Reflections on Library Camp UK 2011…

On Saturday 8th Oct 2011, I made my way to Birmingham’s Maple House for Library Camp UK. I had luckily secured a ticket to the event during the summer of 2011 during a casual night’s ‘tweeting’ (if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that every night is casual tweet night!). Lots of librarians/library staff I follow on Twitter started to talk about Library Camp as the event to be at if you worked within, or were interested in, the library sector. It soon became apparent this was an event I would miss at my peril, and again I had Twitter to thank for highlighting useful professional development and networking events that covered my area of work. The fact that the camp was to be held in Birmingham also appealed, meaning I could make the short train journey from Leicester to B’ham New Street easily (and also return on the same day).

So, after an early start to catch the 7am train from Leicester station, we were on our way to Birmingham. I say “we” as my fiancee and mother-in-law-to-be had also decided to join me in Birmingham for a day’s shopping – it was a real family outing!!

Upon reaching B’ham New Street (and a quick detour via Starbucks) I made my way to Maple House. Library Camp’s central location was fantastic – a 5-10 minute walk from New Street station along one single road – Birmingham’s Corporation Street. I found Maple House relatively easy (I am usually a useless navigator) and made my way to the building’s first floor which was to be taken over by Library Campers for the day. I arrived just after 9am, and the facility was already buzzing with campers registering at the welcome desk, creating homemade badges with marker pens or saying hello to old and new acquaintances over a cup of coffee. Maple House’s first floor reminded me of a fluorescent American Diner for some reason (that’s not meant as a negative comment) – I think the bright, striking colours of the location added to the buzz generated by attendees on the day.

The other striking element upon first arriving at Library Camp was the huge amount of cake laid out for guests to gorge on during the day (Library Camp also had the sub tag line “Cake Camp”). Most of these delights were homemade by attendees themselves, ensuring there was enough sugar available all day to sustain campers’ attention spans well into the afternoon sessions and beyond!!

After a cup of tea and introductions to some new faces, I gathered together with other campers for a more formal hello from Library Camp’s brilliant organisers and to hear attendees’ ‘pitches’ for the day. A microphone was passed around the room for each camper to introduce themselves and give one reason for why they had travelled to Birmingham for the Library Camp event. It was funny to hear how many people introduced themselves by just referring to their Twitter name – it highlighted just how Twitter has proliferated into day-to-day communication (the use of a ‘social profile’), especially in the world of librarians/library staff. Most Library Campers seem to be on Twitter, and have been for a number of years. I think library staff tend to be early adopters of new systems and emerging technologies – library staff seemed to be one of the primary groups that embraced Google+ earlier in 2011.

So, on to the Library Camp ‘pitches’ (organisers had asked for discussion ideas to be posted to the Library Camp Wiki). I attended five group discussions during the day, all varied and well-attended with different voices, opinions and judgements on offer. There was a nice mix of staff representing different parts of the library sector – a good balance of public, academic and corporate library staff. I attended a number of discussions with diverse library themes – these included the role of harvesting and analysing library user activity data (I was already aware of DMU Library’s involvement with the Library Impact Data Project via discussions at MashDMU sessions), embedded librarianship, the nature of social media interaction with regards to libraries (focusing on the Twitter #uklibchat team) and an absorbing debate relating to games and ‘gamification’ in libraries (getting users to learn by stealth!). I could see parallels to the issues shared in this discussion with recent changes made to DMU Library induction for 2011, especially with the introduction of the DMU Library Trail which replaced more static building tours and teaching.

I think the main, and key, theme of the day was ‘Library Advocacy’ itself – the opening pitch I attended, entitled “real social networks”, concentrated on the connections between libraries and society. I sensed Library Camp wanted to celebrate the role of libraries and librarians, but not in a superficial or glib way. The group was not afraid to pose some difficult questions of the sector and see how the ‘value’ of libraries could be made more transparent to stakeholders and wider local communities (especially in the context of public libraries). Groups such as Voices For The Library have made a clear impact in this area already with some sterling, positive work over the past year but it was clear from discussions on the day that more needs to be done in this area with the reality of reduced or non-existent public library services up and down the country. Many speakers at the camp highlighted the need to open libraries up to communities, removing barriers and stereotypes (e.g. librarians who ‘shush’ users all day long to tell them to be quiet) whilst emphasising a library’s increasing virtual presence and online space (moving away from traditional management by footfall/visits through the door). I think increased collaboration between academic and public libraries could help with in this matter.

