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Customer Service Group UK (CSGUK)

Breege Whiten31 October 2016

CSGUK formed in April 2012, although it was originally called the ‘M25 Customer Services Group’ because it was affiliated with the M25 Consortium of Academic Libraries (a group representing member Libraries across the South East). In the summer of 2014 the group was renamed CSGUK and it became independent and national.

CSGUK is not a formal membership organisation but a group supporting professional development, collaboration and knowledge sharing amongst all levels of colleagues providing customer services within Libraries. However, it does have a formal structure for delivering its resources, news and events. There is a steering group and four task groups: Communication, Benchmarking, Events, and Resources. I am a representative on the Communication task group, and Rachel Nelligan is a representative on the Benchmarking task group. Our roles involve meeting up with our groups at least once per term, and working on CSGUK tasks.

UCL recently hosted the Communications task group meeting, where six colleagues from across the UK met up for the day, to overhaul the CSGUK communications. This included devising a communications strategy, focusing on communication channels (including social media and the web page), communicating with all levels of customer service staff working in UK libraries, and communication for the upcoming conference.
Every year the CSGUK organises a Customer Service conference, and this year the theme is ‘Equipping Customer Services staff to provide accessible and inclusive services’. It takes place on Monday 28th November, Woburn House, and is open to all levels of library staff (see below for details).

As UCL Library Services is currently working towards the Customer Service Excellence accreditation, I would encourage Library staff to engage with the CSGUK website for ideas sharing, best practice, bench marking and practical tools, or apply to attend the conference!

CSGUK conference in November 2016:
http://www.customerservicesgroup.co.uk/events

Customer Service Excellence accreditation website:
http://www.customerserviceexcellence.uk.com/

A Rich Tapestry: Diverse Collections and Audiences (CILIP Rare Books and Special Collections conference 2016)

ucylgng6 October 2016

At the beginning of September I visited the University of Liverpool to attend the annual RBSCG conference. The 70-odd attendees were mostly library staff from universities, but there were also representatives of independent and special libraries, as well as colleagues from archives and museums.

Over the course of the conference, we heard sessions on a range of topics relating to diversity, in our collections, among our readers, and within the profession. These ranged from Kay Jones (Museum of Liverpool) giving her keynote address on the benefits and challenges of working with diverse audiences, to Valerie Stevenson (Liverpool John Moores University) discussing the practicalities of exhibiting special collections materials outside the library space. We also heard Yvonne Morris, the CILIP Policy Officer, presenting the initial results of the CILIP workforce mapping survey and how CILIP plans to respond to those results.

The latter was particularly interesting. While there is still a great deal of work to be done analysing and acting on the survey results, the initial findings presented were as follows. First, they estimate that there are around 87,000 people working in the information and knowledge sector, of whom around 69,000 are working in libraries. Around 45% of CILIP members will reach or have reached retirement age by 2026, and 97% of the workforce identify as white. Finally, while women make up 79% of the profession, 47% of the top earners are men. Obviously there are some issues to be addressed here; while full details of how they plan to address diversity issues are yet to be confirmed, CILIP’s action plan for the next few years is now available and highlights these issues.

In addition to the sessions, we were able to visit special collections in institutions around the city. I went to the University of Liverpool’s special collections and to the Anglican Cathedral archives, where I was impressed by the range of documents held, not to mention the incredible work being done by a team of three part-time archivists.

The theme that kept coming up throughout the conference was that of storytelling and voices: how we can use our knowledge of our collections to tell new stories; how we can work with users to make sure our collections reflect their experience and stories; how we can listen to the diverse voices of our profession to provide a better experience for users and for each other.

Gregynog Colloquium, 13-17 June 2016, Gregynog Hall, nr Newtown Powys

Alison Fox25 July 2016

The Gregynog Colloquium is the annual residential conference of WHELF (Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum) and HEWIT (Higher Education Wales Information Technology) where Welsh HE librarians and IT specialists gather to share knowledge and ideas and to hear about new initiatives from other institutions. Drawing around 188 colleagues annually from Welsh HE libraries, the Gregynog Colloquium is held in the stunning location of Gregynog Hall in Powys, a 750-acre estate and national nature reserve with a fascinating cultural history, including its own private press. Gregynog is being established as an independent charitable trust to safeguard the important academic and cultural heritage of Gregynog under a University of Wales initiative, with support from the Gwendoline and Margaret Davies Charity, the sisters who owned Gregynog in the 20th century and established its cultural initiatives. It is used throughout the year for residential courses for students of Welsh universities. I was invited to speak about the work of UCL Press, and about the general increase in new open access university presses being established within libraries, both in the UK and abroad.

