L2L: Librarians learning to support learning Seminar in DIT

New DIT Campus in Grangegorman
New DIT campus in Grangegorman , photo available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/14995046247
On the 27th of June on the newly developed DIT campus in Grangegorman, a range of librarians and colleagues from Higher Education came together to hear about and discuss L2L (Librarians learning to support learners learning); a two year project which plans to explore the application of the National professional development framework for all staff who teach in Higher Education to the work of teaching librarians.
This project promises to result in a framework which academic librarians can use to guide their own professional pedagogical development and tangible, demonstrable evidence of professional development (such as digital badges or awards). One of the major draws of the project (spear-headed by Dundalk Institute of TechnologyInstitute of Technology Carlow, & Dublin Institute of Technology) is the proposed development of a vibrant and inclusive community of practice which can share the issues, challenges and best practices particular to the work of teaching librarians. Herein lies the real value of the project for me and other academic librarians who may work in small institutions and yearn for a network of like-minded practitioners with whom to share our successes and failures in the hope of improving and developing our praxis.
Funded by the Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund, the project also allows librarians working in Higher Education in Ireland to develop a shared language and currency with their academic colleagues which will hopefully promote a deeper understanding of the meaning and value of our work with the students and staff in our institutions: information literacy (and a range of other academic, digital, and meta-literacies) -concepts  which can be difficult to articulate and to measure in practice.
The day began with a presentation by Roisín Donnelly (currently on a year’s secondment to the National Forum from the Dublin Institute of Technology, where she has worked for 17 years as an Academic Developer), who explained the background of the Framework and the project in general, as well as how professional development can transform roles and identities. She described forms of non-accredited professional development activities which many of us engage in regularly without any formal recognition. These activities include (but aren’t limited to) reflective practices such as the creation/maintenance of learning/teaching portfolios, blogs and journals.
Next up was Dr. Claire McGuinness, who helped to contextualise the project by giving an enlightening talk on the past, present and potential future of teaching librarians globally and in Ireland. She described research which explored the teaching aspects of the academic librarian role and identity with all of its complexities, uncertainties and cross-functionalities. The concept of information literacy is (as she said) ‘nebulous’ and has received a mixed reception outside of academic library circles. Some of the research she cited was familiar to me but much of it was not – and I left with notes packed with useful references.
Before lunch, Dr. Ashley O’Donoghue (Head of Staff Learning and Development at DIT) gave a short talk on the importance of professional development both for individuals and for knowledge organisations. She highlighted research which showed that training and development opportunities are a determining factor in the retention of highly-motivated employees (Boxall et al, 2003) – and also provide a major attraction for managers to draw new staff to their organisations. Frameworks such as those being developed to support the National PD Framework play a vital role in mapping  clear career development and progression within key sectors in Higher Education.
After a generous lunch we were encouraged to participate in discussion on the Framework and the L2L project in a ‘World Café‘. Groups discussed questions such as ‘How do your libraries contribute to T&L in your organisation?’, ‘How do you see your role as a teacher?’, and ‘How do you think the L2L project might help you in your role?’ (paraphrased), with each group mapping their ideas onto large paper, hung around the room. Afterwards we had the chance to circle the room and write our feedback to each group poster with post-its.

contributing to T&L L2L 2contribution to T&L L2Llibrarians as teachers L2Lrole as teacher L2L

The day wrapped up with a helpful Q&A session chaired by Dr. Mary Delaney (Head of Library and Information Services at IT Carlow) who answered questions from the floor regarding the other groups (apart from academic librarians) who were developing projects around the Framework, and what form the ‘communities of practice’ mentioned in the L2L leaflet might take. It’s hoped that there might be avenues of communication and collaboration between this new initiative and other interested parties such as the Library Association of Ireland which might help to provide pathways of sustainability into the future.
Overall the day was an extremely positive experience, with a good mix of discussion and explanation and the L2L project looks and sounds like it will be a very fruitful collaboration amongst academic librarians and between libraries and our colleagues in Higher Education which should promote dialogue around the role and identity of teaching librarians. Presentations from the day and updates about the project will be posted on http://www.teachingandlearning.ie/l2l-librarians-learning-support-learners-learning/. You can also follow developments on the project’s Facebook page and Twitter feed.
Post by Genevieve Larkin, Assistant Librarian in Marino Institute of Education

A&SL Conference 2015

Report by Kate McCarthy

Day 1

The Academic & Special Libraries Conference is always an annual highlight in the Irish library calendar, and 2015 was no exception. Hosted in a new venue this year – the Gibson Hotel – it proved a jam-packed one and a half days, with presentations and posters exploring the vital collaborative and transformative opportunities that libraries are taking to develop unique projects and enhance their services.

