of the students getting survey fatigue could be high. Kingston focus on how students learn and this is the U.S.P. of the survey. Knowing the paths students use to access (e.g. mboile/vle etc) is very important in shaping how and what they teach to students, something I thought was especially interesting.

    In terms of resources Kingston use software bought in from Priority Research, allowing their customisation, to handle the survey online along with the analysis. There are some issues

    1. The silent majority (10% return on population) and so worries over accurate representation.
    2. Contacting non-users → how to approach them
    3. Setting the questions → to be open and not drive students down a particular route.

    In terms of staffing, need to give the staff the time and the top down support to do the user survey. Have to be prepared to trust the outcome – if students make a demand clear, need to respond appropriately. Kingston suggested you might need to think about quotas – departments, levels, ages or other demographic factors that you want to achieve in returns for appropriate representation. Thinking about how/why you might want to include as many of these as you can. Early surveys (1993) very much targeted at specific user groups, thought to be especially disadvantaged or in need. Yearly surveys since early 90s allow trends and rising (and reducing) priorities for student bodies to be clearly demonstrated.

    In 2008 reintroduced 1-2-1 interviews on top of focus groups and surveys. A dozen done to test the waters, as an approach to non-users. Also now do additional focus groups at start of academic year to test early responses to changes put in place. Worry survey is contributing to sample already engaging users rather than non-users. 100 1-2-1s done in 2009 – gave a good snap shot of individual user experiences, rather than anonymised, average student point of vein. Survey moved to online this last year (partly environmental) but also reinvent survey (at least look and feel) – still offer maltesers to those that come to bank of computers. Comments and response from previous year’s survey included in next year’s, so the students can see how library has reacted. Drawbacks include lack of benchmarking with external entities, survey fatigue

    The changing landscape of libraries: Tim Leach, BDP
    This session was about buildings and architectural considerations. Tim said that library user needs strictly speaking haven’t changed in centuries, light and study space for example, just the ways in which we use technologies and building designs to accommodate them. As technology allows users to work in other places than our library spaces, we have to ensure that our spaces continue to meet their needs and make a welcoming environment they want to visit. The UCL masterplan takes the inherent problems with their historic building and tries to provide as many solutions within a limited rebuild. The key issue was space – due to earlier renovations over the years the original building space is not what it was. There is a need for positive first impression from the first moment walking through door. The building must be legible and accessible, the use signage as a sign of failure (not a point I agree with 100%).

    Architectural furniture and fixtures define use of areas, and are not flexible but are suitable for certain environments (e.g. where levels of privacy is desirable). However, they can be a block to interaction between different spaces. Natural light and ventilation provide an environment that can be comfortable for most people. Use technology to change way materials stored and accessed, not just treating shelving as the only answer. Even get people on roofs of buildings by building structures into the environment that surrounds them.

    The great good place Andrew Cranfield, IFLA Library Buildings and Equipment Section
    Library as the third place (between home and work) was the theme of Andrew’s talk. Library environment and impact of the building resign on staff functions – the two are not independent and need to be considered together. Commented that many libraries today remain too conservative in their redesigns. Monopoly of information provision from libraries is now gone, and must address other approaches to provide services to users. Ambitious libraries (buildings) today seem to reflect new ways of thinking – no longer temple of knowledge to stand for generations but a right here/right now environment with more akin to the retail experience. Non-compartmentalisation of environments – books and café culture should be intertwined (e.g. like the idea stores).

    Cerritos Public Library has a books entrance way and 1.2 million visitors/year for tiny local population. Andrew talked of his distaste for elitist colour schemes (black and white starkness) much better to have welcoming colours. Very, very white buildings in 6 months need repainting (e.g. Amsterdam central library). Cultural Black Diamond in Copenhagen – no feeling coming into library, almost too far the other way as a cultural centre, but not a library at all.

    Libraries Change Lives Awards
    The most interesting part of the awards was that the news of the winners (Leeds Central Libraries) was out on twitter 30 minutes before the start of the ceremony.  Andrew Motion spoke briefly too.

    Building a successful library Web 2 service James Smith (Sunderland Libraries) and Nick Stopforth (Newcastle Libraries)

    The session was based on things they have done and have learned through trial and error. They shared with us their 7 lessons (well 5 as they over ran and the session ended before they could finish) they have learned through using Web 2 resources such as twitter, wikis, podcasting etc. They did demonstrate a very interesting mashup with Google maps, World War II bombing maps of Sunderland and eye witness accounts of the bombing. The session was mostly full of public librarians, who are it seems less clued up than HE libraries on this sort of technology and how/where it can fit into their working lives (3/4 of the audience had not even heard of twitter for example).

