Monday, 30 October 2017

ARLG London and South East Visit to the Science Museum Library

I had an interesting visit to the Science Museum Library. The collection concerns the development and history of science, engineering and medicine from the fifteenth century to the present day. The Dana Research Centre and Library is located round the back of the Science Museum itself. We were welcomed by the librarian who told us a bit about the library.

The collection consists of around 6,000 books and journals, with much more located at the Science and Technology Studies Collection stored at Wroughton. Items from this collection, which is made up of over 80,000 books and periodicals, have been collected over the past century or more. There are various collections of rare books and donated archives, including the Patrick Moore Collection, the John Milne Seismological Library, the Comben Collection of works on animal husbandry, and trade pamphlets.

We were taken into the library itself, which is small but bright and airy. The pattern on the window was inspired by the dappled effect of sunlight through trees (reminiscent of Newton's discovery of gravity when an apple fell onto his head), and old-fashioned computer cards. The Library is open to the public, but not everyone can borrow.

Finally we got to look at some of the rare books and archives in the collection, which was fascinating. My favourite was the flight plan for the Apollo 11 moon mission, signed by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Library visits - how useful are they?

Since I started my library career several years ago, and particularly since I've been living in London, I've been on many different library visits. However, few if any of them have related to my current job as an Information Officer working with a VLE. Places I've visited over the years have included the Wallace Collection, RADA, St Paul's Cathedral, the British Library, Conway Hall, ZSL London and Shakespeare's Globe.

In fairness I'm not sure there would be any point in a visit focusing on an institution's VLE. I don't think sitting in front of a computer would make for a particularly fascinating day out, and I feel I can learn about this sort of thing from user groups, conferences and online discussions. I don't feel that I learn anything particularly related to my everyday work from these visits.

My job is focused on technology and e-learning, and that's something I enjoy and find interesting. But I have a strong interest in special libraries, involving rare collections or history or heritage, and these visits allow me to explore that. Furthermore I have visited a school library and some academic libraries, which also allow me to experience the breadth of library services and the variety of roles that are available. Library visits help me to feel part of a profession; they help reinforce there is a whole world of libraries out there and help me to see the bigger picture.

My ultimate conclusion is that, even though there is no immediate practical benefit to my visits, I get other things out of them instead. So for me they are definitely worth it.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

ARLG London and South East Visit to the Shakespeare's Globe Library

I signed up for an ALRG London and South East visit to the Shakespeare's Globe library which I was very much looking forward to, as I missed out on a visit a couple of years ago. We met in the foyer and made our way to the library by going backstage, which was exciting in itself. The Library and Archive is in a temporary building, but in the next few years a purpose-built building is due to be constructed.

The Library and Archive services are staffed by a mixture of paid staff and volunteers. There is currently no librarian as the previous post-holder has recently left, but the archive staff were very helpful in explaining what was going on. The service is used mostly by academics as well as by those involved in Globe productions. Some actors are particular regulars.

The staff members got some things out for us to look at that emphasised the level of detail and research that went into the construction of the Globe over a number of years. My favourite was the letter from Eddie Redmayne to then-Artistic Director Mark Rylance, thanking him for the opportunity of performing at Middle Temple Hall but reluctantly declining to move with the production to the Globe as he wants to go back to university and finish his degree. There are other letters, pictures and legal records from the Globe's history, as well as books about theatres in Shakespeare's time.

I was really excited to get the chance to visit the library of one of my favourite places in London. Many thanks to ARLG London and South East for organising it.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Copyright: Reflections

One of the Chartership categories I've chosen is "Copyright". Copyright is one of those things that I know is important, but which I've always found difficult. I decided that I needed to learn about copyright for the following reasons:

  1. In my current role I work with the VLE, and occasionally get emails asking us to put certain documents on the system for students to access. This is rare, because most of our courses are planned in advance and the resources decided upon well before time, but it does occasionally happen. We have a specialist copyright officer, but she isn't full time, and works in another centre, so I thought it would be a good idea to get some extra knowledge.
  2. In the future it's possible that I may move on to another role where students or staff consult me about copyright issues. I want to be able to help them with confidence if this does happen.
  3. In today's Internet-dominated world, where things are shared online regularly, copyright is an important topic to know about in a more general sense.

Once I'd decided to learn more about copyright, what did I do?

  • I read the Facet Publishing book about copyright, Copyright: Interpreting the law for libraries, archives and information services. I also read a textbook available to me at the university I work at, originally written for law students on the Intellectual Property module.
  • I completed a film copyright course on FutureLearn, which allowed me to look at at copyright from a different angle.
  • I also investigated a number of websites, including the Intellectual Property Office, a blog post on the LSE Impact of Social Sciences site, and assorted blog posts including Joining up the dots: copyright and digital literacy by Jane Secker.

How do I feel about copyright now?
I feel I have a much better knowledge about copyright, what it is and what it does, the reasons for its existence and how it can apply in a university setting.

What next?
I would like to be able to apply my new-found knowledge in a real setting, able to assist with queries from students and staff. I would like to chat with our copyright officer to find out more about what she does on a day-to-day basis.

