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Library Day in the Life 8 – Wednesday & Thursday

February 3, 2012

I am finding this round of Library Day in the Life a lot harder to keep up with than the previous two rounds. I have only been in the new post two months and there is still a lot to sort out to get the library ship shape with systems in place. On reflection I have tackled a great deal and Wednesday and Thursday but hardly tweeted, which is a great way to jog my memory. On Wednesday and Thursday we had our part time assistant, Carley in, to help lighten the workload. Having Carley in as well as my other full time colleague meant I was able to sink my teeth into some enquiries which I had outstanding from a few lecturers on journal articles they wanted, I finished producing the presentation slides to go up to promote Berg Fashion Library and I started drafting a job description for a digital apprentice for the library.

Along with all this I went through the transaction reports from the last academic year against the transactions made this year and tried to spot any which may surprise me before the end of the budget year. At first I thought the budget management side of my new job was going to be the most scary but I do not find this at all. It is very straightforward with the only problem being a lack of handover material from my predecessor to explain what we subscribe to and when it’s due for renewal, but I am building this information up quickly. It’s always a useful exercise to take stock of what you have as when I was going through our subscriptions through JISC collections I noticed we were not signed up for a number of free resources which should be of use to students. After an afternoon of looking at numbers it was 5pm and I was ready for some food.

Thursday was slightly different as I decided to sit in the closed office space away from the library. With both Carley and my other colleague in I was happy to leave the library in their hands as I tackled a number of tasks I wanted to focus on. Firstly I met with Lizzie Jackson to discuss our current journals subscriptions and research opportunities within Ravensbourne and how the library can accommodate, support and assist them. This was a great start to the day and I find it motivational to hear others at work looking towards the institutions future and be thinking about what we can achieve.

After this I went through a list of possible issues which might arise during the book move next month and how we can ensure these don’t happen. I enquired about crate hire with a few companies to get an idea of the costing, emailed the IT guy responsible for the self service machines to make sure he will be around to connect them back up once they have been moved, looked at our staffing situation and then stumbled across these amazing coloured book trolleys which would be perfect in our building. All in all this took up a less than a couple of hours and was great to essentially brain dump everything I had been thinking about the move onto paper.

During this time I gave a squeal of delight when Carley sent me the link to this press release about Put Your Library on the Map campaign which is happening this weekend. As I said in the last post my friend Katie has been working hard on this for a while now and it’s great to see the progress. It all started with the Find a Library platform which she is Project Manager for and a lot of time and effort has gone into this by the Collections Trust and members of the public. After lunch I got my writing, typing, fingers on and tapped away on a report for management committee, scary stuff but completely worth it and reflecting on every aspect of the library is great for me to see what needs to be a priority and where we have made progress. This is what I’ll be finishing up on Friday.


Library Day in the Life 8 – Monday & Tuesday

January 31, 2012

Monday’s are usually pretty busy in my job so I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t get a chance to even think about blogging my Monday. Similarly I haven’t found the time to tweet #libday8 either. Reflecting on Library Day in the Life last January is a bit scary. Time has gone pretty fast, this time last year I  had just finished the library school placement and was starting term 2 at UCL. Now I am Sarah Maule BA MA and in full time employment as the Library Services Manager at Ravensbourne. This has really been the first time I’ve been able to document and reflect on what I do on a day-to-day basis.

I was greeted with some cataloguing records in my inbox first thing on Monday morning. These had been sent over the weekend for the books I ordered through Dawsons last Friday afternoon. At present we receive MARC records for every book we order, unless it is a duplicate copy. In the future once our high priority objectives have been met I’d like to stop this and start in-house cataloguing for the new books we order in. I imported these into our LMS for when they arrive. I then went on to tackle some of the enquiries from lecturers for subscriptions to services such as AES, Audio Engineer Society e-library, where we have decided to trial pay per article. If our requests surpass 85 then we’ll look into an annual subscription.

