Friday, 30 November 2012

The final curtain...

And now, the end is near; And so I face.. Thing 23: What next?

What more fitting way to tackle this final task than with a few words of inspiration from Mr. Frank Sinatra?! (..and no - before anyone asks, I promise I've not been at the gin!).

Photo All About Jazz
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain.

Taking part in CPD23 has made me more appreciative of what a truly varied and dynamic profession Librarianship is. Through the visits I've done, by connecting with some fantastically interesting and innovative library people, attending events and generally opening myself up to new perspectives, I have come to learn what values are important to me and to contemplate just what I want to achieve in my library career. I have begun to realise just how great the threat to public libraries, in particular, is and to understand that it is up to information professionals from across all sectors to speak up for libraries.

I've travelled each and every highway;

I've wandered a fair bit in the course of this blog and have now lost count of the number of libraries I visited in the past six months. Although it has been exhausting trying to keep a record of this at times (uploading photos, wrestling with Blogger's often rather erratic tendencies, yada yada..) I'm so glad I did it! I feel I will be able to look back on this journey with a fair amount of pride in years to come (and cringy-ness too! Wouldn't be the same without the cringy-ness!). I would recommend a staff exchange to anyone, if you do get the opportunity, whether through a scheme operating at your own work, through LIBEX or organised independently. It was great to meet up with some of the staff I met during my time out there in the States when they came to the UK just a couple of weeks ago. I have continued to research the things I found out while I was in the US and am now just starting to help to put some of these things into practice in my own workplace. 

Regrets, I've had a few;

Promise not to rant on but the one major regret I would like to mention, looking back, has been not putting more thought into the design of this blog from the start! As a tip to anyone considering participating in this scheme next year - keep it simple!! Half of this blog has ended up in a font size which ostracises many people over the age of 40 and editing in Blogger is quite unpredictable at the best of times (have I mentioned?) so trying to mess around with different templates, layouts and things will just make matters worse! (Try Wordpress, maybe..)

I planned each chartered course,

Pretty sure CILIPquals weren't exactly what Frank Sinatra had in mind in this verse but finishing my Chartership is very much the next step along the byway for me. The same goes for many other CPD23 bloggers - TheatreGrad, It's not about books or being quiet all the time, Get Chartered! (..naturally) to name but three. I'm chuffed that I have already managed to achieve some of the goals set out in my Personal Professional Development Plan (PPDP) just through the experiences outlined in this blog, including those relating to broadening my knowledge and understanding and showing my commitment to professional develpoment. My other goals focus upon leadership skills, assertiveness and learning to evaluate service performance. I am also working my way through the Professional Knowledge Skills Base to try and identify other areas where I could improve. As an aside, I noticed an interesting quote from Liz Jolly on the latest Twitter #Chartership chat which explained a Degree/Diploma/Masters in LIS as the theoretical element of qualification, with Chartership itself as the practical part. Think that about sums it up.
To say the things he truly feels;

Hyperlinked Carliebrary posted her brilliantly earnest Future Librarian's Promise earlier this week and much of this rang true for me, for instance:
  • I refuse to say "librarian” apologetically
  • I promise to never be afraid to say “I don’t know.”
  • If I think [my work] is moving the profession or the library in the wrong direction, I will be brave and speak up.
For those who have not seen the full Promise yet, I would more than recommend having a look - it reads like a modern-day Hippocratic Oath for Librarians and I certainly could not have put it any better!

That's about all from me but just a quick word of thanks to those who have done a great job of organising this course. I have greatly enjoyed reading other CPD participants blog posts throughout too, so cheers for sharing those and congratulations to everyone else who has finished!

What's my "6 word story"?

Well...I did it my way!

Volunteering in libraries...

