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New UCL Press book hits national (and international) headlines

Alison Fox11 May 2021

We are delighted that The Global Smartphone: Beyond a youth technology (published on May 6th 2021) has hit the headlines across the world, with coverage in newspapers including The Sunday Times, The Guardian and Daily Mail.

Coverage in the UK and Ireland has included stories by The Scottish Herald, Reuters, The Irish Times, RTE, Newstalk, and an interview with lead author Prof Daniel Miller (UCL Anthropology) on Sky News this morning. Publications in Portugal (here, here, here and here), Germany, Brazil. Greece  (and here), Slovakia, Romania, Russia, Malaysia, Australia, Albania, EgyptRussia, Italy, Israel, Czechia and France have also reported on the book’s findings.

The book documents the work of a team of 11 anthropologists who spent 16 months documenting smartphone use in nine countries across Africa, Asia, Europe and South America, with a particular focus on older adults. The team was led by Professor Daniel Miller, whose previous UCL Press series on global social media usage, Why We Post, saw more than a million downloads of the open access books that detailed the findings.

The Global Smartphone: Beyond a youth technology is written by Professor Daniel Miller (UCL Anthropology), Laila Abed Rabho, Patrick Awondo, Maya de Vries, Marília Duque, Pauline Garvey, Laura Haapio-Kirk, Charlotte Hawkins, Alfonso Otaegui, Shireen Walton, and Xinyuan Wang. It is part of the Ageing with Smartphones series, which also includes Ageing with Smartphones in Ireland and Ageing with Smartphones in Urban Italy.

Postcards for postdocs

simon.bralee.1518 September 2019

This week is Postdoc Appreciation Week, a week long celebration of postdocs. A series of events have been planned throughout the week by UCL Organisational Development.

UCL Library Services are joining the revelry through the ‘Postcard to a Postdoc’ campaign, celebrating colleagues for their invaluable contribution to the UCL community. There are three postcard designs available, in most of the libraries, for early-stage researchers each with a different message of appreciation to send to early-stage researchers across the UK and abroad.

If you are asked about the week, more information can be found on the UCL Organisational Development webpages. This is not a Library Services campaign, although we are happy to support it.


Thank you, Post Docs

Wellbeing Champions update: UCL LaSS Library

Sharon A James16 May 2019

Welcome to the first in a series of blogs that UCL Library Wellbeing Champions will be writing about the work, ideas and events that they have been involved in or created. This update highlights some of the initiatives Jon Siah and I have taken at the UCL Language and Speech Science Library since attending training in early 2018. This involved completing the one day Mental Health First Aid for HE course followed a few weeks later by a day of Health & Wellbeing Champion training. Since then, along with other Library Wellbeing Champions, we have also attended the UCL Wellbeing course Suicide: Spotting the Signs.

Therapy dog Indiana Bones qualifying as a Wellbeing Champion

As Wellbeing Champions we help UCL staff and students by using our listening skills and signposting relevant services or resources. We also regularly take part in Wellbeing meetings and events. For example, Jon and I helped facilitate two ‘Life, Work, Balance’ sessions at the Library Staff Conference in 2018 and I also created posters and distributed resources at the Marketplace Stall during the lunch period.

Jean and Yinka keeping cool at the 2018 Library Conference on Wellbeing

In the weeks beforehand I liaised with Library Finance to acquire funding for fans and then sourced and ordered them for the Marketplace Stall. These were distributed to conference attendees to help with their wellbeing over the course of a long and very hot day.

We also regularly update the LaSS Facebook and Twitter accounts with wellbeing information and have emailed Liblist with resources such as the Sleepio and Silvercloud apps. For LaSS staff, we held a fun Wellbeing Crafternoon at the end of last year using a craft pack ordered from Mind. At this Christmas-themed event, the team were able to relax and catch up with one another while creating handmade decorations for the library.

Photo from the Halloween Wellbeing walk

Another successful event was the Halloween Wellbeing walk arranged by Jon which started at Brunswick Square and ended at Gray’s Inn Walks with a large attendance of nearly 40 people from all over UCL.

