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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