Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The art of selective unfollowing

I try to keep my twitter feed relatively clean - I don't follow too many 10k+ tweeters, and I'm pretty selective anyway. My signal/noise ratio tolerance is pretty low. Tweet about your cat too often, of how you've just had a shower and are considering what to have for breakfast and I will unfollow without much guilt or hesitation.

One new trick I've learnt is the selective unfollow. Clearly, in a small world like librarianship, especially in England, a lot of people know each other personally. Therefore, if you follow groups who know each other, you will see all of their @replies to each other. This is fine if it's either occasional, funny or professionally relevant. However a lot if it is at best noise in my stream and at worse tweeters ostentatiously showing everyone how social they are.

To combat this, identify either the weak link in the chain (the least interesting tweeter) or the worst abuser (most frivolous @replies) and unfollow. You then get to keep most of the relevant tweets from the group and hugely cut down the amount of chatter in your stream.

I know this sounds a bit antisocial, and I'm all for using twitter to communicate with my friends, but when it becomes too obnoxious or ostentatious I'm gong to start looking for reasons to unfollow pretty quickly. Also, if someone is interesting enough, their best tweets will be retweeted by someone else in my timeline and I'll see the best bits anyway.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Being a Professional

I've been thinking about the meaning of being a Library Professional in 2011. Personally, I'm a big CPD advocate, a current CILIP member and a Chartered Professional Librarian to boot. So I should be happy at the top of this little tree, right?

Not really. Three things have challenged my thinking recently:

  • What difference has Chartership made to my career?
  • What difference does a Library qualification make when I'm looking at Person Specifications for jobs, or reading application forms?
  • Why isn't every Librarian a CILIP member?
I am finding the answers I'd have given here two years ago harder to justify now. The status quo is not an optimal situation:
  • Most employers don't look to Chartership as a significant factor anymore.
  • I know some experienced people who work in Libraries who could do a 'professional' job tomorrow, but don't have the qualification. I also know qualified people who have climbed a step on their career with more help from having the qualification on their CV than their actual experience or talent.
  • CILIP membership does not permeate through the profession deeply enough.
Would a new paradigm here provide a more competitive Library profession? Perhaps one where:
  • All people who work in Libraries are judged by their experience and talent
  • No job is inaccessible to someone who is capable of doing it
  • Everyone in the profession feels part of the community

The risk in this situation is that professionalism is lost - cornerstone values of the profession could become devalued. Allowing myself one of those 'if I was in charge' moments, I'd spend some time working out if a modular approach to CPD in Libraries could work as part of this new paradigm. It could offer a more flexible way to develop the skills employers look for and be more approachable and accessible or those with limited funds and time.

If this was combined with a different, ultra-inclusive membership model for CILIP, it might also give everyone in the profession the reassurance that only a successful Library community could offer, that although we're all different, we're all working towards the same goal - excellent library and information services, staffed with expert and fulfilled staff.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Umbrella 2011 - How Libraries can bridge the Information Web and the Social Web

I'm speaking at the Umbrella conference later this week, giving a presentation on behalf of CILIP's Mmit Group titled: 'How Libraries can bridge the Information Web and the Social Web'. I've put the Prezi up on the web in advance, and I'm also asking delegates to answer a question before they attend (they'll also get the chance to add their votes during the presentation). If you're coming along, please vote!:

Do you agree with 'People First, Content Second?: http://www.polleverywhere.com/multiple_choice_polls/LTIxNDI3NjUzNDU

A short article written around the content of the presentation will hopefully appear in Mmit's publication, the Multimedia Information and Technology journal.

Monday, 27 June 2011

And another (few) thing(s)...

I've been watching the 23 things movement with interest. Having worked in staff development for a few years at cpd25 I have a well ingrained belief that continuing professional development is fundamental in (what has now deservedly become a cliche) the fast changing library world.