Wellbeing Corner at LaSS 

Most recently we have developed a Wellbeing Corner in the LaSS reading room for library users. This features a noticeboard covered in information such as how to manage stress and exams and the contact details of the UCL Student Psychological and Counselling Services and Student Support and Wellbeing. In holders underneath we have placed helpful leaflets, a laminate with advice on how to cope with panic attacks, copies of a local walking map, and coloured pencils and home-made colouring books.

Wellbeing Corner also has a selection of newly purchased self-help books that include guidance on how to deal with anxiety, low self-esteem, OCD, eating disorders, depression and insomnia. We sourced these from a reading list originally created by Teaching & Learning Services for the School of Pharmacy’s Wellbeing section: http://readinglists.ucl.ac.uk/lists/B89CADDC-EEF1-9C7C-2991-E1BEA2F44BC0.html  As well as these books some additional ones were bought and we are hoping this new collection will be helpful for students and staff. Please feel free to come over and have a look at Wellbeing Corner and borrow the books.

At the moment LaSS Library is involved in the Wellbeing Steps Challenge despite our team being called (accurately in my case!) ‘On Our LaSS Legs’. If you’re taking part I hope you’re enjoying it and a big thank you to Laurie McNamee for doing the organising.

For those interested in reading more about the UCL Wellbeing Champion role please go to: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/human-resources/health-wellbeing/wellbeingucl/get-involved/become-wellbeing-champion

FORCE11 Scholarly Communication Institute (FSCI) 2018

Patrycja16 August 2018

A couple of weeks ago I attended the second FORCE 11 Scholarly Communication Institute (FSCI) held at the University of California, San Diego – a week long training course with workshops led by experts in their fields. FSCI was attended by librarians, researchers, students, post docs, and administrators from all over the world. This presented an excellent opportunity to learn about scholarly communication practices and processes at institutions not only in the United States but also in countries like Australia, Argentina, Canada, Chile, China, Nigeria, and Russia.

Participants of the FORCE 11 summer camp selected three courses from an extensive course list. All classes were very intensive, run in form of workshops and required high level of active participation and beforehand preparation from attendees. Morning classes ran through the whole week, afternoon ones took place over two days; this allowed for in-depth learning experience, and gave an opportunity for stimulating discussions. Evening activities included a slideshow karaoke (which was fun!), do-a-thon (a work-sprint where people with different skills work together on different projects), and a party at Scripps Institution of Oceanograhy that included Scripps Pier tours and famous fish tacos.

FORCE11 Scholarly Communications Institute at the University of California, San Diego

My morning classes, Data in the Scholarly Communications Life Cycle, were expertly and entertainingly led by Natasha Simmons from Australian National Data Service (ANDS). The sessions were based on the 23 (research data) Things programme developed by ANDS, with guest speakers that introduced specific topics related to data managment. The classes provided us with an opportunity to work with data managment plans, create metadata for existing datasets (which proved more difficult than we all thought!), and of course stimulated many discussions.

We discussed licensing, the approaches to signing the commitment and FAIR data assessment tool, and how the research data lifecycle offers a framework for assisting with how to understand research processes. The highlight of the course was the open data debate, in which we argued for and against making your research data openly available. The classes helped me understand the issues and challanges around making research data open, and the nuances involved in the processes and licensing.

Data in the Scholarly Communications Life Cycle

My first afternoon class, held on Monday and Tuesday, was on the Open Science experience in Latin America and the Carribean, and was taught by a group of librarians and researchers from Argetnina, Canada, Chile, and United States. We learnt about the long history of Open Science in Latin America and the Carribean, and discussed national laws in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Peru that seek to make scientific knowledge produced with public funds openly available. The instructors also highlighted regional projects such as Scielo and redalyc.org that have played an important role in making open access the most established communication model in the region.

Open South: The Open Science Experience in Latin America and the Caribbean

Micah Vandegrift, Open Knowledge Librarian at North Carolina State University and Samantha Wallace, PhD candidate in English at University of Virginia led my Wednesday – Thursday workshop on Public Humanities as Scholarly Communication. The class turned into a thought provoking discussion on nature of humanities, and the public. It made me reflect on the role of the public in public humanities, and how public is intrinsic to humanities; engaging public and communities should be a natural part of academic investigation.

