Library Day in the Life 5

28 Jul

A man graffitis Library Day in the Life

Tagged: library day in the life

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!

- thewikiman

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Escaping the Echo Chamber – presentation

21 Jul

[deep film announcer voice] A Wiki Chaos production, from the people who brought you the Library Routes Project[/deep film announcer voice]

Today is the day Woodsiegirl and I present on the Echo Chamber, to a seminar at the CLILP Yorkshire & Humberside CDG AGM. The Prezi we will be using is below.

We both favour the ‘not just duplicating what’s on screen’ school of presenting, so there’s a lot of stuff we’ll be saying out loud which isn’t written down on the Prezi. I hope it’s still interesting anyway – have a look and tell us what you think.

What I’d really like to do is introduce an interactive, online element to this – our presentation is this afternoon. So if you have any comments, feedback, or particularly suggestions for how to escape the echo-chamber, we’d love to hear them. If you can leave comments on this blog, Woodsiegirl’s blog, or using the #echolib hash-tag on Twitter, by 3:10pm GMT, then we can feed them into the discussion (and hopefully actually update the Prezi in real-time with your thoughts, too. That might be stretching our powers of dexterity but hey, it’s good to aim high and there is two of us after all…). How ace would that be? Is possible, try and spread the word via Twitter and encourage people to join in.

As ever, this’ll work better in Full-Screen mode. Some of the bits it’ll zoom in on have quite a lot to read, so best to keep pressing the ‘Next’ arrow rather than letting it auto-lurch. Full screen is fairly essential too.

The initial top down view – it looks a bit like a chamber! Sort of? Yeah? So the title and the concept are in the middle, and the rest of the sections form like a kind of wall of the chamber around it – see what we did there? And successful escapes are beyond the wall, ZOMG! :) Well, I thought that was cool anyway…

This whole thing started way back with a couple of blog posts and tweets asking for input on the subject. Since then, an enormous amount of people have helped Laura and I with ideas, blog posts, tweets, suggestions and input of various kinds. Thank you! Featured in the presentation above in one form or another as a result of this, are the following luminaries of the Information Professional world (in no particular order):

A couple of those we just went out and grabbed their relevant posts or videos, but the majority submitted their input on our prompting so cheers very much everyone!

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Do you spend enough money on career development?

18 Jul

A wanted, professional development, poster mock up

This almost works...

Shelling out cash on career development is a tricky issue.

It can be tricky to raise the cash in the first place; I don’t know about you, but me and my wife pretty much spend or put into savings everything we have, each month, no matter what we’re earning. It seems the outgoings expand to fill the vacuum of any wage increase – so making money available for professional development essentially means taking it away from something else.

It can be tricky to decide what to spend it on. Is a course more useful than a workshop? Is attending two local conferences better than one massive national one which costs a lot to get to? Should I be spending my money and time on something directly related to my current 9-to-5 role, or on something that might benefit my general development and later career?

Most of all, it can be tricky to get a tangible sense of whether or not it is worth it. Will you earn back what you spend? Will the next job you get on better pay have anything to do with that conference you went to, really? Is the fact that something is fun and interesting of itself, and may not actually lead anywhere career-wise, worth stumping up cash for? Etc.

I have various professional outgoings, on an annual basis. CILIP membership: £184. Website hosting + domain name registration plus upgraded wordpress package to allow for more storage / formats etc: £100. Business cards with the nice wikiman logo on the front and a horrific picture of me on the back:  £20. A combination of all this stuff plugging me in to the wider profession and meaning librarianship has gone from a job to a vocation for me: priceless! But it is a lot of money all told, and there has to be a limit to what I can spend – I’d love to be a member of SLA-Europe but have so far not quite been able to make that happen (even though I’m 99.9% sure it’d be worth it). And this isn’t taking into account money spent on conferences or training, or indeed the Annual Leave it costs me to do all the things I like doing – the extra-curricular Information Professional activities.

