Anybook Oxford Libraries Conference 2015

On 21st July, I attended the Anybook Oxford Libraries Conference organised by the Bodleian Library, sponsored by The last time the Bodleian Library held a conference was in 2010 when I was brand new to the library profession as a trainee. It was interesting to attend this conference with library school and Chartership under my belt.

The conference was held at the Andrew Wiles Building at the Mathematical Institute of the University of Oxford, which opened in October 2013. It is located in the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, originally opened as the Radcliffe Infirmary in 1770 and named after John Radcliffe. You can find further information about the site’s history on the University website. Holding the conference in such a new and modern building made for a comfortable environment and it was a pleasure to spend a day in such a fascinating building.

Andrew Green (former Librarian of the National Library of Wales)

The future of research libraries

The first keynote speaker of the day was Andrew Green who gave a presentation that was amusing and lighthearted with a slideshow of the Welsh countryside on the screen as he reminisced about his early years as a librarian, although the speech was peppered with more serious considerations. The audience were entertained with memories of the introduction of technology and Andrew having to walk some distance to use the only computer available to carry out searches for library users. This brought us on to the more serious message about the effect technology is having, and will have, on libraries.

Andrew explained that, once upon a time, libraries could choose to adopt technology. If they didn’t choose to, the consequences were small as libraries concentrated on print collections, which is no longer the case. Libraries do not tend to boast of their print collections to encourage visits nowadays, instead promoting their extensive subscriptions to electronic material and databases. Andrew continued to explain that digital material is taking library users’ dependence off librarians – libraries’ holdings are no longer unique as their material can most often be found elsewhere. Also, companies who provide material to libraries, like publisher and suppliers, hold great power. Libraries do not own digital material; the publisher and suppliers do. Libraries simply rent the material for as long as it is needed.

Libraries can take something positive from digital material though, offering library users help with digital literacy and being involved with Intellectual Property and research communication, redefining the librarian’s role. Although digital material means that libraries’ print collections of journals and books may not be unique anymore, their distinctive collections of archives and rare books, for example, will most likely be unique and this is where, Andrew says, that libraries should concentrate their efforts; cherishing and promoting these distinctive collections, promoting them and making them visible, both physically and virtually.

This made me think of what distinctive collections Nuffield College Library has, most likely a lot of the material in its archives, and how we can improve our promotion of it. At the moment, we blog about individual collections or people whose collections we hold but I think that there are other avenues to explore, such as collaborating with the College and providing some material for College events. Overall, a thought provoking speech, which, although lighthearted, held some deeper thoughts about libraries’ future as technology continues to preside.

Andy Priestner (Information & Library Services Manager, Cambridge Judge Business School)

Space and place: new insights from ethnography

This was an enthusiastic, passionate and engaging presentation. I learnt what the term UX means, which I’ve seen floating around recently (user experience, by the way) and that it refers to how someone feels when using a product or service, whether they’re using a website, signage, space, emails, databases, furniture, etc.

Andy looked at the faults of librarians and the effect that has on our service – that we can be too desperately helpful (“Please come and ask us a question! We’re very nice people”). Librarians tend to use quantitative research, such as surveys, to discover library users’ thoughts on the service. While this provides data that can be easily matched to institutional statistics, there are generally too many surveys that have been poorly constructed. People who fill in surveys are not necessarily the opinions of people we seek and self-reporting is unreliable; people tell us what they think we want to hear. Ultimately, quantitative data doesn’t tell us how our users feel.

And so we moved on to the benefits of ethnography whereby researchers observe and interact with participants in a real-life environment. Ethnography involves:

Interest in context and culture

Exploring personal and social

Holistic approach

Less structure

More detail


Breaking down preconceptions

Lots of time

Embracing complexity

Offers more complete picture

Andy showed us some examples of research into user experience that had taken place at Judge Business School. Firstly, we were introduced to behavioural mapping, in which staff observed the use of the library and mapped the results. This involved mapping library users routes, their duration of stay, activities undertaken, choice of desk, devices used, and more. Staff then produced a visual representation of those maps, which showed the most popular routes through the library. They discovered, for example, that a lot of people walk straight through the ground floor room and on to the first floor. As a result, staff opened up some doors that led directly to the first floor entrance so that users didn’t have to walk through the ground floor room. A small change but one that makes a big difference.

Andy then told us about the ‘show-me-round’, where staff got students to guide them around the library explaining along the way the choices they made, e.g. seat preference. This was recorded for analysis later on. This research revealed some concerning results; that students are failing to access key services like wi-fi, databases and printing, that students were very opinionated about what made a good work space. Staff could then respond to these newly discovered needs, like purchasing cushions to make uncomfortable furniture more comfortable.

Finally, we had  a look at the library’s graffiti wall. The library put up a large piece of paper and provided some pens, inviting library users to write on it with the aim of finding out what they would like changed in the library and also what they might already like about the library. Andy stressed that it was important to locate the graffiti wall far away from staff otherwise people would be less likely to write down what they thought.

I thought that the three research methods used at Judge Business School were excellent. I was definitely inspired by the potential of such investigation but also recall that it is time intensive work and wonder whether we have the staffing to carry out such extensive studies.

Alistair McNaught (Subject Specialist (Accessibility and Inclusion), Jisc)

Divergent independence: promoting agile approaches to inclusion

This was a very practical session in which Alistair demonstrated free/in-built tools that can be used to help people with dyslexia in their research. It was an especially timely presentation with proposed changes to the Disabled Student Allowance meaning those with ‘milder’ forms of disability, such as dyslexia, will receive less funding.