Open South: The Open Science Experience in Latin America and the Caribbean

Discussions in and outside of classes were inspiring, as is meeting people who are passionate about increasing access to knowledge and learning about the practices that differ from your own. The level of workshops delivery was excellent; observing different styles of teaching and how instructors engage with their audiences made me develop new ideas for training sessions that I provide for UCL academics. I found this intensive and demanding course, converstations with instructors and attendess extremely stimulating. And all of this in sunny California, where you see hummingbirds on your way to the class, on a university campus half an hour from the beach.

La Jolla beach

Further details on the workshops, including links to materials, will be available on the Open Access blog next week.

Helen Mirren, Katya Galitzine and other guests at the joint UCL SSEES Library and British Library panel discussion

Wojciech A Janik9 June 2017

On Monday 5th June a panel discussion “Émigrés from Revolution” took place at the British Library. It was a joint event between UCL SSEES Library and the British Library and was inspired by our collections.

Martin Sixsmith provided the introduction


Martin Sixsmith, Katya Galitzine and Helen Mirren taking questions from the audience

The year 2017 marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution. One of the main events “in the library world”, to focus on the centenary is a major exhibition at the British Library: “Russian Revolution: Hope, Tragedy, Myths”. The exhibition is accompanied by various events, panels and seminars. That provided a great opportunity for UCL Library Services to co-organise, with the British Library, a public event, which would highlight our collections. To make it more lively and interesting we wanted it to be presented by the descendants of emigrants from the Russian Revolution, so that they could reflect, after one hundred years, on how the history of their grandparents has influenced and still influences them and their families. It provided us with the opportunity to showcase some of our archival holdings, especially as many of the descendants had very successful careers. We are lucky enough to have in our archives documents that were donated by world famous actress, Dame Helen Mirren. Her grandfather, Colonel Pyotr Vasilievich Mironov, initially came to the UK with the aim of buying arms for the Russian Army during World War One. Another example is the memoir of Prince Paul Ivan Lieven, that belonged to the grandfather of well-known historian, Professor Dominic Lieven. We were very lucky once again as both Dame Helen Mirren and Professor Dominic Lieven accepted invitations to the event. Princess Katya Galitzine, whose grandparents escaped via Yalta on a British warship sent to rescue Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna also accepted the invitation. However, there is also another “library link” as Katya is a co-Founder of The Prince George Galitzine Memorial Library.


Nicolas Pasternak Slater [L] and Dominic Lieven [R]

Our fourth guest was successful translator Nicolas Pasternak Slater, the son of Boris Pasternak’s sister Lydia, and the grandson of painter Leonid Pasternak and Rosa Isidorovna Kaufman, an accomplished pianist. Martin Sixsmith, former BBC foreign correspondent based in Moscow at the end of the Soviet Union, moderated the discussion, while Professor Simon Dixon from UCL SSEES provided an introduction to the event and highlighted UCL SSEES Library’s archive collections.


From left to right: Nicolas Pasternak Slater, Dominic Lieven, Martin Sixsmith, Katya Galitzine, Helen Mirren

The event was a success. The panel was excellent and the attendance was very good. It was a very good way to promote our collections. It also enabled us to foster good working relationships with colleagues from the British Library, especially Jon Fawcett, Head of Events, and Katya Rogatchevskaya, Lead Curator of East European Collections. The cooperation was very successful so it may also lead to another joint event in the future. Of course for us it is not the end. UCL SSEES will hold a major conference later this year to commemorate the centenary of the Revolution and we need to focus on that and build on the success of the event. We would like to digitise selected items from our collection, so that they can accompany the main UCL SSEES Conference. During the panel I had a chance to talk to Helen Mirren and her sister Kate and managed to obtain permission to digitise the documents of Colonel Pyotr Mironov. Professor Lieven has also given permission for the memoir of Prince Paul Ivan Lieven to be digitised. Together with colleagues from Digital Curation, Mat Mahon and Amy Howe, we are working on digitising some other collections from our archives.

Pyotr Vasilievich Mironov Collection [MRN]

Pyotr Vasilievich Mironov Collection [MRN] held at UCL SSEES Library

Our aim is that by the time of the conference we can create a high-quality, professional and academic resource. During 2017 there will be many events dedicated to the Revolution. However it is noteworthy to say that UCL SSEES is one of the best well-known and recognised institutions in the world for its expert knowledge on Russia. Therefore, December’s conference organised by UCL SSEES will attract a lot of attention. This provides UCL SSEES Library with the momentum we need to maximize to our benefit, so that we can effectively publicize our work and our unique collections to the world audience.