Thing 22 is all about volunteering in libraries. I read Jo's story and really admire the brave decision she made to go and work as a volunteer in a job which provided her with genuine opportunities, instead of falling back on the safe option which was to return to a job (after having left to attend library school) where she found herself stuck in a rut. Others, like Girl in the Moon & Lisa in the Health Library have also shared their experiences of how voluntary work has helped to provide them with a solid grounding in Librarianship, through which they have been able to take on paid roles. There are some utterly fantastic-sounding roles which crop up in the voluntary sector, for instance this one which appeared this week on LIS-LINK, offering the chance to work for a library project in Peru! I would dearly love to have the sheer gumption to simply take off to go and do something like this (especially after the staff exchange I attended earlier this year - an experience which has made my feet more than a little itchy!).

One day I am sure I will will venture further afield, in fact...but not just yet. For the time-being, at least, my clodhoppers are very much grounded here in the UK where I feel voluntary work is all too frequently undervalued (and even treated with suspicion in some cases) within the information sector. I have written an article for Voices for the Library highlighting why I think volunteering is so important. This is with particular reference to the plight of Brent Libraries - a cause which I have written about several times before in this blog and one which has relied upon the dedication of volunteers since the closure of six libraries in the borough. Here's are some extracts from of the article which highlight my own views on volunteer libraries:


Six Brent Libraries were closed in October of last year - campaigners and volunteers have since been
working tirelessly to try to keep as many of these from staying closed permanently as possible

The S.O.S. Brent Libraries campaign was formed in May last year following the Council’s decision to implement library closures as part of Brent’s Libraries Transformation Project (LTP). Library campaigners gained support and raised funds to try to overturn the Council’s decision, resulting in a high profile but ultimately unsuccessful case heard in the High Court in July 2011. The seven libraries which make up the ‘Save Our Seven’ (S.O.S.) Libraries campaign are Barham Park, Cricklewood, Kensal Rise, Neasden, Preston, Tokyngton (all closed) and Willesden Green Library which remains open but is set to undergo redevelopment in a “mini Civic Centre” project seen as unfavourable by many local residents (visit their blog for more details). 

Community setups staffed by volunteers have now been established in Brent, each with a view to reclaiming a permanent presence either in their previous premises or in the vicinity of libraries closed in their respective areas. These are
Friends of Barham Library (FOBL) Volunteer Library, Kensal Rise Pop-up Library and Preston Community Library.

The FOBL volunteer library which has been set up in Wembley
(picture courtesy of
Brent S.O.S. Libraries)

Volunteer libraries are, of course, a hugely contentious issue within the library sector as a whole. The Culture Media & Sport (CMS) Committee is not in favour of the idea of libraries that are wholly run by communities, stating councils must continue to give volunteer libraries “the necessary support to maintain the service”. The opening of these volunteer libraries without any support from the Council is no-one’s notion of an ideal situation - it has been implemented as very much a temporary measure, one born out of necessity in Brent. Quite simply, it is a case of ‘do or die’ for these libraries and where a groundswell of support for libraries in the borough has failed to materialise, the future for those libraries is now bleak - a fate which has befallen the libraries of Tokyngton and Neasden.

A short video about Preston Community Library

I am certainly not suggesting the implementation of volunteer libraries as something which should be done in all instances where libraries are under threat. What is happening in Brent, though, shows people still care about physical libraries, they still need them and many are prepared to make tremendous sacrifices to keep them going, even in the face of strident opposition. How could anyone working within the library sector be anything but encouraged by this?! I work within the academic sector and as such I do not feel I am in any position to suggest what is right for public libraries as a whole. As a qualified librarian, though, I do not feel threatened by the presence of volunteer libraries in Brent – quite the opposite, in fact. I respect the work which those professionals in the remaining Brent libraries are doing to transform their services and am certain the new Brent Civic Centre Library will be a big improvement upon the current Town Hall Library. Yet I am far more encouraged to see some of the work that is being done where the libraries have been closed.

