VIDEO: Library Day in the Life

Library Day in the Life is a bi-annual initiative to document what library professionals really do these days, insitgated by Bobbi Newman. I've taken part in previous rounds with normal blog posts but frankly nobody ever really reads them - this time I wanted to do something a bit more interesting and a bit more visual. So I've created a video of one day in my library life - the effort-to-end-product ratio of this is all out of sync as it took fricking ages! But anyway, here it is, I hope people like it.

In case anyone is interested, I used a Logitech webcam, my iPhone, my wife's fairly ancient digitial camera, and BB Flashback Express screen-recording software to record it - and Windows Movie Maker to edit it all together. Music is by Mint Royale.

A couple of the best bits just would not work in Movie Maker. They play fine on their own, but they froze when I stuck them into the film. No idea why, it's not done that to me before - so I'm afraid a screen-grab about LIFE-SHARE is gone, and a bit about #buyalib is gone too. I had waaaaaaay too much footage, too... Note to self: no need to film the entire commute. :)

- thewikiman

taking a hit for the (library) team

NB: have renamed this blog post; it used to be called why we can't help mixing our messages A picture of an old library, on a 'Modern Libs' magazine

Woodsiegirl and I referred to the excellent M Word library marketing blog a lot in our Echo Chamber presentation - if you've got any interest in the marketing / advocacy side of libraries at all, it's an essential subscribe. One of the things we quoted was a recent post on mixing your messages - one example being with regards to (arguably out-dated) policies:

"Come in and spend the afternoon here, but don't bring anything to eat or drink!" "We're all about new technology, but turn off those cell phones!" "Please use our resources, but if you owe more than $2.00 in fines, you can't borrow anything."

Kathy Dempsey (who wrote the piece) makes the point that all these policies are there for a reason, but we must continually reasses that reasoning and make sure it's still valid. My own view, and I made this point in the Echolib presentation, is that it might be worth taking a hit for the greater good. Which is to say, if we relax our rules, and downgrade the sanctity of the book, then the losses this will cause in terms of alienating some users and allowing a minority to basically take the mickey out of us, may be worthwhile for the gains in terms of repositioning the library as a more welcoming, modern and inclusive facility.

My own local library in York has just reopened after refurbishment, as an 'Explore' Library Learning Centre' - cue predictable hurrumphing about the name. I'm fine with it, of course - rebranding is part of what needs to happen to libraries, and while no one wants to alienate core users, if there is a net gain in patronage then that's a good thing in what are change-or-die times for the public library sector. Anyway, I decided I needed to use my local library more as this blog often talks about library advocacy, so I went along to check it out - it's actually really ace! There's no specific entrance or exit, which is really nice (don't ask me how they stop people stealing books) - you just walk into the building and are met with several doors in a semi-circle, all leading straight to books and other resources. All books are RFID'd so the self-service machines seem like magic to those not familiar with that technology ("You don't have to scan anything, it just knows what you've put in it!") and there is, of course, a very nicely appointed new cafe. My top tip for local library usage: have the Amazon app on your phone, so you can check your wishlist when you're in there. No more 'my mind has gone blank - what do I want to read again?' moments. :)

To get to my point about mixing messages - I was marvelling at all this, and remembering one of the presentations from NPC2010, and thinking to myself, not for the first time: I have pretty much none of the required skills to work here. I've got a good job, in a library, yet never in a million years could I get even an interview at York public library, because the skills-set, the neccessary experience, and the day-to-day activities are so different from mine. I said this to my wife, and she said 'yes but you don't do normal librarian stuff do you?' I know what she meant (that I work in the digital arena more than anything) but really there IS no normal librarian stuff - there IS no role which constitutes an 'average' for a library worker. So it's no wonder we can't help mixing our messages, because our messages are just so diverse. How can we get across what we do to those outside our echo-chamber if we don't even have much in common with our own peers? It's tough to consolidate all of our activities into a single marketable nugget - although, as I've suggested before (.PDF), the two threads which seem to run through 90% of jobs whose salary is paid by the library are the use of IT, and problem solving.