I have also been looking at re-arranging the furniture and book stacks sometime in March/April as the current layout isn’t working very well. It’s not welcoming, noise is travelling quite far and the silent area isn’t effective. The staff are positioned in a space where there isn’t a clear sight line of the majority of the library and students who are enquiring feel they are ‘bothering’ us, when actually it’s what we’re there for. The facilities team came up and I have asked for a quote for the work needed, which includes re-positioning floor boxes, a repaint of the shelves, manpower and the re-positioning of the self service machines. I think I have found a gap in the diary where it can be fitted in which would mean the work is done for the m25 Annual Conference which is being held at Ravensbourne in the end of April. It’s a tight but encouraging target to aim for.

Thank goodness for calendars as I was swiftly reminded I was scheduled in to do an induction for 3 new post-graduate students who are the first students on a new MA we are offering. I showed them the library, catalogue, book stack, journals on offer and set them up with SCONUL cards and Athens accounts and talked them through the e-books we have and e-journals which should be of use. They seemed pleasantly surprised as we have a number of books they were going to have as an e-book which they all agreed would suit them more so as they are part time and won’t have to worry about fines this way.

The rest of Monday was spent going through course handbooks and compiling reading lists to ensure we have at least one of everything in the library. I then went and blubbed my way through The Descendents at the beautiful Genesis cinema with Katie Smith who, not only is my best friend, but is also Project Manager for Find a Library and Put Your Library on the Map campaign.

Tuesday felt a bit too hectic for my liking and issues kept popping up. This is all part of the job though and I know Wednesday mornings are generally very quiet in the building so I can catch up on a few things I thought I would get done on Tuesday. We recently completed a task with the lecturers on our current journal subscriptions and whether we could cancel any which didn’t relate to courses on offer any more and whether we needed some new titles for the new courses which are due to start September 2012. I find this quite therapeutic knowing our stock is relevant and cost effective.

Due to staffing changes part of my job is playing detective sometimes as issues arise. One of these was for the renewal of our subscription to Berg Fashion Library, from what I can tell it was taken out in April last year and we had one username and password for students to use. Unfortunately this was lost in translation and it wasn’t promoted efficiently. I have decided to renew for another year and promote this resource so I can get a genuine, clear feel for how much it is used. I liased with the supplier to ensure we now have IP access for users on campus and off campus they will be able to access it through their Athens accounts. Providing easier access to resources which in turn support and strengthen students research is one of the little milestones which provide me with great job satisfaction. I also made a quick ‘mini-net message’ which goes out on the plasma screens throughout the building to let students know of our new resource and everything it entails.

I spent the rest of the afternoon checking in journals, reading up on Koha in preparation for a forthcoming meeting to discuss our LMS and talking to Finance to discuss invoices and time sheets, the less fun bit of the job but it’s got to be done.

Sync or Sink: not just a clever title

November 29, 2011

After weeks of eager anticipation I finally attended the cpd25 event ‘Sink or Sink: Opportunities for libraries in the digital age’ which was the first of three cpd25 workshops I have signed up for. Ian Clark organised the event, a guilty pleasure as he too wanted to hear from all the speakers. This made for a fantastic and varied line up which covered; the impacts and benefits of digitisation, managing a digitisation project, creating a smart phone application and case study into the British Cartoon Archive. You can read Ian’s blog post here and see the delicious links here. I really liked the way that even if I hadn’t come across the event from the cpd25 website I also received updated JISC mail updates, saw it retweeted a few times and then a few days before hand I was emailed about the Facebook event. I’m sure everyone will agree sometimes it’s hard to frequently check websites for workshops or conferences then there’s an inevitable *head desk* moment when you miss them.

In the opening Ian addressed that this was the time to embrace digitisation and take advantage of the opportunities available. The session would be about how to create something from digitisation and not just reflect on the topic. This is exactly what I needed to hear about, ways to put theory into practice in the workplace. Simon Tanner opened the presentations by addressing the values, impact and benefits of digitisation which also mirrored Ian’s feelings on creating something from digitisation and measuring the outcomes not just the inputs. Simon talked about how digitisation can enable new areas of research and an opportunity to exploit the assets you have. This was all very inspiring and started to make me reflect on how this could open up possible research avenues at work.