The 23 things selected are excellent, and credit to the organisers. However, I think there a few universal things that those who really want to push their development should definitely look at (once they've done the other 23, of course). So think of this as an auxiliary list - if the original 23 didn't push you outside of your current comfort zone, hopefully these suggestions will:

1. Learn about open culture.

Absolutely essential for librarians. Be it relating to software, content or anything else, the principles involved here should be part of any librarians motivations for being a librarian in the first place. Here's some places to start: Access, Bibliography, Citation, Data, Source. If you're going to be a librarian for a while, at least one of these will affect your work in the future.

2. Learn about electronic access management.

Every librarian who works in a library that wants to provide access to electronic resources needs to know about this, public, academic or otherwise. It can sound complicated, and because of the technology involved this topic puts people off. Don't let that happen to you, because once you understand this you'll make more out of your content and look less silly in front of library users less often. Extra points for learning about DRM.

3. Get more opinionated.

You might think you can skip this one, but there is almost certainly some important development affecting the future of libraries out there that you currently don't care about. The next time you're not sure about something, find out more about it and try and decide what you think. Informed ambivalence is still an opinion. Ignorance isn't. By developing considered opinions on library related issues you'll be ready to be part of the conversations you'll need to have as your career develops.

4. Talk to someone who interviews for library staff about what it's like to be on the other side of the table. 

If you've only ever been interviewed and not done it yourself then there is a lot about the process you may not realise. Find out about how shortlisting is done, how interviews are marked and so on. Don't wait until you next get selected for interview to think about this - understanding the process in advance will mean you'll be better prepared when the chance comes.

5. Learn the difference between targets and strategies. 

This is simply about getting things done. Even simple change in many libraries can be hard to achieve, but knowing the difference between what you want to do and how to get there will help enormously. Even if you're not involved in doing the strategic thinking or the planning yourself, it'll help you understand what your bosses are trying to do.

If you mange the first 23 and then do these 5, you'll probably end up a better librarian than I am! If there's interest, I've got some ideas for a blogpost on things to avoid and common pitfalls - let me know what you think!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Commuting Gadgets

I'm planning to move house soon, and I'll be spending a lot more time on trains. This is the perfect excuse for a new gadget! My requirements:

  • Good for watching video (I'm going to catch up on all those series that everyone recommended to me while I was persevering with Prison Break)
  • Great battery - I'm already a slave to my nearest plug, I don't want to make it worse
  • Something i can read a lot on - I"m planning to actually read my 'to-read' list (you know, all those JISC, RIN, DCC etc reports you've filed for reading and never get to, just like me)
  • Something I can work on - spreadsheets, word docs and pdfs. This probably means I need a physical keyboard.

Existing travelling gadgetry: I've got an Android phone, a 4th gen iPod touch and access to an iPad2 at work. So these are my options:


The idea of only working with the cloud is quite tempting - this device will fill the gap between home and the office. Nothing needs to be native to the device for this purpose. However, relying on 3G could be a folly. The offline performance would be key, and they're very new to market.

Asus Transformer:

Ok, I like this because it's called a Transformer. It's also an Android tablet that can be turned into a reasonable netbook very easily - with giving you a real keyboard, extra battery power and USB/SD slots. They've also been reviewed very highly. It's also just received a bump to Android 3.1. Only thing lacking is a 3G version. I could use my Desire as a hotspot, or buy a 3G dongle.

Galaxy Tab 10.1 (slim version):

This is brand new, and has immediately been hailed as the best Android tablet available. It looks great on paper. The hardware is as good as the iPad. It's simply a question of whether Android is mature enough.


No chance. It won't run tweetdeck, for a start.


Well I use one of these frequently at work, but I can't load it to the brim with my own apps etc. It's great - very light, endless battery etc. There's also the promise of iOS5 later in the year. However, I don't like the silly magnetic cover, and I really don't like looking like an Apple fanboy.


The Transformer is definitely the most tempting. The Chromebook could be great, but seems a bit limited - it's not a computer, but not as flexible as a tablet. The iPad is super slick but I think Android will only accelerate faster and faster. There is an issue with fragmentation and obsolescence with Android though - where will I be with an Android tablet in 1 year?

In fact if I wait a month, things will probably have moved on again. Time to get my hands on the Transformer in real-life to see if it lives up to the reviews!