When people think of 'a librarian' they think of front-of-house staff, either on the counter or the enquiries desk. I wonder what percentage of staff in the industry actually do that stuff?

- thewikiman

Library Day in the Life 5

A man graffitis Library Day in the Life

As with a couple of the previous rounds, I'm taking part in the Library Day in the Life Project this week. It was set up by Bobbi Newman, and you can read about it here. It's a great thing because comparing what we do is interesting of itself, plus if anyone outside the echo-chamber reads any of these posts, it may go some way to challenging misconceptions about what people in libraries get up to these days.

It would be hypocritical of me to do all five days (I only ever read one day from each blog I subscribe to, as I can't deal with all the extra posts at once) so here's a couple of day's worth in a single post.

What I do for a living

I work on a JISC-funded project known as LIFE-SHARE (this is an elaborate acronym, because we don't have nearly enough of these in libraries) for the University of Leeds. My role is split between the Leeds parts of the project and the Sheffield parts (the other project partner is York, who have their own Project Officer for LIFE-SHARE).

The purpose of the project is, in short, to explore consortial strategies for digitisation in Higher Education, with particular reference to preservation and curation. Which is to say: our collections are falling apart, what do we do about it, do we really have a clear way forward, and can we work collectively to solve the problems and save some resources along the way? The Project lasts from last January to next March, and you can read more about it on the website  here.


LIFE-SHARE has a case-study at each institution, investigating different aspects of digitisation. For York, it's on demand digitisation. For Leeds, it's digitisation to support Collection Management. For Sheffield, it's digitisation to support Special Collections - and Sheffield was where I was on Monday. We've just got to the stage where we've written up the Case Studies (they'll be made available via the Outputs page of our website) and I was in Sheffield tying up a lot of loose-ends. Firstly the Project Manager and the other Project Officer came over and I showed them all the equipment we'd purchased for the audio-visual digitisation suite, and examples of the videos and audio I'd digitised. Then we had a long meeting to discuss the internal and external versions of our case-study reports. Then they went home and I returned to my windowless cell to finish off.

I created some metadata (Dublin Core) for the digital objects I'd not yet described and auto-generated some technical metadata using MediaInfo. I wrote a detailed list for Sheffield's head of Special Collections as to exactly what I'd done, why I'd done it, and whereabouts it was stored - then had a brief meeting with her to explain it all in person (she was pleased, which is good!). Then I had the glamorous task of clearing up all the packaging that was strewn around the room - we'd ordered loads of equipment (cassette tape players, time-code-corrector boxes, professional monitoring headphones etc) and I'd not wanted to throw away anything until we knew it all worked. As this was my last visit to Sheffield for a while, it was also the last chance to leave their room in a presentable state...


Back in the Leeds LIFE-SHARE Office for today, and finalising procedures manuals for Sheffield. As part of the Case Study we digitised a sample of a larger multimedia archive; the idea is, their staff should be able to pick up where I left off and digitise the rest before it is packed up and sent back to its original donor. So I've written some detailed guides to all the stuff I've been doing, including photographs of leads with labels explaining what they're for, explanations on how to use Audacity, etc etc.

I also started to internalise my case study report, and pick out the key points for external dissemination - the format of the first draft was a bit of a compromise, so we've decided it's better to separate it into two distinct entities. This will be much easier, I think.

Other stuff crammed into my free time today included writing a proposal for a book chapter including a third-person bio that required an insane amount of information in 75-85 words. It wanted name, place of work, location, details of your degree and where you got it from, job title, publications, awards AND career highlights! (To give you some idea how small a space that is to fit all that in, this paragraph alone is 78 words and counting.)

In the end, I went with: "thewikiman, zomg, he is ace - srsly, trust him on this."