The pop-up library at Kensal Rise is also staffed by volunteers
Something I have witnessed first hand has been the incredible generosity which people have shown in providing support for these burgeoning volunteer setups. When I have spoken to friends and colleagues about what is happening in Brent, they have frequently offered to provide a lending hand towards the project, whether this be through attendance at a fundraising event, by signing a petition or (more often than not) donating their own books. I am heartened that so many people have put a great deal of work into retaining a library presence in areas which desperately need them. In this respect, Camden Public Library Users’ Group’s sentiments in their provocative blog post, The Demonising of Library Volunteers ring true, viewing those who are prepared to give their time and energy as “the heroic pawns in a local government story of indifference and mismanagement”.


My own experience of volunteering has actually been outside of libraries, where I enjoy volunteering for a tennis club near Waterloo. For over four years I have spent time at weekends helping to teach kids the basics of the game and last year completed my Level 1 Coaching Assistant training with the LTA! I have been given opportunities to gain leadership skills, to teach others and to manage a small team of volunteers through this work. It is a responsibility which I found stressful at times (particularly when I was also studying part-time on top of my full-time job) but I am happy to say this has paid off as we have now been able to employ a Licensed LTA Coach who has taken on the role of managing the project. I am proud that much of what has been achieved at the club came about because I stood up for a project I believed in and was able to advocate effectively. That people in positions of power actually sat up and took notice, lending their support and resources to the project, is one of the key things which has motivated me to want to advocate for libraries too.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Jobs and interviews...

OK - it's high time I stopped neglecting you, dear CPD23 blog and faced up to Thing 21: Promoting yourself in job applications and at interview (ugh!).

Image courtesy of

To get the hard bit out of the way first, interviews are not a favourite subject of mine, it's fair to say. I can see the need for them, of course; when recruiters advertise, they seek a person with just the right set of skills, character and experience to fit seamlessly into their organisation. It's not the sort of thing that can be done without meeting a candidate, scrutinising them and generally make them squirm! What I struggle with a bit is the performance element of it - the retelling of experiences I have learnt from in a way which has a clear beginning, middle and end. I prepare these in advance, naturally and the C.A.R. or "Context. Action. Results." formula is a useful one.  'Mr Library Dude' Joe Hardenbrook also has some top tips when it comes to interviews and particularly the awkward business of knowing what questions to ask. Over the years, I have practiced interviews with friends and family and have made the most of careers sessions offered my various workplaces, professional organisations like CILIP (of course!) and the Universities I attended (tip: it's really handy that many Universities will still offer Careers guidance long after graduation). Despite this, I still don't find interviews in any way easy but importantly have not let that put me off from applying. 

Something I would ask of anyone who conducts interviews who is reading this is to give genuine consideration in the feedback you give to candidates who are unsuccessful. There is no obligation too provide detailed feedback, it's true and this article goes so far as to suggest that it is those unsuccessful candidates who react badly when given feedback which greatly reduces the likelihood of employers being prepared to offer such feedback in future. The chances are, though that anyone who is serious about the job will have gone to great lengths to prepare for their interview and may have made significant sacrifices in the process. Those who have missed out tend to appreciate it more if those on the panel take time to offer honest feedback about specific areas where they did not do so well. Letting the candidate know how they can improve the next time around is infinitely more helpful than standardised platitudes to all candidates about just how marvelously well they did anyhow - or, worst of all, offering no feedback. 

I really enjoyed the musings of Library Wanderer (no relation) on job applications. I can definitely relate to the comments about having had to reformat my CV from an old version of Word when updating this and can attest to the fact that "A-levels and degrees are listed in orders unfathomable to the average human being" on many online application forms. Revisiting my CV after several years was something I did recently when starting to put my Chartership folder together. I got a lot of good advice about this from some of the Careers sources mentioned above (putting the work stuff before the education stuff, now that I have had a few years experience, as one example).

