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Posts Tagged ‘British Library’

Kat Steiner here again, one of the graduate trainees at the Bodleian Law Library. On Wednesday, Frankie Marsden and I headed down to London for the BIALL, CLSIG, SLA Europe Open Day, a day of presentations and tours based at the CILIP headquarters near Russell Square. We thought we’d give you a few of our thoughts on the day, especially on what we individually will take away from it.

A few acronym explanations before we start. BIALL is the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians, CILIP is the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, CLSIG is a special interest group within CILIP standing for Commercial, Legal and Scientific Information Group, and SLA Europe is the European and UK division of the Special Libraries Association. Still with me? Just the names alone were a lot to take in!

Copyright Wellcome Library

The Wellcome Library

Over the day, we heard 9 speakers, whose places of work included London law firms, the Law library of City University, the Wellcome Library, the British Medical Association, the Inner TempleLinex (a company offering current awareness tools and aggregation for subscribers), and the British Library. It was fascinating to hear the stories of how they had reached their current jobs (often by a combination of luck, enthusiasm and perseverance), and their varied positions. It particularly stood out to me how many people mentioned TFPL, a recruitment agency, as being invaluable in helping them find jobs. I hadn’t heard of them, but I will definitely be looking into them now!

There was also the opportunity to go on a tour of either the Wiener Library, a collection for the study of the holocaust & genocide, the library of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, or the library of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. As Law Bod trainees, Frankie and I both chose the IALS, and enjoyed a detailed tour and talk by David Gee, the Deputy Librarian. As the library takes three graduate trainees every year, he had a lot of insight and suggestions for what to do afterwards if you are thinking of going into law librarianship.

Several speakers were also from law firm libraries, or law librarians in other institutions, and it was very interesting to hear about their jobs in detail. I hadn’t personally thought much about specialising, or moving away from academic librarianship (I’m hoping to stay at the Bodleian while I do my library school masters), but there definitely seemed to be a lot to recommend ‘special libraries’. The chance to do real legal research was very attractive to me as an academic challenge (at the Law Bod, students are expected to do their own research, although there are lots of classes to help them learn how to do it). However, I’m not sure I could cope with the increased pressure, longer hours and difficult deadlines that come along with it. The rather better pay might sweeten the pill, though.

Copyright Inner Temple Library

The Inner Temple Library

The talk that really stood out for me was from Simon Barron, a Project Analyst at the British Library. He focused on the concept of  ‘digital librarians’, and the way that technology is transforming the information profession and will continue to do so. In the days of ‘big data‘ (a current buzzword that I’m still not hugely clear on – in my understanding, it can mean data sets so large that they allow statistical programs to crunch through them and draw remarkably accurate conclusions without any attempt at explaining how the causation between the conclusions and the data works), librarians who can code, use technology, and be willing to learn new technological skills will be more and more in demand. He described his current project with the British Library and the Qatar Foundation to create a digital National Library of Qatar. This is an ambitious project, involving huge numbers of documents to be digitised, including 14th- and 15th-century Arabic manuscripts. Simon’s job seemed to involve a lot of technological problem-solving, for example ‘how do we get this data out of this piece of software and into this other piece of software without losing it, or having to do it by hand’. He explained that his coding knowledge was entirely self-taught through Codecademy and that, although he didn’t consider it his crowning achievement, his colleagues were still very impressed when he made a spreadsheet where the boxes change colour depending on the data you enter.

Simon’s talk made a big impression on me, and really confirmed my feeling that the MSc in Information Science is for me. I have some basic experience with coding good practice (a 10-week internship at a software company, writing code in Perl), and the main thing I took away is that it’s really not that hard or scary, it just requires logic, perseverance (read: stubbornness even when it doesn’t work), and the willingness to have a go even if you’re not sure what you’re doing. I believe anyone who really wants to can learn to use technology, but they may not see the point. Simon emphasised the use of technology to automate what would be fairly simple human processes. This is a great point – if you can automate a simple action on a computer (for example, removing formatting from a text file, or averaging each row in a spreadsheet), you not only save time, you make the process scaleable to much larger sets of data, which would take humans far too long to deal with, and you reduce the possibility of human error, as long as your code actually works!