Maintaining our blog

Chris Carrington26 April 2016

Since launching, the LibNet blog has been well used with lots of colleagues contributing posts and also commenting on them.
However, like any other computer system, the blog has a finite amount of storage space. Indeed we recently reached 100% usage of our allotted space. One more post and the blog could have been lost forever! Okay that’s a bit extreme; instead we’ve had our storage space increased by ISD. Phew.

Large images

Looking at the blog’s media library (the place where images, PDFs and documents get added to) we can see that all colleagues can help with ensuring that we don’t reach maximum usage again – after all, we can’t just keep endlessly getting the space increased.

The biggest usage of the blog’s storage comes from images that are huge both in size and file size (one was over 10MB, tut tut). So with that in mind, here are some tips to consider when adding media content to your blog post.

  • For images, please only upload jpeg, png or gifs. Avoid bitmaps and tiffs especially.
  • Check the size of the image and shrink it if needed. Remember that the image is being used on a web page so it doesn’t really need to be bigger than 1200 pixels square.
  • Normally reducing the size is enough to reduce the file size at the same time. But if the image is very high resolution you can also compress it.
  • Check that the image you’re about to use doesn’t already exist in the media library. Images can be shared across blog posts. Examples would be UCL buildings, of which there are many.
  • Word documents and PDFs can often have their file size reduced by ensuring all of the above tips are applied to any images inside your document. E.g. don’t paste a tiff into Word.
  • When creating a PDF from a Word document tick “Minimum size (publishing online)” for the “Optimize for” setting.

Lastly, if you’re unsure of any of the above or would like help resizing images you can contact us at lib-websupport@ucl.ac.uk.

Happy blogging!

Using twitter for global engagement

Lesley Pitman25 September 2015

We all know that twitter is a powerful tool for communicating across boundaries of all kinds, but in SSEES Library we recently saw evidence that we really were reaching a worldwide audience. Use of the tool tweepsmap (http://tweepsmap.com/!UCLSSEESLibrary), which shows where in the world your followers are located, has shown consistently that 38% of the followers of the @UCLSSEESLibrary account are based outside the UK. Apart from academics, researchers and librarians from academic institutions across the world, they also include official organisations like the US Mission to the OSCE and the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), media outlets, journalists (a few important enough to warrant the blue tick) and publishers, as well as the interested public – and of course a few of the more outlandish followers that all twitter accounts attract. Even within the UK the international focus continues, as we are followed by a number of the London embassies, and most recently by the Russian ambassador himself.

We have built up an audience like this by taking our twitter account very seriously, and we do a number of things to ensure that we continue to attract and retain followers of this kind by providing a real service to them. By far the most important factor is the content that we tweet. Our area specialists go out of their way to look out for links to useful sources on the web, particularly if they relate to current news stories. Where possible we tweet links to primary sources which add substance to the summaries and interpretations which appear in the media. This has been particularly important in relation to events in Ukraine, but translates readily to our work on the rest of the region. We also link to new academic resources and digital collections, where they are likely to be of interest and are generally accessible. We are careful to be balanced where matters are controversial, which many are. In this way we have effectively taken the principles of curating a research library and applied them to twitter.

Beyond the content we make an effort to let potential followers know we exist. We look for interesting accounts and follow or retweet them, and then they are likely to return the favour. In the case of the Russian ambassador we had retweeted the Russian Embassy, who had tweeted about the SSEES Centenary Film Festival (book your tickets now at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ssees/centenary/centenary-events/seasonoffilm). Within seconds the ambassador himself was following us. Sometimes the power and speed of twitter takes our breath away.

If anyone is interested in knowing more about this kind of approach to twitter do get in touch. It is daunting at first, but enormously rewarding.

The Director’s View

Paul Ayris22 July 2015

UCL Library Services Staff Conference 2015


AWS Tweet

A BIG thank you to everyone who helped organise the 2015 UCL Library Services Staff Conference. Fantastic presentations, flawless organisation and a really enjoyable Summer Party to end the day.