Opening the conference on Thursday, journalist and editor Malachy Browne gave a fascinating account of the work being done by Reported.ly, a start-up company he moved to after working for the Dublin-based Storyful. Reported.ly is a news organisation that operates exclusively through social media, verifying sources, including images or videos. Naturally, the intense focus on evidence and trusted information appealed greatly to the conference audience, but it was sobering to see how easily the location and other personal details of some people can be traced through their use of various websites. I’m sure I wasn’t the only attendee who double-checked the privacy settings on my social networking sites after getting home on Thursday evening!

In the first case study of the conference Helen Fallon from Maynooth University Library spoke about the Ken Saro-Wiwa Collection. Saro-Wiwa was a poet and environmental activist from Nigeria who was executed in 1995, and his personal correspondence to an Irish missionary nun, Sister Majella McCarron, was donated to Maynooth University. The library collaborated with a number of external partners to produce a book and an audio archive based on the material. It seemed that working with Kairos Communications, a media and training company, proved particularly successful, as it provided an opportunity for the team to build up their technical, media and promotional skills.

"Research Data Management" by janneke staaks is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.
Research Data Management” by janneke staaks is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Parallel sessions that afternoon included a case study of The Forgotten Zine Archive by Tom Maher and Mick O’Dwyer, and an overview of the librarian’s role as ‘databrarian’ by Jenny O’Neill from the Digital Repository of Ireland. I attended Jenny O’Neill’s talk, in which she outlined the substantial changes that have occurred in skills requirements for librarians in recent years. This was followed by a series of Pecha Kucha talks, two of which highlighted literacy issues: Mary Delaney from IT Carlow focused on the library’s role in digital literacy training, and Jenny Collery talked about designing a programme to enhance critical thinking skills amongst third level students. Laoise Doherty, meanwhile, from the Royal Irish Academy of Music Library, spoke about collaborating with the RIAM Opera Project, to provide them with an online exhibition space, a project that has led not only to further collaboration, but to the use of the library as a performance and event space.

The first day finished with a hugely entertaining presentation from UCC Library’s Martin O’Connor, who was part of a team that curated a Sir Henry’s-themed exhibition at UCC Library over the summer of 2014, based on the history of the famous Cork nightclub. Overcoming a number of technical glitches and a rogue fire alarm, O’Connor gave a great account of his collaboration with UCC Social Sciences academic Eileen Hogan and radio DJ Stevie Grainger, to bring the exhibition together and promote it. Crowdsourcing for information and anecdotes about the club through a Facebook page established a great relationship with the community and even with members of the Irish diaspora as far away as Australia. The project was very successful for the library, raising the profile as well as the expectations of what libraries can do.

"Library Photography Competition 2011 entry" by Rich Grundy is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Library Photography Competition 2011 entry” by Rich Grundy is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Day 2

Day two of the Academic & Special Libraries conference was opened by Helen Shenton, Librarian and College Archivist at Trinity College Dublin, who spoke at length about the transformative shifts that are occurring in libraries across the globe in response to new technologies and expectations. She shared several examples of academic libraries in the United States that have embraced new collaborative projects and opportunities to transform the concept of “library as place, and place as library”. Helen’s presentation was an absolutely inspiring call to action for librarians.

The first case study on Friday morning was delivered by Elaine Bean from Maynooth University, who spoke about two literacy programmes that the library has developed for students, including a fantastic literacy module created for second level students to ease transition to the third level environment. Elaine was followed by Monica Crump from NUI Galway, who discussed the importance of stepping outside the library walls in order to forge all those collaborative relationships that were being showcased by the conference speakers.