Saturday, 10 September 2016

ISG London & South East Visit to the National Theatre Archive

Recently I got to visit the National Theatre's Archive with the ISG London & South East.


The National Theatre has kept archives since it was founded in 1963, but it has only had a "proper" archive since the 1990s, and the current building (the NT Studio beside the Old Vic) has only been in use since 2007. The public reading room is open five days a week, and welcomes around 2,700 researchers each year.

The Archive covers three main areas: the first is the most popular and consists of cultural archives, such as photos, press reviews, stage management reports, programmes, posters, prompt scripts and the costume bible - including, in recent years, high definition photographs of costumes so that they can be recreated later on if need be. Many of these were used during the recent 50th anniversary celebrations. Recordings have been made since 1995 (except where contract negotiations don't allow it) - Platform recordings (where an actor or other theatre practitioner is interviewed in front of an audience) have been undertaken since the late 1980s. The cultural archive is fully catalogued.

The second part is the business archive, including meeting minutes, architectural plans et al: much of this is sensitive material. This archive includes the only plans of the Olivier's drum revolve, as well as information about the founding of the theatre  The third part is the external collections: the largest is the Jocelyn Herbert Collection, the archive of the acclaimed set and costume designer, consisting of around 6000 drawings, notebooks and even masks from one of her productions.

As the Archive is part of the Learning department, it can focus on being an academic resource, and not bringing in money. In any case, everything is in copyright so it cannot be commercialised. The Archive aims to support every level of learning: for those of school age, lots of plays the NT has produced are on the syllabus, and many pupils get the chance to take part in Archive Learning Days, in which they see the play and then explore the relevant resources.

The Archive works closely with the Digital Development department: an app has recently been launched with digitised archive content covering the "best" 50 plays performed at the National. The Archive uses the CALM software, and it is possible to search by production, actor, or a number of other criteria. The press often use the information in obituaries.

The Archive catalogue can be accessed online, and you can also email queries in from the website. Resources are used in exhibitions at the NT, and on the last Friday of every month, the NT Archivist and curator offer a tour of the exhibition in the Lyttelton Lounge followed by a handling session with materials from the Archive.

It's possible to go to the Archive reading rooms to watch a recording of an NT Live or other recorded production: recent popular productions have included Frankenstein and One Man Two Guvnors. I keep meaning to book an appointment to watch His Dark Materials - one day I'll get around to it!

Monday, 11 April 2016

Library 2.016: Privacy in the Digital Age

Recently I registered for the online conference Library 2.016: Privacy in the Digital Age, the first of three scheduled this year run by Library 2.0. Recordings from the conference are viewable online.

The conference looked at issues surrounding privacy and security online. It had a US focus but there was plenty that was relevant to the UK. For me, the most interesting presentations were, firstly, Jessamyn West's The Digital Divide and Privacy Concerns, which discussed the privacy needs and wants of "ordinary" people. She pointed out that while having lots of passwords to protect your online privacy is the ideal, in practice it's unlikely that people will be willing to do this and it's important to balance privacy with realism. I also found M. Ryan Hess's Make Your Library a Privacy and Security Resource interesting, with discussions of various privacy and security tools including Firefox, Ghostery, Disconnect and DuckDuckGo. On a more theoretical level, Martyn Wade's presentation on The 'Right to be Forgotten' and Its Impact on Libraries and Librarians was also interesting.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Information Services Group Visit to the Zoological Society of London Library

The CILIP Information Services Group recently organised a visit to the Zoological Society of London Library, which I signed up for really quickly. The Library is located near London Zoo, and we gathered in the Council Room of the ZSL headquarters to begin the visit.

ZSL is the charity behind London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo, as well as being a research institute funded by UCL. We were told a bit about the history of ZSL, which was established by Sir Stamford Raffles and Sir Humphry Davy in 1826. Impressively, women were admitted as fellows from 1827. The Council Room is full of pictures of individuals who have made contributions to the Society, including Prince Albert, who was the President from 1851-61, Harry Johnston (who discovered the okapi and many, many other animals), and Miriam Rothschild. Famous names in the visitors' book include Elizabeth II, Emperor Hirohito, John Paul Getty and Jackie Kennedy.

The Library, which can be reached online at, is located upstairs in the building and is a rich resource of books and journals about zoology and animal conservation. It is open Monday to Friday, and is open to all for reference purposes, but only Fellows of the ZSL can borrow books. We got to wander around the Library and explore for ourselves. Naturally I went straight to the penguin section:

My favourite part of the visit was getting the chance to look at some of the archives and rare books that the librarians had very kindly got out for us. They included an early "Daily Occurrences" ledger, the very first Council Minutes (with the signature of Sir Stamford Raffles), the animal record card for Winnie the bear (the original Winnie-the-Pooh), newspaper clippings concerning an escapee eagle, and a medieval tome containing pictures of all kinds of weird and wonderful creatures (some real, some imagined).

Daily Occurrences 1865

Council Minutes

Animal record card for Winnie the bear

Goldie the golden eagle

Ulyssis Aldrovandi Monstrorum historia

I really enjoyed the visit, which was fascinating.