Following this Christy Henshaw talked about managing the digitisation process at the Wellcome library. Christy reflected on how 2009 saw a massive expansion in the Wellcome’s digitisation activities and this is a perfect time to reflect on the process. After a shift in the digitisation strategy at the Wellcome there were new aspects they had to grapple with; advances in technology meant the emphasis on IT became a bigger part than they first anticipated. This in turn meant they had to ensure they were more streamlined as a break down in communication was often the cause of mistakes. To get around this they now use Goobi, an open-source workflow management tool, which I am now itching to have a play on. One other aspect Christy reflected on was making sure each person did their job and their job only, this makes less room for mistakes as overlapping of tasks means streams of work are disrupted. After Christy’s presentation there was a short coffee break in which I realised I am possibly more socially awkward than first thought but luckily I survived.

Next up came Geoff Browell who was guiding us through creating a smart phone application. Now I don’t have a smart phone, I owned a Blackberry and fell quickly in and out of love with it, but do love having a go on friends iphones and the apps they have. Navigating Nightingale sounds like just the kind of thing I would happily part with my hard-earned pennies for. Geoff explained how an app had to actually do something, it isn’t enough to create an app for the sake of it. For example they need to boost an exhibition, not just sit alongside it duplicating information. They also need to make use of the unique attributes that come with it being installed on a mobile device (keyword being mobile there!) and they need to go that extra mile. Some of the most successful apps are tour guides, exhibition aids, encourage social interaction and are a fundraising opportunity. These successful apps are image rich and well designed, if it’s shoddy you will be able to tell, and it must contain a strong narrative. During this session I quickly scribbled down ‘Ravensbourne 2012 degree show, tour of the institution?’ as I know a high number of visitors are eager to see tours of the building I work in (RIBA award-winning, dont’cha know?). This is great but it takes up valuable time during busy events. An app could solve these issues and provide a wealth of detail about the architecture, the courses, the students work and the vision for the college all in one fell user driven swoop.  Geoff did warn of the financial side of apps though as tt does cost money to develop an app and there are numerous issues to consider; who owns the app? how do you market it? developer costs? But he offered some great advice to go away with: with sound reason, extensive research and planning, avoiding overloading the app and after user testing and feedback you could have a success on your hands. Brain overload at this point.

To finish the event we heard from Nick Hiley from the British Cartoon Archive who gave a great insight into how digitisation has transformed their service. The impact of digitisation has been felt mostly in the decreased emphasis of location, gone are the cries of “You’re in Canterbury?” as over a thousand users view the collection online per month. One interesting fact was for every publishable day in the 1960’s there was at least 10 cartoons per day, cartoon heaven! Nick advised that if you can digitise in-house, this is usually better, which mirrored Christy’s attitudes toward the process. Nick also demonstrated how the catalogue allowed users to ‘wander around’ the catalogue and not just ‘land’ on the relevant entry. He also talked about the copyright issues involved and emphasised the importance of a robust ‘take down’ policy being in place. Five pages of notes later the event drew to a close leaving much food for thought. If you want to view any of the presentations the delicious links for the event include two of the four presentations.

One small step for woman

November 18, 2011

At the start of October I made it my mission to succeed where others in work had failed. I wanted to complete the bulk upload of Athens accounts for all students. At present there are approximately 1,800 students at the college and for unknown reasons not all have Athens accounts (really shocking, I know). After the college went through a relocation in 2010 and none of the previous staff moved to the new campus I had to play detective a bit to find out that yes, it was down to me to take this task on. I’m sure in other libraries it is clear-cut who this is down to and how they are prepared each year, know what they’re doing, are aware of the fiddly bit bits to watch out for and more, but I wasn’t. This is one of the reasons why it felt so good once it was completed, and most importantly, successful! I only had to ask for help on bits that were out of my jurisdiction, such as asking Registry for a list of all students, their email addresses, their expiration date etc. and they were more than happy to help.