Not really. Although when I was moaning on Twitter about how I couldn't fit the info into so small a space, Andy Priestner helpfully came up with this:

"'Ned is really nice and good at libraries. You'll like him. Probably" Done it in 12 words.'

Thanks mate! Brevity is a gift. :)

A lot of stuff happened today with LISNPN, the New Professionals Network, as well. Having launched nearly a month ago now, we're gradually adding more and more stuff to the Resources area (member's only, that bit, so sign up!). Things I'm really pleased with include the fact that Phil Bradley has generously allowed us to reproduce his public speaking guide, and the editors of the two major CILIP publications (Gazette and Update), Debby Raven and Elspeth Hyams, have contributed some really useful stuff to the How to: Get published guide - so if you've wondered what sort of thing they're looking for, check it out: it's in the Resources area of the site. Anyway, today for the first time we promoted it via a couple of JISCMail lists - LIS-Profession and LIS-CDGDivisions, with emails from myself and Chris Rhodes.

The result was 50 new members in about 3 hours, and that number continued to rise, meaning we've broken the 300 barrier. I'm really pleased about this - for all the obvious reasons (the more people there are, within reason, the more useful it will be as a network) and because we haven't even promoted it via LIS-LINK, Gazette or Update yet (all of which are in hand for the next fortnight or so). And I've not even written my long promised blog post about it! So 300 is pretty good for a network which is less than a month since launch, and not fully pushed into public consciousness yet.


Before work I decided to set up a document to record my CPD (Continuous Professional Development, I think is what that stands for). This ended up being a spreadsheet with four tabs - presentations, publications, training, and events - which just records stuff I've done in chronological order. I realised I'd had so much training from LIFE-SHARE that there was a danger I'd forget stuff I'd done previously, and also that I might need exact dates of publication to hand etc. The 'events' tab is a bit woolly but basically covers conferences/ lectures / other open day type things I've attended for work which can't be classed as hands-on training.

I think this'll come in really handy later on, because every job application / CV needs to be tailored to the role - this way, I'll have all the stuff laid out for me to choose from, which should lead to clearer thinking and more focused applications.

At 9:30 I had a meeting with the Library's Conservation Officer, Sharon Connell to talk about the Leeds case-study for LIFE-SHARE. We discussed the revealing and quite alarming results of the condition & usability assessment she's undertaken of a typical library collection (if you're interested, see this LIFE-SHARE blog post for a bit more info - turns out a lot of books are knackered!). What we've been trying to achieve is a workable model for establishing the costs of physical preservation. So the condition and assessment survey threw up four categories of disrepair (1 being fine, 4 being imminent book death) and we'd like to be able to say - if a given number of books are in condition X, what needs to be done and how much resources will it cost in terms of staff time and money. Obviously there's so many variables this is impossible to fully achieve, but after all Sharon's hard work we can certainly make decisions that are a lot more informed in future.

The next step is to determine comparable costs for digitally preserving the items, so I'm going to arrange a meeting with Jodie Double, our Digital Repositories Manager, to go through all that - we need to come up with prices for in-house digitisation, and out-sourcing. Project work often relies on many more people's time and expertise than just those on the Project team, so I'm very grateful to all the people helping out.

Then, at lunchtime, I notice a really interesting debate going on in the comments section of out-going CILIP CEO Bob McKee's blog, and add a big comment on it of my own, which is basically a blog post in itself (and may later turn into one). Then, I publish this!

- thewikiman

why the new BL e-books announcement is important

It seems to me an obvious but oddly under-invested-in truththat the nicer something is to engage with, the greater the number of people who will engage with it. e-Books have suffered perennially from under-engagement - in the academic library, we've scratched our heads as e-journal usage stats go off the chart, but people continue to reserve physical books and wait for them to come back from loan, rather than consult the e-book online. e-Books haven't traditionally been that nice to engage with. They often lack some of the utility of e-journals and simply don't work as well, plus they suffer from the way we take in information these days. e-Journals are perfect for power-browsing for certain targeted pieces of information, but books still seem like a greater undertaking that doesn't suit on-screen reading. Plus, e-books suffer from comparisons withthe real paper thing: people 'love the smell / feel / look' of books, and can be left cold by the somewhat impersonal e-book, with it's dark size 12 Arial font on a plain white screen.