Thing 21 done and dusted, I continued my series of library visits around the East London area recentlyfocusing on mobile libraries this time:

 Paleys upon Pilers in Aldgate - created in celebration of Geoffrey Chaucer

To give a bit of context, mobile libraries in the UK are in decline, it has to be said and it is those in rural areas and the elderly who are being disadvantaged the most by this. There were around 700 bookmobiles in Britain in 1990 but by 2010 this figure had reduced to 430. It is estimated there are now around 120 fewer mobile libraries still in 2012. the UK's foremost authority on Mobile Libraries is a (now retired) librarian named Ian Stringer, the man who has, quite literally, written the book on the subject. I had the pleasure of attending an event a on behalf of the International Library and Information Group (ILIG) a couple of years ago. During his talk, Ian gave a brief overview of all the mobile libraries in existence, including donkey libraries, elephant libraries and even camel libraries – some of which are extraordinarily sophisticated, incorporating solar panels and satellite dishes for internet access. Ian also explained just what on Earth a Catepillar Library is and how he brought these to poor farming communities in South Africa. 
Some day, I would certainly like to go and visit the elephant libraries of Laos & Thailand or the Bangladeshi boat libraries. For now, though (with the busy academic term in full swing) I have been a bit limited in the time available for travel. Nevertheless, I did get to visit probably one of the most interesting mobile libraries available here in the UK, namely The Bicycle Library. This converted bus is now enjoying its second incarnation, having originally launched near London Fields, Hackney in September 2010. The bike bus is now based in the shadow of the Olympic Park, very near Hackney Wick station. It is primarily a bike hire service but the upper deck contains a growing selection of books, magazines, flyers and artwork on the subject of bicycles in their various forms (folding, minivelo, fixedgearsinglespeed, Utility, Cargo, Electric... you get the idea):

(Some of the library's books can be seen in the upper deck's windows)
The City of London's only mobile library was set up as a stop-gap solution following the closure of the Camomile Library: 

Inside the City of London's Mobile Library  - with colourful book reports on the walls!
The library would tour schools, hosting reading challenges and other fun activities for kids. Free reservations for collection from the bookmobile were offered as an incentive for former Camomile users and others in the City to join up. Staff working on the bus claim this has proved effective in the retention their users - as one staff member working on the bus put it, "once you lose library users, then they don't tend to ever come back". The importance of ensuring temporary measures are in place to prevent active memberships receding where library services are being transformed is, I feel, a lesson which many local authorities have yet to learn. For anyone wanting to visit this mobile library.. well sadly you have missed out, I'm afraid as it closed at the end of October. This is to enable preparation of a new permanent library to be opened next month in nearby Artizan Street. 
Picture courtesy of Artizan Street Library - City of London Libraries Facebook Page
...but that's not all so far as the CPD23 Things goes, just yet.. for me, anyhow.. and it's good to see plenty of others also still working their way through! 'Fraid my priorities have been elsewhere of late, not least with the SOS Brent Libraries project (more about that to follow in Thing 22) but I vow that I will get there in the end.* 

(*..before November 30, in fact, as I want my certificate!)

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Open House, London...

Away from the 23 Things, Open House Weekend was a chance for everyday plebs like me to have a look inside some of the city's most remarkable buildings (many of which are normally inaccessible to the general public). I thought I'd take this opportunity to visit some of London's more unique and/or lesser known libraries:  

Rotherhithe Picture Library

This is located at Sands Film Studios (not far from Canada Water tube station). It has been converted from an old grain warehouse and the building now positively oozes with history and character. Our tour guide, Neil, grew up in to this area and his retelling of the history of this craftsy building was something of a performance in itself. He took delight in explaining how the wooden arches (which are visible in the picture below) resemble an upside version of the Mary Rose, for example and spoke fondly about the nautical history of this docklands area:  

The picture research library is located on the ground floor of
Sands Film Studios and has the feel of a boat's lower deck

The library is an educational charity, mainly used by local schools and researchers.
It has thousands of images contained in scrapbooks like these

The Studios also include an independent cinema which runs a Film Club. There are an array of workshops too, many of which are dedicated to the making of costumes for some huge productions, such as Anna Karenina recently and the upcoming film adaptation of Les Misérables:

This cosy independent cinema has screenings most Tuesdays at 9pm
Sets and props are also created on site. I and other participants in the Open London tour got to try on some of the fantastic masks and animal heads which are crafted here:

Giving my best Bottom! (A Midsummer Nights Dream)

The RSA Fellows' Library

The RSA (or the 'Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce' to give it its proper name) is located a stone's throw from Trafalgar Square and dates back to 1774. Professor Stephen Hawking, Sir Tim Berners-Lee and (a little earlier) Madame Curie... heck, even Queen Victoria herself were all Presidents of this prestigeous society. The complex nature of its architecure, consisting of 6 interlinked houses means Robert Adam's building has frequently undergone refurbishment work. The Great Room has been re-designed 8 times since its inception, as an example, although the room's original murals still survive. Some parts of the building were adapted from other uses (the Adelphi Hotel was based here during the last century, for instance) which has meant architectural challenges which designers have overcome through innovation. They've successfully opened up the space, transforming it into the bright and airy exhibition and conference facility it is now:

The Strand Entrance of the RSA and an adjoining auditorium behind this are
converted from a former tunnel which led from the house to the Thames
The domestic nature of the buildings has made for some interesting design
to help overcome the challenges of adapting the building for commercial use
The library has always been a key part of the RSA, ever since it was decided at the Society's inaugural meeting that "a book should be bought". The RSA is also a keen supporter of libraries elsewhere. A project was commissioned by this group, for example, to provide the new frontage for New Cross Learning's entrance (see Thing 16). The RSA's own library moved and was revamped in 2003. It offers Society Fellows a shiny arts and social sciences collection, along with breakout spaces in which to just relax and have a snooze!:

Lighting is used to great effect in the RSA Fellows' Library

The journals area provides RSA's Fellows with a quiet haven
beneath the bustling pavements of Central London

St. Bride Library

The library at St. Bride Foundation Institute is a very different entity still, boasting one of the World's foremost typeface libraries. On the Library Information & History Group's Lost Libraries Tour which I attended last week, it was explained how this was one of the high profile Central London libraries under threat (the Girl in the Moon provides a recent list of some of the others, with the Women's Library probably being the most high profile). So much so, in fact, that it had to close for some months and is still dependent upon volunteers to help staff its opening hours, which have been reduced to 1 day a week:

The entrance to the St. Bride Foundation Institute
St. Bride Library's reading room houses materials ranging from digital typography to "current research
on medieval printing, paper making and the book trade" (source:  the
St. Bride Library Website)
Located off Fleet Street, at one time the building formerly doubled as a recreation area for Fleet Street journalists. It included a swimming pool in the basement (now a theatre) complete with its own laundry room (now a bar.. but with some of the old laundry equipment retained for posterity!). During the interwar period, St Bride's also housed one of the World's most famous table tennis clubs, where 1929 World Table Tennis Champion Fred Perry was a member before he progressed to the proper, non-table-based version of the game!

The library itself boasts materials used in all stages of the history of publishing, from founders' type and wood blocks (used in producing images) right up to software used in publishing and graphics industries. At the top of the building is a "memories room" which houses rare books and even a papyrus fragment dating back thousands of years. The importance of the printing press can not be underestimated within the context of the information profession (there would certainly be far fewer libraries without it!) and the St. Bride Foundation maintains a working gallery of some of the most popular ones. The term "legacy" is banded about a lot in this Olympic year but the lack of funding St. Bride's Library has suffered is indicative of a failure of this legacy programme in the Capital within a library context:

The Foundation includes a mini-museum, preserving some
of the best-known printing presses from Fleet Street's hay-day

The Bishopsgate Institute is a Grade II listed building, designed by Charles Harrison Townsend which recently underwent a £7.3 million refurbishment. It still retains much of its Victorian and Art Nouveau architecture, with the focal point being the Great Hall, where the likes of Sir Ernest Shakleton, John Williams and Sir Paul McCartney have spoken or performed. 