As an individual who works in an academic library (a sector not immune from budget/staffing cuts itself), I found Library Camp was an excellent and worthwhile vehicle to listen to fellow professionals and practitioners who work in different library sectors, and hear the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis – some of which I could identify directly with, others which I did not recognise and were new to me. Whilst the day highlighted the many difficulties the sector currently faces (this could be widened to many parts of society at present), it was also an event where new ideas and opportunities could be raised, discussed and argued – varying viewpoints and experiences highlighted by attendees at Library Camp could be taken back by individuals at the event to their own place of work to be debated, developed and maybe even implemented in the future. I think this is the beauty of such unconference events like Library Camp – the legacy of conversation, collaboration and networking which takes place during the day goes far beyond the actual event itself. It was fantastic to meet up with familiar Twitter friends and new faces alike, but the real value of Library Camp for me is using the experiences gleaned and connections made to enhance my work in a positive fashion back at DMU.

Roll on Library Camp 2012!!

Posted in DMU, Library, Social Media | 1 Comment

Google Plus (G+)

Over the past few weeks, another social network site has appeared on the horizon – namely in the form of Google Plus (abbreviated to G+). To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention at first to news of the G+ release; Google’s past forays into social networking (in the form of Wave & Buzz) had proved disappointing to say the least. Therfore, I was initially sceptical upon hearing updates of the G+ launch (do I really need to join another networking site??). My curiosity was stirred though upon reading about G+ through Twitter, especially as it seemed a high number of library/university ‘tweeters’ were becoming early adopters of the site. As a prolific ‘tweeter’ myself, I have to admit to be feeling a little left out (sad I know!), so eventually managed to secure a G+ invite through a kind soul on Twitter (thanks Kate!).

After a few days of getting to grips with G+, I have mixed feelings as to whether the G+ platform launch will provide serious competition to Facebook and Twitter (two sites I use regualrly). I do still question whether I need to be signed in to yet another social media site (I have spent most of my time on G+ adding people I know/am familiar with, rather than posting content). There may be a novelty factor with G+ that will wear off very quickly!

I don’t think I’m ready to throw the G+ towel in just yet though. This is partly because I like/see sense in the G+ ‘Circles’ facility (assigning followers to specific, named groups to which you can filter content). This way of ‘categorising’ followers/friends is of real value in my eyes – you can limit posts to selected groups, rather than posting for all to see (this is currently an issue I have with Facebook).

This way of streaming content to followers on the G+ site could be of value/interest to my work at DMU and/or across the library sector as a whole. I have had trouble balancing professional/social tweets on Twitter for example, so the idea of curating content for interested groups of followers/individuals is appealing. Hopefully as more people are allowed access to G+, and my community of followers increases, the value of G+ as a helpful and worthwhile networking site will be revealed.

Posted in DMU, Library, Social Media | 1 Comment

Are the digital natives getting restless? Reflections on the 2011 UKSG Conference

Last week I was fortunate enough to represent DMU Library Services at an annual UKSG Conference for the third time. This year’s event was held ‘oop North’ in Harrogate, a beautiful setting for a conference which I still believe to be the preeminent convention for librarians, publishers and scholarly professionals in the UK. Harrogate really was a great venue – none more so for the fact that all amenities seemed to be a “stone’s throw” from the conference venue, the Harrogate International Conference (HIC). This included hotels, shops and Harrogate railway/bus stations – good reconnaissance UKSG! The ‘social’ events associated with the conference seemed to be a big hit with attendees too, especially the return of the UKSG Quiz on the Monday night!