I never knew there were so many tools available to help people with dyslexia, including some things I already use like Google Drive. I learnt that Google Drive can apply OCR to documents. For instance, after uploading a PDF to Google Drive, opening it in Google Docs means that the PDF is now editable.

Alistair demonstrated a number of excellent tools. To highlight a few, DeeperWeb (powered by Google) offers various ways of interrogating search results, e.g. by using a word cloud, which is great for people with non-linear thinking and provides a visual way of searching. Robobraille allows you to upload files and convert them into an alternative accessible format including MP3, braille or an e-book. Finally, VoiceNote II is a Chrome extension that converts speech to text, i.e. allowing you to generate text through your voice, eliminating the barrier of typing.

I was impressed by Alistair’s knowledge and came away from the session feeling that I, and perhaps my colleagues, should become better equipped to help library users with dyslexia, or other disabilities, especially with the changes to the Disabled Student Allowance.

James Baker (Curator in the Digital Research Team, British Library)

Library users of the future

Suffering from a post-lunch slump, I found this session slightly more difficult to follow than the others. James provided a very intelligent and eloquent presentation about the influence of technology on library users’ behaviour in the future.

The key messages I took away were that library users will use different research patterns in the future that are not geared towards print or playback. They will use some other digitally enabled form, which we may not even know about yet. Unfortunately, librarians are, at the moment, not very good with material that is born digital, they are better with material that has been converted from print to digital, like an electronic book or electronic journal. We need to think about how we can integrate born digital material into our systems, which will change the library’s profile and influence what library users want from us.

Although libraries have had to changed significantly with the introduction of technology, there will undoubtedly be much more to do as technology becomes more intelligent and transforms the way people research.

Jan Wilkinson (University Librarian & Director of the John Rylands Library)

Leadership and embedding a culture of innovation

This was a massively inspiring keynote speech from Jan Wilkinson, both because it was a pleasure to listen to such a successful woman and because of the hope for the future of libraries. I was so taken by the presentation I didn’t note an awful lot down so will do my best to remember.

Jan explained that her aim at John Rylands Library is to move from being good to great. What can we do to make our library great and how do we go about it? We need:

Market intelligence

Knowing your customer.

Strategic vision

In creating a strategic vision plans for the future, in order to make it into the vision, need to be ‘wow!, bold, hard to crack, leading edge, big, stop change’.


Here Jan described an innovative competition they did at John Rylands. It was a Dragons’ Den style competition called Eureka! in which students pitched a library improvement to the panel and received a £1,000 prize if they won. Here are some of the ideas put into practice. As a result of Eureka!, the library now has a sleep pod and a system where students can book a study space. I have wondered how to get library uses to tell us what they really want from their library and this was an excellent way of doing that with some wonderfully clever ideas to improve the user experience.

Culture change

Jan asked ‘is our current culture enabling us or inhibiting us’? I think that both are true. Although libraries are changing to suit modern students and their needs, it is perhaps done slowly and with trepidation.

That’s all I have noted down! I was very impressed by the innovation at John Rylands and their lack of fear in trying new things. One final thing I recall stirring some of the audience is that at John Rylands, they are trying to recruit people who are not necessarily library professionals but have other talents such as a finance or marketing background. This originally caused concern about qualified librarians’ future if the library is actively seeking not to employ them (especially as there are so few jobs around at the moment) but we were reassured it was to introduce variation to the workforce to improve the library. I thought that this is a great idea but can also understand that what new professionals don’t need is a decrease in jobs!


I had an excellent day at the conference and was pleased to mingle with people I hadn’t seen for a long time and also to match faces from Twitter to people. The location was fantastic and I have come away from the various sessions with many ideas.

Oxford Cambridge College Librarians Conference 2015, 2 of 2

This is the second of two posts summarising my experience at the Oxford Cambridge College Librarians Conference 2015, which took place at Queen’s College, Oxford. You can read the first blog post here.

5) Equality of access: Oxford’s Common Framework Statement for supporting students with disabilities – Tessa Shaw (Queen’s College, Oxford)

This was a very enthusiastic and passionate talk about improving access for students at the University who have disabilities. To start were a few facts and figures:

  • In 2012/2013 there were 66,000 out of 985,300 students in receipt of Disabled Student Allowance (DSA)
  • In 2012/2013 there were 590 students at Oxford in receipt of DSA

Tessa explained that her drive to make changes to increase access was stimulated by a story from a student who was in a wheelchair and was offered no help by two fellow students to get back to college. The result of the need to increase access is the Common Framework Statement which took effect at the start of the 2014/2015 academic year. It includes a handbook which details essential and desirable action libraries should take to improve access covering staff training and awareness, information sharing and provision, physical service and access provision, and coordination. I found this talk inspirational and intend to go back to my library, look at the handbook and see how we can make improvements.