Friday, 15 April 2011

ebooks and sellers, independence and neutrality

In the interview 'E-books procurement - a disruptive business' (CILIP Update April 2011), Elspeth Hyams interviews EBL's Kari Paulson about their business models for academic libraries.

I read this twice, and by the end of the second time I had confirmed in my mind that CILIP had misjudged their approach to this piece. Elspeth graciously contacted me and invited a letter, and also didn't judge me too harshly for my angry sounding tweet. I am grateful to her for both.

The letter will contain mostly the same sentiment as this post, but as Update is behind a paywall, this will serve as a public response.

I've never dealt with EBL directly, although they have offered us trials before. I have dealt with many ebook suppliers, both aggregators and publishers directly, and here lies the source of problem. The exposure of a front page, a 3 page article and a page long case study on one supplier is gives too much focus to one company, and one business model, and I'm uncomfortable with this exposure not being tempered with some contrasting analysis.

There are many different models for ebook acquisition in academic libraries, and the diversity of these suggests to me that none is perfect, and that no-one scheme suits all. For an overview - with a lot of figures and analysis, see Terry Bucknell's excellent Buying by the Bucketful presentation, given at UKSG 2011. Demand-Driven-Acquisition (DDA) is one model, but it's not the only one.

I think ebook acquisition for HE is a massively complex issue, and I'm delighted to see CILIP reporting on it, but I would like to see difficult questions that electronic collections librarians like myself are asking everyday asked of providers. Here's a few issues I'd love to more analysis on:
  1. DRM - does EBL use self-destructing PDFs, or other Digital Rights Management? In my experience, locked PDFs, limited 'loans' etc just aggravate users. I always say to ebook vendors: give us unlocked PDFs, without usage limits or loan periods and we'll talk. Give us DRM and we'll do whatever we can to take our business elsewhere. Users come first. 
  2. Profit - From the article: "crucially, publishers were making more money out of the libraries that were paying for short-term loans (ILL) as well as outright purchase, than they did from those that only bought ebooks in the usual way". ILL is portrayed as bad for publishers because the "publisher sits outside of the economy." There's a can of worms there about intellectual property, but do publishers really need to keep looking for new ways to get money out of libraries? 
  3. Scholarly Communications - if excruciating journal price rises are to blame for libraries buying less books, perhaps CILIP could give attention to wide efforts to redess that balance? 
  4. Collection Development - what does DDA mean for long term collection development - the short-termism of DDA have longer-term consequences? 
  5. Resource Discovery and trust - it used to be that librarians added value - the nature of a collection is the nature of the library. If you fill your catalogue with things you don't own, do you dilute what you have, and users ability to find it? 
So my challenge, CILIP, is to follow this cover article up with some analysis of alternatives - get to the heart of the matter, make me a better informed librarian, and challenge the business models like this from the side of Libraries, their staff and their customers. You're right to strive to be independent, but you don't need to be neutral!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Why bring your books back on time?

For various reasons I've been thinking lately about Library fines, and what affect they have on Library user behaviour. Now this is outside of my main work area, but being the curiously minded soul that I am I kept thinking about this. I came up with an idea from scratch, that is partially inspired by the University of Westminster blocking scheme (item 3.3 on this pdf), and partially by the chapter in Freakonomics that deals with fining parents who are late picking up their kids from nursery.

Blocks I'm instinctively wary of, because although they're a very transparent system, the results are pretty harsh. In Freakonomics, it was posited that the fines just make parents feel less bad about being late, rather than making them more likely to turn up on time. I wanted to find a system that gave an incentive for good behavior that people might respond to, and that also gave enough disincentive to bring things back late repetitively.

This is my own work - if you know of a Library that operates a system like this, please let me know! I'm also aware that this idea might sound completely mad. Comments welcome!

Library borrowing allowance. There are 3 principles:

1. A user starts the year with allowance to borrow XX number of books.

2. The allowance improves by +1 for every book returned on time.
        o There is a maximum allowance. Good library users will quickly reach this maximum.

3. The allowance decreases -1 for every day a book is late.
        o Minimum allowance of 1 book loan, which allows all users to rebuild their allowance.