It was difficult to choose between all the parallel sessions, which included presentations and workshops by Fintan Bracken, Arlene Healy, Anne Culhane, Stephanie O’Keeffe, Jane Burns and Roy Murray, but in the end I decided to sit in on Mary Dunne from the Health Research Board, as she spoke about the value of communication and open discussions around user needs, having worked with stakeholders on the building of new online resources. Jessica Eustace-Cook from Trinity College Dublin gave a really useful and relevant breakdown of how to go about fundraising for special events, such as seminars, exhibitions or book launches. Jessica’s background on the exhibition circuit in the UK has proved a distinct advantage in helping her to fundraise for the A&SL, demonstrating the value of bringing skills from other jobs into everyday library work.

"librarian" by Joachim S. Müller is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
librarian” by Joachim S. Müller is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

In the afternoon, Aoife Lawton from the HSE outlined further the benefits of partnerships, particularly within the health library and repository sectors. She commented that, while impact can sometimes be hard to measure, it is important to forge ahead with collaboration and communication, especially to minimise duplication of effort across the library sector. “Innovation is the new service” at Maynooth Library, according to Hugh Murphy and Michael Leigh, who spoke about setting up and maintaining a 3D printer at Maynooth University Library. The introduction of such facilities in academic libraries is increasing in other countries and the team at Maynooth recognised a valuable opportunity for the library to collaborate with other departments in the university to provide a neutral and open space for students to come and use the printer for specific courses.

As the talks wound down, Laura Connaughton was awarded a prize for her poster detailing the requirements and benefits of applying for Associateship of the LAI. The poster exhibition had included many interesting case studies of collaborative projects. As it does every year, the conference provided a superb platform for demonstrating the phenomenal work being done by librarians from academic and special libraries all over Ireland. It was difficult not to conclude that collaboration will play an increasingly vital role in the successful development of library services and special projects. It is a challenging time for libraries, but a very exciting one nonetheless.

Presentations and videos from the conference are available on the A&SL website.

MAXIM e-learning course

The HSLG and the AS&L have announced that the MAXIM course (maximising the impact of your library) will take place at the end of June. This is a wonderful opportunity to further your career development. You may remember that this course was postponed earlier in the year, but is scheduled to run from June to September.

What is the Maxim course? It is an e-learning course, managed and certified by the University of Sheffield, a university with many years of relevant experience in delivering similar courses. It is also highly relevant for anyone working in the library field.

The HSLG and the AS&L are also offering part-bursaries of €145 to members who wish to participate. These are dependent on completion of the course. Please register with Eva at hornunge@tcd.ie if you are interested in one of the bursaries.

Relevant details:

Start date: 30th June 2014

Course break: 28th July – 1st August

Course finishes: 12th September (including one week at the end to prepare and submit your work portfolio).

Cost: €245 per person

If you are interested, please contact Eva: hornunge@tcd.ie

DBS Library Annual Seminar

Are you interested in becoming an academic librarian? Do you want to know more about how academic libraries are operating in Ireland right now?

DBS Library have announced an exciting seminar to take place on Friday, 13 June in their premises on Aungier Street in Dublin. The lineup of speakers looks brilliant, and includes talks on different types of software that are in use in academic libraries, librarians and research, new developments in technology that can impact on the modern academic library, as well as how different academic libraries can work together for their own (and their students’) benefit.

Not surprisingly, we have heard that places are being taken up fast, so book your tickets!

Celebrating the Centenary of Rathmines Library


A big birthday cake for Rathmines Library, as it’s celebrating its centenary this month with a number of special events, with the official anniversary celebration taking place on Thursday 24th October in the presence of Dublin City Lord Mayor Cllr. Oisín Quinn. The LAICDG recently held an event in the Rathmines Library and we can attest to it being a wonderful resource in a beautiful building with some fascinating events taking place during the month.


The programme of events are as follows:

  • OPEN HOUSE Dublin 2013 – Library tours are open on a first-come, first-served basis on Saturday 5th October from 10.00am – 2.00pm.
  • The South Circular Road, Dublin, on the eve of the First World War’, – A book launch and introduction by Dr. Séamas Ó Maitiú and talk by author Catherine Scuffil, MA BBS (Hons) on Tuesday 8th October at 6.30pm.
  • Leinster Bowling Club, 1913 – 2013, a talk by Pat MacDonagh, President Leinster Bowling Club, Observatory Lane, Rathmines on Thursday 10th October at 6.30pm.
  • Andrew Carnegie, The Library Man’ a talk by Brendan Langley, local historian with a long association with the Rathmines, Ranelagh and Rathgar Historical Society on Tuesday 15th October at 6.30pm.
  • Irish Carnegie Libraries, an Architectural History’ a talk by Brendan Grimes, Architect and former lecturer of the School of Architecture, DIT. Wednesday 16th October at 6.30pm.
  • Rathmines Library, 100 years of ideas, knowledge and information’ a talk by Helen O’Donnell, Senior Librarian, Rathmines Library – on Thursday 17th October at 6.30pm.
  • Rathmines Writers’ Workshop and friends, a recital of their own work.
    Saturday 19th October at 2.30pm.
  • The Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society: 100 Years’ a talk by Nora O’Rourke, Production Secretary of the Society on Monday 21st October, 6.30pm.
  • A History of St. Louis High School, Rathmines: 100 Years.  ‘St. Louis High School, Rathmines, Céad Bliain ag Fás le Chéile’ a talk by Sr. Eilís O’Thiarnaigh on Tuesday 22nd October at 6.30pm.
  • A Sense of Place’, Literary Evening, local authors discuss the locality and how it may have influenced their writing, chaired by Niall MacMonagle. Authors booked to take part are: – Evelyn Conlon, Macdara Woods, Siobhán Parkinson and Fintan Vallely on Wednesday 23rd October, 6.30pm.
  • Hannah and Francis Sheehy Skeffington a Family View’, a talk by Dr. Micheline Sheehy Skeffington, NUI, Galway on Wednesday 30th October at 3.30pm. The related exhibition ‘Hannah and her Sisters’ will be display during October.
  • Rathmines, Ranelagh and Rathgar Historical Society hosts the Rathmines Library Centenary Lecture: ‘The Gaelic League in Dublin in 1913: 20 years a-growing?’ – Dr. Séamas Ó Maitiú, Dublin schoolteacher, lecturer and writer on Thursday 31st October at 8.00pm.

And there’s something for the kids as well:

  • A Presentation to all local schools on the history of Rathmines Library and locality.
  • Short Story Competition marking the centenary year.
  • Brian Gallagher, children’s author, talks about his book Across the Divide which is partly set in the Rathmines area in 1913, the year of the Dublin Lockout and the year the library opened.
  • Children’s Art in Libraries Autumn programme.

Full details on the Library and its events are here. All events require booking in advance so do contact the Library.

Library contact details are: T. 01 4973539 or email rathmineslibrary@dublincity.ie

Hope you enjoy!

ANLTC’s event on Library Impact and Assessment: an overview.

Author: Michelle Breen / @mbreen2

The ANLTC (Academic & National Libraries Training Cooperative) held an event on Library Impact and Assessment in Trinity College Dublin on May 7th 2013. The assembled library staff from DIT, the Irish universities, the Universities of Huddersfield and Leicester discussed the impact analysis work underway at their institutions. With attrition rates of 8% in the Universities and 22% in the Institutes of Technology (IoTs) there is a lot to be concerned about. Here is a summary of the day.

ANLTC logo

Carmel O’Sullivan (UCD) introduced the day by reminding us how high up the higher education national agenda the topics of assessment and measurement are. The first speaker, Mary Antonesa from NUIM, reported on the 2012 CONUL ACIL survey. Mary reported that students indicated a preference for library workshops, advice and lectures, in that order. The survey found that the more explicit a library is about learning outcome the more successful the IL intervention is likely to be. The results also indicated that faculty view the Library as having a positive impact on grades. The final report of this survey was sent to CONUL and the questions used in the survey are available in the report.

Lorna Dodd from UCD reported on the findings of a survey delivered to 1,900 module coordinators in UCD in 2012. With reorganization and staff attrition UCD has 6 college librarians where they once had 15-17 liaison librarians. These librarians still serve the same user population but could not continue to do IL the way they always did. Among the changes put in place for IL delivery was a shift from a module to a programme approach, library staff no longer involved in tours, provided active learning tailored to specific subject needs; including online offerings.


Ciara McCaffrey (UL) reported on the experience of Irish libraries that ran LibQual, the ARL student satisfaction survey. The libraries interviewed reported LibQual’s greatest selling point as its ability to generate data that allows libraries to compare themselves with others, and yourself, over time. The results achieved by Irish libraries in LibQual indicate that our library buildings are coming up short in terms of ‘customer’ expectations of them. Not surprisingly for many CONUL members, noise also continues to be a concern for library users. There is a lot of data in LibQual that we are not utilizing fully at present; there is scope there to do more with the data. Ciara called for another CONUL notebook so that we get a measure of how Irish libraries are doing now.