    That brought the conference to an end. It had been a packed two days, and I would have loved an extra day either before or after to more fully digest everything that had been discussed. The highs would have to include my session, the networking and the updating of information and skills in general. The lows, well the “gala” conference dinner, lack of hands on sessions and only two days for a very intensive conference. All the same I hope to be back for 2011!

    Posted in CILIP, Staff training, Wider profession | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    There’re Mash(ed Libraries) Oop North

    Posted by gazjjohnson on 8 July, 2009

    Brian Kelly speaksThis Mon and Tuesday I was up at the University of Huddersfield at the 2nd Mashed Libraries unconference.  Monday evening was all about networking and meeting a fair number of the delegates who like me had come the night before, and was a splendid affair complete with a tour of the city centre ending at the state of Eric Morcombe* by the station.  I just wish I’d decided not to walk the 3 and a bit miles into town and the same at the end of the evening!

    The main event was held in the uni’s relatively new Creative Arts building, which is a very impressive space.  Despite some early wifi problems everything went fairly smoothly.  Delegates were badged according to their perceived experience with mashups.  Greens were n00bs (like me), yellows had some experience, oranges were experts and blue were local staff helping to facilitate.  We also had our areas of interest on the badges so you could see at a glance whom might share your areas of enquiry.

    The day was made up of parallel sessions, breakouts, lightning talks and collaboration; so there’s no way one person could experience the whole event.  The first session I went to was by Brian Kelly entitled Enthusiastic Amateurs and overcoming institutional inertia.

    University of HuddersfieldMash ups are exciting Brian said says demonstrating some simple ones such as Thumbalizr (thumbnail shots of series of web pages on one screen), then Google Custom search, GoogleMap geolocating unis in the UK.  He then showed off some of Tony Hirst’s mashups which demonstrated and tracked down press releases; and how often these were being reused into the blogosphere.  In this way freely available data could be analysed to provide useful information. 

    He moved on to talk about barriers, taking a straw poll from those in the hall about their IT services.  Most saw them as a barrier to innovation; though not everyone shared this view.  It did appear that the smaller, more agile universities were more willing to allow overt experimentation.  For everyone else an audience member suggested that you should seek to experiment in alignment with stated institutional business goals, which should help you to get more support centrally.  Another suggestion was to experiment in your own time and space, and then introduce senior staff once a more polished object was ready to demonstrate; akin to how we’ve developed this blog.

    Brian enthused that greater openness to your data is a good thing, as other developers could build services and resources on top of your data, meaning you don ‘t need to do the development.  He also stressed the importance of documenting what you do via blogs and the like to show others how to approach the same things.

    Next I went to a session by Brendan Dawes (www.brendandawes.con) entitled Somewhere I Have Never Travelled.  He noted that a lot of the web is based on print paradigm, which isn’t great for everything.  His site is a playground for him – a way to represent data in a way that interests him – with no set goal.  While there were some wonderful graphical interfaces and perhaps very exciting way of presenting data I imagine most of our users would be terrified rather than enlightened if we started using them.  On the other hand selling them to people would seriously have the wow factor. 

    DelegatesThe next session I was in with Mike Elis was about using APIs without knowing technical details.  Unfortunately this session licked along at such a rate that rather than exploring a lot of the technical or practical details this turned into a long list of resources you could use.  While some were familiar names (like YahooPips) others (, YQL) were very unfamiliar.  Rather than listing them here, I’d suggest you go to the Mashed site and have a look at the slides yourself.

    Before lunch we broke into small discussion groups.  We were supposed to be moving between these a bit during the session, though this didn’t really seem to work (I got trapped in a corner).  I was in a group talking about overcoming institutional and other barriers to innovation, which was quite interesting – though one group member (not I) did slightly dominate discussions.

    Following an excellent lunch the rest of the day was given over to various lighting talks on aspects of mashed technologies that might be of interest, as well as elements and applications of Web 2 that delegates might be interested in.  This had a much less formal feel to it, and whilst the organisers expected only small audiences for the talks most of the participants stayed in the room to listen.  Bit of a shame as it was during this time that there was the best opportunity for hands on collaboration, but few people took up the option.

    Overall this was an intensive, but very interesting day.  I came away if not with more hands on experience of technologies, but a greater understanding of some of the activities that are going on in the library world today.  The next mashed event will be towards the end of the year, entitled Middle Mash.

     *Yes I know it’s Harold Wilson, but frankly the post he’s in is more Eric and Ernie than politician.

    Posted in Staff training, Technology & Devices, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    Mashing Libraries

    Posted by gazjjohnson on 6 July, 2009

    I’m heading up to Huddersfield this afternoon for the gathering that is Mashed Libraries Oop North.  We’ve a pre-event meeting tonight, but the main event is tomorrow – so if you’re interested keep an eye on the tweets that will coming out of this event.  Or the blog site for the event.  Not 100% sure quite what I’ll get out of the day (I’m keeping a very open mind on this one) – I’m sure it’ll be intensive, hard work but fun.