6) Open Cambridge: the Christ’s College perspective – Amelie Roper (Christ’s College, Cambridge)

Open Cambridge is a an annual event in September where the public are able to enter a number of locations like University colleges, museums and buildings, some of which are not normally open to the public. Oxford has a similar event called Open Doors. Special events are put on for people to attend too. Christ’s College has participated since the Open Cambridge programme began in 2010. They showcase special collections and tie it in with their exhibition programme. The weekend is run by library staff and volunteers during the hours of 10:00 – 15:00, Friday and Saturday (everyone wants a rest on the Sunday!). In 2014 they had 750 visitors which raised their profile, increased traffic to their website and social media profiles. Amelie explained that it takes careful planning and input of staff time. To prepare:

  • save the date of the next Open Cambridge
  • let key people in college know of the event and date
  • publicity
  • risk assessment
  • practical preparations

On the day:

  • put out signage
  • brief staff/volunteers
  • count visitors
  • take photos
  • monitor and adapt to situations
  • make people feel welcome

After the event:

  • publicise success
  • say ‘thank you’
  • follow up new contacts
  • reflect

Lessons learned:

  • create a planning document
  • share the workload
  • consider your audience
  • expect the unexpected (cue amusing story about someone entering the library drinking from a coconut)

The library I work at will be participating in Oxford Open Doors for the first time this year so this was a very useful talk which offered many points to consider.

7) Parker on the web – Steven Archer (Corpus Christi, Cambridge)

Corpus Christi Library, Cambridge, have a lot of medieval manuscripts in their Parker library, which came to the library in 1574. Their primary focus is care and security of the collection, availability, researchers, outreach and public access. They ended up carrying out a huge project to digitise the Parker collection, the first of its kind. The project required huge investment and funding and they were fortunate to receive £6 million from Stanford University, much appreciated as the college would not have been able to carry out the task alone.

Conservators were involved, there was special photography equipment, people to create a bibliography, a team that worked on manuscript description and another team to work on updates. There are semi-annual updates and corrections, the result of mistakes that have been noticed and the usual maintenance of digital material. The bibliography is being continually updated, essential when there are 220,000 images and 24 terabytes of data.

There are two levels of subscription:

  1. free to view with a basic page turner that is available to everyone
  2. subscription model for academic institutions, which costs $9,500

As part of the maintenance of the digital archive, there is planned a major ‘2.0’ release with significant improvements planned, one of which (if I understood correctly) is the ability for people (or researchers/academics) to paste an extract of a manuscript and provide a translation. If the same/similar translation is submitted three times it is taken as accurate.

Benefits of the project include:

  • less handling of material but greater exposure of it
  • benefits for readers – available all over the world
  • increase awareness = greater interest
  • results appear in web searches
  • easy to supply images because they are on file
  • a preservation copy is stored on the other side of the world

This talk showed me the amount of effort and funding that needs to go into such a project and that it isn’t a simple task. However, the benefits of digitising material were obvious.

8) The Wren Digital Library: enhancing the James catalogue – James Kirwan and Kristen Lamb (Trinity College, Cambridge)

Taken from the Trinity College Library webpage,

A hundred years ago M. R. James, the great cataloguer, medieval scholar, and author, published The Western Manuscripts in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge: a Descriptive Catalogue … James’ Catalogue follows the arrangement of the manuscripts in the Wren library, with a volume for each of the three bays in which manuscripts are kept.

The Western Manuscripts Catalogue was digitised ten years ago. Since 2013, many of the manuscripts in that catalogue have been digitised are are available to search online. To begin with it was a very simple online catalogue but has since had its layout and appearance improved. Manuscripts can be zoomed in on, rotated and is touch screen friendly for mobile devices.

The library decided to digitise the collection in order to increase/improve accessibility and for preservation. They are, however, running out of server space and the project is not yet complete. They have to check back-ups regularly too. The hope for the future is to provide simplified titles, a glossary of terms and thumbnail galleries.

Digitising a collection isn’t enough to get people to look at it – you need to promote your work. The library does this by making sure they are on the Digitized Medieval Manuscripts blog, creating a YouTube video, signs, leaflets, and advertising the collection on their Facebook and Twitter profile and library blog.

Like the previous talk, this presentation showed the importance of digitising collections but also the hard work that needs to go into such a project and the promotion that needs to happen in order for people to find out about what is available and how they can access it. Social media and the web offers an excellent way to do this in addition to the traditional print and word of mouth approaches.


I had a great day at the conference and it was excellent to meet people from Cambridge and even people at Oxford college libraries I didn’t know. It was nice to be with a group of people who understood the challenges of working in a college library and fascinating to see the hard work that librarians are putting in to improve their services and help their library users.

Oxford Cambridge College Librarians Conference 2015, 1 of 2

On 26th March 2015, I attended for the first time the Oxford Cambridge College Librarians Conference. This is a biennial conference and Oxford and Cambridge librarians take it in turns to host the conference at one of the University’s colleges.

This year the conference was at Queen’s College, Oxford, on the theme of access. There were eight talks in total of about ten minutes long. With such brief talks I struggled a little to write everything down but I hope the content below will be a little insightful and thought provoking. Also, because of the large amount of content, I have decided to break this post down into two with a summary of the first four talks in this post and summaries of the last four talks in the second post.

1) Encouraging student access to historic collections – James Fishwick (Magdalen College, Oxford) and Alice Roques (Hertford College, Oxford)

James and Alice both demonstrated what they had done at their libraries to encourage students to access historic collections.

At Magdalen College Library, they create an exhibition every term along with an evening talk on the material/subject for people to attend. They were not seeing very many students attend these talks though and their solution was to use Facebook and Twitter to increase reach. They also got involved with tutor-led classes in which students would look at the original sources of texts, provided by the library, that they were using in their studies. Another approach was, if a librarian noticed a particular topic that a student was interested in, they would extend a personal invitation to show the student what else the library had in its collection which might be able to help them in their research.