The library here was the only one in The City of London when it opened in 1895 and soon became flooded with users, with queues around the block and over 10,000 members registered during its first week of opening. Charles Goss, the Institute's original Librarian fervently gathered books specifically on London (some 50,000 items). The library expanded to include a new reading room with its magnificent dome: 

The dome had to be replaced twice; first after air raids in World War 2
and again following the IRA's bombing of Bishopsgate in 1993

The Archives Room at the Bishopsgate Insitute's Library. The collection includes the original plans for the
building which were invaluable in helping to rebuild and subsequently renovate  parts of the Institute

Fantastically, the library is now free and open to the public. It remains a special collections/reference only facility although the catalogue is gradually being made available online. It also includes some charming artifacts, such as these illuminated  wooden shop fronts:

Faithfully constructed old store fronts at The Bishopsgate Library. The library's online archive contains some fantastic
photography portraying  London & Londoners, Feminism and the history of workers unions & protest movements

Open House London is now in its 20th year and has grown to include 800 of the City's most characterful and interesting buildingsAlthough there were queues of up to 5 hours for the very biggest attractions (especially 'The Gherkin') I found most of the events to be easily accessible and hardly had to wait at all. It's a shame it is only once per year but (if you are in the London area) I would thoroughly recommend looking out for next year's event.

Inside the Greater London Authority's 'Onion' -
City Hall was designed by Norman Foster
Looking towards the Shard (Europe's tallest building may well feature at future Open House London events)

Thing 20: Routes...

Thing 20 (for those still counting) which invites us to think about how they wound up in libraries in the first place. I have added an entry to the Library Routes Project but felt a bit sheepish about re-posting here, having had a much more conventional route into librarianship compared to some CPD bloggers! (The routes of the likes of Library Quine, Siobhan B in the Library and Alyson Tyler make for a far more interesting read!!).

Last week I was privileged to attend the Library Information & History Group's Lost Libraries of London Tour which was quite brilliant (despite the rain!). I am indebted to Katie the Librarian for having summarised this so well (I was orginaly going to do my own write up but soon realised I had nothing to add to this!). Following the recommendations of some of those who led and participated in this tour, I also went to several Open House London events over the weekend. More on this to follow shortly...

The Lost London Libraries tour ended here at St. Paul's Cathedral
which at one time offered storage space for thousands of booksellers

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Time to reflect...

Thing 19 and another chance to have a good long think about just what I've been doing!

It's been a non-stop 5 months or so since I embarked upon this wild CPD23-based ride.. It's been a journey which has taken in visits to over 50 libraries, learning resource centres, discovery centres, reading rooms, etc. etc...across 5 different countries. I've had the chance to interact with other library professionals and to learn about some of the amazing things they have been doing, I've also embarked upon Chartership and have become a library advocate (although not an activist - an important distinction made by Johanna Bo Anderson in her excellent blog post on the subject).

I have been able to integrate some of the tools and ideas from previous Things into my work life. An example of this was the map I made in Thing 16 using a Google Docs account I had created in Thing 13. Evernote, in particular, is something I now use on a daily basis and I have also been able to make more use of applications I rarely used previously, such as RefWorks and SlideShare. Some other tools I have started out using enthusiastically but have fallen by the wayside. I have found this particularly to be the case with almost anything requiring installation, with applications like DropBox seeming like a good idea at first but often resulting in significant slow down through high memory usage (there are usually web-only options available, though, to help counteract this). I have also been more proactive about making use of my CILIP membership, having downloaded the Encyclopedia Brittanica App free for a year, for instance! I've been attending events and reading relevant stories I've seen on social networking sites more regularly in a concerted effort to keep up with developments within the profession.

