Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Help out a struggling library student?

As the final part of my Masters dissertation, I am conducting a survey into the current use of digital libraries and opinions on the future of digital libraries and digitisation in general. After much hard work, the questionnaire is finally complete.

If you would like to help me out please click the link below and complete the survey. It should only take about 10-15 minutes. All results will be kept anonymous and used only for my dissertation.

Thank you very much for your help.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Library Day in the Life Blog Roll

There are some amazing and interesting Library Day in the Life Round 5 blogs and tweets out there. Here is a selection of my favourites (so far).
Two posts from librarians working for Guardian Media. Particularly interesting days what with the efforts of Guardian staff sifting through Wikileaks data. One. Two.
Day of Ian Clark (he of Comment is Free fame) at Canterbury Christ University including a nice summary of what Day in the Life actually is
The University of Sheffield has a great library. Day of a Liaison Librarian there.
Librarians in hard-hats in The University of Westminster. High-visibility jackets should be considered as a way to escape the echo-chamber!
Day of a Reference Librarian for a public library system with an utterly precise paragraph on the nature of summer in public libraries.
Finally, it amused me (in a postmodern sort of way) that a blog called metalibrarian gets somewhat meta by including the discovery of the Day in the Life project during the day in the life.
There are dozens of great Day in the Life stories out there in blogs and under the Twitter hashtag #libday5

Monday, 26 July 2010

Library Day in the Life Round 5

This is a post for the Library Day in the Life project Round 5 where librarians across the world record their daily activities. I am currently working as the Assistant Librarian for an Army library and this was my July 26th...
0800 - There's something about maneuvering past security personnel with guns that sets your mood for the day. In the early morning sun, the base was quiet, serene, and - surrounded by English hillsides - somwhat idyllic. If it weren't for the guns and the (presumably decommissioned) tanks on display, sometimes the base could seem like a holiday resort.
I started the day by greeting the Library Assistant on the issue desk and settling in at my desk in the imaginatively-named Librarian Room. I logged on to the PC and for the first hour took advantage of Internet access. The MoD restricts access to the Internet - for most of the day only the Army website, news websites, and Wikipedia are available but for a few brief windows each day, access is opened out. I hurriedly checked my e-mail, Twitter, and Google Reader feeds before getting down to some research.
The library’s main function is to provide information for Junior Soldiers: military information and history, up-to-date news on Armed Forces current affairs and the War in Afghanistan, and educational information that will help the soldiers in their traditional studies. On the way to work, I heard about the leak of classified Afghanistan war logs by Wikileaks so I spent some time during my first coffee reviewing the story for anything particularly relevant or interesting to our soldiers. After the Internet disappeared, I started to prepare materials and books for a summer-themed display to be put up by the end of the day.
1015 -My turn on the issue desk rota came up. This is the 'traditional librarian' part of my day: smiling, scanning, stamping. When there were no Junior Soldiers to help out or issue books to, I edited the entries to the poetry competition, checking for spelling, grammar, rhythm, etc. The theme was 'Challenge' and we received an interesting blend of entries: half concerned the 'challenges' of Army life (ironing, being away from home, etc.); the other half were more serious pieces about Afghanistan and Iraq. By the end of the day, the judging panel had reached a verdict and decided the winner was 'The One which Used the Word 'Tis'. The company director used the term, "Kipling-esque" (albeit not in an overly positive way).
1230 - My colleague relieved me in time for lunch. I headed over to the base's coffee shop and soon discovered that reading Infinite Jest - a mammoth undertaking in itself - is made even more mammoth-ine by trying to read it while eating a sandwich and drinking a cappuccino. 
1330 - After lunch, I used another brief Internet-availability window to do some planning for a wiki project I'm working on. A major task for library staff is the maintenance of 'regimental boxes' - boxes containing information and news on the various regiments of the British Army. A few weeks ago I suggested to my manager  that the information would be easier to manage in digital form and have since been working on putting it all into a wiki. During an impromptu chat with a colleague about the de-fleaing of cats and the quality of last night's Sherlock, I realised I was late for a presentation I'd agreed to attend.
1430 - Back at the library, I dismantled last month's display about the Victoria Cross and put up the new summer display. The - loose - theme was easy summer reading so I aimed to display quick, easy reads like Stephen King and Dan Brown as well as some travel guides and foreign-language phrase books. I don't think it turned out as well as my Victoria Cross display but I was happy with the fake sand (burlap sacks) and palm fronds (plastic) that I'd found in a corner of the Archives Room and put to work on making a beach-y atmosphere. 
1530 - My second shift on the issue desk. It was quiet so I spent some time cleaning the library and organising my shelves (the library staff each take responsibility for a few sections: I have Military Equipment, Military Warfare up to the Crimean War, Military Biography, Biography, Quick Reference, Graphic Novels, and Dewey Non-fiction 001-199).
1630 - I spent my last ten minutes clearing my desk, putting odds and ends for tomorrow in my in-tray, and carrying unused display materials to the Archives Room. At 1640 I said goodnight, got in my car, realised I'd forgotten my Thermos then kept driving anyway.
1800 - Back home I ran through my dissertation questionnaire while my dinner cooked, implementing some changes that fellow librarian friends had recommended. It's to be sent out later this week.
1900 - Wrote a blog post about a day in my life. The rest of the evening will be spent in the traditional Monday night way: a whisky (late shift tomorrow = lie-in) and shouting at the TV watching University Challenge.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Research participants wanted