At Hertford College, students get involved with choosing material for displays as well as giving a lecture too. Alice also gave the presentation for a librarian from University College who wasn’t able to make it to the presentation. At University College, it is compulsory for first year students to complete a historic collections quiz. Second and third year students get involved with hand press printing, creating their own bookmarks and learning how to fold paper into a book.

Some considerations for these approaches to increasing access to historic collections include the fact that it is time intensive, especially if you are changing an exhibition frequently, like every term as Magdalen College Library does. Also, it is important to find a balance between general promotion and targeting small groups. The former tends to miss a lot of people who are potentially interested because the promotion is so open. Targeting small groups is great if you successfully grab their attention but that’s only a small percentage of people who could be targeted.

I particularly like the idea of getting students involved with displays which would benefit not only the students, as they are able to delve deeply into the library’s collections and add something to their CV, but the library too as they promote their collections and raise their profile.

2) Accessing study resources: engaging junior members in Information Literacy – Erika Delbeque (St Hilda’s College, Oxford) and Rachel McDonald (Balliol College, Oxford)

Erika described the challenge of engaging junior members in Information Literacy. A user education survey revealed that:

  • 20% of (college?) libraries in Oxford provide group sessions
  • 40% provide one-to-one sessions but there is little take-up
  • 10% of libraries have a social media presence

With the central Bodleian Libraries already providing user education sessions, it is difficult not to duplicate effort in a college library. Other constraints include:

  • Time
  • Resources
  • Space
  • Internal support from college
  • Student engagement (lack of = little take-up)

Next, we moved on to a case study from Balliol College Library: They provide a number of “… and biscuits” sessions, such as ‘SOLO and biscuits’, ‘OxLIP+ and biscuits’ and ‘graduate skills and biscuits’. I think this is a fab idea! The promise of biscuits would certainly tempt me if I were a student. Rachel from Balliol continued to explain that students aren’t necessarily aware that there is a gap in their Information Literacy knowledge or, if they are aware, they are not concerned. This is an important point, I think. Looking back to when I was an undergraduate, I had no idea about Information Literacy and am pretty sure my skills were poor. How many students are in the same position now? Rachel continued to explain that it is important to collaborate with tutors, to target user education events at the right people and at the right time. Take advantage and use the Junior Common Room (JCR) and the Middle Common Room (MCR) to advertise user education. Promoting these sessions in multiple places is important to increase reach and encourage people to attend Information Literacy sessions.

3) Accessing the profession: drawing up a programme for work experience students – Bel Rimmer (Queen’s College, Oxford)

This talk started off by asking how we were first introduced to the library profession: graduate trainee scheme, volunteering, school library, family member of friend (volunteering for me!). Bel went on to discuss how it can be difficult to gain work experience in libraries, a problem when a lot of trainee schemes ask for prior experience. Work experience can benefit both parties, offering useful experience to the student, benefiting the library with an extra pair of hands, and challenges any misconceptions or stereotypes the student might have about libraries.

With this in mind, Queen’s College Library responded to a request for work experience from a student who was described as a “high functioning autistic” (their own description, not the library’s). The library offered four days of work experience in the summer vacation from 09:30 – 16:30. These hours allowed the staff time to prepare at the beginning of the day and to finish up any jobs at the end of the day. They provided lunch but not transport and a member of the team acted as a buddy during the student’s work experience. Because of the student’s autism, the library sent a colour coded timetable in advance so that the student knew what to expect. Also, they could express any dislike for what was planned, e.g. the insect checking was turned down. Bel offered some advice on providing work experience:

  • bear in mind that it is an intense experience for the buddy with lots of preparation and helping the student
  • the student should be a part of the team
  • it is useful to have a standardised questionnaire to gain feedback at the end of the work experience period – quantitative elements for comparison and qualitative elements for improvement.

You should be covered by the Employers’ Liability Insurance for work experience, at least for those over 18 years old. For those under 18 years old, according to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, check risk assessment to make sure that the person doing work experience is not at risk because of lack of experience/ignorance of potential risks.

I did work experience while at school at my local public library and I understand that they frequently received requests for work experience, which is not something I have come across in academic libraries. Are academic libraries more closed to work experience? Or is it simply where I work that influences this?

4) Open Access: thoughts for college librarians – Clare Kavanagh (Nuffield College, Oxford)

With Open Access being a very current theme, Clare introduced us to the subject explaining how it originated from the Finch Report after the government accepted its recommendations to increase access to research publications. I know a little about Open Access but find the various routes (green or gold) confusing as well as the copyright/creative commons licenses so it was useful to be reminded of what it all meant.

Moving the topic of Open Access to a local level, i.e. in Oxford, Clare explained how the University of Oxford favours the green route (delayed open access via self submission) but will support the gold route (free unrestricted access to the final version of an article on the publisher’s website). Additionally, Oxford encourages research to be deposited into an institutional repository (in Oxford’s case, ORA).

Moving even more locally to Nuffield College Library itself, staff keep students and researchers up to date with Open Access by distributing information via their Facebook and Twitter profiles as well as on its blog. Clare emails monthly official papers and reports publications updates and has created a LibGuide page to inform people. Oxford is useful in that it provides courses and sessions on Open Access which are disseminated to students and researchers.

With Open Access immediately and directly affecting researchers, it is important to make sure that they are aware of what Open Access is and what they need to do. Clare offered interesting ways in which to distribute this information to the people who need it.

[Read post 2 of 2!]

Updating a social media policy

In 2013 I write a post about how I had created a Social Media Policy for my workplace. I have decided to revisit the social media policy in this blog because there have since been some amendments. These include the addition of an exit strategy and measuring success.

Exit Strategy

It was after attending a training session on social media that I realised it was a good idea to add an exit strategy to my library’s policy. It already discusses factors to consider when choosing which social media platform is best for you to set up but what happens when you realise that the profile is not serving its purpose or that the provider cancels the service?

My research showed that this area of a social media policy was relatively simple in its options:

a) close the profile down completely

b) leave the profile open but make a note so that visitors can see that it is no longer updated

If the profile was rarely updated and had little or no useful information, it is probably safe to close the account down completely. Although, it might be worth considering why it was unsuccessful and why it was rarely updated. Was it an issue with the website itself and that what the service offered didn’t work for your needs? Or does it reflect staff’s approach to social media and not using it effectively? Perhaps problems like these could be addressed before abandoning the account.

If the profile has lots of useful information, like a blog or Twitter, you could simply leave the account open but say that it will no longer updated. Posts that have been published some time ago can still hold value as a repository of information.  Analysing statistics can gauge whether people are still visiting the website, which can help to decide what to do next.

You might want to consider disabling comments on your profile. Disused social media profiles attract spam so disabling comments will prevent this. It is possible that one of the services you use closes or changes its terms and conditions. You could export the content or another provider might take over the service so investigate the possibilities as well as consider the value of the information.

Measuring Success

The library already kept half an eye on the success of posts on Twitter, Facebook and WordPress. We decided to make analysing social media statistics a more prominent task – I exported statistics from Facebook and Twitter for the year 2013 to analyse and we note the top 5 posts on Facebook and Twitter every month. Looking at the statistics closely has shown us what subject areas our audience are interested in and even which websites prove popular to link to. Our audience seem to like the sources Times Higher Education, London School of Economics and The Conversation a lot, and particularly articles that relate to life as a student or researcher. It seemed sensible after gaining experience in this area to write down best practice.

This section of the social media policy explains the benefits of analysing statistics, suggestions of what statistics to analyse (e.g. reach of posts, engagement with content, most popular type of post, for example, a photo, URL or general status update) and frequency. It is mostly common sense but having it written down in the policy for all staff to be aware of will hopefully ensure we build measuring success into our role.


The Social Media Policy is an evolving document. I’m sure that there will be future amendments as we decide to alter best practice as social media develops. It is not a document that is set in stone forever and will require updating as any other policy would to prevent it from becoming out of date.

CILIP Chartership under the new guidelines

In the last week I submitted my CILIP Chartership portfolio under the new guidelines. Obviously I don’t know the outcome yet but I thought I would share my experience of what it was like completing Chartership under the new guidelines with some hints and tips. This post will discuss:

Enrolling for Chartership

Finding a mentor

Providing CILIP with your mentor details

Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB)

Collecting evidence

Recording your evidence

Navigating the VLE and portfolio

Constructing your portfolio

Submitting your portfolio

Enrolling for Chartership

You enrol for Chartership on the CILIP Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). When I first enrolled, it was before the new guidelines came in so I sent off my paper form and payment as you did under the old rules. Once the new guidelines came in, I still had to enrol on the VLE which gave me access to formerly unseen and inaccessible areas of the VLE. This part was a bit confusing for me because I had received no notification that I had to enrol virtually a second time. There was also a password/code that I received that unlocked and gave me access to particular areas of the VLE. Once I had this sorted though, everything worked fine. I imagine anyone who enrols on the VLE will have a smoother experience than my transition.

Finding a mentor

I found this particularly challenging because so many people turned me down. I was close to asking for help from CILIP when somebody kindly stepped up to the task. I found my mentor using the spreadsheet that CILIP provide on the website. Before I started working through the spreadsheet I created criteria for myself, which I would recommend, e.g.

  • Somebody external to my organisation
  • I don’t mind long distance communication …
  • … but would like them to be close enough for me to see every so often

I quickly had to abandon my criteria as all the people close to me were busy/had already taken on mentees, etc. I ended up with a mentor that I have never seen face-to-face but who was happy to talk over the phone and via email.

I colour coded my spreadsheet so that I could keep a track of who I had and hadn’t asked, what response I got, and graded them according to my preference. I started out contacting people one at a time but with people taking a week to reply and me receiving rejection after rejection, I opted to email multiple people en masse, which worked. So I would suggest that approach if you are struggling and it is taking a long time to find somebody.

Providing CILIP with your mentor details

Once you have found your mentor, you need to inform CILIP on the VLE. You need to go to my courses > professional registration > Chartership > getting started.Mentor

Professional Knowledge and Skills Base (PKSB)

After enroling and finding a mentor, next on the list is to identify which skills you would like to develop. The PKSB is what you use to achieve this. There was some confusion for a while about whether we needed to submit the entire document in the portfolio with the areas we had decided to work on highlighted but it was confirmed that we just need to extract those skills we have chosen to develop and put them in the portfolio.