To know that all students can now access the e-books and e-journals which we buy for them is up there at the top on the job satisfaction scale. It’s now down to them to activate their accounts and they have no excuses to not being able find useful articles for their assignments. At present I can see that a third of the students have activated their accounts and 270 people have viewed the Prezi (we have approx 1,800 students). E-books usage is way up on last year and coupled with the bookmarks and messages which are broadcasted around the building I’m a happy library bunny.

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Induction week

October 3, 2011

Sometime in the summer I started putting some feelers out on library inductions for academic institutions to gain an idea on what can work well. I didn’t find all that much and kind of wished people had blogged about it more. After reading Lex Rigby’s post on library inductions I thought I’d best add my own thoughts and feelings on the topic, hopefully other people in a similar position will find it useful.

1. Experience

This September was my first year in a post where I’d be responsible for the new students induction to the library, pretty scary in theory but in practice I have really enjoyed it. I’m still trying to fully understand how the institution I work at functions, the list of courses overlap and as Ravensbourne does Foundation, BA and MA degrees I had to get to grips with who would be arriving first. It turned out Foundation students were first up at the beginning of September and this was a great way to get used to presenting to large groups. They looked as scared as me (this helped). There were two sessions of approx 250 students and unfortunately I could only do one of them (I fell ill with the post-dissertation hand in lergy). After the first session I revised the presentation and chop and change a few bits. Even though I showed the presentation to a colleague and a library friend beforehand, in practice the sequence needed a re-jig.  Next up were the MA students and my line manager felt she wanted to give the MA inductions. With the ‘save a copy’ feature on Prezi I was able to make a duplicate and change the presentation to include her name and not mine. At the end of September the BA students were upon us; super noisy, tonnes of people, free candy floss and over 1,000 excitable new faces. I gave three presentations, due to timetabling the first was a bit of a fail. Students were collecting their new macbooks which spilled into my session and about 50 students turned up towards the end.  Also the space for the first presentation was double booked and we had an unsuitable area. However sessions two and three went really well. It was in the dedicated lecture theatre with massive a humongous screen, people turned up on time, and I even got an applause at the end of session three.

2. Technology

I decided early on to do a Prezi for the induction session, I only had a ten minute slot and I wanted something which was instantly engaging and interesting. I’m rather happy with the final product, it covers the basics and really we could only cover the basics in ten minutes. More in-depth sessions are given later in the year on dissertation research, e-resources and e-books and looking at previous years presentations it was best just to cover where the library is, what you can find in there and how to take out and return items and slightly touch on the more information heavy topics. There was a close call when it came to the network being down on one day but I was saved by a back up. (Obvious tip: always have a back up)

3. Feedback

Both my line manager and teaching staff were happy with how the inductions went. Physically there has been a massive increase in the loaning and returning of materials which bodes well (but this may be start of term enthusiasm. I’ll have to look at this next year when I can draw some comparisons) and personally I am happy with how they went. By including the link to the Prezi on the VLE and intranet homepage students have the option to go over anything they felt they missed during a day of information overload. The ‘Views’ counter on the Prezi can corroborate that people have done this (over 200 views now, win!)

I get the impression the library was slightly secluded from the rest of the institution at the old campus and my manager and myself have been working towards integrating the library within the college on a more day-to-day basis. This seems to be happening slowly and these induction sessions have helped. After the initial induction and freshers week mayhem the library was asked to give a presentation on Athens accounts as this is a source of confusion for some students. The presentation was to be given to MA Professional Media Practice students which is a new course. I gave this presentation which also had a crib sheet to follow during the session. We were able to do this in a brilliant space where fixed iMacs meant there would be no connection problems and it was easy to offer one-on-one help if they had any problems. It was successful and feedback was positive. This was also a good indication of staff feeling that they can approach the library for assistance and help.

Physical promotional material has been lacking in the library, due to the college having a strong emphasis on the digital, and we were hoping we would have something to give away and have students pick up. Students are given tote bags on their first day filled with leaflets and information, and unfortunately we didn’t have our new bookmarks ready in time for this. For the future I would like to develop something which is a combination of the two, but I have until next year to come up with something.