Anyway, you can see that this made quite an impression. Another thing I will take away is how many things are worth joining to get more involved in the information profession. You can join CILIP for £38 a year if you’re a student or graduate trainee, definitely worth doing! You can join SLA (of which SLA Europe is a chapter) for $40 a year if you’re a student (even part-time, but I’m not sure about graduate trainees). You can join BIALL for £17 a year if you are a full-time student. You might want to consider registering with TFPL. SLA Europe offers an Early Career Conference Award, which three of the speakers had won, allowing them to go to amazing conferences in San Diego, Chicago and Philadelphia. BIALL also offers an award for the best library school dissertation on a legal topic. And, finally, Information Architect is a job title it might be worth looking out for.

That’s pretty much all I have to say for this post (I’ve waffled for more than long enough). Frankie will be talking about the aspects of the day that she really liked, and I’m sure they will be very different! I just want to thank everyone who helped organise the conference – it gave me loads to think about, allowed me to meet plenty of other graduate trainees, and generally have a great time. For anyone who wants a more general idea of the day – the slides from the presentations that everyone gave can be found on the CLSIG website.

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On July 11th, the graduate trainees visited some of the interesting and eclectic libraries in London. We each attended a tour and talk at two of the following: the London Library, the Guardian Newspaper Library, the British Library and the Natural History Museum Library and Archives. I am pleased to report that everyone enjoyed the visits, none of us got lost, and no one embarrassed Oxford too much…

TheThe entrance to the London Library - 14 St James's Square London Library is a members-only lending library, founded in 1841 by Thomas Carlyle. Membership is open to anyone (£445 per year), and the library is funded almost entirely by these fees. As books are never withdrawn, the constant battle for space is more acute than at most libraries. As you wander around, lost or otherwise, you notice that each extension has a distinct style, ranging from utilitarian steel shelves to wood paneling, indicative of the era it was built in. The unique classification system groups books alphabetically by subject, including, under ‘Science & Miscellany’, topics such as Love, Genius and Duelling.

The Guardian Library serves the research and fact-checking needs of the newspaper’s journalists, compiling timelines, background information and previous press coverage to support big stories. The library staff also maintains a section of the Guardian website, showcasing articles froInside the Guardian newspaper officesm this day in past years, and putting up interesting features, such as a timeline of Guardian articles about Harry Potter to celebrate the books’ 15th anniversary. The library’s physical collection amounts to one wall in the archive office, and consists mainly of dictionaries and reference works such as Who’s Who. However, the library also provides and promotes many online reference tools for reporters.

The British Library is impressively large with over 150 million items, on-site space for 1200 readers and a glass tower containing the library of King George III in the centre of the building.  The talk at the British Library was about their Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project – its highlights, challenges and workflows.  Both the tour and the talk highlighted the collaborative, outreach and digitisation work of the library. We concluded our day with a visit to the highly recommended Writing Britain: Wastelands to Wonderlands exhibition.

Inside the Natural History Museum Library

From left to right: Rebecca (futureArch), Vicky (All Souls), Jayne (MLFL), Charlotte (Nuffield), Janine (SSL), Lizzie (RSl), Matt (Bodleian), Michelle (University Archives), Rebecca (EFL).

The Natural History Museum Library is open to the public as a reference library, but is primarily a lending library for scientists working at the NHM, who can borrow an unlimited number of books. Loans are still recorded on paper, which means the library is closed for two weeks each year while the borrowing slips are checked against the sometimes hundreds of books in scientists’ offices… The archive holds records relating to all activities of the museum, from the late 18th century to the present day, and includes such documents as accession registers of specimens received by the museum, and letters from a collector about having his arm bitten off by a cheetah.