As the final part of my Masters course, I’m writing what feels like an endless dissertation. It’s on the subject of digital libraries and how new features/technology can affect digital asset management now and in the future. And I need help.
The central thesis is that digital libraries are held back by aping the hierarchical organisation systems used in print libraries. A wide range of technologies – including increased storage capacity, hypertext, Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web – offer the potential for large-scale networking of documents which more accurately mirrors the associative relationships between the disciplines of human knowledge. By synthesising the ideas of the computer science pioneer, Vannevar Bush, and the socio-biologist, E. O. Wilson, we arrive at a vision for a large-scale networked digital library: if this library had enough books, it could be useful in helping to achieve consilience, the fundamental intellectual pursuit of the coming century. The core of the research is investigating the plausibility of this vision.
The first phase of my research involved analysing the features of a range of digital libraries. The aim was to compare current technology with projected technology to see how digital libraries are developing. This has yielded some fascinating results and leads into the second phase of the research.
The second phase involves collecting and analysing user opinion on the current developments of digital libraries as identified from the results of the feature analysis. For this phase, I will be using questionnaires to gather collective user opinion.
I am looking for anyone who would be willing to participate in this project. Participation will consist in a small Internet or e-mail distributed questionnaire sent within the next few weeks.
Please contact me if you would like to be involved, either through this blog, through Twitter, or e-mail on

Thursday, 8 July 2010

On a year in the profession

One year ago today, I discovered librarianship as a profession. Little over a year ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life: I had never given any thought to becoming a librarian, never wondered about how libraries worked, never heard the acronym ‘CILIP’. Libraries always had a special significance: the word had mysterious connotations suggesting expansiveness, knowledge, and strangeness. The idea of libraries had always held an inexplicable attraction but reality never measured up to the promise of the ideal: my local public library was old and dingy with books that had to be wrapped in laminate to keep from falling apart. My first university’s library was the first to come close to the idea that had fallen into my head. It became a place I felt safe, where I could hang out among the stacks. But still, I never considered librarianship: I’m not sure but I think I considered libraries – big ideal libraries – beyond my ken, as if I could never become a custodian of something so special and ethereal.
Now, librarianship, information organisations, and the library community are such large parts of my life that everything prior to my library awakening seems hollow, as if waiting to be filled. It’s hard to say who I was before this year. A librarian in utero: a sleeper agent waiting for the stimuli to activate hidden portions of my consciousness? Or was it a developmental process: the larvae developing itself to break free of its cocoon?
But the past is gone and dwelling on it only serves reflective purposes. What matters is the present: the achievements of the past year. In the space of twelve months, I have gone from complete unawareness of the profession to occupying my first professional post. In the space of twelve months, I have gained a PGDip in Library and Information Management with the intention of bumping it up to an MA by completing my dissertation. In the space of twelve months, I have become a specialist in emerging Internet technologies, digital libraries, and e-books: topics that I had given no thought to when I had been lost in the forests of abstraction and metaphysics. In the space of twelve months, I have gone from being a man of no profession to attending the New Professionals Conference as part of a blossoming career.
Everything has changed so much in such a short time. And I feel like I’ve barely done anything to get here. I’ve been lucky with my postgraduate and employment applications; I’ve relied on the guidance, kindness, and expertise of others; I’ve absorbed the wisdom of the library and information community who I can’t thank enough for accepting me so openly – on the blogosphere, on Twitter, and in the all-important ‘real world’. All year I’ve wondered how I have been lucky enough to get to join this profession, how the people that I’ve met have been good enough to accept me as I am, and how unbelievable it is that I get encouraged (and paid!) to do things that I want to do.
Thank you to the friends who have accepted me, to the teachers and employers who have taught me, and most importantly to the people who woke me up one year ago today.
On to Year Two…