Huddersfield logo

Graham Stone from the University of Huddersfield gave a very detailed presentation about the JISC funded Library Impact Data Project. University libraries in Wollongong and Minnesota are getting similar results to Graham’s so there is some support internationally for the theory that “there is a statistically significant correlation across a number of universities between library activity data and student attainment”

There were many revealing insights turned up by this very extensive data gathering process from 2,000 students in the UK including:

· Students are more likely to drop out of their course if they had not borrowed or used library e-resources

· Students that use VLE middle of night are at risk (Manchester Metropolitan Univ)

·The same correlation could not be made about students using the library in the middle of the night

· Business students do not use as many books as we thought they did although they ask for more books – maybe their expectations of the library are very low?

· Chinese students use fewer e-resources, generally, than other nationalities, is this because of a tendency to do group work, share a resource?

· Computer Systems students not using library resources but still getting their degrees, should they be participating in ‘good academic practice’ and reading appropriate material? Their lecturers are compiling relevant reading lists.

Lamp logo

The latest project that Graham is involved with is called LAMP and this will attempt to create a dashboard where data collected centrally can be used to flag a problem or pattern in student behaviour or engagement with services, initially at University of Manchester & Huddersfield.
Jonathan Drennan from UCD reported on the design and implementation of the first Irish National Student Survey. The Irish survey emulated the AUSSE (Australian Survey of Student Engagement); a 120 question survey that measure the extent to which students are engaged in good educational practices. Results of the survey will be available to institutions in September. Jonathan referenced a book called Ivory Tower Blues by James E Cote. According to Jonathan, there are interesting parallels between the Irish and Canadian education systems particularly as it relates to the transition from secondary level to third level education.

Jo Aitkins from the University of Leicester described how the simple interventions made in her library can be replicated elsewhere to improve services for students:

· Allow feedback on the chat function

· Distribute Happy Cards periodically

· Get Student’s Union to run a survey for you

Jo offered a very practical tip to anyone planning to run a survey; before running a survey tell them what you’ve done out of last survey, in a ‘You said, we did’ style of communication.

Peter Corrigan from NUIG described ways he believes we can run the LibQual survey more efficiently. NUIG runs LibQual every year and Peter believes this helps them to mature the process and therefore do it faster each time. In his assessment of tools for analysing the qualitative data from LibQual (the comments) Peter looked at 3 tools:

· Max QDA

· ATLAS ti


None of these tools have advanced text analysis like Google offers but of the three; NVIVO is currently the most flexible option.

Stitched Panorama

If awareness raising was the goal of this ANLTC event this was certainly achieved. I felt that we were left with as many questions as we got answers. The speakers described the many connections that exist between libraries and student success but it was made clear at the outset that while there is a correlation between library activities and student success, causation can’t always be inferred.

The results of the first Irish National Student Survey will be an interesting set of data to look at when thinking about library usage as it relates to student attainment. Data collected from UCD students last year suggests we should give strong consideration to continuing tours of the library. Lorna (UCD) reported that while students may request tours they may be doing this in a ‘box-ticking’ way rather than with any real purpose. The UCD survey found that tours featured behind workshops as students preferred means of getting library instruction. Our colleagues at Leicester and Huddersfield also reported the demise of tours in their libraries.

The attendance and level of interest among yesterday’s attendees highlights that within the assessment community there is an appetite for collaboration in this area. Using the knowledge and experience of the CONUL Task & Finish Group on Metrics and perhaps looking outside the traditional library skill set might be a next step for a collaborative effort to advance the excellent analytics work already underway.

colorful post its

CDG talk at LAI/CILIP conference 2013 – Part Two

The second half of the conference was given by Daniel Murray. Here Daniel focused on Professionals out of work and the New Professional entering.

jobless pic

Internships and job bridging schemes are now the way to access experience and to keep the skills you have, fresh. Daniel drew from his own experiences of finishing the MLIS and securing two internships one located in a school library another within cataloguing, it was these areas that he felt very out of depth as these were not the specific job situations he had envisaged himself in. However he adapted his skills from MLIS and used them to his best ability within the two internships.