We're only 5 weeks into 2010 and already some barriers to e-book usability, engageability, seem to be dropping like dominoes - the very barriers which prevent a full-scale embracing of the format. Preceded by the Kindle and Nook, which invested in the format and unshackled the reader from the computer screen, the iPad has launched with its iBook store. There have been an enormous number of articles comparing the relative merits of the platforms and I don't want to rehash them here: suffice to say, the Kindle is better for long bouts of reading (having electronic ink as opposed to a back-lit screen) but really the iPad is sexier in every other way. It costs much the same as a Kindle, you can enjoy the touch-screen page turning experience, and, in any case, you can download the Kindle app for it... e-Books have become more pleasant to engage with at a stroke. They look nicer (full colour, for a start), they are now tactile to a certain extent, and the iBook store looks really tidy. Little things, like the attractive looking virtual 'shelf' with colour renditions of your purchased books on, make a big difference. If Apple has proved anything, it is that they can take existing concepts and make them so much more engaging that they suddenly seem vital to own - remember, there were loads of MP3 players around before the iPodcame along and changed the method of engagement, creating a Hoover-with-vacuum-cleaners-like synonymity (is that a word?) with the medium.

Lots of people have argued that the iPad doesn't do all that it should do, that it is a let-down, the lack of multi-tasking limits it and so on. But this is the first iteration. It'll get better. Most people who've used one say they struggle to convey just how nice the things are to hold and to interact with, so once we've had a go we'll all want one. And by the time the all-improved second or third generation versions come out, they'll be irresistible - or if they are resistible, it's because an iPad inspired rival does the same job even better. So what if it doesn't have a camera? It will do eventually, and in the meantime it'll change the way we engage with content. Either way, it's all good news for e-books.

People are often polarised about new technology - either it's 'THE FUTURE IS HERE RIGHT NOW' or it's 'this will never catch on'. In reality, it is often a mixture of both. The iPad won't completely revolutionise the world, but it's the latest significant step in an ongoing process of change. I think it's probably a very significant step, because Apple traditionally find ways to make people engage withthe same old content in new and exciting ways that somehow render the old ones a little too dull to bother with.

So, how does this all relate to the BL's e-books announcement? The British Library have announced they are shortly to offer free e-books, of out-0f-copyright works, staring in the Spring. You can read more about it here. The way in which they are digitising is significant, for a number of reasons. The difference between the BL's new e-book scheme and many existing digitisation projects is that the BL is physically digitising its own original 18th and 19thcentury texts. So rather than a version of Pride & Prejudice that looks not entirely unlike this blog post does, it'll be scanned from the original copy, with all that implies - original typeface, original illustrations, perhaps even yellower paper... As mentioned above, I think a lot of people have a problem with e-books because they are nothing like the physical experience of reading a proper book. It's not a problem to anyone born this century - they'll happily read anything in on a screen because it is convenient, just in the same way that we accept the fact that MP3 is a rubbish file-format and doesn't sound as good as vinyl, because that too is convenient - but for the rest of us the legacy of the printed word is very powerful. So the BL's digitisation of the whole object, rather than just the contents of the object - their decision to reproduce the original book, rather than just gives us the words - is yet another step towards engaging the e-book sceptics. 2 months ago, your e-book choice consisted largely of reading Austen (or whatever) on a slightly dated looking big white device with keys on it, and no colour on the screen, and just the words of the original migrated to the new format. As of the Spring, you'll be able to read facsimiles of the original first edition in full colour on a device which costs much the same as the ugly white thing, looks and feels fantastic, and allows you to listen to music, surf the net, edit Word docs and watch TV when you're finished! That's a big change in a small amount of time - e-books have gone from rather grey and utilitarian to attractive and tactile. And I think that'll make a big change to the way people engage with them. Which is great!