The Hall was rebuilt in the 19th century by the Sudeley family who were pioneers in the use of concrete as a building material. The Sudeleys owned the Gregynog Estate at the time but their primary seat was in Toddington in Gloucestershire. The innovative use of concrete can be seen throughout the building. The banisters are a particular achievement: I must admit, I don’t normally pay particular attention banisters, but these are worth a mention. Rather than being a traditional wooden handrail, the banisters at Gregynog are actually a handrail shaped groove in the wall, molded out of concrete.

After several hundred years of private ownership, in 1913 a huge estate sale saw Gregynog’s farms, cottages and woodlands sold off, many to their tenants. Gregynog Hall might have been demolished had not the wealthy Davies sisters acquired it in 1920 to become the headquarters of their enterprise to bring art, music and creative skills to the people of Wales in the aftermath of the First World War. For twenty years the house was full of music, fine furniture and ceramics, hand-printed books from the Gregynog Press and, most extraordinary of all, the sisters’ collection of paintings by artists such as Monet, Cezanne and Van Gogh. Leading lights, such as George Bernard Shaw and Gustav Holst visited during these years for musical concerts – or simply to enjoy the beautiful gardens and woodland walks. At the end of the 1950s, after wartime use as a Red Cross convalescent home, Gregynog was bequeathed to the University of Wales as a conference centre. It welcomed its first students in 1963 and they’ve been coming ever since. The Gregynog Press, a private press founded by the sisters, printed the works of many rising stars in the world of illustration during its years of operation, and is still running to this day.

The Hall is still home to stunning artefacts and works of art. One of the original printing presses used by the Gregynog Press is on display in the Hall, as are works by many of the most famous artists who contributed works to the Press in its heyday in the 1920s and 1930s – Agnes Miller Parker, Blair Hughes-Stanton, David Jones and Gertrude Hermes. The Davies sisters’ works of art are on display in their drawing room where the drinks reception was held during the conference. It is a place that feels slightly lost in time, where an Agatha Christie murder mystery would not be out of place. The Davies sisters’ library is still in situ, and contains a collection of books that anyone interested in the arts and humanities would be proud to own – not necessarily because of the rarity of the books in the collection but because of the breadth: classic works of fiction, monographs on significant artists, and works of philosophy, history and classics fill two large rooms and the corridors.

I was only there for the first day of the conference itself, which started with a keynote speech by Chris Banks, Director of Library Services at Imperial College London, who spoke inspiringly about the academic library of the future. This was followed by presentations by Steve Williams of Swansea University, and Paul Jeorett of Wrexham Glyndwr University, the latter talking about the rise and fall of international students from different parts of the world, and the potential of the outcome of the Brexit referendum to change the international student cohort figures significantly (it is hard now to remember a time when Brexit seemed just a remote possibility). He highlighted the important work librarians do to help international students.

I was sorry I couldn’t stay at Gregynog longer. The impressive surroundings and significant cultural associations, the fascinating history, the stunning location, and the association with a long-running private press, made this a memorable occasion. I enjoyed meeting the conference attendees and the staff at Gregynog, who were knowledgeable and passionate about Gregynog and its history.

What was most abundant and welcome, although slightly difficult to get used to, was the silence: there were no sirens, no traffic, there were no TVs in the rooms and no lifts, all the noises one usually hears in a typical urban hotel. All I could hear as the sun rose were the birds and the sheep.

Posted on behalf of Lara Speicher, Publishing Manager, UCL Press

El Pub: The 20th International Conference on Electronic Publishing

Alison Fox24 June 2016

In early June I attended ‘El Pub: The 20th International Conference on Electronic Publishing’, hosted by the University of Göttingen. The conference brought together publishers, librarians, archivists and researchers to discuss the current – largely European – landscape of electronic scholarly publishing.