The incentive is therefore clear – if you bring books back late, you’ll be seriously restricted in your borrowing ability until to start bringing books back on time again. Think of it like a credit score, except it’s really simple to understand what affects the score, and really easy to improve it if goes down.

I like this idea for the following reasons:

· Rewards-based, not punishment-based incentive to respect the system.
· Does punish the worst offenders the most – lengthier overdues cause bigger loan allowance reductions.
· Normal behaviour has little affect on the balance. Only the worst breaches will drag a balance down to the minimum.
· Restoring the balance gets easier with each successful return as you have the potential to double your borrowing power, rewarding good behaviour.
· Removes the perception that the Library punishes late returns to make money.
· Removal of cash transactions from the service point.
· Level playing field for rich and poor students.
· Different loan types could be set to affect the allowance more than others – for example, shorter loan types could count double.

Possible problems:
· I don’t know of anyone trying this before – it would probably need coding from scratch.
· It might be hard to keep it transparent regarding what has happened on an account to cause allowance increases/decreases. However, fines are probably no easier to understand.
· People might try and borrow and return items straight away in order to boost or repair their score. If you excluded items borrowed for less than say 1/2 hour(s) then this would probably solve this in the main.
· People who are good all year round can then get away with more abuse during exams.

So, am I mad, or might this work?

where now?

In a moment of personal discovery today, I realised I needed a professional space that was mine and nothing to do with my employer. As much as I've enjoyed blogging for my job, and using twitter for both, this part was missing. I resolved to get home, get on Blogger and make a blog.

Being all smart and everything, it turns out I've been through a similar thought before - which was when I made this blog, back in 2008.

Anyway, I'm back now and will use this a little bit more. I've imported some personal stuff that I'd put on the work blog for safekeeping here (it's more to do with me than it is them). I've also got some other stuff to share soon.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Library Day in the Life - Friday

This is the last post of a week's blogging on my daily work in the Library for the Library Day in the Life project. It's been great to see other people's posts and to feel part of the huge community of library and information staff out there. It's also been intriguing for me to reflect on what I take for granted each day, or do without stopping to think too much. Hopefully any readers of these posts will have found them a useful insight into what a modern academic library information service is like. Thanks for reading!

Missing books
My team looks after missing book reports for the main collection. We get a lot of reports of missing items, but I've regularly shared my feelings with colleagues that we don't go about it in the best fashion. This meeting gives me the chance to try and change things, and I make my case. Making changes isn't easy in the library - there are a lot of stakeholders who all need to have their say, and we have several layers of decision making bodies. However, we make a recommendation which goes on to the next level.

Liaison librarian meeting
I've invited our team of liaison librarians to a meeting - it's very rare for all of us to be together at the same time like this, and I do my best to make the most of it. The subject is electronic resources, and my message is clear - our e-collection is growing rapidly, and we need to scale our liaison service to match it. Everyone understands of course, being the a switched-on and super professional group that they are, and we have some good discussions and make some plans. Promotion, discoverability and support are identified as key areas to work on.

Lunch - Library vision seminar, with Dave Parkes, from University of Staffordshire.
Our Director of Library Services, Liz Chapman has arranged a series of lunchtime seminars for LSE Library staff to hear from notable people in the profession in order to help us think about the future for LSE's own library.

This is the last scheduled session, and Dave Parkes gave an excellent and thought-provoking seminar, touching on the potential of new technologies, harnessed by librarians who can utilise them in the context of rapid change in the profession. The way he spoke so enthusiastically about this reminded me of this excellent blog post by Andy Burkhardt. I think that the tools Dave mentioned, like haptic interfaces, shouldn't be defined by what has already been, but understood for what they can do for us in the future.

Straight after the lunch session I'm on call for the desk. It's quiet, which is great as it's a wall-to-wall busy day. After half an hour my colleague Barbara takes over from me so I can grab some much needed lunch.

