Wednesday, 16 December 2015

The Wiener Library

Although I've worked close to The Wiener Library for the Study of the Holocaust and Genocide for several years now, I'd never actually visited. It wasn't until a colleague told me about the weekly library tours, which take place every Tuesday lunchtime, that I thought to visit. We ended up making it a bit of a work thing: three of us went one lunchtime, to be followed by the other two a week later.
The Library, formed in 1933 by Alfred Wiener, is Britain's Holocaust library and the oldest collection of its kind in the world. It holds over one million items, including illustrated and rare books, press cuttings, photographs and eyewitness testimonies.
Our tour included the main Library reading room, with considerable collections available on open access for the use of readers. Items stored elsewhere in the building, including photographs and fragile items, can be requested. Members of the public can use the Library, open on weekdays, free of charge, though first-time visitors do need to bring some ID. You need to become a member if you want to borrow books.
We were taken downstairs to view the stacks, and were able to see several fascinating items which our guide brought out to show us. One was a Nazi colouring book and another was a book of photographs of Hitler and assorted small children: both were bizarre and rather chilling. There were also some documents relating to Jewish refugees who came to the UK.
The Library runs a programme of temporary exhibitions on the ground floor. The current exhibition is Fragments of a Lost Homeland: Remembering the Armenian Genocide which is on until 25 February. This exhibition focuses on one particular family around 1915 who recorded their experiences before, during and after the genocide in letters, diaries and photographs.
The Wiener Library is well worth a visit, even if you don't need to use the research facilities. Tours run on Tuesdays at 1pm, and you can visit the temporary exhibitions during regular opening hours.

Monday, 7 December 2015

ARLG Southern British Library Tour

Recently I went on a visit to the British Library organised by ARLG Southern. The visit comprised a library tour, which really interested me because although I have visited the BL several times, it's always been as a visitor to the exhibitions: I'm not a member and I've never been in the reading rooms or behind the scenes.

The British Library Piazza. Source: Jack1956 on Wikipedia
The British Library, which is a relatively new institution that only came into being during the second half of the twentieth century, is the national library of the UK and the largest library in the world in terms of items catalogued. The building holds around 170 million items from numerous countries and in every language in the world. Information is held in multiple formats: print books and ebooks, manuscripts, journals, newspapers, magazines, audiovisual recordings, playscripts, patents, databases, maps, prints and drawings. The collections include around 14 million books, and the Library holds ancient historical items dating back as far as 2000 BC.

British Library Foyer
The Library is a Legal Deposit Library (the others are the Bodleian at Oxford, the University Library at Cambridge, the Trinity College Library in Dublin and the National Libraries of Scotland and Wales), meaning that it receives a copy of each book produced in the United Kingdom and Ireland, including several overseas books distributed in the UK.

Our tour, which was delivered by a very knowledgeable and entertaining guide, began in the foyer where we learned about the library's beginnings. The BL originally started out at the British Museum: the famous Round Reading Room is where famous people including Marx used to study. The British Library Act of 1972 enabled the BL to be established in 1973, although materials were dispersed around London and around the country for several years. When deciding upon a location for the eventual library site, there wasn't much choice available: it would have to be within walking distance of the British Museum in Bloomsbury, so that the rarest and most valuable books could be carried there by hand, as they were not permitted to be transported on vehicles. Eventually the site at Euston Road was decided upon: located next to St Pancras Station, it used to be a goods yard.

The Library was designed by Colin St John Wilson, and the building has met with a mixed reception (apparently Prince Charles hates it, but the Queen is a fan). Looked at from the right angle, it resembles a ship. It was made a Grade I listed building earlier this year, so it is now recognised as a landmark of design: however it is not without its problems. Wilson spent so much of the Library budget on expensive marble, containing fossils, to be laid outside on the piazza (meaning that it is extremely slippery in the rain) that there wasn't enough left for decent shelving, resulting in some collapses as the second-hand shelves couldn't bear the huge weight of the books.

It is impressive, however, that most of the books are stored underground: the stacks run several storeys beneath the ground, stopped only by the tube that is even further down. The Fleet River also runs nearby, so that the lowest floor does flood on occasion.

From the foyer we were taken to the Members' Area in which you can register to become a member of the Library. Anyone can register so long as they have the appropriate ID: you don't have to be an academic. Near here, there is a book handling system which delivers books users have ordered to the surface by means of a conveyor belt. Staff collect book requests, remove them from the shelves and send them up to the Library.