As ever, the conference highlighted many absorbing themes and points of debate between librarians, publishers and researchers (from such matters concerning the future of the ‘book’ through to a forum on the apparent successes/failures of open access publishing). As I work in an academic library, it is always interesting (and, I have to admit, often revitalising) to listen to different speakers offering personal reflections on the future role of libraries, and publishers, within the scholarly communication sector. I have to say I found a number of this year’s plenary talks were slightly more ‘negative’ (dare I say hostile?) in tone towards libraries than those offered at previous UKSG conferences – maybe this downbeat tone was a reflection of the current financial downturn and uncertainty which is affecting all parts of the sector, especially HE funding? Various speakers questioned the ‘traditional’ role of libraries, and therefore librarians, as ‘gatekeepers’ of content (I actually think this impression of libraries and librarians is a little outdated and certainly not supported by those individuals who actually work in libraries – certainly not at DMU!) suggesting online tools (a la Google) do the job more effectively and seamlessly. John Naughton suggested that libraries need to shift services from “place to space” (physical location to online) to better fulfil their users’ needs. Cameron Neylon suggested that he was part of a last generation of users who viewed the library as a place they must visit in person to find out what’s new or to acknowledge the journal as a purely printed entity. Neylon claimed libraries acts a filters, in essence, providing destinations to content rather than enabling users to build their own platforms to discover content and research relevant to them (“My collection, not your collection”). The majority of library users are nowadays comfortable with using online systems, most owning mobile devices which allow them to interact with these resources whenever, and wherever, they wish. A number of speakers at the conference used the term ‘digital natives’ to describe a generation of users who have grown up with digital technologies, which they use in a social and learning context as part of their everyday lives (Andy Powell gave a fascinating plenary talk which highlighted many salient themes, especially distinguishing between ‘visitor’ and ‘resident’ online behaviour).

As an information professional administering library online resources and systems on a day-to-day basis, I think it is crucial libraries should be constantly aware of changing user demands, and continually review and evaluate the potential deployment of appropriate emerging online tools to assist patrons in obtaining the content they seek. Presentations, talks and debates at UKSG definitely help me to think about these issues on a personal level, which I can then relay to colleagues back at my own place of work. I think the current challenge for libraries is to be able to offer a wide-range of services and resources for different user groups in a cost-effective way (especially in the light of cuts to HE funding). Maximising value from resources is key for libraries – this could be in terms of increasing product use, more effective promotion of a particular resource or providing a more seamless and intuitive search interface for stakeholders. Charlie Rapple’s breakout session – “Hide and seek? An idiot’s guide to content dissemination and discovery” – was very useful as it provided an insight into the use of Discovery services within the HE sector (outlining system terminology and search methods for a number of different resources/products). DMU Library is currently looking at trialling a discovery system in the very near future, so my attendance at this workshop was very worthwhile and timely indeed!

Another interesting and relevant breakout session was Tony Hirst’s “Just Doing IT Yourself” workshop. Tony’s UKSG session was in the spirit of “Mashed Library” events, which aim to bring librarians, coders and developers together in an informal setting to ‘mashup’ library data and promote Web 2.0 platforms/sites. DMU Library runs a number of smaller, in-house lunchtime ‘mashup’ sessions (#MashDMU), so UKSG was a good opportunity to learn new developments and themes within this area. I certainly have a number of ideas to discuss (and demo) at the next #MashDMU session at DMU Library.

As ever, I found UKSG a stimulating and enjoyable conference – from meeting friendly new faces, listening to some thought-provoking talks and networking with publishers who exhibited at the conference. UKSG has certainly contibuted a lot to my awareness of, and engagement in, the scholarly communication sector – long may it continue to do so!

Posted in DMU, Library, UKSG | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Reflections on UKSG and NASIG 2010 Conferences

I will hopefully again be representing DMU Library Services at the 2011 UKSG Annual Conference. This year’s conference is being held in Harrogate; I have never had the pleasure of visiting Harrogate before so I am looking forward to the trip!