It is recommended that you choose between 6 and 10 areas to work on (I chose 7). I already had an idea of what I wanted to improve upon but worked through the PKSB to identify further areas. You rate yourself between 0 and 4 on your knowledge/experience of a skill. There is also a PKSB gap analysis, which I found very useful, where you rate your current score against your ideal score. The spreadsheet is coded to tell you how big the gap is between current ability and desired ability, helping to visualise the gaps in your knowledge and experience.

gap analysis

Collecting evidence

Once you have identified the areas that you would like to develop, it’s time to improve yourself and build up a body of evidence. This is the stage of Chartership that I and, I imagine, most people spend the majority of their time in. It is a good idea to look at each skill you have decided to develop and think of how you are going to gain more knowledge and experience. Also worth considering is that you are meeting the criteria. The three criterion are:

  • Identified areas for improvement in their personal performance, undertaken activities to develop skills, applied these in practice, and reflected on the process and outcomes.
  • Examined the organisational context of their service, evaluated service performance, shown the ability to implement or recommend improvement, and reflected on actual or desired outcomes.
  • Enhanced their knowledge of the wider professional context and reflected on areas of current interest.

As I improved my knowledge and experience, I thought about whether I was developing my “personal performance”, whether I had considered what I was doing within my “organisational context” (i.e. whether what I had learnt could be applied to the workplace, how it might improve procedures) and how it had enhanced my knowledge of the “wider professional context”.

After every session I attended, or any article that I read, or a presentation that I did, I wrote up what it was that I had done. It is much easier to take half an hour to an hour to write up what you have done rather than leave it all to the end to do. It will be time consuming to do it all in one go and your memory of what happened won’t be as fresh.

Important, also, is to reflect as you go along. For each piece of evidence I provided, I (tried!) to be reflective and say what I had learnt from the experience. Don’t leave all of the reflection to the evaluative statement – it is only 1,000 words.

Recording your evidence

The options for recording your evidence have increased compared to when the portfolio was submitted in print. I have seen a friend’s electronic portfolio where they opted to upload documents of their evidence. I chose to write mine as journal entries on the portfolio (note, there is a difference between the VLE and the portfolio. See Navigating the VLE and portfolio).

Under the ‘content’ tab is a ‘journal’ tab where you write your journal entries. I wrote a journal entry for each piece of evidence and the advantages are that you can easily link through to a website (as long as it still exists when you get around to submitting) and you can attach further documents. For example, if I attended an IT course, I would write up in the journal entry what I had done and learned and attached the certificate that I received on completion of the course.


The ‘portfolio’ is an extension of the VLE. Within the VLE are lots of resources like the Chartership handbook, chat rooms, how to navigate the VLE and so on. There will be a link to the portfolio within the VLE, which, depending on which page you’re looking at, might appear on the left or the right. This will take you through to your personal portfolio area where you create your electronic portfolio. You can update your details, make friends with people, e.g. your mentor so that they can view your portfolio, add journal entries, upload files, and more.

 Portfolio button

 Constructing your portfolio

There is already a video available on the VLE (and YouTube!) for how to construct your portfolio (my courses > professional registration > Chartership > assembling your portfolio), which is useful to watch.

The good thing about the electronic portfolio is that you decide how you want to present it. There is no enforced structure that you have to follow. As I already mentioned, I decided to present my evidence using the journal entry option rather than upload individual documents. Some advice on this:

I presented my evidence using the three criteria. I created a page each for the criteria and put my evidence within them depending on whether they were demonstrating my personal development, an improvement within my organisation, or my understanding of the wider information world. If you look at the image below you can see the the three criteria pages I created. Clicking on the link opens my page of evidence for that criterion.

Evidence criteria

To create those pages I made a ‘collection’. Under the portfolio tab is the button ‘collections’ (see below). I clicked ‘new collection’ and started adding my evidence in the form of journal entries to it.


To add that collection to my portfolio, I clicked ‘edit content’ and then under ‘general’ dragged the box that that says ‘navigation: display a collection of pages in a simple navigation list’ into the page.

Adding collection to portfolio

Note – if you take this approach you will need to share your collections as well as your portfolio on submission otherwise the assessors won’t be able to see them. This goes for any additional pages you have embedded into your portfolio page. More on sharing and submitting below.

Submitting your portfolio

There are three steps to submitting your portfolio.

  1. you need to share it with the assessors so that they can view it. Again, the above video shows you how to do this.
  2. you need to submit your portfolio back in the VLE (my courses > professional registration > Chartership > submitting your application). You quite simply choose the correct page and click ‘submit’.
  3. you need to pay your fee. The Submission Payment Form is accessible on the page that you use to submit your portfolio.

That’s it!


I have no experience of the old guidelines for Chartership so it is difficult for me to compare but I felt that Chartership under the new guidelines was a reasonably straight forward process. There were a few teething problems and it took a while for things to get off the ground as content was added to the VLE and the handbook was created but that didn’t impact on my ability to collect evidence, to understand the criteria, or how to present the portfolio.

I found emailing the CILIP member services very helpful and they were able to clarify anything that I was unsure about. My mentor was also great, offering guidance and advice. It is important to play around with the VLE and portfolio to familiarise yourself with its content. If you’re having trouble, just ask someone for help.

I was afraid of Chartership before I started out because of what people had said about the process but learnt otherwise. I hope this post encourages you to believe that it is not scary or difficult.

Periodicals Librarian – one year on

I have been working at Nuffield College Library for one year and decided to create an overview of what I have learnt and achieved during that year.

  • Periodicals

Prior to my role at Nuffield as Periodicals Librarian, my familiarity with journals was minimal. I knew what they were and that was about it. Becoming Periodicals Librarian meant I had to learn how to catalogue periodicals, how to create patterns for the chronology and enumeration on the catalogue as well as how to create an expected schedule. I learnt how to deal with claims for journals that don’t arrive on time (plentiful and time consuming), how to order and cancel journals, dealing with invoices, and liaising with various vendors and suppliers.