Our Keynote speaker, Professor Anthony Smith (Vice-Provost, Education and Student Affairs), was very impressed by the day and the level of engagement he experienced. He has asked me to share one of his tweets with you all.

I can only agree with everything he says here.

Best regards




The Director’s View: Report to Library Committee (May 2015)

Paul Ayris14 June 2015

Oettinger meeting

UCL Library Committee meets three times a year – we had our most recent meeting on 4 June 2015. One of the regular items on Library Committee agendas is a report from the Director of Library Services on the Library’s performance against the new Library Services’ Strategy.

After discussion in the Library Services’ SMT, we have agreed that I will circulate this Report to the LibNet Blog after Library Committee meetings, so that all colleagues in UCL Library Services can see the recurrent status reports. Please look here for the Director’s Report May15.

The circulation of this Report marks the inauguration of a monthly Blog posting to this Blog called ‘The Director’s view’. In these regular Blog postings I hope to share with colleagues my personal views on current developments in UCL, and how the Library can support them. Given my personal interests in Open Science, Open Access and Research Data Management, I hope to use these Blog postings to share with colleagues news on current developments in these areas on a global scale.

I welcome comments on these Blog posts and will do my best to reply to colleagues, time and my diary permitting.

Paul Ayris

Director of UCL Library Services, UCL Copyright Officer and CEO of UCL Press

The Library’s New Clothes

Scarlett Parker18 February 2015

Image from Hans Andersen’s fairy tales (1913) London: Constable; by W. Heath Robinson; obtained from https://archive.org/details/hansandersensfai00ande

THIS FRIDAY I’ll be visiting the Museum of Brands in West London. It began as Robert Opie’s personal collection, growing from a single Nestlé Munchies’ wrapper to over 12,000 items documenting the development of consumer culture from the 1800s to the present day. It’s bound to be a nostalgia trip, but it will also be a chance to cast a critical eye over the aesthetic mutations endured and celebrated by that community of objects which populates our cupboards, adorns our walls, and steps over the thresholds of our collective subconscious like a vampire we don’t remember inviting.

UCL IS CHANGING and with it the Library. Or maybe I should say Library Services. We’re a loose collective unified by a core strategy and set of regulations, but with each site tailoring its service and environment to very different groups of users. This is a good and necessary thing. In the context of branding, however, this provides some challenges. The same issue exists at an institutional level: UCL’s Creative Media Services & Communications teams have constructed a corporate style guide (or ‘visual identity toolkit’ if you prefer) that governs the way a multitude of departments are supposed to be presented. Many of these departments strive to retain identities that differentiate them from the rest, and so a permanent balancing act is played out between UCLness and Department Xness.

THE PUBLICITY & SHELVING TEAM, hastily rechristened after photocopying services became centrally controlled by ISD (ably supported by assistance desk staff and service assistants), has been wrestling with this identity conundrum for many months now. Situated within the Main Library, it’s perhaps unsurprising that initial forays beyond the realm of signage and into the more attention-seeking world of publicity have happened within a half mile radius around the bloated auto-icon. What began as slightly frenzied bouts of research and improvisation using obsolete software iterations inside an infinite regression of desktop environments has reached a sort of coming of age. Members of the team have worked hard to develop a certain level of competence – expertise, even – in creating visual media for the Library, and when you couple this with the recent acquisition of appropriate digital tools, the end result is a tangible improvement in output: faster, more sophisticated, and more effective.

BUT THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING. As the Library strives to enhance and refine the services it offers to users, it must also improve the way it communicates these things to the relevant target audiences. I’m as cynical as the next person about branding. Probably more cynical. But I don’t want to see the labour, diligence, experience, and inspirational initiatives of my colleagues being overlooked, ignored, or simply lost in the noise of all those other products and services that clamour for attention in the hyperconnected age. So how are we going to do it? What does the UCL Library Services brand look like? What will it look like next year?

DEFINING THE LIBRARY BRAND is sure to be a collective endeavour. I don’t think it’s ever going to be a static thing, and I’ve got a feeling the unique selling point is the staff. I’m certain it will involve more ongoing aesthetic variation than I’ll see for any single product at the museum on Friday, but then, academic libraries are more complicated than bars of chocolate. Maybe libraries will never be as appealing either, but what they can be is a more satisfying experience. We just need to grab people’s attention and convince them that’s the case.