Daniel used a similar approach to Giada, however within these two situations, 1) keep the contacts you have 2) keep within the circle of professionals. As a new professional coming into the scene I find that constant interaction with those involved with conferences, committees, and organisers will be the people you will time and time meet and through these people you will build up a connection.

Stringer BellDaniel gave a very engaging presentation with funny slides to make a seemingly drab topic very interesting, he was very honest in the way you have skills! You are a professional! So you still belong within the circle even though at the moment you are somehow removed from it. However, by building your connections and engaging in conversation you will keep from being “outside”.

As the presentation came to a close two questions were posed to the floor, as myself and my other classmate were the only students/new professionals we took a back seat, which was interesting, as the discussion between the fellow librarians was very lively. It was really good to see their perspective on the discipline. As one man noted that it was great to see the enthusiasm of the LAI CDG and that it is a fabulous engaging way for the people who are in the industry and a bit ‘tired’ (even though he was very careful in how he was saying it) that the dialogue between the people embedded and the new minds entering is what we should be doing, each can learn from one another.

Play your strenghts

I am thrilled to be a part of the LAI CDG, I have a lot of admiration for the committee and am excited to be able to help them create and build this blog. The many aspects Giada and Daniel spoke of is embedded with the MLIS, one of the modules which I have taken this semester is “Contemporary Issues in Professional Practice” and is run by Maria Souden. The content is diverse and the assessments are very engaging, as part of a continuous path we have established our own blogs, we post weekly about the topic discussed in class and the readings/other information.

It is this platform that has given me a confidence I never had before, to freely put your thoughts out there for anyone to read and comment on is a daring move, but I love it. The feedback you get keeps you going and wanting to say more, and the many topics you want to cover you never know where it might fit within the content already there. It makes you strive for bigger and better things like reaching out to others and doing guest posts for them.

Well done guys, best of luck with future projects, GOOD LUCK!

by Siobhan McGuinness
(Masters Student in the school of Library and Information Studies UCD)

Read part one here

CDG talk at LAI/CILIP conference 2013 – Part One

On Wednesday 10th of April Croke Park Conference Centre, the Library Association of Ireland, Career Development Group got together to organise an event for Professionals in work and how to enhance or renew their skills. In addition advice was given to guide Professionals that have recently been out of work along with the emergence of New Professionals into the world of Librarianship.

screenshot start preziTwo of the committee leaders Giada and Daniel were our speakers for today. Giada led the conversation with a very engaging Prezi presentation, where she gave a background to the establishment of the CDG which was something that amazed me; the group really have only begun to emerge in the last 12 months! My perception was this was a long established committee, so I was very eager to see their plans for the future.

Giada and co, have many ambitions for the group one aspect is to embed a job’s forum within the LAI’s website, and to work in conjunction with employers in order to establish another platform to seek us as potential employee’s.
This is a positive ambition of the committee as the establishment of Libraryjobs.ie has given me and my fellow classmates from SILS in UCD a lot of hope and encouragement for the future.

In addition future ambitions include the “libcamp”. I had not heard of the English version, however as Giada illustrated the event seems very engaging, the day is very informal, a topic is chosen beforehand within a group with similar ideas and you “pitch” this topic/idea to the floor! It sounds delightful, as there are so many issues surrounding our profession that you don’t always get the time to engage in debate, or even find people with similar or contrasting ideas. I am really looking forward to this event and I hope I can be a part of it!

screenshot prezi 2

Giada’s presentation then focused on Professionals within work, and she had a positive message. “Learn, Go, And Do”! This message would be a great workshop for any library to engage in. Libraries today are facing many restrictions, however if you brought this plan into your institution you can change the outlook within the Profession and view these challenges as road block you need to divert from not stop at!

The procedures in which Giada outlined is to constantly keep up-to-date with the issues/topics/challenges surrounding you and your position. Get involved with the many debates that are being held via social networking. Personally I find Twitter an essential tool, even if your knowledge of the topic is sparse you still gain a lot from these conversations. I do take part in the Irish Libchat (#irelibchat) and it is great as you may not know these people but you build an online rapport with them. This is extremely beneficial when you attend conferences as this connection is already well established and you have found the links you need to help you within the issues and challenges facing you.

coloured buttonsAnother way to build your network is through Mailing lists and Newsletters; these illustrate the current issues and challenges facing this Profession. The people established within the various institutions need to engage with these issues in order to find solutions. So build up your social network, engage with the debates at conferences and keep up-to-date with issues and challenges, it is the only way to find solutions to the many problems facing Library and Information Studies!