    Full report on my return.

    Posted in Meetings, Web 2.0 & Emerging Technologies | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

    EMALINK event on the changing undergrad library environment

    Posted by selinalock on 20 February, 2009

    Here’s a round-up of the EMALINK event I attended on the 18th Feb 2009 at the Pilkington Library, Loughborough University.

    Sally Patalong highlighted some of the points made by the 2008 Ciber Briefing paper and talked about some of the technologies they’ve used with students at Coventry University.

    • The briefing paper highlighted that students will be “power browsers” and have worryingly low levels of information literacy.
    • Sally thought that VLEs are teacher-centred as they emphasise tracking and automation.
    • Research conducted at Coventry have shown that students want: smaller groups, more contact time, new experiences, independence, resources, support, qualifications, group work, friends, fun, a social life and to be inspired.
    • Some of the technologies being used at Coventry that are more student-centred include voice tools (e.g. wimba) to record feedback and email it to students, Echi360 to record lectures and have them uploaded to web and video conferencing with distance learners.
    • Sally suggested that institutions needs to move away from all controlling environments (such as VLEs) and use the existing technologies available out there.
    • She finished by asking if we still need University Libraries to deliver resources and answered YES. Especially for (as one of her students put it) the “friendly staffs and helpful advices”.

    The second talk of the day was from Jo Bryant who did her dissertation on the Open3 library learning spaceat the Pilkington Library. Some of the things Jo highlighted were:

    • New innovations in library learning spaces such as sykpe phones being made available Dublin City University Library and inflatable “pods” at Glasgow Caledonian University.
    • For her dissertation she used ethnography techniques including observing students in the Open3 learning space 40 hours. Some of her observations were that:
    • a lot of group work was taking place (of groups between 3-10 people)
    • Whiteboards were popular
    • Groups tended to gather around laptops rather than PCs
    • Individual study was also happening despite the higher noise levels
    • the students liked space to spread out and were quite territorial
    • Liked being able to have food & drink – including ordering in pizza when the cafe closed!
    • Liked social nature of space
    • PCs near the entrance were used for quick visits (printing/email)
    • Self-governing space – people tried not to interrupt others but would also not ask people to be quiet.
    • Mostly used by undergrads
    • the students were mainly using electronic resources rather than books but the study did take palce during the exam period.
    • PCs were often logged in but left unattended
    • After the study the space was expanded as it was so popular.

    The event ended with some group discussions on what important things University Libraries should do in the future. Suggestions included:

    • Being flexible in their use of space and the services/resources/technologies they offered and used.
    • Asking the students what they wanted.
    • Working with academics to improve student’s evaluation skills.
    • Considered use of technology.
    • Bringing services together in the library building adn ensuring it is an attractive environment to students

    Posted in Service Delivery | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

    M People and M-learning

    Posted by gazjjohnson on 12 February, 2009

    A blog that might be worth reading is this one from Vicky Owen, over at Liverpool John Moores University.  She’s working on a project looking at M-learning in libraries, something that might well tie into some of our aspirations on QR codes.  The project’s coming to an end, so it’ll probably make for interesting reading over the next month or so.

    Posted in Wider profession | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

    The Research Library’s Role in Digital Repository Service – report

    Posted by gazjjohnson on 6 February, 2009

    The Research Library’s Role in Digital Repository Services, Final Report of the ARL Digital Repository Issues Task Force (January 2009),

    Might be worth a read for anyone with an interest in the repository world.  I’ve run off a copy so if you need to borrow it.  Best comment in the text so far, talking about the evolution of the repository scene:

    We now understand better that institutions produce large and ever-growing quantities of data, images, multimedia works, learning objects, and digital records while mass digitization has launched a new scale of digital content collecting.

    And then we have this:

    …it is evident that despite the varied funding and resource challenges faced by research institutions, delivering repository services is a crucial function of research libraries.

    There’s a lot of worthy content in here that whilst might be focussed on what’s going on in the US is worth noting that it’s always been my impression that they’re probably a year or more ahead of us in terms of general reposiotry developments.  Certainly the section I’ve just been reading in the report about digital records management rang very true as an area the UK as a whole seems to have made very little progress in.  We’re still at the garden-shed hobbyist level of repository management, still experimenting.  In the meantime we do need to think about the real organisational impact of the repository on our institutions, and how we need to carefully shape how and where the repositories sit in all this.

    I know I, for one, am still very much learning this.

    Posted in Leicester Research Archive, Open Access | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »