Sunday, 14 October 2007

Book Express in Newport

While reading a thought provoking post from Embervision about RFID as a potential stress buster a bracketed comment jumped out at me "Newport Libraries has just launched a home delivery service". This seemed rather too exciting to be true so I had a nose at Newport Libraries home page and there it is Book Express, a service which allows up to 50 books a year to be chosen from the library website and posted direct to the user with a return postage paid envelope. I've posted about direct end user delivery before and I look forward to finding out more about this project. Strangely it seems to only be open to people living in Newport but not already a member of the library, I assume this is because they are targeting new members with this project but I'm surprised they have chosen to restrict a service that many current library members would probably love to try. Once I've caught up on the backlog at work I'll see if someone at Newport can tell me more but in the meantime if anyone knows anything about this project please feel free to leave a comment or email me directly.

Holiday snaps

Aghios Nikolaos coast
Originally uploaded by swashford
Just come back from a fantastic week in Crete and started uploading photos to Flickr. The first few are up and more will follow later in the week. We went to Aghios Nikolaos which is a beautiful town with beaches, harbour and a bottomless lake! Do I really want to go back to work tomorrow...?

Monday, 24 September 2007

CILIP Promoting Blogging

A little while ago I had an email from CILIP asking if I minded having this blog aggregated to a CILIP blog called CILIP members blog landscape. At the moment there are 15 blogs aggregated here, all by members of CILIP. Although it's only a small percentage of the UK library bloggers it is an interesting overview of what is being blogged about. Unlike the forums on the CILIP communities site it doesn't require you to login with a CILIP membership to view the blog so it's open to everyone.

In addition to the CILIP blog, this month's edition of Update (CILIP's monthly journal) contains what I hope will be a regular column LIS Blogwatch. Matthew Mazey scans over 100 blogs for this column and it's a great round up of some of the hot topics although publishing deadlines mean that the 'October' issue has hot blog topics from August so most bloggers will have come across them already. I think it's more a way of bringing the conversations from the blogosphere into the consciousness of people who haven't really got into the idea of reading blogs. Hopefully some people will follow the links and find their way into the online conversation. I'm glad to see this column is available online and I hope it will continue to be published online in future.

And finally... check out another Update article online - Dave Pattern's 'Are you Happy with your Opac?' reports on his survey of OPAC satisfaction and the University of Huddersfield's approach to upgrading the catalogue. A must read for anyone who every considered that their OPAC might suck...

Library WiFi and iPhones

`This week Apple announced the date for the iPhone to go on sale in the UK. Now I'm a pretty basic mobile phone user, but I'm starting to get very tempted by smartphones and as a mac user I'm especially tempted by an iPhone. Having read the release information what interested me most however was the WiFi announcement - the UK contract has gone to O2 and they include unlimited connection to The Cloud network of hotspots, including our library! I don't know what the take up will be of the iPhone in the UK, I expect some smartphone fans will be put off by the lack of 3G connection and the rather limited camera, but I'm intrigued by the possibility of people coming into the library to use their iPhone. Now I'm wondering how well our library information displays on a mobile browser...

Monday, 17 September 2007

Working on the web - a Flickr meme

There's an interesting meme going round at the moment that involves people who use the web posting a picture entitled iworkontheweb and there have been some great library ones posted. I've just read the notes on Lee LeBlanc's photo and it's another thought provoking take on the role of the library. My favourite part is "I have a vision of libraries as these special places where people connect, as these great halls of free inquiry, as these local forums for social/political events, as a connector through the web, as a place to be lazy and chat online or off." I recommend having a look and a read and a think about why you work on the web and in a library.

Going to the user

Librarian In Black has spotted a number of libraries using IM to offer help to users in the library. She links to an example at the University of Alberta and someone from Alberta has left a comment explaining how the service came about and how it fits into some major service changes at the library. This is a very simple idea using something that a number of libraries are already using to communicate with users outside the library - IM reference - to solve a problem inside the library. We ask users not to leave their bags unattended, we warn them about thefts in the library and we set their computers to time out if they leave them for too long, then we expect them to come and queue at an enquiry desk if they need help with their PC. A simple chat box on the screen enabling you to 'talk to a librarian' allows you to report faults and ask questions and staff can respond by chatting or by physcially going to the user. I really like this idea but there are some obvious problems it doesn't help with such as 'how do I logon' and 'how do I use the chat box'?! Has anyone heard of this being used in public libraries or in libraries in the UK?

Answers in a comment box...

Blog Guilt

Any readers out there may have noticed that I haven't blogged for quite a while. I'm also rather behind with my RSS feeds and feeling rather web 1.0 at the moment. As all this is meant to be enjoyable and useful rather than something else to feel guilty about I'm declaring the past 3 months a summer holiday, guilt-free! If you've missed me, I'm back but I'm not going to attempt to post about all the things that may have happened while I was offline, this is a new term and I'm back with new posts! If only chocolate guilt was so easily written off...

Friday, 6 July 2007

London Boat Trip

London Sunset
Originally uploaded by swashford
On Tuesday we had a lovely trip down the Thames on the London Rose. I've uploaded some of my photos to Flickr as promised!

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

ILL Wiki

I've just have a fascinating few days at Interlend 07, the Forum for Interlending and Information Delivery's annual conference. Unfortunately the venue did not have wireless access so I'm now in the lovely cafe at the British Film Institute catching up on email, feeds etc and contemplating the last few days. I'm planning to write more about the conference once I've had a chance to go through my notes but here's a related post about a resource I've just discovered. ShareILL is described as "a gateway to electronic and print resources pertaining to all aspects of interlibrary loan (ILL), document delivery, and resource sharing" and although it is a US project it has a lot of information already which is useful to us ILL folk outside the US. Most useful sections I have found so far are a list of National Libraries and Archives which is promoted as the most complete and current list of national library web sites in the world and also the Gateways and Union Catalogs page which has links to union catalogues around the world. What I find most appealing about this wiki, however, is the possibilities it offers in updating and adding information. I've already added some links and information relating to UK sources that I use and I'd like to see more UK and global librarians getting involved. Rather than set up a UK based wiki I think it would be good to use this resource and encourage a more global perspective on interlending. Now I"m off to think up some more sites and information to add to the wiki.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Wiki at Portsmouth Library!

Thanks to Paul Raven for mentioning this as I'm really excited to find our neighbours Portsmouth City Libraries have launched a library wiki for book lovers!! The Book Case is described as "Portsmouth Library Service's unofficial website for readers, guiding you through the overwhelming choice of what to read next and inviting you to share your reading experiences through reviews and recommendations" and it was officially launched today so I look forward to see how it develops. Congratulations Portsmouth - it looks good!

UK Public Library Blogs

I've come across a couple of blogs, finally, for UK public libraries! Both describe themselves as 'semi-official' and have a mix of library news, reviews and general information. Paige Turner has been writing on behalf of Swansea Public Libraries since December 2006 and writes short interesting posts on all sorts of topics. She also publishes pictures of new libraries in Swansea and some more personal posts about the library world in general. I'm not sure what the intended readership of the blog is as it feels much more like a personal blog than an institutional one but I certainly enjoy reading it! Sutlib Reader is a very new blog started this month and presenting itself as "The (semi) official blog of Sutton Libraries". Only 4 posts so far but I like the idea and according to the author it has the support of the Head of Libraries so I look forward to seeing how it develops. Congrats to the first UK public library blogs I have found!

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Wiki in the Library!

I'm very excited at the moment because we're using a wiki as part of our LMS training project! Only been going for a week or so but most people have edited it now and it has been a very useful way of sharing ideas. At the moment it is more a collection of conversations than an interactive wiki but it has been interesting to see how people use it and what their first steps are. It also saves me sending out an email with attachment every time I edit the training documents, instead I can upload the updated file to the wiki and everyone knows that the version on the wiki is the most up to date version. Final versions can go on the intranet as usual but this way I can make drafts easily available for comment. It's a useful way to try out a wiki because it is a short term project with a small group of people involved. Hopefully I will be posting more on this over the next couple of months looking at how we use it and what the pros and cons turn out to be.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Springwatch Live Webcams

The BBC's Springwatch programme has some great material on its website including the incredible Live Webcams currently featuring a nest full of hungry sparrow chicks and the nest of a golden eagle chick. Fantastic!

Sunday, 10 June 2007

An exciting week!

This picture sums up some of the things that I have been excited about this week. The CDs are Tom McRae from the gig that I mentioned on Monday. The books are Harlequin by Laurell K Hamilton (yes I admit to enjoying vampire novels on occasion!) and How to Use Web 2.0 in Your Library by Phil Bradley. The latter book is going to take a lot longer to get through than the former as every couple of pages I keep going online to explore the resources discussed. I was very excited when I ordered the book and so far it is surpassing my expectations. The strange document at the back is a copy of a document from the National Archives showing my ancestor's military service in the Suffolk Regiment (2nd Regiment of the Foot as it was then) in the first half of the nineteenth century. Thanks to this I know that my ancestor had grey eyes and was 5"8 tall and that received a good conduct medal. 150 years after he was discharged, John Chapman's great, great, great granddaughter could find out what colour his eyes were thanks to a document she ordered online. Isn't the internet fantastic?!

British Library Exhibition

British Library Entrance
Originally uploaded by swashford
A couple of weeks ago I headed up to London to check out the latest exhibtion - Sacred. If you have any interest in history, historical texts or the history of European culture, this is an exhibtion you really shouldn't miss. From a piece of the Dead Sea Scrolls to the most beautifully illuminated Qur'ans this is one of the most amazing collections of documents I have ever seen. If you can't make it to London then do have a look at the website because the British Library, as always, have done an excellent job of putting material online and have included some of the most spectacular in their Turning the Pages collection. They have also used Google maps to create an interactive map of some documents and there is a blog linked to the collection which includes thoughts from the learning team on taking young children around the exhibition. If you can make it to London before 23 September then go have a look for yourself, it's breathtaking and very thought provoking.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Tom McRae

Completely buzzing after a fantastic night at a Tom McRae gig. If you haven't heard of him check out his MySpace page and have a listen. I'm terrible at describing music in genres but I love his music because it's simply beautiful and I never tire of listening to it. Tonight I was also mesmerised by the cellist who's accompanying Tom on tour, Oliver Kraus, so here's a link to his MySpace page as well. May have to study the tour dates and see if I can make it to any of the others... or possibly go to bed since it'll be 1am soon!

Sunday, 3 June 2007

More customer service thoughts

And for more great thoughts on customer service in libraries check out the posts by The Leapin' Librarian and Helene Blowers. Leapin' Librarian writes about radical trust and not putting library "rules" above good customer service and Helene writes a very short but thought-provoking post about service vs. experience. Head over and have a read...

If I didn't work here...

It's easy to get over excited about different applications and ideas for ways to transform library services. Harder to make sure that we change things that make a difference to library users. Today I've been trying to think about what I would want from my library account if I didn't work at the library. Some are 2.0, others are just things that would make a difference to me.

1. Pay my library fines online with a credit card. If I didn't work here I would certainly have library fines and I would want to pay fines when I renewed my late books online to save time when in the library and stop my card getting blocked.

2. Manage my loans history. A chronological list is fine but if I can borrow 30 items at a time I would want to manage that list, save items that I may want to borrow again and mark authors that I didn't like so I don't make the same mistake twice!

3. RSS feeds for authors and titles. I'm pretty addicted to my Bloglines and I'd like a feed for new books by authors I have enjoyed and a feed for my wish list so I know when new titles I'm interested in have arrived.

4. A wish list! At the moment I add items I want to borrow to my Amazon wish list but I would love a library wish list that I could add to even if the book isn't available in the library. I'd then like to be able to search for and reserve items from my wish list.

5. Online ILL requesting. I know many libraries do this already but we haven't quite caught up yet and this is something I would really want as a reader.

6. Books due reminders. Again I've seen this elsewhere and it's something that would make a difference to forgetful folk like me! Email or SMS acceptable.

What would make a difference to you?

Thursday, 24 May 2007

And another one...

UK blogging librarians springing up everywhere - to tie in with the Plymouth Libraries' Flickr account mentioned earlier here's a link to a blogger from the South West... Library Notes is written by a librarian working towards Chartership and it shows how blogging seems to be gaining popularity as a useful way of keeping track of reading and professional development. I'm especially looking forward to reading the posts about Umbrella as I won't be there in person, just via the blogosphere! Found via the Umbrella wiki Clippers2007

Found! UK Blogging Librarians...

Not only are they UK blogging librarians but they are UK blogging public librarians! I've been following Michael's 025.04 blog for a couple of weeks but hadn't noticed that at the bottom of his profile lurked another blog. Signpost Libraries has some interesting ideas and seems to be linked to experiments with Talis Signpost. Unfortunately it also seems to have come to an end but I mention it because it looks like a good example of library staff collaborating via a blog. I'm off to leave a post on 025.04 to ask Michael about the project... and continue the hunt.

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Plymouth Library Photo - Our other library van 3/365

And here's one of their photos...

UK Public Library on Flickr

Plymouth Libraries have a Flickr account and are uploading photos regularly. Many of them seem to be documenting the travels of the Bookstart Bear, BB but there are also pictures of library displays, new buildings and library events. I hope they continue with it as I'm enjoying the glimpse into a public library not too far away! Very few comments so far so why not pop over and say hello to them?

Friday, 11 May 2007

National Archives do Podcasts!

Recently I've been less in library world in the evenings and back researching my family history. On the hunt for blogs, RSS feeds etc that are not about libraries (I got tagged!) I came across the podcast series at the National Archives. If you're at all interested in history, genealogy or archives I have to recommend this series. So far I've listened to an introduction to the Family Records Centre (would be useful to have on an MP3 player on your first visit), Anthony Adolph talking about his famous ancestor who may have been the father of Charles II and an introduction to workhouse records . One of my ancestors was born in the Barnet Union Workhouse which may have been the inspiration for the workhouse in Oliver Twist so the workhouse podcast was particularly fascinating. Worth a listen.

Monday, 12 February 2007

A customer service challenge...

Browsing through my Bloglines this evening I came across this great post Making the Best of a Bad Day on T.Scott's blog. It warmed my heart then challenged me to think about the customer service that we provide in libraries. A little while ago I posted about simple ideas for improving the library experience and I think this kind of personal service is often what makes people really connect with a service - restaurant or library. Going that little bit further for a reader can be such a simple thing and yet when people speak about their personal experience of a local library it is often the little things that they remember. Tomorrow I'm going to aim to go a little bit further than I have to for each customer, a personal customer service challenge thanks to T.Scott.

Saturday, 10 February 2007

CILIP Sub Branch Blog

My local CILIP Sub Branch has a blog! One of the committee has been inspired by Karen Blakeman's talk to set up a blog and Hampshirelibrarian has already posted on internet browers and search engines. Unfortunately the comments are restricted to members of the group and there is no obvious way to send a message asking to join in but I'm in the process of emailing the committee to find out more. If people get involved I think this could be a great community blog for folk working in libraries in the region to discuss 2.0 technology and share general library ideas and problems.

Friday, 9 February 2007

A challenge for UK library bloggers!

Brian Kelly of UK web focus has written another post on the subject of UK library bloggers and he's now on the lookout for volunteers to join in his experiments and this is his challenge...

"Well I’m still carrying on with the experiments (especially the experiments which relate to the needs of the smaller libraries, museums and archives - such as my current experiment in email delivery of blog postings).
But I’d be even more keen to carry out a community experiment - perhaps with a small group who would be willing to contribute their experiences using a Wiki, could be presented at ILI 2007."

I think this is a great idea and a good opportunity to build a UK library blogging community sharing ideas and thoughts about 2.0 things - if you're in the UK please consider joining in!

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Jedi Librarian

My biblioblogosphere tag cloud (over on the right there under the meebo box) is my lucky dip at the moment and the jedi tag led me to this great Jedi Librarian video, linked on David Rothman's blog I'm a bit of a Star Wars fan, born in the year it all began, so if anyone's looking for library staff to play with lightsabers in a UK version of this, just let me know...

Simple Ideas, Great Results, Library 1.0

I think that sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the exciting ideas of Library 2.0 and online services and forget that there are simple, good ideas out there completely unconnected to computers! Michelle McLean, an Australian librarian, has written a post about Improving User Service which is all about libraries making users happy by changing loan limits and dropping reservation fees. Probably the most radical part is their change to print loans, from a maximum of 20 items across all categories to unlimited print loans, yes that does read unlimited! They do limit AV items with a rather low limit on DVDs but their unlimited print loans do include audio books and CD Roms.

The part that interests me is the reservation fees - they dropped them from $1 to free. This is the fee for placing a hold on books at other branches or out on loan. I love this part of Michelle's post...

"Now that's a good thing. Although it creates more work for us, its amazing what good will it has expressed. The people who wouldn't place holds because of the charge, love it because they don't have to pay and the people who were used to paying love it, because they no longer have to. They would not necessarily have thought of suggesting that as a service improvement, but they love it!"

She goes on to talk about other positive results such as people coming in more often and her reassuring final statement is...
"And despite fears, we haven't had anyone place holds on everything in sight, yet!"

It's so good to hear someone blogging about simple, effective ideas like this that help to give users a great service. It's always difficult to sell something to management that will cost the library service money, such as giving up a source of revenue, however small the amount. So congratulations to the staff at Michelle's library for doing this and I will be forwarding her post to my library manager in the morning...

Sunday, 4 February 2007

My 100th RSS Feed on Bloglines

Today I subscribed to my 100th feed on Bloglines! Number 100 is a UK blog by a senior library assistant working in HE in Kent who is studying for a librarianship qualification. Check out The Singing Librarian who describes himself thus...

The Singing Librarian is not, technically speaking, a librarian. He has been working in a higher education library in Kent (UK) since Autumn 2000, but does not yet have a librarianship qualification and is therefore only a quasi-librarian. His job title is ‘Senior Library Assistant’. The library he works at is known as the Library of Doom due to the various problems it has encountered over the years, including floods, near-death experiences and rampaging wildfowl.

My favourite posts so far have been Singing Librarian Flashback: S Club Library which made me laugh and sing out loud and Good librarian, bad librarian comparing good responses to stupid reader questions and the responses we would all love to be able to give:

Student: Do you have that blue book my tutor recommended?
Bad librarian: Yes, we do. It’s kept with all the other blue books in the blue room, between the green and purple rooms. Once you get to the room, you’ll find them arranged in order by how much the tutors like them, with books written by members of staff at the very beginning.
Good librarian: I’m afraid I’ll need a bit more information than that. Can you remember what it’s called?
Unfortunately, the student often fails to remember the author or title, sometimes forgets which course or tutor it was that suggested the book, but always knows that it’s very important that they read it. At this point, the bad librarian manifests himself in the form of steam coming out of the good librarian’s ears.

I'm currently on the lookout for more blogging UK librarians and library students so The Singing Librarian fits in nicely.

Think I'm going to need a bigger blogroll...

Friday, 2 February 2007

UK Library Bloggers

Working my way through the handouts from last night's event I've just come across this post from Brian Kelly on Where are the Blogging UK Librarians? I think this is an issue that will be discussed more and more this year as blogging becomes less "something geeks do" and more a useful tool of everyday life. Reading the blogs from US library folk you get a real sense of community and I think this is something that will develop over here too. I'd like to see more mention of blogging as a CPD tool too - CILIP's new framework is very much about reflecting on what you have learned and showing your professional reading and writing this blog has pushed me to do this and keep doing it over the last few months. Can't let my subscribers down! Huge thanks by the way to those people who have commented on my posts, I still can't believe people read this and it's fantastic to get feedback and suggestions. Isn't this what a professional community should be?

RSS, Blogs and Wikis with Karen Blakeman

Last night I attended a thought provoking CILIP event at Basingstoke Library - RSS, Blogs and Wikis by Karen Blakeman. Organised by my local sub-branch this was a very popular event - interesting as I had seen very little publicity and had wondered if we would be the only ones there! At the beginning Karen did a quick hands-up assessment to see how many folk had heard of the different 2.0 technologies. About half of the room had heard of RSS feeds although not everyone was sure what they were for; blogs were only used by a small number of people and wiki knowledge was mostly limited to the odd search on Wikipedia. Probably quite indicative of an average group of UK library staff but it was good to see how many people had given up their evening to come along and find out more. I've been reading Karen's blog for a couple of months now and had come across most of her recommendations before but it was really interesting to hear which services she recommended for beginners and how to get experimenting. Today Karen posted her presentation and recommended links on the RBA website and I'd recommend having a look as it is a useful introduction to the subject.

I'm looking forward to getting together with my colleagues who also attended and seeing how we can start to use this technology to improve our library service. Maybe an internal wiki for library procedures and ideas or RSS feeds for readers to get news of new books/library events etc. There is always the standard difficulty of permission, getting the powers that be to agree (or even the IT department!) will probably be the biggest battle but I'm hoping if we start small and demonstrate something that works and makes a difference we can move onto bigger things. Watch this space...

Monday, 29 January 2007

Biblioblogosphere Tagcloud

Via Blog Central for Australian Libraries I've just discovered another cool widget. Dave Pattern's hot topics from library/librarian weblogs is a way of keeping an eye on new topics that have appeared in the biblioblogosphere during the last 48 hours. The list of blogs he uses to generate this is huge and covers a good range of UK and US blogs so it should be interesting to see what turns up. It's over on the right there, above my Meebo me box...

Life as I Know It's Library 2.0 Roundup

Jennifer Macauley in her excellent blog Life as I Know It has created a comprehensive list of sites and citations on library 2.0. Library 2.0 Roundup was originally posted in October 2006 and it is a pretty huge list to work through. Thanks to Jennifer I've discovered a wealth of posts and ideas that I hadn't previously come across and I'm only about a third of a way through. I imagine it would also be a really useful resource for anyone wanting to chart the development of the library 2.0 idea from autumn 2005 to the present. Just don't blame me if you stay up all night reading the posts, I'm finding it rather addictive reading...

Meebo Me!

Having tried and failed to get Messenger to work on my laptop (possibly due to my strange networking setup at present!) I setup a Meebo account and came across a cute little widget for you to Meebo Me. No IM account required just type a message in the box on the right and say hello.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Sunday Review - mostly about library visits

The past couple of weeks have involved a certain amount of travelling and as usual I've slipped a couple of library visits into each journey. Last week I had a meeting in Birmingham and decided to go up north a little early to get some family history research in (I have ancestors from Rugby). This meant I managed to spend a day in the lovely Rugby Library and Information Centre using their microfilm reader. I've visited Rugby Library a few times now and I really like the layout and atmosphere. The children's library is right by the entrance with a great big activities room viewable from the issue desk through the perspex wall, the activities room does a good job of making the children's activities visable but cutting down on the noise in a very open library. The computers have been put up on a mezzanine level which also cuts down on the noise level and allows for a IT classes or homework sessions to be held away from the main library. Unfortunately all 3 microfilm reader/printers are on their last legs and after several dodgy printouts the librarian had to admit defeat "they need replacing but I don't think we'll get new ones any time soon"! They also have a single photocopier, located at the front of the library which has to be activated by a member of staff and then involves you queuing up a second time to pay for your photocopies (assuming you're honest enough to do this!), a little frustrating when you consider there are no reading areas near the photocopier. In all Rugby gets my thumbs up as a lovely public library.

A thumbs down however to the Birmingham Central Library which I found rather confusing and depressing. A quick look at their website shows that the service is aware of the problems with the library and a new Library of Birmingham is planned for the near future. I'd like to see tidy shelves and a more welcoming staff presence added to the list as the only smile I received was from the guard on the front door and after 10 minutes wandering round the library I had to leave before I took my coat off and started tidying!

This week I managed to fit 2 visits into a trip to London for another meeting and also popped into the British Library. My first visit was to Swiss Cottage Library in Camden (north London near Regents Park). I came across this library following a conversation at work discussing innovative libraries we could visit in London. All the news from London seems to be about Ideas Stores so I wondered what other London libraries had been redeveloped recently and I'm so glad I looked into this. Swiss Cottage Library was a delight to visit! I even sat down in the library and started to make a list of all the things I liked so that I didn't forget any! The layout was so simple that I felt I could make a decent guess at where any book might be filed and find it there. They have gone for an Arts/Science division to the library with a red zone for arts and blue for sciences. Arts includes fiction, biographies and CDs/DVDs on the first floor with more academic subjects such as music scores on Arts 2. Science has cookery etc on first floor (including teenzone with GCSE and A-Level revision guides) and subjects such as chemistry on the second. The children's library is fantastic and has been designed by a local artist. This library doesn't set out to wow but includes lots of simple little ideas to make the user experience better. I liked the globe in the travel section, the quiet reading areas with wall racks for newspapers and current journals, the children's toilets right next to the children's library and the large number of desks with sockets underneath for laptops to be plugged in. I would also like to steal the idea of promoting subjects on the second floor by putting new and interesting items on designated displays on the first floor and 'for more books on ... see S2' notices. Much of this echoes plans that we have for our library and I'm hoping our librarians get a chance to head up for a look sometime soon.

While in the capital I had to check out one of the Ideas Stores as well and chose the most recent 'flagship' Idea Store Whitechapel for my visit. Now before I go further, please bear in mind that this visit was at the end of my day, I had been on my feet for about 7 hours and had just experienced how 1 inch of snow can affect the Tube 12 hours after falling! Firstly, there is a very good cafe at the top of the 'library' which serves excellent tea and chocolate cake (a very important point when you forgot to stop for lunch) and has a lovely view of the city at night. This is not top of my list of what I would like from a library but I did like the fact that the newspapers and popular journals were available in this area for you to read over a cup of coffee. Refreshed I ventured into the rest of the library hoping to be inspired but left rather disappointed. I had hoped to see something innovative and exciting but the building felt to me like a library in a multi-storey carpark. There was some rather nice curvy shelving and self-issue points on each floor but the library is still divided into reference and lending floors with families firmly kept in the children's library on the ground floor away from the adult books. DVDs and some display books are the only other items available on the ground floor and from the outside children and DVDs are about all you can see. I'd like to visit again and take a look at some of the other Ideas Stores as my first impressions of this venture were not good!

Lastly a mention of my quickest visit of the fortnight - I finally got a chance to pop into the current British Library exhibition London: A Life in Maps and this has to be my top recommendation for anyone visiting London this month. I love historical maps generally but was amazed by the amount and variety of images that the British Library have brought together in this exhibition. Arranged chronologically the exhibition takes you from the earliest images of Roman London to visions of the Olymic future. I was particularly fascinated by the maps showing London before and after the great fire and the descriptions of how the city grew to encompass surrounding villages such as Islington. Unfortunately I only had about 30 mins so I'm hoping to pop up for a longer visit later in the month. For anyone who doesn't get a change to visit the BL I can recommend the online virtual exhibition.

Library 4.0?!

Tame the Web's Michael Stephens has just republished an article that was originally published in the OCLC NextSpace Magazine in April 2006. The article is about Librarian 2.0 and is a challenge for anyone working in libraries to think about how they use 2.0 technology to provide a library service and what a library service should be. See Into a new world of librarians for his article. Following the link I then read the original article in NextSpace which asked a futurist, three librarians and an OCLC vice-president to comment on the library possibilites of Web 2.0 in Web 2.0 : Where will the next generation Web take libraries?

This is a fascinating article and I particularly enjoyed futurist Dr Wendy Schultz On the way to the library experience of the future where she takes us from Library 1.0 a resource base right up to Library 4.0, the neo-library: Experience, a mind gym or knowledge spa. And I was just getting to grips with the idea of 2.0!!

Friday, 26 January 2007

I'm IMing

I've finally got around to joining the IM revolution and have downloaded MSN Messenger for my mac. I'm swashford if you want to pop in for a chat...

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

OA, public libraries and distance learning

Many thanks to Heather Morrison who has taken the time to write a comprehensive comment on yesterday's post about open access articles. She has included some interesting links and a reference to her blog The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics which has been added to my Blogllines subscription for updates on the open access world. I've also read a few posts recently about distance learning and how students can feel a little abandoned by their institution and library service when studying from afar. I wonder whether this is an issue that public and academic libraries should be looking at together in more detail? We tend to focus on offering support for Open University students but distance learning seems to be an increasingly popular option for other HE institutions. I'd be interested to know how easily distance learners access library services, both remote access and locally and whether public libraries could do more to help with this.

This week seems to be my random thought week, please feel free to add your random thoughts to the mix!

Monday, 22 January 2007

Free Journal Articles

Over the past few years open access to journal articles has been the hot topic among academic librarians but rarely gets a mention in the public sector. When we receive an article request in our interlibrary loan department we tend to send it straight to the British Library and usually a quality scan appears in my inbox within 24 hours even when using the 3-5 days option. Today I received a list of article requests from a reader that were all from medical journals and decided to investigate whether any could be obtained free online - I found 4 of the 8 and thus saved us approx £20. I also saved the reader £6.00 in request charges which I'm sure she appreciated. Now I've had to learn a lot of my ILL skills by trial and error and maybe all the other ILL departments are shaking their heads and muttering at my lack of knowledge but I can't believe that I'm the only one who doesn't usually have time to hunt down journal websites in case there may be a free copy of an article out there somewhere.

I guess the point of this rather rambling post is how many students and public library authorities are paying for articles that they could get for free? How easy is it to find free articles? Is PubMedCentral a unique site or are there similar sites out there for other subjects? That's 3 points, sorry! The Forum for Interlending Conference this year is focussing on equality of access to document delivery and I think these are some questions that I may try to answer before the conference.

So answers on a postcard...

Sunday, 21 January 2007

Public Library Blogs part 3

Back in November last year I considered the complete absence of public library blogs from the UK . This afternoon I had a good hunt through the list on the The Blogging Libraries Wiki to see if any UK public library blogs were listed. After a number of false hopes caused by English sounding place names such as Rye, Cambridge and Cumberland I failed to find any based in the UK. I did come close with an interesting blog from Galway Public Libraries in Ireland. The archive goes back almost a year and they seem to post pretty regularly on library news, books and events. They describe themselves as the first Irish Public Library Blog and I think they're a good example for other public libraries to follow demonstrating a passion for books, writing and libraries.

Another blog that I came across is pretty far from being a UK library blog as it comes from Singapore! High Browse Online is an initiative from the National Library Board of Singapore "Helping you make informed reading decisions". It is an online version of their printed booklist with a greater focus on reviews and discussion and I've really enjoyed reading the last few posts. Great example of a library blog which set a clear aim and has stuck to it with a good level of participation and useful links to library services such as the catalogue and enquire services.

Still haven't found any UK public library blogs though...

Sunday, 14 January 2007

National Archives Newsletter

Every month I receive a newsletter from the National Archives in my inbox and it is always something I look forward to reading. I love spending hours researching my family history and the National Archives are continually coming up with new ways of providing online insights into their collection. This month the first item in the newsletter was Ancestors on a database of outward passenger lists for long-distance voyages leaving the British Isles between 1890 and 1960. At the moment it only has 1890-1899 but it looks like an interesting project.

I'm also interested in a new book Workhouse: the people - the place - the life behind the doors . One of my ancestors was born in the Hertfordshire workhouse that inspired Charles Dickens to write Oliver Twist and I look forward to reading this.

There is a lot of concern at the moment about the proposed move of the Family Records Centre to the National Archives in Kew. I have enjoyed visiting the FRC in the past but have never been to Kew and I think there is a tendency for many people to feel that the National Archives is a difficult place to access and use, a little beyond the casual family historian. If moving the FRC to Kew improves the connection between the two and encourages people to investigate the material at the National Archives I can see this being a positive step but there needs to be a serious move towards making Kew accessible to people who have never before been to an archive. It is very easy to become overwhelmed by the amount and variety of material available in an archive and a national resource needs to be just as welcoming to the beginner as to the professional researcher.

Tuesday, 9 January 2007

PDAs and E-books in Wolverhampton school

In the middle of the Ten O'Clock News on the BBC tonight was an interesting story about the use of PDAs in a Wolverhampton school. I was especially caught by the comments about children reading e-books and using the PDA to link web content to their work. Having tried and failed to find a story on the BBC website I watched the report again on the online news (first time I've tried this, liked the fact that you can choose the particular report that you want) and spotted the logo of the scheme in the background. It's the Wolverhampton Learning2Go project and there is a report being published tomorrow about the results of the project so I'll include a link and further information tomorrow.

I'd also be interested to know whether Wolverhampton Libraries have had any requests for e-books from the students...

Update - I've found the Learning2Go blog which has some fascinating posts including podcasts and comments from the children. Definately worth a look, great project!

2.0 ideas to stop OPACs sucking

I've read a large number of posts recently about 'Why my OPACs sucks' and so much has already been written that I don't want to repeat it all here. What I will do is look at 3 sites that have made me think about what they offer that our library website doesn't...

Yesterday Librarything hit nine million books catalogued - they blogged briefly about this and the point that caught my eye was "If LibraryThing were a "real" library, we'd now be the 10th largest in the country (ALA fact sheet)". No one forces people to catalogue their books on Librarything and yet over 95,000 people (latest figure I could find on the website) have signed up. Not only are people eagerly signing up but they are often willing to pay a subscription use the site (only necessary if you wish to add more than 200 books to your account). Imagine if your library catalogue was so good that people were eager to sign up and use it! Cataloguing books is simple and uses records from authoritative sources such as The British Library and the Library of Congress via their Z39.50 servers (best use I've seen of Z39.50 so far!). There are lots of ways to find new books to read, suggestions and unsuggestions are all intriguing - imagine looking at a library catalogue and seeing the words 'Don't Read This' above a book! Makes me want to read it! Most importantly the users have ownership, they choose to upload their books, they eagerly tag them, search for other books and share information with other users. We spend ages in libraries looking for innovative ways to get readers to review books or join reading groups but obviously there are plenty of people out there eager to share their opinions on books and we just aren't reaching them with our lovely old OPAC.

Only recently come across this site thanks to a mention on Phil Bradley's I want to blog. Here's the goal from their website

"The goal of BooksWellRead is to be the online destination of choice for people who want to 'digest' what they read by capturing their thoughts in writing. BooksWellRead has been designed to be simple, fast, and easy to use. We hope you like it and tell others about it!! By the numbers: 3007 books, 1016 entries, 389 members"

Obviously much smaller than LibraryThing but describes itself more as an online book journal than a library. It is designed for people who like to reflect on what they have read and possibly share those reflections with others. I have to admit that I haven't yet logged in and fully explored this site but I like the focus on thinking about what you've read rather than just listed everything you own. I can imagine using this to keep records of books I've borrowed from the library or wish lists of books I'd like to read. I'd like to see a library catalogue that allowed you to add books to your basket and then save them to a wish list which you could look at and amend whenever you logged in (or even upload to something like BooksWellRead or your Amazon wish list). And a free text comment section to remind yourself why you added it to the basket in the first place! Again the key is fun of reading other people reviews and the curiousity factor of seeing what else that person has read.

Both LibraryThing and BooksWellRead demonstrate what we already know about readers in libraries - everyone likes to know what other people have read and recently returned and love to have other people's opinions on a book even if they just want to disagree with it!
This is a site that interests me because of my involvement in interlibrary loans. Basically it is NetFlix for books. You create a list of books you would like to read - they suggest having at least 10-15 titles on your list at all times - and you get new books on your list when you return the ones you have. They have different subscription levels depending on how many books at a time you wish to have from $8.49 a month for 2 books to $34.99 a month for 12 books. The books are sent direct to the user in the post and a pre-paid return mailer is included to return the books. They have more than 79,800 titles in their paperbacks range and do not charge any late fees. They also have a CD/MP3 audiobooks service. There is even an option to keep the book you have rented if you really like it (only for post-1995 publications). I couldn't find any information on the site about how many people have signed up to this service but according to their press information they have been around since 2000 so they must be doing pretty well! I'm really interested in ways that public libraries can provide direct delivery of books to readers. There's a great article on Techessence looking at Library Delivery 2.0 which looks at how Netflix and Amazon are changing people's expectations. David Lee King's blog post The "Missing Piece" of the Library Netflix Model pointed out that Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library have been mailing all holds to patrons since the 1970s (for UK folk that's sending requests to borrowers in the post!) and their director describes it as one of the most important library services. Is this something that libraries in the UK could provide either as a free or premium rate service? At the moment we usually charge just to request a book on the shelf at a different branch so not sure how much we would have to charge for a postal service, especially for an item of indeterminate weight or size.

Would love to know if any public libraries in the UK are trialling something like this or coming up with innovative 2.0 changes to their websites...

Sunday, 7 January 2007

Sunday Review

This week I have been reading and pondering...

Robots in the stack at Chicago State University
George Needham's thoughts on Why Does Library Management Suck
Comments on AADL's fascinating new Catalog Seach Cloud
Library Garden's interview with Richard Sweeney of NJIT about his research on The Millennial Generation and Libraries
David Lee King's excellent articles on Inviting Participation in Web 2.0
Predictions for 2007 from: Stephen Abram
John Battelle
Michael Stephen's review of blog posts of 2006 What a Year! 2006 in Posts, Presentations, Permutations and ...PARTICIPATION!
Meredith Farkas' confession on Information Wants to Be Free about why she doesn't use her local public library It's not just the OPACs that suck prompted similar confessions and thoughts from Nicole on What I Learned Today Physical Spaces Suck Too and Life as I Know It The OPAC Isn't The Only Problem
Posts about a public library in the US closing during the afternoon due to problems with teenagers from
Tame the Web
Library Crunch
Provocative thoughts on collection development in libraries from OCLC's Lorcan Dempsey Justifying your place on the shelves and Tim Coates Library Books in American Public Libraries

And watching
Arlington Heights Public Library's Weekly Video Blog
Miss Potter at the Harbour Lights Picturehouse . Highly recommended!

Beyond Borders

Thoughts on a trip to Borders...

Their mission statement: 'To be the best-loved provider of books, music, films, and other entertainment and informational products and services.' (from their website

Things I liked:
Arrangement of shelves and seating in fiction section
Colourful children's section including round sofa area for sharing stories

Things I disliked:
Too much of the store taken up with non-book items such as Paperchase outlet, calendars, CDs and board games
No map - the fiction section was obvious but it was difficult to find areas in the non fiction
Scifi and fantasy books lumped together and just labelled scifi (at least label them scifi and fantasy!)
Poor range of stock in non fiction eg just 2 books on Rome and half a shelf of very basic genealogy books
Staff did not seem particularly interested in what they were doing or aware of the customers

I've been to our new Borders store a couple of times now and been very disappointed twice. The bookselling scene in our city is dominated by Waterstones and although I always enjoy visiting Waterstones I was looking forward to some competition and some new book promotion ideas to steal! I don't believe libraries and bookshops should be the same, they each have their own role to play in the reading experience, but I do think that libraries can often learn from their commercial cousins especially when it comes to stock layout, promotion and service delivery. For a large store, the Borders I visited had a very limited range of non fiction stock, probably due to the amount of floor space devoted to selling cards, calendars and CDs etc. Planning a trip to Rome next month, I visted Waterstones earlier in the week and found a shelf full of books covering almost all of the main travel book series. At Borders I found 2 books, both aimed at the independent traveller. Genealogy rarely seems to be covered well beyond the basic level in mainstream bookshops but Borders had the poorest section I have seen outside of a supermarket book section!

My library lesson - many of the elements we are being encouraged to include in our libraries were things I disliked about Borders. I found it frustrating that there are several large music/film stores in the city but Borders still tries to compete with them at the expense of the one thing I had gone there for - books. We also have plenty of stores selling calendars, cards and similar products. The atmosphere did not make me want to stay and browse and the staff did not encourage me to approach them (mostly because they were complaining loudly about being open til 10pm!). I hope that libraries don't go the same way, people frustrated because they can't find the books they want or the staff interaction they need because we are too busy generating income with DVD rentals and deleting librarian posts to make short term savings for the council.

Can we go beyond Borders and create a fantastic library service instead?!

Monday, 1 January 2007

My Blogging Resolutions

Happy New Year!
Here are my blogging resolutions - the things I would like to do with my Blog in 2007...
1. Discover ways that 2.0 technology can help my library provide a better service and then use it!
2. Seek out innovative document delivery solutions especially in public library services
3. Review technology I have found that enables me to be a better librarian
4. Blog a conference
5. Share the websites and blogs that I enjoy using
Let's see how many I can keep... :O)

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