With this in mind, it seemed timely to post my reflections on last year’s UKSG Conference (held in Edinburgh). I was also lucky enough to attend the 2010 NASIG Conference held in Palm Springs, California. This was an experience I will never forget, so I wrote a brief report in Aug 2010, giving a few personal thoughts and opinions on some of the themes/issues raised at both events…

“As the UKSG winner of the inaugural John Merriman Award, I had the pleasure of attending my first NASIG Annual Conference in June 2010. This year’s NASIG Conference was held in the hot, desert climes of Palm Springs, California. It also happened to be NASIG’s 25th anniversary, so celebrations were in full flow, especially in honour of a select few NASIG delegates who had managed to attend ALL previous 25 conferences. An impressive feat indeed! I had never visited the US before (nor ever flown long-haul), so travelling to the American West Coast is a trip I will certainly never forget. The NASIG Conference was held in a fantastic, newly-refurbished leisure complex. I sincerely hope my tales of clear blue swimming pools, lush green golf courses and temperatures reaching 110 degrees Fahrenheit were a hit with my De Montfort University colleagues back home in Leicester. I did not detect any hints of jealousy!

I was also grateful of the opportunity to attend my second UKSG Annual Conference in April 2010 (my first UKSG Conference being at Torquay in 2009). This year’s UKSG event was held in Edinburgh. I was also a first-time visitor to Edinburgh, having never previously visited Scotland before. Even though there are many geographical and meteorological differences between Palm Springs and Edinburgh, I found both conferences to be equally stimulating and engaging – with many universal themes and discussion points raised by UKSG and NASIG delegates alike. Here are my personal reflections on some of the topics that were raised at both events…

Linked Data

One element I found enjoyable at both conferences was having the opportunity to listen to experts in the field discuss and share their opinions with regard to the future of the scholarly communication and library industries. This included demonstrations of upcoming technological developments and emerging ideas within the sector (I thought the NASIG terminology of ‘Vision’ session was very apt in this context). Eric Miller and Richard Wallis both presented talks on ‘Linked Data’ (at NASIG and UKSG respectively). Linked Data is a concept of sharing and connecting multiple forms of data and content via web identifiers. This means that diverse forms of information can be combined, joined and integrated in different ways. Both speakers highlighted examples of Linked Data at work, my favourite being the BBC Wildlife Finder. The BBC Wildlife Finder mixes varying datasets on its webpage – sound files, picture galleries, video clips and relevant news stories – to provide an interactive experience for the user exploring the platform.

Eric Miller suggested that libraries could play an important, leading, role in leveraging Linked Data to its users. Miller stated that libraries could act as ‘active hubs’ of Linked Data (national catalogues like the British Library/Library of Congress are perfectly placed to create “trusted control points” for Linked Data); libraries could be a ‘powerful bridge’ to bring, and integrate, knowledge into communities. Miller believed that libraries held content which could be shared globally, using the architecture of the Web. Both speakers also made referenced to a number of open data initiatives currently running in the UK. The BBC Backstage) scheme and the (former) UK government have opened up their content for others to use and exploit free of charge.

New, and emerging, online formats for publishing scholarly research were displayed to delegates at both conferences. At NASIG, the newly-launched homepage of the New England Journal of Medicine was discussed. The NEJM website promotes learning and interaction to its users, with enhanced search functionality, navigation and multimedia options (news stories, polls, reviews etc). Publishers, and consumers of their content, exist in the same social space online. Kent Anderson, speaking at NASIG, claimed online users now express their use of electronic media and resources as a type of destination – “I am going online”. Therefore it is vital for organisations and institutions to follow their patrons where ever they may be. At UKSG, Conrad Wolfram revealed Wolfram Demonstrations. This project features ‘live applications’ – real-time visualisations of research and data. The online demonstrations are ‘reader-driven’ documents, allowing the user to navigate and interact with content. In this context, the author of the research/data sets up an online workspace for the user to connect with and explore.