What have I learnt, so far? Really it boils down to something I saw written recently on a plaque in The Hive's foyer:
The library's guiding inspiration [is] that 'learning' and attendant cultural processes of exploration, finding out, thinking, imagining, reflection, inventing and knowing are the province of all citizens. 
These are the things can we offer in libraries, provided we are lucky enough to continue to be able to make use of increasingly imaginative and inspiring environments in which to do so. Furthermore, I feel Continuous Professional Development is particularly important for all of us as information professionals, as CPD too is all about the processes listed above. To me, taking part in this year's CPD23 has helped me to appreciate how vital it is for those involved in any kind of learning process to have secure, comfortable spaces where they can do so; spaces where hopefully they will feel sufficiently motivated to want to keep learning throughout their lives.

During my time in Wales, I spotted a host of libraries which paint an encouraging picture of the future of libraries. One of the most interesting ones, however, was very much set in the past - and proudly so! As featured in a recent CILIP Update, Gladstone's Library in Flintshire is unique both in its status as a Prime Minister's Library and also claims to be the only residential library in the UK:

Gladstone's Library in Hawarden, Flintshire (Wales) was founded in 1895

The main reading room: a bronze of Gladstone
can be seen in the bottom-right hand corner

The building houses 26 bedrooms and part of its aim is to be a meeting place, cloistered away from the rest of the world, with debate on some of life's big questions positively encouraged among the library's members (although this is not compulsory!). The facility also hosts a writers-in-residence scheme, with the musings of writers in residence such as award-winning journalist and Radio 5 Live reporter Nadene Ghouri broadcast on the library's own blog. As well as penning her first novel whilst she is there, Nadene is currently sharing her opinions of this "slightly eccentric, architecturally beautiful" building and expressed her delight in meeting fellow residents.

From one of the longest established libraries in Wales, to one of the most up-to-date; Llandudno Library has had a makeover. My first visit to Llandudno's limestone, copper-mining coastlands was part of a Geography field trip I attended at school! I've been back a couple of times since and have been impressed with some of the changes I've seen occurring. The library was re-opened last year following significant public investment into the building. It is another shared service (something of a recurring theme in my recent blog posts..). Here the library is hitched up with a local history centre ('The Llandudno Story') council property services and a gallery:

Llandudno Library - a virtual tour of the building is available here

The quote on the far wall is from Monty Python's Flying Circus
("Oh Ken! Be careful! You know what he's like after a few novels!")

 A quick mention for The Welsh Library at the University of Wales, Bangor and particularly the ornate Shankland Room. This is another of my favourite reading rooms in the UK, with it's curved barrel ceiling and shields displaying the crests of each of the Welsh boroughs:

Oh.. and couldn't bring myself to sign off without mentioning Mary, the pet sheep of Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens in Anglesey - who remarkably (well..for a sheep!) enjoys standing  on her hind legs, like this:

Mary the Sheep, doing her thing, at Plas Cadnant Hidden Gardens!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Jing & Podcasts...

Blogging again after a week's holiday which took me to sunny North Wales, via The Hive in Worcester. More on that to follow but for now its on to Thing 18, which includes Jing and podcasts: 


I've used Jing before in the context of the work I do with the Sustainability Team at Kingston, in this case trying to encourage colleagues to use Power Save on their PCs to reduce carbon consumption
 (including a rousing soundtrack in the background, just to try to liven this up a bit!):

This was something I did a couple of years ago now and although Jing's shimmering golden sphere sat at the top of my desktop for quite a long time afterwards, it did not occur to me to use it again after that. I can certainly see the use of it in delivering library services, though - for example as a way of showing users how to access those harder to reach electronic articles (as an alternative to putting a series of annotated screenshots together using Skitch or some such, which is also effective). I notice many CPD23 Things bloggers have been singing the praises of Screencast-O-Matic, with some (Alyson23things and Gemma Bayliss among others) having taken the plunge and posted up some really useful and informative presentations with full narrationScreencast-O-Matic does similar things to Jing but with a simple one-click operation and without the need to download the product. I'll definitely give this a go the next time I need to give someone a virtual prod in the right direction!