I’m very fortunate in two ways: firstly I work for an employer that invests in training opportunities and takes developing its employees seriously, so for all stuff directly relevant to my job I get sent off on training all the time. Secondly, by the time this blog is two years old this time next year, I think I will have attended more than 10 fantastic events for free (and with train fares paid), that I would otherwise have paid to attend myself as a delegate, because I’m either speaking at them or helping organise them. It sounds outrageously cynical / glib to say it’s worth submitting a paper for an event you really want to go to, but it really is worth bearing in mind! You’ll get more out of the day anyway, and you’ll save a lot of money. Same goes for volunteering to help run things – hard work, but free attendance For The Win.

I still pay for stuff myself where necessary though, and that doesn’t always end well. I once booked last minute train tickets and a place on a (rather disappointing, and quite expensive) copyright course in London in order to fill a gap in my CV for a job application, and subsequently didn’t even get interviewed for the post! We moved heaven and earth to make that happen, savaged the bank-account, took leave to attend, and the result was: fail. But generally speaking, I think it is worth taking a punt and spending money on career development. I didn’t get to see Woodsiegirl’s talk at the New Professionals Conference, but I understand she said something along similar lines.

What strikes me is that most of us who are in this for the long term end up doing a library Masters. This costs a fortune – thousands of pounds, and I couldn’t have afforded mine without help from my incredibly supportive parents. You spend several grand on a piece of paper that allows you to earn more in the future – and of course you might learn some interesting stuff along the way, but remember it will be outmoded in just two years. Two years! It used to be that the information you learned would be useful for five years after graduation, but the library world moves so fast that you only get 24 months nowadays. (I think the experience of being exposed to and immersed in lots of different aspects of the profession is more valuable than the specific stuff you learn, but that’s a different debate.) Not only that, but because so many professionals have the qualification these days, it doesn’t mark you out at all – it just gets the door open in the first place, rather than getting you through it. As a result, your learning can’t stop when you have a Masters – it’s only by going to conferences, training, courses and events that you can continue to stay ahead of (or even just try and keep up with) the game.

So next time I’m wondering whether to hand out £50 or whatever for attending a conference – I’ll remember all the sacrifices made to afford library school, and how astronomically much more that cost than the conference will, and how you have to keep making financial sacrifices in order to move your career along, and that eventually I probably will earn it back if attending this event is part of a rounded programme of professional development, and take a deep breath: then invest in my career.

- thewikiman

Cheers to TheatreGrad and FieldVole whose blog post and comment respectively made my mind up on writing this post!

P.S. Talking of spending money on library-related things, the New Spice video (in response to the Old Spice man vids that are going viral at the moment) really is absolutely outstanding – here it is in case you’ve missed it so far:

I’m a big fan of the guy who has apparently been attacked by a plant, at 0:19 – they say libraries are boring, but clearly they dicier places than many imagine…

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CILIP CEO news, potential CILIP President news, and Blog Birthday Cake