The book handling system
We went upstairs and were able to get a brilliant view of the King's Library, made up of 65,000 printed volumes and numerous pamphlets, manuscripts and maps collected by George III between 1763 and 1820. The glass tower was inspired by a similar structure in the Beinecke Library in New Haven, Connecticut.

The King's Library
From the old to the new: our next stop was the news room where readers can view newspapers and watch a live news feed. We explored the Library considerably, taking a look at the many busy - but extremely quiet - reading rooms.

Reading Room
Before leaving, we had a quick look at a Library video in one of the quietest corners of the building - left "unfinished" to show off the brickwork.

I really loved my tour: I learned a great deal about the British Library that I hadn't known before. Public tours are available and I do recommend signing up.

Friday, 20 November 2015

CILIP in Surrey Visit to St Paul's Cathedral Library

On Tuesday I took the afternoon off work to attend a CILIP in Surrey visit to the Library at St Paul's Cathedral. I actually looked at cathedral libraries and archives for my Masters dissertation, so I was really excited at getting the chance to see one. We were shown around by the Librarian, who took us up to the Triforium level behind the South West Tower, where the Library is located.

The original Library was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666: though it was not housed in the Cathedral itself, it was located nearby, and fell victim to the blaze. A few manuscripts were saved, however, and were taken to the new Library, which now contains over 30,000 items. The Library is located in a room designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and the wall carvings make reference to the ecclesiastical subject of the tomes contained within. The Library's collections, which relate to Wren, the building of the new St Paul's, the history of the Church and the Church in the city, can be used by anyone who needs to make use of them.

In some ways the visit was more of a behind-the-scenes tour, as we got to see parts of St Paul's hidden from the average visitor, including the gallery at the back used for TV cameras during special events, the collection of historic fonts, and the large model of one particular design for St Paul's. It was fascinating to be able to learn about this unique library and the space in which it is housed.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

ARLG London Visit to the RADA Library

I signed up to the ARLG visit to the RADA Library as I love the theatre, and thought it would be very interesting to have the chance to explore the library of one of the most famous actor training grounds. The Library is located at 18 Chenies Street, London, WC1E 7PA, very near in fact to the CILIP headquarters. It was established in 1904, initially via donation, including some from Bernard Shaw. In 1995 the Library was moved to this purpose-built space. In recent years, a cataloguing programme has ensured that all essential stock is now catalogued.

The Library has over 40,000 items including more than 12,000 plays, which form the core of the Library's service and are sorted, in A-Z order by author, on shelves in the middle of the space. Other books relating to particular authors, such as biographies, are shelved with works by that author, while other supporting material such as history and acting/directing manuals are shelved separately. The Library also has a selection of DVDs and videos, a music collection and links to digital resources including Drama Online, Digital Theatre and the RADA Accents Archive.

We were given a talk by the Library Manager, James Thornton. He explained that the Library is for the use of staff and students, with full-time students able to borrow up to 8 items at once. Books must be returned or renewed within 4 weeks. The Library is open six days out of seven during term time, including some late evenings. A cash deposit is required from students before they are able to borrow, which I thought quite surprising. External researchers are discouraged, as the resources are there primarily to support RADA students: they can use them if needed but are charged £10 per day.

After a look around the Library, we were shown some of the archives: RADA has registers of all students dating back to its founding, and we were able to see some of these including the entry for John Gielgud. It's exciting to think how many well-known actors have passed through RADA's - and the Library's - doors.

Thanks to RADA and ARLG for a fascinating visit.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Registering for Chartership

It seems fitting that I mark my 100th post on this blog with the announcement that, after months of thinking about it, I've finally registered for Chartership. I've found a mentor, attended a Professional Registration Workshop at CILIP, and paid my fee. I had my first telephone meeting with my mentor this morning: she seems lovely and I'm confident that we will have a good working relationship.

My first task is to complete the PKSB before our next meeting at the end of October. I'll write another post then on how I found the process.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

ARLG London and South East Visit to the Wallace Collection Library and Archive

Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to participate in a visit to the Wallace Collection Library and Archive, organised by ARLG London and South East. The Wallace Collection is located within Hertford House, near Oxford Street in London, and is an impressive collection of paintings (particularly 18th century French work), furniture, porcelain and arms and armour. It grew from the private collections of the first four Marquesses of Hertford, and was bequeathed to the nation by Lady Wallace (widow of Sir Richard Wallace, son of the fourth Marquess) in 1897.