Universal Library ‘Pain Points’

It was interesting to hear conference delegates from both the US and UK voice similar gripes, concerns and wish-lists in the context of library eResource and serials administration. As someone who deals with such areas of work at De Montfort University, it was strangely comforting to know that serial admin problems appear to be global (“You see, it’s not just us!”), and that many institutions are searching for some kind of release valve to limit the increasing pressure placed on finances and staff. At NASIG, OCLC ran a Strategy session which helped to establish one of the buzz words of the conference – “pain points”. As a product development exercise, OCLC staff visited US librarians (working within their ‘native habitats’) in an attempt to conduct a contextual inquiry into the problems, or ‘pain points’, library staff face on a daily basis when managing serials. OCLC revealed that analysis of these individual pain points was underway, in the hope that the results would inform the development of a suite of OCLC administrative tools for libraries. The pain points seemed to range from general to specific concerns, including worries over library budget cuts versus increasing ongoing subscription costs (libraries seem locked into a ‘perpetual cancellation mode’ when reviewing resources/journals); shortage of staff and redistribution of work; non-standardisation of licensing terms and clauses; deteriorating customer service from content providers; incorrect holdings information from publisher title lists and issues surrounding individual username and passwords associated with some journal subscriptions. These are just a few of the comments OCLC received; it seemed to be a very comprehensive list!

Corresponding themes were raised in Edinburgh during a breakout session entitled ‘Working with subscription agents – 2010 and beyond’. The workshop encouraged librarians, publishers and subscription agent representatives to discuss the concerns and opportunities facing all parts of the serials management chain. This sense of collaboration and sharing of experiences is what the annual conferences do best in my opinion. Both the NASIG and UKSG seminars touched upon ideas of libraries having to ‘do more with less’. This is not easy to achieve in a universe where access to information is growing fast, and HE libraries have multiple stakeholders to support, each with diverse needs. Metadata is all important it seems, so information precision is paramount.


Interoperability was a key theme during the 2009 UKSG Conference I attended in Torquay, and it appears that the keyword still generated much dialogue and debate at both this year’s UKSG and NASIG events. A number of the breakout sessions at both conferences showcased examples of academic libraries implementing different library and commercial systems. From the numerous talks and workshops I attended, it still seems libraries are battling with disparate products, approaches and methods. There was a focus on the need for library systems to be user-friendly and user-driven, creating a positive search experience for students and staff. There was much discussion of the “Utopia” of a single search interface – a la Google (this seems to be a major talking point at any LMS training or familiarisation session I attend nowadays) – seamlessly and efficiently directing patrons to library content. Content providers and libraries should be providing a ‘concierge service’ for users browsing for content – systems should be jargon-free, flexible and easy to navigate. Kent Anderson (speaking at NASIG) believed that publishers and libraries could empower users with knowledge by ‘solving puzzles in ways that users care about’. I think Anderson’s quote neatly summarises the need for organisations to interact and integrate with users in new, innovative ways. At NASIG, Amy Green presented an enlightening report on research and usability testing, carried out by Bowling Green State University Library, designed to look at best practices to adopt when presenting online resource and journal data on library websites/catalogues/subject guides (e.g. database relevancy ranking). I also attended an interesting University of Texas session on the implementation of a ‘discovery layer’ to maximise access to online resources. The content of the sessions were of real relevance to me, as my home institution is currently evaluating and assessing such discovery services. The overview provided me with valuable ideas, knowledge, and info to take back to the UK and disseminate to colleagues at work.


Several of the main sessions that occurred at UKSG 2010 were dedicated to analysing researcher behaviour and the complexities of measuring research impact. My knowledge on such topics is hazy to say the least, so I was intrigued to learn more about these points of interest. UKSG and NASIG Conferences allow delegates an opportunity to expand their appreciation of the sector as a whole – the plenary debates at UKSG, NASIG Vision sessions and breakout/Strategy workshops at both conferences allow delegates the chance to engage with areas of the industry which may be unfamiliar to them, broadening their knowledge and horizons. I find this aspect of the conferences hugely gratifying – I think I have left each conference I have attended buzzing with new ideas, views and challenges to reflect on when I return to my own place of work.