More ebooks
I speak to a representative from a large publisher on the phone, and I'm very excited by what I hear - no problematic DRM, flexibility over title-by-title selection, nice platform, discounts for bulk purchases. This ticks enough boxes to take a lot further. I'm takes with extending the libraries ability to purchase ebooks, but I'm negotiating hard to do it on the best terms for the library in each instance. This looks very promising - Monday will bring a few tests and a closer examination of coverage. I've been here before only to find out that the publisher only books the rubbish books on the platform and keeps the desirable stuff in print only still.

A colleague has asked to find out more about what I do. She's brave because anyone who works with me knows I don't need much encouragement to talk about myself and my job. Especially on a Friday afternoon. Anyway, we spend an hour in the Senior Common Room chatting about things, and it's only in conversations like this that I realise the full extent of my job, and the possibilities that it holds. I lament that I don't have the time to do everything I'd like, also realise it's up to me to make these goals happen.

I expect I got as much out of the conversation as she did. Much like these blog posts, stopping to reflect is a hugely valuable and instructive tool in making the most out of your job,

Friday evening means a guilt-free trip to The George. See you in there. My round.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Library Day in the Life - Thursday: CRC Research Management event report

Today I attended a day long CRC event at RIBA, near Regent's Park in London. It's a great venue, with loads of architectural plans and diagrams on the walls.

The event was about how institutions can manage their research outputs, and focusses on the systems and departments needed to do this. Libraries and research divisions are therefore well represented, and repositories are at the heart of the case studies that we hear about. Here's the programme: http://crc.nottingham.ac.uk/events/index.php?page=Researchmanagement-2011-01-27/index.php.

The day was introduced by Bill Hubbard, Head of the CRC at Nottingham. He set the scene, remarking that many of the problems surrounding the management of research outputs, certainly from the repository point of view, would be eased by getting involved earlier in the research process, before the grant runs out and the articles are published.

Also represented here were RLUK, with David Prosser reflecting that academic institutions are increasingly interested in curating existing institutional assets, like theses and research outputs of all kinds, including data. The open question, he posited, is the role of the library in managing these.

Ian Carter, chair of ARMA, ended the round of introductions by suggesting that to understand the research processes of an institution, you also need to understand teaching. This context is essential to understand the time pressures and balancing of priorities that goes on in academics' lives.

The morning programme featured three case studies, from Glasgow, Newcastle and St Andrews. Glasgow was the most interesting for me, as they have an extremely successful EPrints repository, Enlighten, and use it in a similar way to LSE. Susan Ashworth described their service, and in comparison they have a much more complete database than us, although a similar amount of full-text. Excitingly for me, they are about to switch-on integration with their link resolver, something that I've been really keen for us to do. Glasgow should expect an email from us shortly!

There is much to admire in their distributed approach to managing Enlighten, and how well integrated it is into their wider university systems, such as the HR database and staff webpages.

Jill Golightly, from the Research Office at Newcastle University, outlined a different approach that separated the Library-run repository, which was left to focus on full text, and a research management system that tied into systems from across the university.

University of St Andrews have developed a CRIS, called Pure, which utilises staff from both the library and research teams. Again, they had a separate full text repository that ties in with the CRIS. They saw the repository as an essential part of the system, and strongly felt that the Library was the best place for this to be administered.

Stephen Pinfield, CIO at University of Nottingham, talked about the practice of authors or institutions paying publishers to make an article available vie Open Access. This model is supported by funder mandates such as that of the Wellcome, who require all authors to make their work OA. Nottingham themselves have a policy of making research OA either by 1) deposit on the web, such as at UKPubMed, 2) in the Nottingham institutional repository or 3) by paying the publisher to make it OA on their platform. Pinfield described how most major publishers now have a facility for this, and that grant applications should ideally include provision for the cost of those fees. However, he referenced research that shows 50% of publications occur after the funded period is over, and the funds will have gone, In this case, the cost can be considered an indirect cost of the research. Some universities now have central funds to pay for OA fees. Nottingham's recent survey showed 14% of UK universities do, and another 14% are likely to set one up. However, articles made OA by this method only account for 4% of Nottingham's overall output.