The Library began as a research library for curatorial staff, though it is now open to the public by appointment. It contains around 20,000 books, periodicals and exhibition catalogues relating to the artworks in the collection, as well as the De Walden collection of rare fencing books, which it holds on long-term loan. The Archive has files relating to the history of the collection and related material. Both the Library and Archive employed professional staff only comparatively recently.

We were taken on a tour of the Library, which is more complicated than it sounds: the "proper" library is in the basement, but there are other rare books in a cabinet within the museum, and more on the top floor within staff offices. Like many libraries there is a problem with lack of space, and staff also have to face challenges from members of curatorial staff, who like to have "their" books with them. Like many museums, the Library is not always seen as a priority - museum concerns take centre stage. However, despite this the Library is doing well, with the collection almost fully catalogued. I really enjoyed this fascinating visit.

Monday, 25 May 2015

CILIP South East Visit to the Inner Temple Library

I visited the Inner Temple Library with CILIP South East. The Inner Temple is one of the four Inns of Court, the others being Middle Temple, Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn. The Inns are unincorporated associations which have existed since the 14th century, and majorly contribute to the recruitment, training and professional life of barristers. They hold the exclusive rights to call candidates to the bar of England and Wales.

The Library is mainly used by practising barristers, though it is occasionally used by students. It is used by members of all four Inns of Court: each Inn's library specialises in a different kind of law so that the books are not duplicated, a sensible arrangement. The Library itself is very attractive, a calm, quiet place in which to work.

Monday, 4 May 2015

London Blackboard User Group Meeting 24/04/2015

I attended my third Blackboard User Group (#LondonBUG) meeting at Bucks New University in Uxbridge on Friday. The theme was “Mobile and Multimedia” and the afternoon contained several interesting talks.

iPads to Staff Initiative (Steve Hoole, Bucks New University)

Steve spoke about the “Take a Tablet” project at the University, which trained staff to use iPads and provided an iPad to each member of FT academic staff (other staff are able to borrow an iPad from the pools at the Uxbridge and High Wycombe campuses).

Why was this done? Staff wanted to improve the quality and turnaround time of staff-student feedback, as well as increasing digital literacy – changing the disparity between staff and student abilities and knowledge. They also wanted to explore new ways of teaching, and increase the wellbeing of staff and their ability to manage their time: staff were also able to use their tablets for personal reasons.

Staff faced battles with IT over which tablets to have. IT wanted them to have Microsoft Surface tablets but Turnitin does not work on these – in addition iPad is a cooler brand and staff thought more people would be encouraged to come to the sessions if iPads were used. To be as inclusive as possible, all full-time staff were included in the scheme. Equipment issued included the 16GB WiFi enabled iPad Air and a connector for the light projector.

The aims of the training were to inspire, transform and encourage creativity. It was aimed at the lowest common denominator. The training was divided into two three-hour sessions. The first looked at how to use the iPad, connect WiFi, use email and use the calendar. It also explored the Turnitin app. The second session covered the Bb Collaborate & Learn app, as well as other apps which could be useful for teaching, such as Twitter. Staff found that as the sessions went on, the content expanded as users developed more knowledge and understanding of the iPads. The equipment was not given out until the second session, to ensure that participants returned to the training.

All tutors were added to a Bb module containing information about new and existing apps. Tutors were encouraged to “show and tell” to disseminate good practice. The Issues – There were initial problems with MAC IDs and Apple IDs, as well as issues with staff not following instructions. In addition there are ongoing costs and issues with getting the iPad back when a staff member leaves the university. However, over time most of the problems have been or will be ironed out.

Future plans include building on the iPad technology and establishing WiFi zones in IT. There are also plans to explore Swivls and lecture capture technology as well as develop a “Bucks Store” – an app store containing potentially useful apps.

Large scale multi-media based assessments (Manuel Frutos-Perez, University of the West of England)

Manuel talked about the issues arising with getting 900 students to produce video assets as assessment tasks, along with a reflective piece, in only one week. Students spend most of their time out of class and are only taught intensively, conference-style, for a week or two; most have no technical background. Any assessment has to focus on skills development.

The project involved creating videos, and the students would be assessed not on their performance, but on their reflection. It was hoped that the students would actively participate and learn about different perspectives. The project has proven to be manageable, sustainable and academically challenging.