I was introduced to the world of binding, a concept I remember struggling with when I first became a librarian. I also learnt how to deal with title changes, a complicated process that involves not only creating a bibliographic record for the new title but going back and amending the record for the previous title to reflect the changes. This is especially complex as the old bibliographic records generally used the old AACR2 cataloguing rules and need changing to RDA (depending on when the records were created, of course).

I’ve also become better acquainted with Excel in order to record journal expenditure and learnt how to create a report on the year’s financial expenditure to submit to the library committee, a task that had me tearing my hair out. I’m hoping it will be easier the second time around.

  • Library environment

All of the jobs I had before moving to Nuffield were in one of the Bodleian Libraries, an umbrella term which refers to the Bodleian Library itself, research libraries, faculty and departmental libraries of the University of Oxford. College libraries are separate to the Bodleian Libraries, although they are amalgamated for events and staff training, and the library catalogue includes all of the college libraries too.

It was interesting moving to a library that is part of the students’ living space. All of the libraries I worked in before closed in the evening, students and researchers would leave taking their belongings with them. Nuffield library is open 24/7 so students are free to enter the library once staff have left. Students of the college are also allowed to take out on loan 100 books for the entire academic year, unless somebody requests the book to use. Nuffield, and other college libraries, are primarily for the students of that college (although Nuffield allows external users in during staffed hours). The other libraries I have worked in cater for a much larger audience. These differences greatly effects libraries’ approach to their users and policies.

More generally, I have familiarised myself with the library’s layout (an 11 storey tower with an ‘extension’ elsewhere in the college), RiTA (the card swipe system that allows entry into the library), the library’s archives, the printing system, the opening and closing procedure (we have to do a sweep of the library at the end of the day to make sure there are no external library users in the library), and more I can’t think of right now.

The college itself is a wonderful environment to work in and everyone is friendly. The free lunch in hall is an additional perk to the job.

  • Professional development

Soon after I started this job, I plucked up the courage to enrol for Chartership, something I had feared ever since completing my MSc. Although I was already keen on attending courses and improving my skills and knowledge, Chartership has really upped my game. I have volunteered to help with the Bodleian Libraries’ users education and I co-teach a session called ‘Getting information to come to you’, a session that teaches university members how to use RSS, email alerts, etc. to improve their research. I would never have imagined standing up and talking in front of people four years ago when I became a librarian, let alone volunteering to do it.

I have attended two courses on programming, learning how to code using Python. I can’t say that I wasn’t out of my depth but I have learnt an awful lot about how electronic data and information for the libraries is created and maintained. I attended these courses in order to future proof my career as a librarian as the profession is becoming more technologically based. I am not sure to what extent librarians’ IT skills are expected to expand but I felt these courses at least educated me in how our information is managed behind the scenes and broadened my horizons generally.

I’ve also signed up to my first ever conference – LILAC (Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference ). Having spent my library career working in technical services, I am keen to increase my exposure to reader services. Volunteering to teach was part of this plan and I hope that the LILAC conference will teach me about information literacy in the profession. I based my MSc dissertation on information literacy so am generally interested in the topic and hope that the conference will update my knowledge as well as teach me about information literacy in practice, rather than the theoretical knowledge I gained during my research.

  • Overview

I am very happy that I decided to apply for the job of Periodicals Librarian at Nuffield because it has offered me many opportunities. I have been given responsibility, gained new skills and gained the confidence to do things I would not have considered before. This role has most definitely made me grow as a librarian.

Digital Approaches to Manuscript Studies: Problems, Potential and DigiPal

Handwriting by Niccolò de’ Niccoli (1364–1437) from Wikipedia entry on palaeography

On 3rd February I attended my first Oxford Bibliographical Society session on ‘Digital Approaches to Manuscript Studies: Problems, Potential and DigiPal’. I wasn’t sure what the session would be like because I am unfamiliar with the subject area but by the end of the presentation, I was far more knowledgeable.

The presentation concentrated on palaeography. Ten minutes in I decided to get my phone out and find out what it means because it became clear it would not be defined. I’m guessing the usual audience were familiar with the subject area so there was no need to. What I learnt is that palaeography is “the study of ancient writing and inscriptions; the science or art of deciphering and interpreting historical manuscripts and writing systems” (OED). Once I knew that, I was better able to understand what the presenter was talking about.

The session was quite complex and I did not understand everything but what I did understand was that technology can be used to help those who study or practice palaeography. Software offers the ability to view scripts in a different form and helps to analyse the text. This was interesting to me because I just viewed digitisation of text as a way to make material easier to access, by multiple people at any time of day, unrestricted by library opening hours and the fact that there is only one copy of the text. To be shown how digitisation is improving the analysis of manuscripts was fantastic to learn.

The presenter and his team are working on a project called DigiPal, funded by the European Research Council, which aims to combine digital photographs of manuscripts with descriptions about the handwriting. Whilst digitising manuscripts offers new ways to look at text, the software is not able to analyse it for you. In that sense, analysing the handwriting is still very much a task for the human. The software can, for example, pull out all of the examples of the letter ‘a’ in multiple scripts but the person still has to look at the letters and decipher what they can from it, like whether the same scribe wrote the text.

This led on to the criticism of digitisation that it is making the art of seeing and comprehending the text a measuring exercise, that is, using technology to measure letters and compare them in place of  a person. Our presenter offered the counter-argument that it is simply offering an alternative way to look at manuscripts.