The afternoon session included two perspectives from funders The Wellcome Trust and RCUK. Robert Kiley of the Wellcome argued for a centralised research management approach, rather than institutional, and Gerry Lawson from the Natural Environment Research Council spoke about the benefits of national infrastructure such as consistent identifiers and authority controls. One interesting fact that came up was that the Wellcome achieve 50% success with their OA mandate.

The day finished with some group discussion about where to go from here – should pressure come from RCUK? Is a national approach likely to work? What is the role of libraries? Can funders help by wielding the stick more? We didn't reach the answers, of course, but we end the day on a similar note to that which we started with – success will lie in communication with those doing research, ad working with them during that process, and not just at the end of it.

Thursday review
This was a very relevant and timely event for me to have attended. I'm very lucky that my employers support as much attendance at seminars and other development opportunities as they do, and it's something I appreciate all the more having been so involved with cpd25 over the years.

Thursdays for me always end with 5-as-side football in North London. Assuming I survive that, my last daily blog for the libraries day in the life week will appear tomorrow.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Library Day in the Life - Wednesday

Team review
I started today with some thinking. The division I work in, Information Services, is having a reflective review of the last 6 months at a meeting next week. My team (Eservices) has 10 minutes to report back. We devise a way of getting the whole team to speak, and I create a Prezi to help show off our achievements.

I've been a bit mischievous and put 'Collections' as the theme, because although there is a very healthy Collections team already in IS, we've done more and more in this area and it ties together all the themes we've been working on.

We send a monthly newsletter to our academic liaison departments. Here's the one I sent out today: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/newsletters/Library/liaison/2010/September/Mathematics.html.

It triggers some questions about ejournals, which is a good sign - it means people read the newsletter!

Bane of my life. Manage to arrange a bank transfer to India for some data we're buying, and try to work out why a Swiss bank sent us some money back. No transaction ever seems to go smoothly, but everything adds up eventually.

Meet the boss
We're such a busy department that days easily fly by without touching base with my manager. I get some time with her and make sure she knows what we're up to - we're moving really fast at the moment so it's important to keep her informed. We also talk over some important plans for the future - though we always seem to be doing that!

Training, humpf
Several of the people booked on my training class pull out at the last minute, so it doesn't go ahead. It's nice in a way to have the hour back, but I really enjoy training so it's disappointing.

Everyday has some repository work in it these days. Today (and this isn't unusual) it's me throwing ideas at Neil, the repository manager and hoping some of them make sense. We hatch a plan to do a really neat job with working paper series which should come in handy in a few weeks time for something else. On the fly strategic thinking, if you will.

Another hour and half on call. Mixed bag today, nothing that exciting and nothing that difficult. A good away draw then.

Canned Searches
This is the sort of thing I really enjoy. All of our databases are given special entries in their MARC records to denote which departments would find them useful. With the help of our expert Library Systems Manager Michael, we find a good way to display that field in Vufind, our Library catalogue overlay. I'm going to show everyone the prototype on Friday.

Plan for tomorrow
I'm at the RCS Event: Research Management - Smoothing the Way, all day tomorrow, so the blog will be the write up of that.

Wednesday review
One of those inbetween days today - no great leaps but doing the day-to-day groundwork that hopefully pays off in the end. My job, as I see it, is only half about the status quo. Yes, I need to keep things working, but the exciting stuff is the development work. The improvements we can bring about are the achievements I enjoy the most.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Library Day in the Life - Tuesday

Reviewing an article
I'm peer reviewing an article. It's the first time I've reviewed an article like this, and it's a very interesting experience. I've written plenty myself, and all the work I've done on Scholarly Communications over the last few years with VIF and LSE RO mean I have well developed opinions about the publication process. However, I'm worried about sounding like a school-teacher in my comments - I'm peer reviewing it, not marking it after all. It's a good article though, and I feel like I'm involved in something creative and positive by helping them make the article even better.

Repositories Development Meeting
Once a month we meet to discuss development priorities for our two repositories, LSE Research Online and LSE Theses Online. This month we did a round of prioritising development targets. I always push quite hard with developments - we have a great team working on LSE RO, but we all have so many other aspects to our jobs that unless we keep pressing for ongoing development, it's all too easy for things to slip and for progress to be slow. The mantra for choosing priorities is 'will it benefit the users'. It's a good test of how important each proposed change should actually be.