Tony Hirst and Lucy Power gave fascinating UKSG talks on the role of social media in networking academic research and researchers in the digital age. Hirst highlighted online platforms such as Research Blogging and Faculty of 1000. Both sites offer different methods of providing, and distributing, online reviews, commentaries and blog pieces on current research articles. Hirst also presented the ResearchGATE portal (a professional network for researchers to join; Facebook for researchers if you like!), whilst Power presented the use of FriendFeed by a group of researchers in the Life Sciences. FriendFeed allows researchers to aggregate data feeds from a number of sources (blog posts, news items, videos etc) whilst adding to, and building upon, others’ work. Power described social forums, such as FriendFeed, as being an extension of the traditional concept of ‘Marginalia’ – making notes in the margins of print books. This method was adopted by early scientists to share, and post, comments on other scientists’ work. This trend has been translated into the online sphere of FriendFeed, as users are able to comment and ‘like’ fellow researchers’ posts. This provides instant and real-time feedback for the researcher, whilst also allowing valuable connections and associations to be made.

New Library Ventures

During the three UKSG/NASIG Annual Conferences I have been fortunate to attend, delegates have always been given the opportunity to look at new ventures being undertaken in the library world. NASIG 2010 introduced me to the business model of patron-driven eBooks. I had heard of this purchase method prior to my Palm Springs trip, but the Strategy session run by Jonathan Nabe and Andrea Imre (Southern Illinois University Library) at NASIG helped me gain a full insight into the methods adopted by libraries who decide to go down this route. The case study illuminated the reasons behind SIU’s purchase-on-demand of eBooks, providing stats and figures associated with library spend, downloads and cost per use. Nabe and Imre outlined the perceived benefits of the trial, but also listed a number of problems that may be apparent if other institutions decided to go down the same road as SIU (these were mainly associated with DRM/licensing issues which vary from publisher to publisher).

With Amazon Kindle and iPad sales rocketing over the past year in the US, and eBooks high on the agenda of most HE libraries, the OU/Cranfield University joint eBook reader trial presentation at UKSG 2010 was a timely one. Library users are nowadays familiar with using mobile devices to access online content, whether it is a smartphone, eReader or iPad (if they are very lucky!). The trial lasted for three months, and a number of users were given access to a Sony eBook reader or an iPod Touch. The OU and Cranfield University then gauged user feedback regarding the positive/negative aspects of each device. The results were interesting, if not surprising. It seems that eReaders are better equipped to deal with sequential, narrative reading (i.e. novels), but are not designed for study practices with textbooks. The iPod Touch’s multi-use functionality (music, videos, games etc) was a hit with students, but the iPod screen was found too small for any serious reading to be undertaken. The findings of the trial illuminated the need for more investment in the eReaders themselves, but publishers seem reluctant to provide this until the future of the industry is clearer. The emergence of the iPad in 2010 could very well influence such investment.

…and finally!

I had an enjoyable and engrossing time at both UKSG/NASIG Annual Conferences in 2010. The opportunity to network with fellow UK and US librarians/publishing staff, and the exchange of ideas which evolved from such discussions, is one I will cherish for a long time to come. As an advocate of Twitter, I also found myself ‘tweeting’ at both conferences. Twitter was an excellent tool to use to communicate with fellow delegates at each conference and also with absent colleagues back home. By following the #uksg and #nasig “hashtags”, salient points and links to presentations could be read and shared easily online. Whilst in Edinburgh, I also kept up-to-date with authoritative UKSG conference blog pieces posted to LiveSerials. The atmosphere at both conferences was a mix of collaboration, sharing and friendliness, and I cannot think of any other events within the library/publishing industry which achieve this fully. As a “NASIG Newbie’ I would like to thank all of those people who gave me a warm welcome in Palm Springs, and would not hesitate to recommend the NASIG Annual Conference to any prospective UKSG member thinking about attending in 2011 and beyond”.

Posted in Library, UKSG | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment


Welcome to my personal DMU blog space. Right, let’s see how this thing works…!

Posted in Personal | 1 Comment