This model Giada created is what she adopted as Professional Activism which is very true. The Professionals that are in the Professions need to renew their skills at a time when this profession is being threatened, and engage in dialogue with their colleagues from various institutions nationwide and worldwide to see how these have managed and used these challenges to be more effective for their community.

by Siobhan McGuinness
(Masters Student in the school of Library and Information Studies UCD)

Part Two coming soon… 🙂

A&SL annual seminar

Last Friday a number of members of the CDG Committee were lucky enough to be able to attend the Annual Seminar of the Academic & Special Libraries section of the LAI. The seminar, “Content Creators – The Digital Frontier” aimed to discuss the issues that we as curators of knowledge and information need to think about when creating digital content. A number of speakers from organisations across Ireland spoke about some of their amazing digital collections as well as the opportunities and challenges they encountered when creating their own digital content.

First up was the seminar’s keynote speaker Simon Tanner, Deputy Head of Department and Director of Digital Consulting in the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London. In his talk, “To educate, enlighten and entertain – if you build it, will they come and help?”, Simon opened with a vision of how things could be in the world of digital content where we walk through the doors of a cathedral and can pull up information and digital resources on that cathedral all located in one place online regardless of where they are located in the world. We don’t do this now and cannot do it unless we open up our data and allow users to engage with it.

From there, Simon spoke about other opportunities and challenges for the creators of digital content. Challenges for content creators include engaging with users in the attention economy, curation challenges, demonstrating value of return to and measuring the impact of our collections on our communities. Engaging with our users is paramount when we create digital collections and in the attention economy today we compete for every eyeball. And yet, it is not the page views that we should focus on but the building of a community around our content and the value that our users get from our collections. We also need to offer better access to our collections. Our users search for contexts, places and events relevant to their own lives so we need to build this access for them. If users do engage with your content, be clear about what you will be doing with the data they provide. And acknowledge them, credit them, reward them!

We also face curation challenges when we have a mandate to preserve digital collections in perpetuity but our projects have finite funding cycles. We need to use our resources, our funding and research to engage with the future as well as preserving the past. In a time of reduced resources, we also need to justify the money spent on digital collections by looking at what benefits they return to us and to the community. They open up new research areas, provide insight into the creative processes of artists, encourage users to be creative themselves, bring new or damaged material to light and have an impact on how your organisation is viewed by others. They also have economic and community benefits, a full list of which can be found in the JISC report “Inspiring Research, Inspiring Scholarship”. Finally, Simon spoke about the impact of our digital collections. Impact is not just in the number of users we have or the money we make from our collections. We need to think our own values and perspectives in order to find a balanced approach to measuring the impact of our collections. More details can be found in his report, “Balanced Value Impact Model” available at King’s.

Julia Barrett, the Research Services Manager in UCD Library, was the next speaker. Her talk was about the challenges and opportunities in making collections, both historical and contemporary, available online to researchers and students. Julia’s talk was enlightening, particularly in emphasising the vast scope of the content that is available in UCD and the technical knowledge required to make this content available digitally. Of course, the focus was on UCD’s Irish Virtual Research Library & Archive (IVRLA) an impressively vast network of collections including special collections, national folklore collections, collections regarding Irish dialects and so on. Having such a wealth of information is wonderful, of course, but Julia wanted to inform us as to how UCD made these collections available digitally.

Embracing new technological developments was key. Julia spoke of the move from the Linux-based operating system Fedora 2.2 to the updated Fedora 3.5. Searchability was also an important factor, and Julia discussed their use of the Solr search server, an open source search engine with hit highlighting that enabled users to maximise their time researching the archives.

Julia was also keen to address common misconceptions about digitising projects, primarily that digital projects were about more than just scanning documents. After all, what use is a scanned image if we don’t have metadata which can help us identify items, and so make our databases intuitive to the people who need access to them?