Although, at the moment, there is no software reliable enough to analyse the text without human intervention, it is possible that in the future there will be technology able to do that job. Whether that will be appreciated by people who have specialised in interpreting ancient handwriting I am not sure. Perhaps it would make their job easier but on the other hand, maybe it would take away the exercise of analysis that they really enjoy.

I don’t understand the study of ancient handwriting enough to form an opinion on whether digitising manuscripts to analyse them is good or not but in attending the session I have, for starters, learnt about the discipline of palaeography, which I was unaware of before. I have learnt about how digitisation is used for more than just making texts more readily accessible. I have also discovered that the University of Oxford offers courses in palaeography, so there is potential for librarians to become acquainted with such websites as DigiPal for the sake of their library users.

23 Things for Research – Thing 23: What have you learned and where do you want to go from here?

Hoorah! I have finished 23 Things, although a little later than planned. As well as the 23 Things programme, I attended a number of other training courses, went on holiday and was generally busy at work, which caused me to fall behind. But I am pleased that I persisted and made it to the last Thing.

Doing the 23 Things programme for a second time was a good way for me to see how far I have come. Comparing myself to the old me four years ago, I have learnt an awful lot. Four years ago, I didn’t know very much about social media and a lot of the Things covered in the programme were new to me. This time round, I was already familiar with a number of the social media websites, although they had changed and developed in that time. And I learnt about some new things too.


Thing 6: Consider your personal brand

Although my personal online brand was something I was aware of, I had never given it much thought. I am not keen on being ultra visible online. Fair enough, if my LinkedIn profile appears in a Google search for future employees to look at but I don’t want to make a special effort to get to the top of Google’s search and have everything about me available for others to see. By searching for myself on Google, I was pleased to see that my professional profiles, like LinkedIn and Twitter, appeared quite high up, although having a common name means people would probably have to specify more details, like my profession, to find me.

Thing 9: Storify and other tools

I’d never heard of Storify before I started 23 Things so I was pleased to learn about a new branch of social media. At first, I couldn’t see the attraction or benefit of Storify. I started off thinking that there is no point in collating lots of different pieces of social media into one place but the more I experimented and thought about, the more it seemed like a good idea. What a novel idea to be able to bring together so many social media branches into one place. I liked what universities had done, for example using Storify to create a story of graduation day, using photos, tweets, etc. I struggled to see how Storify might be popular in a library context but can see its worth in other organisations.


I am pleased that I participated in 23 Things. I was concerned that perhaps I would not learn anything new having done it before but I learnt two things: 1) Yes, I do know a lot about social media, which shows how much I have learnt since I became a librarian just over four years ago. And I’m proud of that. 2) On the other hand, some of the social media sites I am familiar with but do not often use have changed, so it has been great to update myself. And, inevitably, since I last did 23 Things, there are new social media sites available and new concerns, e.g. personal brand and Creative Commons.

I think that doing 23 Things every few years is a good idea. I have found this to be programme valuable and will keep an eye out for 23 Things in the future.

23 Things for Research – Thing 22: Google Drive and Dropbox


Thing 22 looks at sharing documents online. Because I already have a Google account, I am going to explore Google Drive, as opposed to Dropbox.

The only reason I ended up with a Google account is because one of the assessments for my undergraduate degree required us to write an essay using Google Sites. It was decided that the university would set up accounts specifically for this assessment and, because I didn’t use Google for email or anything else that required logging in, it was the only account I ever had with Google. When I gradually started to use Google more, Google Calendar for example, I just continued to use this account that my university set up rather than create my own personal one.

Apart from Google Calendar and Feedly, I don’t use my Google account for much else. I have used Google Drive a few times but only because that’s what my friends prefer to do. I admit, it would have been useful to use Google Drive, or a similar file sharing site, when I was doing group assessments for my MSc but for some reason, none of us thought of it. We would send revised copies of documents back and forth. There was always the problem of someone having a brand new computer with the most recent Windows installed who would save files in a format none of us could read because we still had the older version. This was partly resolved by downloading for free from the university a programme that allowed you to download and read the newer file formats. However, when you edited them and sent them back to your fellow students, they were back in the old file format again. Some of the tutors fell victim to this too, sending articles to read before the next session with very few people able to access them.

If I ever need to share files with colleagues or friends in the future which need editing, then Google Drive will be really useful. Actually, it came in very useful when I was co-organising a friend’s hen do, so I have already seen its potential for larger projects.

23 Things for Research – Thing 21 2013: Using Doodle and other online scheduling tools

Thing 21 moves into the world of using social media to organise and schedule.

I like to think I’m an organised person, even more so when I’m ridiculously busy with little time on my hands. That is when I am my most organised and productive. I have used both Meet-O-Matic and Doodle to organise meeting up with a large group of friends and they have proved very useful. The notion of gathering a poll of days/times people are available is a simple notion and this is reflected in the appearance and usability of Meet-O-Matic and Doodle. There are no fancy frills. Everything is easy to understand and functional. I think Doodle looks more attractive than Meet-O-Matic but I think that’s just because it has a more modern, clean-looking interface.

These scheduling tools are a quick way for people to show their availability and the results of the poll are clearly displayed for you to see the best day/time to meet up. There’s also the opportunity to link up your calendar, whether Outlook or Google Calendar, to Meet-O-Matic/Doodle. I have not used these scheduling tools in the workplace because I have never really had to organise a meeting but I would happily use them again socially and for work. Indeed, they have been praised by my friends for making the difficult task of finding the best day to meet up easier.