4. Reading

SCONUL’s Focus, includes an extremely useful article ‘Library induction: online vs face-to-face’ written by Carol Elston and Michelle Schneider in issue 52 (you can read it in full here). It discusses blending both an online presence with the traditional face-to-face inductions to form an improved induction service. The article concludes with an interesting notion that ‘it is most likely that the online offering with grow and mature’ which I completely agree with. With staff cutbacks and less time to play around with it is important students can find another place to refresh their memories during a period of information overload.

EDIT: Emma Crag has also written this post on library inductions at Warwick University which offers an interesting insight into how they tackle frequently asked questions. I like the use of video tutorials in both Emma and Lex’s approaches to inductions, this may be something I can develop next year which would be fairly easy as Ravensbourne specialises in broadcasting and production.

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My MA in numbers

September 22, 2011

Now that the course is over, I decided to do a little number crunching for the 2010/2011 MA in Library and Information Studies at UCL….

£4865 tuition fees

49,585 words written

Approx. 1900 hours worked over the year, averaging 36 hours a week (how did I do that?! see below: 18 weeks of teaching)

18 weeks of teaching (felt like so many more, felt like I paid for so many more!)

6 trips to Muji for “essential stationary” 

5 times my computer lost work

3 times I rang my mother crying

3 “part-time” jobs

2 times I moved house

1 amazing placement


NUMEROUS awesome friends and family members who helped me get through it all. Thanks y’all.

In all seriousness though, it was a full-time masters and I worked my socks off. I could have worked less but this would mean going into my overdraft or taking money out of my savings. Most importantly it would have meant not getting as much experience as I did and I whole heartedly believe I have been able to get my job so quickly because of the range of experience I’ve been able to gain through working. On reflection it seems like Week 1 was the other week but when I think about all the essays, and reading and writing it seemed to go on forever. The dark times were working and studying 6 days a week. Then the infamous ‘library school sundays’ where I would study all day, eat, then sleep and start the week all over again. But having said all that, it has totally been worth it. I had my 3 month probation at work yesterday and making aims and targets was fun and inspiring and was a gentle reminder that I wouldn’t be able to do it all without the MA.

(Number cloud made with

Library Day in the Life 7 – Thursday & Friday

July 31, 2011

Looking back on my Thursday tweets the day was quite stop-start-stop-start while juggling many things. As I was off on Friday I knew I had to get a great deal of work done. On the plus side it was very quiet in the building and it was easy to get my head down and accomplish lots. I unpacked all the new journals, cleared my email inbox (again, lot of students who were wondering why their grades had not been released), updated the stock take spreadsheet and got a clear idea of how things were progressing and had some great feedback on how one of the shelving staff was finding the physical side to the stock take and if we could make it any easier. I also sat down with my boss as she needed an introduction to WordPress and how to navigate it, we often find that we have impromptu sit downs where we talk each other through websites or software that each of us use and the other person doesn’t and I find these really insightful. The highlight of my working day though was jumping on a train home to my parents to surprise my Mum on her birthday. This tied in perfectly with…

…Friday! I took some annual leave to visit The Portico Library in Manchester for my dissertation. I am writing about subscription libraries in England from a historical point of view. I am comparing and contrasting the survival of three: The London Library, The Portico Library and Bromley House library and how the future looks for all three libraries. I have done two interviews now and I am more than pleased with the data I have been able to extract from these interviews. The interview process was a bit nerve-wracking at first but thoroughly worth it. I was able to borrow a good quality dictaphone from a friend which was comforting, knowing I wasn’t to worry about note taking, and Friday afternoon and Saturday has meant some full on transcribing sessions. It does take a long time to transcribe interviews and the word count surprised me (7,000 words from a 40 minute interview!) but I have so much to work with it has motivated me on to start writing the first chapter. My sister and I then went out for food and a well deserved dvd session, which was the perfect end to what has seemed like a very long week.