I remember CILIP getting quite into the idea of producing regular podcasts around the time of their Big Conversation project, discussing the future of the Library and Information profession.  There is an example from former CILIP President Biddy Fisher here which I was able to use as a key source when future-gazing as part of my postgrad dissertation. JISC (the Joint Information Systems Committee) offers a useful list of the podcasts it has produced, some of which are very technical but others are more general, for instance one on the ethical and legal issues of social networks (Facing up to Facebook with Nicola Yeeles, John X Kelly and Lynn McHugh from JISC's legal team). 

Elsewhere I have seen  podcasts frequently used in a library context in the production of tours and I really like what Goldsmiths Library has done using Adobe Captivate, with its creative 'Deadline at Dawn' / 'Deadline at Dusk' idea! 

So, The Hive, then.. an ambitious project, not just in terms of scale (occupying some 10,000 sq metres and costing £60 million to build) but also in daring to be the first library in Europe to combine local authority and academic library facilities. It was opened by the Queen in July as part of her tour of the region during her Jubilee and the building had over 100,000 visitors in its first 6 weeks of opening. Fittingly enough, the building's design looks (to me, anyhow!) like a jagged, postmodern castle.. of sorts. A balcony turret juts out onto a grass moat area, while the building's unusual shape culminates in two golden towers at the very top of the construction:

The gleaming new Hive (Library & History Centre) building in 
Worcester City Centre - designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
View from the 4th floor balcony of the Hive - the railway bridge on
the right leads towards the University of Worcester's other campuses
Island pods, or "perches" are used as the building's information points, rather than traditional sit-down helpdesks, freeing up staff to rove the building. These types of pods were something I'd seen used to good effect previously at Newcastle Central Library and the David Wilson Library at Leicester University, whilst Voices for the Library recently discussed the implementation of a similar setup at the mould-breaking Anythink libraries in Colorado (..I digress..). This arrangement helps to heighten the immersive experience offered to The Hive's users. Having removed some of the traditional barriers between staff and users, the building's design instead uses features which permeate through all the multiple services on offerwith expansive lightwells and large works of art prominent. Photos from a current exhibition on Dementia, timed to coincide with World Alzheimer's Day (23 September) can be seen throughout most of the building:

The entrance level is dominated by this massive oil canvas called
'Rack Alley' by Clare Woods (
here is more info about art at The Hive)

'Arts, Hearts and Minds' is an exhibition scattered around the five floors
of the building, featuring images from photographer Cathy Greenblat
This visit followed my recent outings to other shared library services at Clapham and Winchester, yet here (even more than the others) everything has been done to try to ensure the host of services offered work seamlessly with one another. Different loan periods and allowances are used, for example, to ensure students get priority access to their core reading materials. Crucially to the success of this project, Capita has also worked to integrate the systems side of The Hive's services which include a One-Stop-Shop for council services, a county archive and a local history centre:

History comes alive with this Jukebox which
plays memories of Worcester's past
The lampshade-type fitting on the ceiling is actually a speaker which
relays stories from Worcester's history to anyone directly underneath it

My only nagging concern when taking in this vast new behemoth of a library would be that the building could become a victim of its own success. By trying to be all things to all people, the Hive may experience conflicting priorities at times. With limited study space, for example, will the quieter study areas towards the top of the building, such as the research attic at the very top of the building be able to cope with hectic exam periods? Having to cater for not just students and the general public but also historians, genealogists, tourists, researchers and whoever else could start to take its toll. Happily there is also a Learning Exchange just across the other side of the nearby River Severn. Also (and unlike in some areas where the opening of new super libraries has had a damaging impact on surrounding facilities) other libraries do remain open in the vicinity so there are other options readily available for those for whom the buzz of The Hive becomes a little too loud.

Worcester's finest! The famous Lea & Perrins Sauce
is available in the Cafe's shop