This ties in with some of the issues we're thinking about with the LIFE-SHARE Project I'm working on. With digital preservation, it may not be enough to just preserve the content of something - when migrating format, we need to preserve everything about the object so it really can be a surrogate copy; the contents pages and appendices and printing notes and the type-set and the blank pages before and after the main body of the text, all that stuff. In years to come, I think people will thank the BL for faithfully reproducing the old books, and giving readers who like the new technology a more authentic reading experience...

- thewikiman

I'm Ned Potter - here's 3 days in my life

Oh hi! I blog under the nom-de-2.0 of thewikiman, but actually my real name is Ned Potter, and I'm an Information Professional. This is my contribution to the Library Day in the Life Project; Day in the Life offers an opportunity to increase awareness of, and potentially change public perception of, what we really do these days, and how and where we do it. Communicating that kind of information doesn't work well within the confines of anonymity. As such I want to take full ownership of this post, of my job, and of these three days in my library life. So. I work for the University of Leeds Library - I used to run the service which offered digitisation to support learning & teaching, but this year I've been seconded to the LIFE-SHARE Project. This is what I looked like about five minutes ago, when I took a photo of myself outside my house, using my phone:

A picture of me, looking expressionless

I've made it black & white to make it look moody, rather than just a picture of someone looking entirely expressionless, but you get the idea. If you follow the link later, you'll see a picture of my wife; she's much better looking than I am. :)

Day 1: internal communication

On the train to London by a painful 7am - off to JISC headquarters for a workshop on communicating effectively with internal stakeholders. As JISC provide so much funding for the LIFE-SHARE Project on which I am working (see the website, the blog, and the very embryonic Twitter account), they want to ensure that the libraries and their wider Universities involved (Leeds, Sheffield and York) actually know about what is going on and take an active interest in the project. Embedding these things properly is something I am all for; too many interesting projects fail to become integrated with the whole, and are forgotten about 6 months after completion.

A lady is asleep over the plug-socket on the train, so I cannot plug in ancient Laptop which can hold less charge than is required to boot up Windows. But an email from Joel Kerry is interesting enough that I labour through the process of replying with my iPhone! We're discussing a workshop I'm running at the CILIP Yorkshire & Humberside Member's Day in April. It was originally going to be called Marketing the Profession or some such, but with all the #echolib discussions it seems like a really good opportunity to talk about moving beyond the echo-chamber. Turns out Joel had thought the same thing (he's the Events Coordinator for the region) and, more spookily, had also had the same idea that had been forming in my mind of getting a certain fellow professional involved in presenting too... She's currently away in sunnier climes but I'll ambush her with it when she gets back.

Arrive at JISC - never been before, it's in an absolutely prime location just opposite the South Bank complex, and a very plush premises indeed. I meet the lovely Ben Showers for the first time (he's looking after all the projects in the e-Content funding strand which ours resides in) and settle down for what turns out to be an INTENSE day of marketing stuff, led by the dynamic, excellent, and unrelenting Rosemary Stamp. It is serious stuff - we even had to work during our lunch... But, it was really useful, full of marketing information which makes you think "that's so obvious and yet I am not doing it - why!?" and featuring a nice package to take away with you and reuse. I'll probably have to devote an entire blog post at a later date covering all that we learned, but basically it was a very productive day. I also saw one of my best friends on the platform of King's Cross - this always seems to happen. I think Londoners just hang around waiting for the rest of us to come down to them so we can stumble into them in public places.

On the way home the plug-socket is free, and I finally write an article about Library Routes for ALISS Quarterly. They approached me and Woodsiegirl earlier in the month about contributing something to the journal, and it was decided that I should handle this one; hopefully I've covered all the important points. My laptop (as well as having precisely no battery life) has this brilliant thing where there's several thick, immovable white lines down the middle of the screen, so you can't read one word in ten that you've written. Makes for good times writing articles on a train, I can tell you.