Although the papers varied greatly, open access was the dominant theme across the panels. The ECRs, in particular, spoke of a policy-driven need to make government-funded research available to the public without exception. They also spoke of the well-known predicament ECRs face in deciding where and how to publish. Many have the desire to share their data and reach a wide audience via an open access platform, yet their fear of the data being misappropriated – not necessarily for commercial means but by other researchers who might use it to write ‘better’ papers – is a growing concern.

Furthermore, they expressed frustration that their career progression is dependent upon publishing in subscription journals with high impact factors, which they feel is a system designed to undermine the feasibility of open access. This system can only be broken when open access journals have built up enough traction to compete with the high impact journals, or when a universal method of quality assessment emerges to replace the metric-intensive scale currently employed.

Posted on behalf of Chris Penfold, Commissioning Editor, UCL Press

Audio and Audio-Visual Academic Book of the Future

Alison Fox17 June 2016

On 23 May I was invited to speak at the ‘Audio and Audio-Visual Academic Book of the Future’ event, a symposium hosted by the British Library. The event was convened by Steven Dryden, a sound librarian at the BL, and aimed to bring together publishers, librarians and researchers to discuss the use of audio-visual content in scholarly books. I presented alongside two other speakers: Richard Mason, a novelist who showcased his new co-venture, Orson & Co, a platform that publishes audio-visual books, and Rebecca Lyons, who provided an overview of the Academic Book of the Future project, which she co-investigates.

Following the three presentations, the group engaged in an open discussion where all delegates reflected on their experiences of working with AV content in their careers or in their research. One question, which was pertinent to those attending from the BL, was on the issue of archiving: how do we determine which version of a book is the original when it is published simultaneously in different formats? Are ISBNs enough to identify each version, and how realistic is a future in which copyright clearance will be required for multiple e-formats even though print rights are challenging enough for authors to secure?

The floor was offered to a number of the ECRs in attendance who discussed their practice-based research and collectively emphasised a need for broader publishing options. They also raised the issue of attribution and lamented the difficulty of describing their contributions to online platforms and non-traditional forms of publishing. It was agreed that continued collaboration will be required between authors, publishers, librarians, archivists and coders to build a future in which AV content can be welcomed as a critical component of online publishing rather than viewed as an awkward luxury.

Posted on behalf of Chris Penfold, Commissioning Editor, UCL Press

LILAC Conference: 21-23 March 2016

Kate Brunskill30 March 2016

LILAC is an annual conference lilac-logoorganised by CILIP’s Information Literacy Group, “aimed at librarians and information professionals who teach information literacy skills, are interested in digital literacies and want to improve the information seeking and evaluation skills of all our library users whoever they may be”. Information Literacy (IL) skills underpin the training I deliver here at the UCL Institute of Neurology, so I’ve been hoping to attend LILAC for quite a while. For 2016, the LILAC team chose not to set any explicit themes for the conference, instead inviting papers covering any aspect of IL but asking authors to emphasise their innovative practice or research – this was particularly attractive to me and I was looking forward to presentations full of practical ideas.

LILAC runs over three days and, to be honest, it offers far too much for one person to take in. It’s very well-organised but, with over 70 parallel sessions, it really is impossible to attend everything and you have to choose the sessions that are closest to your interests and hope for the best, while following the conference hashtag (#lilac16) for an insight into what else is going on. If you decide to check out that twitter hashtag, be warned, it turns out that IL librarians like to tweet, a lot.

Luckily, I’ll be able to catch up on the sessions I missed when the presentations appear on the LILAC website (and it’s worth checking out some of the content from previous years too) but, for now, here’s a brief overview of ‘My LILAC’. If anything here takes your interest, please feel free to ask me for more details.

First, let’s get the three keynotes out of the way, they were all interesting even though I was most keen to hear about the practical stuff, in the parallel sessions. Day 1 saw Nicola Whitton and Alex Moseley talking about the use of games for teaching IL skills. This was hugely entertaining, very noisy and slightly chaotic. I wasn’t entirely convinced that the techniques would work for me, though doubtless they are very useful for anyone who needs to engage large groups of students in a lecture theatre setting. On Day 2, Char Booth was the talk of the coffee queue having inspired everyone with a talk about reflection, generally and in IL teaching – for more information have a look at Char’s slideshare. The keynote for Day 3 was James Clay speaking about Digital Capability which he summarised as “being able to live, work & learn in a digital world” – there is a Jisc project site for this initiative.