14 Jul

An achievement banner

  1. Phil Bradley is running for CILIP Vice-Presidency! See Phil’s blog for the announcement. How amazingly ace is that? If he is elected he will of course serve as President the following year – someone of his vision and technological know-how could position CILIP as a leader of the community, if he is able to wield as much power as I hope he is. Phil is an enormously popular and influential figure in the library community online and in the flesh, and in my own experience an absolutely lovely bloke. I think his bid should have real momentum behind it, as many of us were very disappointed that he wasn’t interviewed for the CEO position (although understanding of why that was). It’s also a great demonstration of putting money where mouth is, and stepping up, rather than just criticising from a comfortable arm-chair. So, when the time comes, if you believe in what Phil has to say about CILIP’s future, make sure you vote Bradley…
  2. CILIP have announced their new Chief Exec! Annie Mauger has been appointed; here’s the CILIP press release to announce it. I’m excited about this appointment for a few reasons – she’s got lots of library history and lots of advocacy stuff on her CV that isn’t directly library-related, so she should hopefully provide a fresh perspective on that side of things. She’s also on twitter already, and responded to an absolute deluge of new followers wishing her well on the day of her appointment with admirable courtesy and taking-it-in-her-strideness (is that a real phrase?) – must be quite overwhelming to suddenly have to engage with hundreds of members of the organisation you’re taking over, on the day of the announcement rather than when you actually start (November 1st).. Despite not being a huge twitter user previously, Annie seemed to take the time to respond to everyone’s good wishes individually, and she asked for guidance on twitter usage – I’m hoping this signifies a new era in which CILIP may be more amenable to admitting vulnerability…
  3. Have you read @ijclark (aka Thoughts of a Wannabe Librarian)’s piece in the Guardian about the value of libraries? It’s absolutely ace – you can read it here. Gives examples, sets out a convincing case, avoids sounding up-tight or hectoring- and it’s in the freaking Guardian! Escaping the Echo Chamber proper, there – Ian just emailed the Comment is Free website, proposed a piece, they said yes, he wrote it, bang. Getting published on a non-library-specific platform and being read by thousands of people is that easy! Obviously you need to have something to say and a decent knack for saying it, and Ian already has a very well written blog from which to extrapolate and formalise ideas, but the point is to just try stuff and see if it comes off, and don’t assume that national media won’t be interested in what you have to say. W00t.
  4. Still a couple of places left on ‘Developing Our Professional Skills’. There are still a couple of days left to book the remaining places on the Career Development Group’s Yorkshire & Humberside AGM – you can see the official blurb here, or read my own version with a little bit more about the echolib presentation Woodsiegirl and I will be giving – Marketing the Information Profession: Escaping the Echo Chamber. We’ve successfully lobbied for it to be opened up to non Yorkshire & Humberside members, which is mint.
  5. Finally: this blog is one year old today! The first anniversary of the inaugural blog post is actually Saturday – and what an uninteresting blog post it was. It feels a lot longer than a year – I feel plugged in and connected to my profession in a way I wasn’t before I started, from the basic stuff like literally hearing about events I’d like to attend that I wouldn’t otherwise know about, to the more exciting stuff like have a network of peers I can ask to work with me on stuff like LISNPN and the Library Routes Project. (The next blog post WILL be about LISNPN!) Another thing blogging has allowed me to do is take blog posts and turn them into articles for publication, a bit like Ian did above: my piece on escaping the Echo Chamber will be made available here as soon as Library & Information Update’s 3 month embargo has expired. I’ve just passed a subscription milestone and am really chuffed about that – so thank you to everyone who reads this stuff, and comments, and makes the time put into this blog worthwhile.  :)I’ve always been interested in stats and stuff, and certainly blogging provides plenty. Here’s a top-10 of the most read posts in the year of this blog’s existence: self indulgent I know, but it is a birthday and I know I’d be interested in going back over other people’s blogs and seeing if there were any popular posts I’d missed…
  1. Hot topic! CILIP and the Media 66 comment(s) | 1401 view(s)
  2. yesterday’s librarians, tomorrow’s information professionals – 8 differences 23 comment(s) | 376 view(s)
  3. everything you’ve ever wanted to know about library blogs and blogging! 9 comment(s) | 306 view(s)
  4. the future of libraries: a video 5 comment(s) | 302 view(s)
  5. Newsnight: Lessons for Libraries 18 comment(s) | 287 view(s)
  6. Fail or Prevail: Top Tips For First Time Speakers 15 comment(s) | 240 view(s)
  7. the ‘Libraries. It’s what we do.’ idea 18 comment(s) | 215 view(s)
  8. Libraries in 2020 9 comment(s) | 205 view(s)
  9. NPC2010: That was the day that was 34 comment(s) | 193 view(s)
  10. new professionals conference, 2010 13 comment(s) | 181 view(s)
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