Day 2: presentations

I'm working from home this morning as we have a presentation for LIFE-SHARE in York  in the afternoon (part of the embedding process) and as I live in York, there's no point in commuting to Leeds for half a day. This is where I am working - I took the pic using the Hipstamatic app to try and make it look more interesting that it really is:

My Desk

If you look very closely, you'll see that this picture of my home office-space has my PC in it which has Lauren Pressley's Day in the Life post showing on the monitor which has a picture of HER office in it - pretty meta, no? Also, if ever there was a visual metaphor for the way in which my work / fun balance has shifted in recent years, it's the sad site of my work-related cup of coffee sitting on one of my turntables - SAD TIMES.

I haven't had a chance to write any slides for the presentation yet, so this morning is all about getting something good down quickly. My part is about the Leeds and Sheffield case-studies - digitisation to support collection management, and digitisation for preservation and access respectively. I decide that less is more and go with only two slides in total (only having a few slides has worked well for me before) but I write a bunch of notes to go with them and try to memorise them. With memorising presentations, it's all or nothing for me - I either have to not look down at my notes at all, or I have to check them all the time even though I can remember what's coming. Otherwise I inevitably end up in the dreaded situation of staring down at my notes, trying to find where I've already done up to, as a long, agonising silence descends on the room...

Interesting email exchange with Bobbi Newman after she blogged on the subject of the echo-chamber - really glad she's got involved with this meme. We both noticed with some awe that David Lee King, who left a comment on Bobbi's post, has 6000 subscribers to his blog. Wow. I guess there's different levels of echo-chamber...

After lunch I walk up to the University, meet up with my fellow Project Officer and my boss, and we go over our presentation and refine certain things. Then we go to a room in the lovely Borthwick Institute and deliver our presentation - it seems to go well, and we're repeating it to a larger audience on Friday morning. I found myself doing it from memory and therefore not able to look down at my notes even though I had them there - God knows how much of it I forgot to actually say out loud.

Day 3: minute by minute

Hilariously, I get up ridiculously early to watch a Webinar about preservation, having worked out the difference between EST and GMT in the wrong direction. Come back later, the screen tells me. It doesn't need to add: it's 7am, what are you doing, this doesn't start till 9pm your time, you fool. But I bet that's what it's thinking.

I take the opportunity to work on the minutes for the inaugural LIFE-SHARE meeting which took place the previous Friday. We Project Officers have to minute these meetings, and they are huge - nearly 20 people are on the Advisory Group (there are people from JISC, JISC Digital Media, Leeds, Sheffield, York, the British Library, and the ULCC) and go on for two hours plus lunch, so I was mightily relieved to have borrowed a laptop from the Systems Team to write everything down on. My handwriting is so appalling that by the end of two hours of solid scribbling, nothing at all would have been recognisable as words. It was a really productive meeting though.

Once I later get to work I carry on working on them - it takes absolutely ages to do, as pretty much all that was said is pertinent in some way. Here is the LIFE-SHARE office in all its splendour (that thing pinned to the board is a GANNT Chart I made which maps out the entire 15 months of the Project, with special shapes for the bits I have to do myself...):


After a quick lunch with the even-lovelier-than-Ben-Showers Mrs Wikiman, I have my probation meeting with my boss. I've worked here for 4 years but whenever you change grade you have 6 months probation, so we go through objectives and all that stuff. It's easy to do with LIFE-SHARE as all the objectives are clearly laid out in the Project documentation; much more straightforward than in my previous role, where we'd be searching for meaningful objectives beyond the standard "continue to deliver an excellent service" etc. Project work is very focused - you have certain objectives that need to be accomplished by a certain time, and you just juggle them and do them until they're done. I enjoy that.

I then spend about a million hours putting all the hyperlinks into this post, and get ready to click 'Publish'. I will sadly be back online at 9pm, to attend the bloody webinar that I thought was this morning...

- thewikiman