Following Julia was Commdt. Pádraic Kennedy from the Military Archives. Pádraic focused on issues surrounding making information freely available, specifically legal or ethical issues that might surround potentially sensitive data (even if this data might not have been thought to be sensitive initially). This is a common concern amongst similar operations, but Pádraic also addressed other potential problems such as attracting negative comments on Flickr directed not at the items being made available but the politics of the people concerned or even the body that is making the information available. Despite these challenges, Pádraic was enthusiastic about the positives of utilising a site such as Flickr for disseminating information and promoting militaryarchives.ie. He mentioned that they were attracting 35,000 views per month and suggested that these figures promoted physical use of their archives, as people visiting the archives have increased in the corresponding period.

After lunch, Niamh O’Sullivan, a research officer/librarian for the Irish Blood Transfusion Service, gave an informative and highly entertaining talk about one woman’s journey from a missing display cabinet to a highly complex operation aimed at digitising photographs that the IBTS had amassed over the years. Niamh’s talk, “Banking” our memories – The IBTS Digital Photographic Archive, was a perfect example of a ‘special’ library, in that she works for a service that many may not realise utilise librarians or information professionals. Central to her talk was the idea that organisations and businesses (and not necessarily public or not-for-profit organisations) can embrace the future by understanding the past. For the IBTS, this meant connecting with the community that they serve, something which is essential for an organisation which relies on people remembering them and volunteering their time (and blood!). Niamh also touched on one of the main points raised at the conference, that of the ethics of making data widely available. Of particular concern to Niamh was whether she should allow for user-tagging of the photos that they were making available on Flickr, as there could be privacy issues given that Flickr was a widely used database that could be visible by people simply surfing the web.

The following speakers addressed the A&SL from the perspective of legal libraries. John Duffy, Sub-Librarian with the Bar Council of Ireland Law Library, spoke of the importance of standards in digitising two areas in his library. Their digitisation project, beginning in 2010, focused on the Employment Appeals Tribunal and Garda Compensation Cases. John spoke of the importance, specifically in this instance, of metadata over data, a concept that may be alien to some of us. But what did this mean in a practical sense? For John, the use of XML fields was essential in deciding what data to capture, stressing that XML fields represented a ‘flexible way of imposing a strict structure’. For John, standards are essential to him in his job as they allow for interoperability, flexibility, transparency, the ability to ‘migrate’ and validateability. Ailish Farragher works as the Legal Information Manager in Eugene F. Collins. Ailish’s talk, Content Creators: Digitisation in a law firm, was in some way a reminder that an information professional’s main priority may not be to make all information as freely and widely available as possible, especially in a legalistic framework. Ailish spoke about concerns that a legal firm may have regarding the information that they will be digitising, particularly with regards to security, redaction and theft. She also spoke eloquently about how these concerns may impact on attempting to introduce new ideas. This can be as simple as realising that office culture can be deeply embedded in the way an organisation operates and can be difficult to change.

The next two speakers spoke about the increasing prevalence of social media in the information professional’s career. Karen Skelly, Information & Resource Officer with the Irish Cancer Society, spoke about the manner in which social media has completely altered how her organisation operates. Previously the focus had been on giving support and advice over the telephone, and while this remains important, Karen noted that more and more people were utilising Twitter and Facebook in order to address their concerns. As the organisation is realising this shift is not simply a passing fad, Karen is aware that operations and working routines will have to change in order to meet this demand. Michelle Dalton, medical librarian in the University of Limerick, gave an illuminating talk about the importance of Twitter in promoting yourself and interacting with people working in your area. Furthermore, Twitter is an excellent tool for improving your knowledge of issues in the librarian world. The key is to understand how it works. Michelle compared it to a ‘stream’ rather than a static lake of water, a ‘flow’ of information that you can tune in to when it suits you. The important thing about Twitter, however, is that you interact and don’t simply ‘broadcast’ information. A useful example of this is the forthcoming irelibchat on the 12th of March from 8pm. This is the perfect opportunity to interact with the people working in your industry. This one is focusing on publishing and presenting research.

The reaction to the event (in the bar of the Radisson Hotel afterwards) was very positive. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear the pressing issues of librarians and information officers as well as those issues which may be more specific to certain aspects of the librarian world. It also gave us librarians making tentative steps on the career path a chance to meet (or at least put a face to the name) of some important people in the library world.