The bulk of my time was spent flitting between parallel sessions, many of which were full of practical ideaslilac-image-jpg and some of which enjoyed an excellent view of the O’Brien Centre for Science. The sessions I chose included: a pair of librarians from Colorado who described how they build assessment into their teaching sessions; a librarian from a small health library who uses paper-based tasks to focus students’ attention before getting into hands-on PC work; a librarian from City who is gathering researcher case studies, hoping to map their needs onto the content of IL sessions; a librarian from Sussex who is harnessing the power of 6 second vines to promote IL sessions; a pair of librarians from Coventry who are shifting the focus of their IL sessions by reducing the ‘How to’ elements and building in more conceptual underpinnings; researchers from Brunel & Robert Gordon who are studying researchers’ use of social media and how libraries can help to integrate it into the research workflow; a Manchester-based librarian who detailed his tactics for communicating IL principles to international students; two librarians from Birmingham who deliver IL to distance learners and offered a wealth of do & don’t advice (they also proved they can engage an audience face-to-face by giving us popcorn).

Just a couple of the parallel sessions were not such useful choices, for me. While it was interesting to hear a Canadian librarian describing how her team has applied the ACRL IL framework, it didn’t feel like something I could apply at one small site. A group of librarians from New York described a huge ethnographic study of users’ needs they have been undertaking. To be fair, their findings are still being analysed but their setting seemed too different to mine for me to draw direct lessons. Perhaps UCL needs its own librarian-anthropologist?

As well as the business side of the conference I had chance to explore the University College Dublin campus (www.ucd.ie).lilac-concrete-jpg I hear that some people find the campus, on the outskirts of Dublin, a bit grim but I loved it – a lake, lots of leafy walkways (perfect for spotting birds while getting lost on the way back to my accommodation) and some strong architecture, old and new (including lots and lots of concrete which, I’m told, is not popular with everyone!). There were a couple of social events in the evenings, with librarians from all over the world getting together at two Dublin landmarks: the Chester Beatty Library and the hugely impressive Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

The academic book in the (Global) South

Lesley Pitman21 March 2016

Earlier this month I attended a remarkable conference at the British Library. For the first time, academics and representatives of the publishing industry in South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa were brought together to discuss their experience of producing, distributing and accessing academic books. The conference, on 7th and 8th March, was part of the Academic Book of the Future project, in which UCL is involved, and was funded by the AHRC and the British Library.

The two days were of great potential use both in trying to understand how to expand our range of resources from the Global South and in ensuring that the resources we produce here are accessible throughout the world. A detailed account of the whole conference has been created from tweets by delegates. At the risk of oversimplifying, I will try to summarise here just the main messages in the following areas: publishing, access, and digitisation:

Publishing

Academic publishing in the south is clearly facing numerous problems, starting with a lack of investment in education and a lack of training in academic writing, editing and publishing. Data on the publishing industry is patchy and multinationals dominate the markets, with pressure on academics to publish abroad and with big name publishers rather than at home. Censorship and civil unrest in some countries can stifle academic work in the social sciences and some publishing markets (Syria, Libya, Iraq, Sudan) do not function, although the market in Iran is now opening up. E-books are published in “walled gardens” on incompatible platforms, and print is still the dominant medium. The language of publication can be a political issue, with local languages not considered acceptable. Piracy is a big problem and a disincentive to multinational companies to license content. Open access publishing was described as a “doubtful panacea”, privileging the few readers with good Internet access and  institutions with technical knowledge, but disadvantaging authors – presumably because they can’t pay Gold OA fees. Academics in the south need to be more involved in peer review. There was some self-criticism and a desire for southern publishers to be better at promotion, and for southern universities to collaborate in negotiations on price. Differential pricing for different countries would be helpful but is unusual. There was an emphasis on the need to involve the public outside universities. One example of this from India was the vibrant Bengali blogosphere focusing on cultural debate.

Access

Access both to print and to the Internet is very restricted, and the mobile phone is the technology with by far the greatest reach. Even in South Africa the example was given of an article taking four hours to download. Books and journals published in the North were too expensive, and the example was given of a £50 book costing a month’s wages in Africa, although locally published versions of the same title were seen as less desirable. Multinational publishers were criticised for buying archives and local collections and them putting them behind paywalls, making them inaccessible in their country of origin. When material is published in local languages there are few translations.

