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:

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:

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 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: and!/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 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:

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: We use a RSS feed form this blog to feed the Eresources webpage:, 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.