London Library and Guardian Newspaper Library by Evelyn (Union), British Library and Natural History Museum Library by Lizzie (RSL).

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The slides for Karen Phillips’ presentation on the future of research and its possible impact are available to view here.

Strangely, they were included in an email sent to the SSL email account from ALISS (Association of Librarians and Information Professionals in the Social Sciences), unrelated to the fact that Lauren and I attended!

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On Thursday 17th February, we attended a study day at the British Library, along with other Bodleian staff in the social science division and representatives from LSE and the British Library. The objective was to discuss prospects and problems for social science librarians and researchers regarding engaging through the online world.

After a nice cup of tea, but sadly no biscuits, Jude England, Head of Social Sciences, gave an introduction to the day and recent developments in the BL. This included their fittingly named ‘2020 Vision’, which will see, among many others, mass participation, crowd sourcing, and supporting research for economic and social benefit.

This introduction was then followed by a talk from guest speaker Karen Phillips, the Editorial Director from Sage Publications. She began by giving a brief outline of the picture of research around the world today, highlighting a growth of investment, a changing geographical and disciplinary spread as well as a move towards new models of publishing as technology changes, including open access and multi-media websites. To illustrate these, she offered the examples of SAGE Open and SAGE Research Methods Online. Overall her talk provided a unique insight into the relationship between publishers and libraries, at times inspiring almost heated debate. It was certainly interesting to see a publisher fend off a room full of librarians!

A little later than scheduled, presentations showcasing Online Developments at the British Library began with Linda Arnold-Stratford, Lead for Management and Business Studies, introducing the new Management and Business Studies Portal, which offers remote access to the BL’s business collections.

Following this, Gill Ridgley, Lead for Sport, Sociology and Cultural Studies, gave an overview of the new site Sport and Society: examining the Summer Olympics and Paralympics through the lens of Social Science. This site, divided into subject, showcases the BL’s collections on sport and Olympics. It includes contributions from academics, publishers, archivists, politicians and BL colleagues. The site also offers links and gateways to a range of related resources.

Next Luke McKernan, Lead for Moving Image, presented Video Server, part of the current Growing Knowledge exhibition. The moving image collection works with outside providers to create a comprehensive collection of news programmes, recorded selectively across 18 channels. These video clips are searchable by subtitle text, making television as searchable as a newspaper. Video Server will become a reading room service from September 2011, though unfortunately will not be made available for remote access due to copyright issues.

To round off the BL’s presentations of their online developments, Jonnie Robinson, Lead for Sociolinguistics and Education, gave an introduction to the popular BL exhibition Evolving English: one language, many voices. Including archival sound recordings, for example of accents and dialects or children’s playground games, this page is the most visited on the BL website, with 15,000 visits or plays per month, and figures suggest Evolving English will be the most visited BL exhibition ever. The exhibition demonstrates the social, cultural and historical influences on the English language through a collection of material, such as slang dictionaries and medieval manuscripts, as well as copious sound recordings. You can even leave your own recording at one of the ‘voice banks’, either by reading a chosen passage from Mr Tickle, or a list of six words. The website also offers the chance to ‘map your voice’, and listen to those who have already contributed. For both of us, this was definitely the highlight of the day.

After lunch, Matthew Shaw, Lead Curator of North American History, reflected on the Growing Knowledge exhibition, which showcases a variety of innovative research tools. The public are invited to try out these 25 different tools, with the most popular including Mendeley, the UK Web Archive, and joVE.

The day rounded off with a workshop session, discussing prospects and problems for researchers and librarians in an online world, as well as collaborative ideas for the coalition in the future. Although this was a rather terrifying experience, it was really interesting to hear discussion on such important topics in the information profession from people who have experienced these issues first hand.

As an optional extra, we were then given a tour of the Evolving English exhibition, a lovely way to round off the day despite having to make a dash for the train. We definitely recommend a visit!

Ruth and Lauren

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