As with a couple of the previous rounds, I’m taking part in the Library Day in the Life Project this week. It was set up by Bobbi Newman, and you can read about it here. It’s a great thing because comparing what we do is interesting of itself, plus if anyone outside the echo-chamber reads any of these posts, it may go some way to challenging misconceptions about what people in libraries get up to these days.
It would be hypocritical of me to do all five days (I only ever read one day from each blog I subscribe to, as I can’t deal with all the extra posts at once) so here’s a couple of day’s worth in a single post.
What I do for a living
I work on a JISC-funded project known as LIFE-SHARE (this is an elaborate acronym, because we don’t have nearly enough of these in libraries) for the University of Leeds. My role is split between the Leeds parts of the project and the Sheffield parts (the other project partner is York, who have their own Project Officer for LIFE-SHARE).
The purpose of the project is, in short, to explore consortial strategies for digitisation in Higher Education, with particular reference to preservation and curation. Which is to say: our collections are falling apart, what do we do about it, do we really have a clear way forward, and can we work collectively to solve the problems and save some resources along the way? The Project lasts from last January to next March, and you can read more about it on the website here.
LIFE-SHARE has a case-study at each institution, investigating different aspects of digitisation. For York, it’s on demand digitisation. For Leeds, it’s digitisation to support Collection Management. For Sheffield, it’s digitisation to support Special Collections – and Sheffield was where I was on Monday. We’ve just got to the stage where we’ve written up the Case Studies (they’ll be made available via the Outputs page of our website) and I was in Sheffield tying up a lot of loose-ends. Firstly the Project Manager and the other Project Officer came over and I showed them all the equipment we’d purchased for the audio-visual digitisation suite, and examples of the videos and audio I’d digitised. Then we had a long meeting to discuss the internal and external versions of our case-study reports. Then they went home and I returned to my windowless cell to finish off.
I created some metadata (Dublin Core) for the digital objects I’d not yet described and auto-generated some technical metadata using MediaInfo. I wrote a detailed list for Sheffield’s head of Special Collections as to exactly what I’d done, why I’d done it, and whereabouts it was stored – then had a brief meeting with her to explain it all in person (she was pleased, which is good!). Then I had the glamorous task of clearing up all the packaging that was strewn around the room – we’d ordered loads of equipment (cassette tape players, time-code-corrector boxes, professional monitoring headphones etc) and I’d not wanted to throw away anything until we knew it all worked. As this was my last visit to Sheffield for a while, it was also the last chance to leave their room in a presentable state…
Back in the Leeds LIFE-SHARE Office for today, and finalising procedures manuals for Sheffield. As part of the Case Study we digitised a sample of a larger multimedia archive; the idea is, their staff should be able to pick up where I left off and digitise the rest before it is packed up and sent back to its original donor. So I’ve written some detailed guides to all the stuff I’ve been doing, including photographs of leads with labels explaining what they’re for, explanations on how to use Audacity, etc etc.
I also started to internalise my case study report, and pick out the key points for external dissemination – the format of the first draft was a bit of a compromise, so we’ve decided it’s better to separate it into two distinct entities. This will be much easier, I think.
Other stuff crammed into my free time today included writing a proposal for a book chapter including a third-person bio that required an insane amount of information in 75-85 words. It wanted name, place of work, location, details of your degree and where you got it from, job title, publications, awards AND career highlights! (To give you some idea how small a space that is to fit all that in, this paragraph alone is 78 words and counting.)
In the end, I went with: “thewikiman, zomg, he is ace – srsly, trust him on this.”
Not really. Although when I was moaning on Twitter about how I couldn’t fit the info into so small a space, Andy Priestner helpfully came up with this:
“‘Ned is really nice and good at libraries. You’ll like him. Probably” Done it in 12 words.’
Thanks mate! Brevity is a gift.
A lot of stuff happened today with LISNPN, the New Professionals Network, as well. Having launched nearly a month ago now, we’re gradually adding more and more stuff to the Resources area (member’s only, that bit, so sign up!). Things I’m really pleased with include the fact that Phil Bradley has generously allowed us to reproduce his public speaking guide, and the editors of the two major CILIP publications (Gazette and Update), Debby Raven and Elspeth Hyams, have contributed some really useful stuff to the How to: Get published guide – so if you’ve wondered what sort of thing they’re looking for, check it out: it’s in the Resources area of the site. Anyway, today for the first time we promoted it via a couple of JISCMail lists – LIS-Profession and LIS-CDGDivisions, with emails from myself and Chris Rhodes.
The result was 50 new members in about 3 hours, and that number continued to rise, meaning we’ve broken the 300 barrier. I’m really pleased about this – for all the obvious reasons (the more people there are, within reason, the more useful it will be as a network) and because we haven’t even promoted it via LIS-LINK, Gazette or Update yet (all of which are in hand for the next fortnight or so). And I’ve not even written my long promised blog post about it! So 300 is pretty good for a network which is less than a month since launch, and not fully pushed into public consciousness yet.
Before work I decided to set up a document to record my CPD (Continuous Professional Development, I think is what that stands for). This ended up being a spreadsheet with four tabs – presentations, publications, training, and events – which just records stuff I’ve done in chronological order. I realised I’d had so much training from LIFE-SHARE that there was a danger I’d forget stuff I’d done previously, and also that I might need exact dates of publication to hand etc. The ‘events’ tab is a bit woolly but basically covers conferences/ lectures / other open day type things I’ve attended for work which can’t be classed as hands-on training.
I think this’ll come in really handy later on, because every job application / CV needs to be tailored to the role – this way, I’ll have all the stuff laid out for me to choose from, which should lead to clearer thinking and more focused applications.
At 9:30 I had a meeting with the Library’s Conservation Officer, Sharon Connell to talk about the Leeds case-study for LIFE-SHARE. We discussed the revealing and quite alarming results of the condition & usability assessment she’s undertaken of a typical library collection (if you’re interested, see this LIFE-SHARE blog post for a bit more info – turns out a lot of books are knackered!). What we’ve been trying to achieve is a workable model for establishing the costs of physical preservation. So the condition and assessment survey threw up four categories of disrepair (1 being fine, 4 being imminent book death) and we’d like to be able to say – if a given number of books are in condition X, what needs to be done and how much resources will it cost in terms of staff time and money. Obviously there’s so many variables this is impossible to fully achieve, but after all Sharon’s hard work we can certainly make decisions that are a lot more informed in future.
The next step is to determine comparable costs for digitally preserving the items, so I’m going to arrange a meeting with Jodie Double, our Digital Repositories Manager, to go through all that – we need to come up with prices for in-house digitisation, and out-sourcing. Project work often relies on many more people’s time and expertise than just those on the Project team, so I’m very grateful to all the people helping out.
Then, at lunchtime, I notice a really interesting debate going on in the comments section of out-going CILIP CEO Bob McKee’s blog, and add a big comment on it of my own, which is basically a blog post in itself (and may later turn into one). Then, I publish this!