Video assignments via Blackboard and Helix (James Leahy, Regent's University London)

James spoke about a scheme allowing students to submit video assignments via Blackboard. This has proven largely successful, so long as the students follow the steps correctly, and the scheme has allowed files to be shared with external examiners. However, there have been a few technical issues with some students not understanding the process, and the file size of some assignments, which can take a while to upload.

Top 3 updates from the Blackboard Teaching and Learning Conference (Anne Cross, Blackboard)

The key themes from the conference were: embedding libraries, anon assignments, the flipped classroom, Digital Olympics, tabs and accessibility. There was lots of interest in core features that not everyone has implemented.

Blackboard Collaborate Latest Updates (Alex Ball, Blackboard)

Alex demonstrated the latest version of Collaborate, which appears fairly intuitive.

Blackboard Enhancement Requests (Workshop session facilitated by Chris Boon, City College Norwich and Danny Ball, Canterbury Christ Church University)

The top-voted choices for enhancement requests were looked at and discussed. It was decided that many “enhancement requests” were actually bug fixes:
• Issue with uploading assignments – special character in filename means that tutors cannot download
• Tighter control of grade centre
• Retention centre does not register/log mobile users

These items were set aside to be submitted separately. The following Enhancement Requests were submitted: the ability to extend or amend assignment due dates for individual students or groups; the ability to drag and drop items into folders; the possibility of using sign-ups to allow students to choose time slots for tutorials.

Overall, I found the meeting to be useful and informative.

Monday, 27 April 2015

LIHG Visit to The Caird Archive and Library at the National Maritime Museum

I signed up for a CILIP Library and Information History Group visit to the Caird Library at the National Maritime Museum. The Library is a research library that specialises in maritime history, and holds the most extensive maritime archive in the world. The visit included a talk on the Library and its collections as well as a tour of the reading room and archives.

We were met at the front desk and taken to the seminar room where Gareth Bellis, the Library Manager, told us about the history of the Library. From 1937 until 2011 the Library was organised under one design, and was opened to the public in 1980. In 2011 a new library opened as part of the museum extension, including an open space as well as archive stores. The new library allows up to 46 readers, as opposed to 16, to work in the building.

The Collection
The collection is made up of many and varied items: manuscripts and original documents, including personal papers; admiralty records and business collections (such as the archive collections of P&O); Board of Trade deposits (e.g. Masters certificates); and atlases, maps and charts. The Library also holds printed materials including rare books dating back to the fifteenth century and modern books bought by the museum to assist research. Periodicals, ephemera and eresources complete the rich collection.

Facts and figures
We learned some interesting facts and figures: the Library has 12km of shelving, 60% of the materials are stored in the Sammy Ofer wing at the NMM and 40% are stored off-site. The Library receives approximately 5000 visitors a year, of which around 50% are academic, and 40% are interested in family history or general history. Around 200 written enquiries and 120 phone enquiries are received each month. The NMM has three catalogues in all, one for the archives, one for museum collections including maps and charts, and one for the library itself.

My favourite part of the visit was when we got to inspect some of the treasures held by the Library. The NMM's links with the Royal Observatory are demonstrated by John Flamsteed's Historia Celestus, a "corrupt catalogue" published too early by Halley and Newton. Another interesting item was an edition of William Buchan's Domestic Medicine, which belonged to the HMS Bounty and ended up with the mutineers on Pitcairn Island.

An account of the loss of the Royal George at Spithead in 1782, as well as a lieutenants log and some memorial books made of wood from the wreck, were present, as well as a letter from Lord Nelson to Emma Hamilton written on board the HMS Victory on 24 August, 1803. A crew agreement from the Cutty Sark and Board of Trade certificates for Edward John Smith, later of the Titanic, were also present. My favourite item of all, though, was a book by Peter Halkett from 1848 describing the author's rather bizarre invention of a boat-cloak, or cloak-boat. As the name suggests, this oddity was designed to be worn as a cloak and deployed as a boat should an emergency arise requiring this.

Overall a really interesting visit - thanks to all involved.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Four years in my job

I've been in my job for four years now - where does the time go?!

Friday, 2 January 2015

2015 Resolutions

I'm hoping to be more successful with my resolutions for 2015 than I was for 2014. To this end, I have made only one resolution - to register for Chartership.