Danny W. Smith ~Student of Library and Information Studies at UCL~

"The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man." T.S. Eliot

Lambeth Palace Library

Yesterday as part of induction week at UCL, I, along with 6 other students and one member of staff, visited Lambeth Palace Library. I haven’t got the time to make this a proper blog post, but thoroughly recommend that you go if you get the chance. The building, collections and librarians are all great. http://www.lambethpalacelibrary.org/


MA in Library and Information Studies at UCL

Wednesday I finally enrolled for my MA in Library and Information Studies at UCL and I’m really looking forward to the coming year. I’d been to the library a few times over summer (they let me have reference access) to try and get a head start on reading but it now feels as though the course has really begun, and I’ve also now got full library access which is wonderful. Since leaving Kent I’ve missed having a university library at my disposal because the wealth of materials, particularly at somewhere like UCL, is fantastic. The fact that the materials for my course are in the separate science library will hopefully keep me from wandering too much into other subjects. Hopefully.

I had a change of heart over summer and decided that I wanted to do Historical Bibliography and Advanced Preservation as my two optional modules, as Special Collections was ultimately where I wanted to end up. Also, I luckily got the personal tutor that I wanted, Anne Welsh, who runs Historical Bibliography and who I met at interview.

Lectures start Monday and so far, so good.

International Librarians Network

Over the summer I signed up for the International Librarians Network (ILN) peer mentoring programme and in September the programme got under way. ILN is a volunteer run organisation which creates and fosters links between librarians in different countries, sectors and career stages, in the hope that through communication and sharing knowledge we can all improve our working practices. Essentially, (though without wishing to downplay the quality of the scheme) I’ve now got a librarian pen-pal with whom to discuss professional issues. This year there are 572 participants from 72 countries.

I was matched with Magda, who works in one of the most important public libraries in Poland, the Silesian Library (http://www.bs.katowice.pl/en/o_bibliotece). So far I’ve enjoyed my correspondence with Magda; our first professional discussion was on Social Media and I’m looking forward to future subjects. Will update after future discussions.

Pi and Mash (Un)Conference, Sat 9th August, #piandmash

A little while ago I attended an unconference at Senate House Library entitled Pi and Mash, which is described by the organisers as a ‘day of workshops and conversation for people interested in doing fun stuff involving libraries and technology’, which very much hits the nail on the head.It was my first Mashed Library event (I think a lot of attendees had been to others before), and more about them can be found here: http://www.mashedlibrary.com/ The day got off to a good start with free posh tea and somebody clocking that I was wearing a Jesus and Mary Chain t-shirt followed by a discussion of the merits of all of their albums, which frankly threatened to take precedence over Pi and Mash.

However, I did eventually stop and manage to get to the morning session, of which there were four to choose from: Libraries as Open Access Publishers, Systems Librarianship, Practical Communications, and Pocket Code: Create a Mobile Library Game. I chose to attend  Libraries as Open Access Publishers and wasn’t disappointed. Penny Andrews, who led the session, briefly gave an overview of OA, what it’ supposed to be, what it currently is, what it might become, and why. The crux of the session, in my eyes at least, was what are/will be the possible roles for libraries and librarians in an OA environment? In Brief:

+ To advocate for OA to academics, publishers, and management
+ To explain the realities of OA and dispel any myths or misconceptions held by all of the above (of which apparently there are many)
+ To mediate and act as negotiator between all involved parties
+ To set and maintain standards
+ To establish and maintain technical infrastructure for OA publishing (using tools such as Open Journals Systems, Fidus Writer etc)
+ To oversee repositories and archival of materials

Obviously none of this is without problems, not least overstretching as librarians are constantly expected to do more with less (a cliche but true, from what I gather). There are also undoubtedly going to be conflicts along the way, between publishers and institutions, as well as institutional presses (eg OUP) and their libraries, and research institutes who want to benefit exclusively from work they are associated with in any way. At the moment there aren’t any definitive answers and it was a very interesting discussion which prompted further questions and could have gone on indefinitely, but lunch was calling.

Before the afternoon sessions began there was an opportunity to see the borrowed 3D printer in action and an explanation of how it works. I discovered that cartridges cost around £30, though how much printing this actually equates to I don’t know, and the model at Pi and Mash was worth £900. The printer itself is not as high tech as you’d expect, it actually prints rather roughly and the article being printed has to be scraped indelicately from the base tray once you’ve finished. It also took about two and a half hours to print two 3-4 inch figurines. Still, the basic premise is exciting and I’m sure that within a few years they will be a more affordable and useful piece of tech (like mobile phones), perhaps not in the home but for libraries and other organisations at least.

The afternoon sessions on offer were Automated Love: Scripting and Automated Processes, Meaningful Metrics and Visualisation Tools, and Linked Open Data and Onto Wiki. I decided upon Linked Open Data as I thought this would be the most useful for my MA starting next month, but unfortunately it wasn’t as beneficial for myself as the morning session had been. Firstly I was out of my depth; some of the technological aspects involved were far beyond my familiarity. Secondly, the demonstrative aspect of the session required installation of software onto peoples laptops, which was fraught with problems, and unfortunately somewhat curtailed what the speaker could do.

I was somewhat apprehensive before the conference that my library knowledge and library IT skills would be too far below par (I’m only about to start my MA where as a lot of the attendees were very experienced systems librarians), but I learned a lot from the day, not only from the sessions but from little pieces picked up in conversation, as seems to be the case with most events I’ve been to. I’d encourage anybody who may be similarly apprehensive to dive in at future events and see how much you can get out of it.

My thanks to the organisers, speakers and whoever made the mincemeat and apple pie.


PEW Library Quiz

One of the last things I’ve managed to do here is establish a customised version of the PEW Research Internet Project’s Library User Quiz. The quiz asks you various questions about public libraries and profiles you based on your answers. You may be a ‘Library Lover’ (if you’re not then you need to have a word with yourself), an ‘Information Omnivore’ or ‘Off the Grid’. The quiz also shows you how your answers compare to the American public (sadly this only has data for the US).

The really useful thing about the quiz is that you can register your organisation an account, embed a personalised widget on your website/OPAC, and then see the results. Again you can see how your patrons compare to the US public, but most usefully it will give you an idea of your patrons general attitudes towards libraries (and by association you).

Unfortunately our OPAC is only available on college computers so I can’t provide a link, but the images below show where it is embedded.

library quiz


library quiz 2


library quiz 3

You have to have at least 5 submissions before PEW will start to show you how your personal results compare with the wider results of your own group, in this case our college students. I took the quiz 5 times pretending to be a different student each time, hence these results are not the best but its just for illustrative purposes, to show you what I’ve done and what the quiz can do.

library quiz 4

In all, although this only has data for US citizens (and only public libraries at that) it is still a useful tool for gauging your patrons attitudes, and hopefully will expand in future.

Support Team of the Year

We recently had our end of year barbecue here at Stanmore College which meant we could finally relax (sort of) as the students have now completed their coursework/exams and left college. As well as jerk chicken and beer there were the Principal’s annual awards, and the LRC were awarded Support Team of the Year, which was nice as it validated the hard work done by myself and my excellent colleagues throughout the year. We now have to try and do all the tasks which we couldn’t do during term time, and prepare for next year, though of course I sadly won’t be here to see the plans realised.

Support Team of the Year 2014

Offer from UCL

I recently received an offer from UCL for a place on their Postgraduate Diploma in Library and Information Studies commencing September 2014. Needless to say, I’m very glad to have been offered a place and am really looking forward to starting in the Autumn.