It's a good meeting, with a range of short and medium term goals that will all make a big difference to users of the repository. Our first target is a working author browse function within the next month. Watch this space!

I'm a liaison librarian amongst other things, and I liaise primarily with Mathematics, Statistics and the Methodology Institute. This morning I get on the phone to talk over progress with our LSE Research Online work. I find liaison works best when you pick the right form of communication. Be it the newsletter, an email, a phone call or a visit in person, using the right method for the message can make a big difference as to how successful I am.

Today the phone worked best!

12pm - Data enquiry
I have a PhD student come in who is trying to access IMF trade stats on ESDS International. A bit of troubleshooting and we find there's an IT problem. It drags on through the afternoon but we've found the root of the problem. As often happens, the student has a few other questions to ask while their here. I'm always terrified and a bit excited when people ask questions out of the blue like that. Today's random topic: international aid. I give them a whirlwind tour of stats sources like OECD iLibrary, and we strike gold with Data.gov.uk. In combination with some print stats that my colleague Paul goes and fetches, we find UK aid to Burma from 1970-2009. Perfect solution - it genuinely never ceases to impress me just how much information we can lay our hands on so quickly in this library.

Time for lunch. I normally go out for a 45 minute workout on Tuesdays, but I'm too busy this week. I get grumpy without exercise, so I hate missing out. Have to rush as usual as more appointments scheduled at 1pm.

1pm Desk, lunch and Ebooks 
I manage to buy lunch but not eat it before my 1pm appointment comes. I'm also on call for the desk at 1, so there's a bit of plate spinning to be done, but the IS team always help out in situations like these.

Another PhD student, and he want to talk about ebooks - my new specialist subject. He's got a new Sony ebook reader and wants to know how to get our ebooks onto it. I'll spare you the DRM rant, but this is EXACTLY the reason why I really try hard not to buy DRM-infested titles unless I have to. We have a good talk about finding ebooks, what the Library is trying to do with them, and what ebooks might mean for academia. I wish I'd been able to give him a way to get those books onto his ereader, but we'll have to wait a couple more years for that.

Still on call I eat my lunch. Usually it's a race to finish before I get called out. In the end only one interesting query, on death rates in London since 1970. I like the morbid ones, no idea what she needed it for but we found it.

Take a phone call from publisher about ebooks. I like the look of their platform but they only sell ebooks in subject sets. I ask them for a title list that includes the print ISBN so that we compare to the list to items we've already bought in print.

Start the Eduserv licence negotiation survey. Briefly consider life without consortial purchasing / negotiation. Give positive answers to all the answers when I realise how much benefit we gain from it.

I'm covering the teaching materials budget while a colleague is on maternity leave. This means trying to work out, with colleagues in acquisitions teams, how to get access for students to all sorts of unusual materials. By far the most difficult to get hold of - at least for teaching purposes - are business and legal cases.
Within 15 minutes I completely lose patience with the stunningly inflexible options presented to me by one supplier. Decide to do something else.

Lose patience with the something else. Send what is likely to be a vexatious email to colleagues suggesting we change some processes. I do this about once a week about something or other, and the rest of the Library have learnt to tolerate this, or at least hide their irritation.

Going Beyond Google
Tomorrow afternoon I'm leading a workshop on internet searching skills. We've talked about updating the slides for a while, and three of us huddle round and throw ideas at it. Tomorrow will therefore be a guinea pig class to test the new slides. The task deserves much more thought but I've become very good at just winging things lately.

Again, pretty par for the course. I've been putting off some important stuff that will have to be done tomorrow though. I have a fair degree of autonomy and control over my working life here, but I know not to push my luck! The thing that always motivates is that at the end of every process, every decision and every purchase there is a library user who will be affected. This concern alone is usually enough to make sure I get things done!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Library Day in the Life - Monday

This week I'll be recording what I get up to as a librarian for the librarydayinthelife event. For more about this event see here: http://librarydayinthelife.pbworks.com and http://twitter.com/#!/search?q=%23libday6.

