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Visit to the Royal Astronomical Society Library by Maddie House

AnneWelsh24 October 2014

RASEditorial Note: We are grateful to Sian Prosser, Librarian of the Royal Astronomical Society for hosting this Induction Week visit. – Anne Welsh, Programme Director MA Library and Information Studies.

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During our induction week, some of the new LIS students were lucky enough to visit the Royal Astronomical Society Library. The Society was formed in 1820, and gained its Royal Charter in 1831. The Society’s aim was, and still is, to promote the study of astronomy and related disciplines. The Society has been collecting books, manuscripts and other works since its inception, which form the basis of the Society’s collections today. The Society’s home is at Burlington House in Piccadilly, where it is neighboured by the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Linnean Society, among others.

 

We were shown round the beautiful building by the Society’s Librarian, Sian Prosser. She told us about the history of the collections and the challenges of managing the Society’s archive and rare book spaces. We were shown the wonderful wood-panelled reading rooms which house some of the collections. The Society holds regular talks and events in these rooms of the library. One of the highlights for me was seeing the Rare Book Room which holds, among many other treasures, a piece of wood from the apple tree in Isaac Newton’s garden. Sian very kindly laid out some unique items from the collection for us to see, including Astronomicum Caesareum by Peter Apian, published in 1540. The book contains many brightly-coloured, moving discs which can be used to calculate the position of planets. There was also a first-edition of Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres), which revolutionised astronomy at the time of its publication in 1543.

 

After a look at the treasures, we sat down to talk shop! It was fascinating to hear about the role of the librarian in an well-established organisation such as the Royal Astronomical Society. Sian talked to us about the challenges of being a sole practitioner in terms of planning and managing your workload, but also about the opportunities that can be gained by broadening your skill set, taking on new challenges and establishing new professional knowledge and networks: in this case, by learning about the distinguished history of the Society and getting to know current members. She told us about some of her potential plans for the future, which include some retrospective cataloguing (the Library holds 300 current periodicals as well as over 3000 ceased journal titles), liaising with other astronomy libraries and archives internationally to map shared collections of journals and to perhaps plan for digitisation of some titles, and extend the Society’s already impressive outreach activities around its collections. She also mentioned that as a sole practitioner, having a professional support network of librarians to talk to (both in the other libraries at Burlington Place and in the wider world) was very helpful – something to bear in mind as we continue to build our professional networks! In all, it was a fascinating and inspiring visit to a beautiful and unique institution. Thank you very much to Sian for inviting us!

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Maddie House (@thevonfresh) is studying part-time for her MA LIS, while working in an academic library.

Image: Anne Welsh. Used with permission.

 

 

CILIP New Professionals Day 2014 by George Bray

AnneWelsh11 October 2014

The UX workshop, tweeted by @jonasherriot

Tweet: @jonasherriot

Yesterday I attended CILIP’s New Professionals Day. Of the eight workshops that ran, each person could go to four, so the following account is selective in coverage.

Welcome:
Simon Edwards (CILIP) pointed out the paradox of a world where information’s value was increasingly acknowledged, but where information professionals were often considered unimportant. It is up to individuals to ensure that we make our relevance apparent; we need to keep up with current trends, expand our networks and perspectives, and always remember the importance of continuing professional development.

Workshop: Hooked on a (UX) feeling: research, users and academic libraries:
Georgina Cronin (University of Cambridge) led an engaging workshop on UX (user experience) research. Typically associated with web design, it offers vast scope for improving library services and providing observational data when librarians need to prove their services’ value. Attendees undertook some ‘cognitive mapping’ UX research, wherein we made drawings of our study- and work spaces, subsequently reflecting on the significance of the order in which we drew them.

Maddie1

Workshop: The Library of Birmingham: rewriting the book:
Dawn Beaumont (Library of Birmingham) spoke on the context and content of one of the UK’s biggest public libraries. She emphasised that public libraries constantly need to justify themselves to people who do not understand the tremendous value of such places for society’s vulnerable groups. It was surprising to learn that Birmingham Library is as frequently used as a space for events, social and business meetings as it is accessed as a ‘traditional’ library service, though this continues to play a fundamental role.

Keynote presentation:
Jan Parry (CILIP) gave advice derived from years of experience in government libraries. Her main message was the importance of keeping ourselves active in our careers, knowing what to do and what to look out for in order to help broaden our prospects and get to where we want to be. We must keep our work interesting and challenging, and not be afraid to ‘move sideways’ if we cannot ‘move up’.

Workshop: Professional registration:
Franko Kowalczuk (CILIP Candidate Support Officer) presented useful guidance on the registration process, including the types of material in a portfolio used when applying for Chartership. Since a lot of the process involves the ability to think and write reflectively, attendees were asked to reflect on a recent event/activity in which they had taken part. What had we learned from it and how did we intend to incorporate our experiences into future work?

Maddie2Workshop: Make yourself a ‘must have’ and go places:
Emily Allbon (City University) offered tips on improving our professional value and marketability. These included: gaining insight into our libraries’ broader organisations and how our activities contribute to their goals; not being limited to ‘library stuff’ and getting involved with other disciplines, widening networks and perspectives; developing new skills and improving existing ones; being able to foster expertise as well as more generic transferable skills; and raising our profiles (i.e. cultivating a social media presence and ‘getting noticed’).

Maddie3

This was a very interesting and useful day. It was great to meet and talk with a variety of information professionals and the workshops were very thought-provoking.

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George Bray (@NexGenGB) is studying for his MA LIS this year.

Inset tweets: Maddie House (@thevonfresh), who is taking her MA LIS part-time while working.

Image: Jonas Herriot

Note: the appearance of the byline on this post is auto-generated, indicating that it was postedby Anne Welsh. George Bray is the sole author of this piece, with tweets by Maddie House and Jonas Herriot.