Digitisation

Like open access, digitisation was presented as potentially useful but problematic. One audience member pointed out that it can be seen as theft, and there was general agreement. Funding from external sources can be short term, and can distort the value of local collections. Shamil Jeppie from the University of Cape Town, talking about his work with the Timbuktu manuscripts, pointed out that digitisation cannot capture the tactile physical nature of this material or help with problems like dating mss. Digitisation was just a gateway, although essential to capture vulnerable collections. He reminded us of what is being lost currently in Iraq and Syria. Dr Satti, the Director of the National Library of Sudan, pointed out that the selection of content for digital projects could be divisive in culturally diverse societies if the processes were not participatory and transparent. A cultural revolution was needed to deal with the debates over freedom and state control generated by the rise of digital technologies. Again lack of technical infrastructure was a problem. It was not possible to know what collections had been digitised in India because they were not accessible. Digital tools and metadata schema for local languages did not exist. No Indian language has a working digital lexicon for digitised content. On the positive side, Tanzania is about to have the first official Trusted Digital Repository in Africa.

Among all the problems summarised above there were many positive moments and some memorable ones too. Sukanta Chaudhuri used his keynote to advocate an alternative knowledge order, with wider social sharing of knowledge, breaking down institutional barriers and involving amateur scholars as well as academics. More south-south collaboration was essential. He also asked that all digitised content that is out of copyright should be made available free of charge.

On a practical level the importance of recognising the ubiquity of the (not necessarily smart) mobile phone was stressed, with a need for small packages of content that are easy to download. Simple, static websites were recommended for the same reason.

Examples of good practice include the African Books Collective, which distributes African writing from 149 publishers in 24 countries. It is based in Oxford but is managed by a consortium of African publishers. The Knowledge Unlatched model was also presented as a possible model for collaborative publishing in the south.

Finally, among many highlights there were two particularly memorable moments. The first, to universal hilarity, was when Sukanta Chaudhuri, from Jadavpur University, Kolkata, accidentally referred to the British Library as the British Empire. Everyone laughed, including the British Library curators in the audience.

The second memorable moment was when Sari Hanafi, Professor of Sociology at the American University of Beirut, held up a copy of his book on Timbuktu. It was the British Library’s copy. He didn’t have a copy of his own, as the publishers (Routledge) either could not or would not ship to Beirut. That seemed to symbolise the gulf between the north and the south.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Committee for Information Resources on Asia Conference

Vanessa Freedman3 December 2015

I recently attended the National Committee for Information Resources on Asia (NACIRA) Conference in the beautiful surroundings of the Centre for Applied Buddhism at Taplow Court near Maidenhead.

Taplow Court exteriorThe theme of the conference was ‘Bespoke Libraries’ and the speakers were from small and little known libraries related to Asian and Middle Eastern studies.

The first speaker was Akira Hirano of the Lisa Sainsbury Library at the Sainsbury Institute for Japanese Arts & Cultures in Norwich. He spoke about the disadvantages (having to do everything yourself) and advantages (lack of bureaucracy) of being a solo librarian, and about the challenges of attracting users to a library that is rather out of the way (they have accommodation for visitors!) Unfortunately the future of the library is rather uncertain at present.

The second speaker was Steven Spencer from the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre, whose talk had the intriguing title ‘A Land of Beauties and Terrors: The Salvation Army in East Asia’. I had never heard of the Salvation Army’s library and archive in Camberwell, which could be a useful resource for researchers and is open to the public.

Finally, we heard from Pauline Malkiel of the Valmadonna Trust Library, one of the finest private Hebrew  collections in the world. It was amassed by diamond merchant and bibliophile Jack Lunzer over many years and eventually took over most of his house in North London, where it was available to researchers. In view of Mr Lunzer’s advancing age, the trustees decided a few years ago to sell it to an institution and it was shipped to Sotheby’s in New York, where an exhibition attracted thousands of visitors. There was some consternation among Jewish Studies librarians recently when Sotheby’s announced the sale of 12 items (mostly manuscripts) from the collection. However, we were assured that the trustees still plan to sell the library (almost) in its entirety rather than auction it off piece by piece.

CAB LibraryWe also had the opportunity to explore the stunning  19th century house and grounds and to view the library, which contains over 17,000 volumes on Buddhism and related subjects.