About me:
I'm the E-Services Manager for the Library in the London School of Economics. I work full time, and I've been at LSE for about 4 years.

First thing: 
I'm Email backup this week. That means that if any of the staff answering the enquiries sent to library.enquiries@lse.ac.uk address need help, I'm their man. This could mean I get a lot or queries or none at all - pot luck really.

EU Data:
Quickly I'm into Data Librarian mode. We have a fantastic data collection at LSE that I'm managing while the post of Data Librarian remains vacant. We have all sorts of data, but by far the hardest to administrate are datasets from the European Commission. We're licensed to hold EU-SILC and EU-LFS, the Survey on Income and Living Standards and the Labour Force Survey respectively. We get these from Eurostat, and access is highly restrictive. We have to get individual permissions for each researcher using the data. This can take months. The data is delivered in encrypted format, which we have to locally decrypt using passwords. Today I get an application finished for EU-SILC - one very happy researcher - and arrange for a new version of the LFS to get decrypted.

It's essential work if we want to support researchers using data, and we know how highly they value having the library's help in getting the data from Eurostat.

LSE Research Online:
An enormous amount of work is happening in the team at the moment around LSE Research Online and its potential use as a source of information about LSE research for the REF (Research Excellence Framework). We're talking to each and every department trying to get all of their post-2007 references uploaded to the repository.

A lot of this work is advocacy around the benefits of using institutional repositories, which gives us the chance to show off our lovely spectrum: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/29804/1/Research_spectrum.pdf.

Collections blog:
I'm responsible for the electronic resources collection provided by the Library, and this year we're buying resources for 'new' subject areas; those new to LSE at least. Those include healthcare, climate change and parts of law. I'm involved in every part of the process - selection, negotiation of price, local budget administration, setting up of access (in our case EZproxy or Shibboleth), contributing to the catalogue record and then promoting the resources.

Each purchase gets a blog post in our collections blog: http://lselibrarycollections.blogspot.com/. We use a RSS feed form this blog to feed the Eresources webpage: http://www2.lse.ac.uk/library/eresources/Home.aspx, my email signature (email me if you want to see!) and our monthly newsletter. This prevents a lot of copy/pasting and works really well. I am also an obsessive web stats nerd and often check to see which are the most popular blog posts using Google Analytics. This morning I put up a couple of new posts.

As usual, lunch is hurriedly purchased and consumed at my desk while I jog my memory about the next meeting. My job is very busy, but who's library job isn't busy these days?

2pm - Supplier meeting
Along with a liaison librarian colleague I meet a representative from a big supplier of data to us for coffee. He's in the UK for a week, and makes us a very good offer for a big run of ebooks manuals of company data.

We'd love to take it, but funds are tight. We talk about the price and options, and we agree to talk again at the end of the financial year. Right now we can't commit, but there's always the chance that we'll have some money left come July that we can use for a one-off purchase like this.

Help Desk
A few times a week I'm scheduled for the Help Desk, our enquiries point. I don't sit at the desk, as a library assistant does, but if they need any help they have a buzzer they can ring which will summon me out. Some days it'll be quiet, others hectic. I never mind being called out as you only deal with the queries that the library assistant can't. This means reference questions and more challenging sort of queries than the run-of the-mill. Today I'm called out loads, and I strike lucky because each person I deal with is a delight. It's not like that every day!

One person is looking for articles on health care. Fantastic - I show her some of the trials we're running and email her the links so she can try them out. It's so unbelievably important that users of the Library realise how much work goes into providing access to eresources. It's too easy to assume that it all happens by magic. When I get the chance to speak with library users, I always go the extra mile to help them because in these tough times we must show our value to the university. I want every person who uses eresources here to know the Library makes that possible.

I should have left by now, but of course I haven't. It's like that most days, but as with most librarians I know, I'd rather leave with everything in good order than just walk out of the door.

Monday summary
Today was pretty representative. Every day in my job is a bit different, and you'll see that over the week, but the themes are the same all way through: people, collections and all the stuff in between.