Cultural Heritage

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Archive for the 'Libraries' Category

Voices for the Library and social media

Posted by guestblogger on 7th March 2011

About this Guest Post

Bethan Ruddock works as Content Development Officer for Library and Archival Services for Mimas at the University of Manchester.

Bethan has a strong interest in professional development and supporting new professionals.  She is a member of the SLA Europe board, and a Chartered member of CILIP.  She is editor of the LIS New Professionals’ Toolkit, to be published by Facet in 2012.

You can find Bethan on Twitter as @bethanar, where she tweets from conferences and events, takes part in professional discussions, and drinks a lot of tea.  She blogs at, and you can email her at

What is Voices for the Library?

Voices for the Library is a place for anyone who loves and values libraries to share their experiences and stories about what libraries mean to them.  The campaign was set up in September 2010 by a group of information professionals who were concerned about the negative and inaccurate coverage of libraries in the media.

Voices started out as a way to provide accurate and impartial information about UK public libraries.  But not all of this information was to come from librarians!  The name ‘Voices for the Library’ was chosen carefully – we wanted it to be a place where anyone who cares about libraries can make their voices heard.  Much of our content comes from library users, who want to share their stories about how libraries have affected their lives.

There are stories from librarians as well.  Some are examples of the kind of work they do, to show the range and depth of what trained library staff do, and to illustrate that it’s not all stamping books and shushing!  And some are more theoretical debates, about the philosophy of public libraries.

Why do we use social media?

So, how did we gather these stories from users, these thoughtful pieces from librarians?

Through social media.  We’ve relied heavily on social media right from the start of the campaign – not just for dissemination, but for collaboration too.  We faced a number of challenges, for which social media was – not just the best, but often the only – solution.

Firstly, we’re geographically dispersed.  This means that meeting face-to-face has been basically out of the question.  We’d never all been in one room together until the campaign had been running for over 6 months. This means that everything that had been done in those 6 months – all the planning, work, collaboration etc, had been done purely virtually and remotely.

Our second challenge was that we have no budget, which meant our tools had to be free.  Thanks to some generous sponsors, we now do have a budget – but it’s very easy to find vital things to spend it on! This means that we have to carry on finding free solutions – and most of these come from social media.

The third challenge?  Time!  We have even less time than we have money.  The VftL team are all volunteers, doing what we can for the campaign in the time we have available.  This means that we quite simply don’t have the time to spend on a tool that doesn’t work, quickly and easily.  We need to be putting all of our effort into what we’re doing, not the tools we’re using to do it.  Of course, some things require more time than others – the website, for instance – so our key concept here is return for time spent.

The final challenge is that of trying to connect to a huge demographic. Public libraries in the UK are designed to serve the whole community, from babies to pensioners, and often the only thing they have in common is that they use libraries.

Social media is really the only way we currently have of being able to communicate with these disparate groups of people.

What social media do we use?

We do most of our communicating within the group by email, but there are a number of other tools we use.

Wiki – we use a wiki for most of our collaboration.  We chose PB works, who offer a free version for individuals/groups and education.  We didn’t quite fit under ‘education’, so went with the free ‘individual’ option, which offers all the functionality we require. We can:

  • edit pages,
  • keep track of who has made changes when,
  • see the most recent changes in a list, or have them emailed to us
  • have folders and a file structure
  • upload files, so we can use it as a filestore

Pbwiki is quick and easy to learn to use.

We also briefly tried using google docs, but they just didn’t work for VftL.  We didn’t persist in trying to use them once we noticed they weren’t quite right for us, but just moved over completely to the wiki, where we’ve stayed happily ever since.

Chatzy: we may have only recently had our first face-to-face meeting, but we have had online meetings.  The tool we settled on for this was ‘chatzy’, an online service that allows you to create a private online chat room, and have text-based discussions.

Chatzy has been very effective – it shows everyone in a different colour, so you can instantly see who has said what, and it allows you to save the text of your discussion.  You need a premium account for the full save/download options, but you can get round this by simply selecting and copying the discussion before you leave the chat room.  This makes minuting meetings very easy.

Doodle: if we’re having meetings, we need to schedule them.  We use Doodle as a collaborative scheduler.  I like Doodle more than some of its rivals (such as meetomatic and when are you free) for a number of reasons:

  • no login/signup required
  • you can specify exact times – not just am/pm
  • respondees can see the responses everyone else has entered.  This means that all respondents (not just the admin) can see when other people have said they’re available.
  • You can also edit the times once you’ve opened the poll

To-do and tasks:  we were briefly using Task Bin as a group task management system – it allows you to invite other people to see your tasks, and to share tasks with people within a group.  However, our use of this never really got off the ground.  Nothing wrong with the software, I think it might just have been one thing too many for people to check.

These are our inward-facing uses of social media – what we use within the team.  But we also use social media for most of our external communication.

There are 3 main points of entry to our online presence, and each is important:  website, facebook, and twitter.

Website:  the website is built on the WordPress platform.  We use a installation – this is the self-hosted version, which means we have to pay for domain hosting, although the software itself is free. It is possible to have completely free site, by having it hosted on their servers.  This does limit your functionality, however, and we wanted slightly more control over the site than the totally free option allows.  As one of our members already runs several self-hosted wordpress sites, and was willing to extend his hosting package to cover VftL, we decided that this was a case where spending money was important.

And the website has been a success! We use Google analytics (again, a free tool) to track usage, and since we launched in September we’ve had over 32,000 unique visitors, with over 108,000 page views!  Most of these visits are from the UK, but we’ve had visits from 96 countries/territories in total, including Yemen, Iceland, Mexico, and Romania.

We get lots of comments on the website (we accept comments on almost all pages), and also have forums, which people can use for discussion.  They’re not getting much use, but they are getting some, and we feel the benefits of having made that space available outweigh the small time commitment required.

We already have some stories on the website that have come from feedback left for libraries, not directly to us – Weoley castle Library in Birmingham for instance have sent us comments from their comments book, and this is something we’d really like to encourage other libraries to do in the future.

We’ve also been very lucky in having a graphic designer to create our fab new logo.  This was designed by the cousin of one of our team members, which means we got it for free!

Facebook: the other main landing point for our online presence is Facebook.  Again, Facebook pages are free to create and maintain, though they do take quite a bit of time if you’re very active!  We now have 2615 likes (which used to be called ‘fans’), which is fantastic.

Facebook sits in the gap between the website and our twitter account. While there is a fair amount of cross-over in the content, Facebook gives us slightly more freedom for longer links and discussions than twitter, but is more news-y and less in-depth than the website.  It also gives users another choice about where they’d like to interact with us.

Twitter: twitter has a special place in the hearts of the Voices team.  VftL was conceived on twitter, by a group of info pros who, for the most part, had never met.  They knew each other only through twitter – that’s where the discussion and the idea started.

The twitter account was the very first thing made! That’s why it has a different name to everything else – UKpling.  This was intended to be the original name of the group, standing for ‘UK public libraries in need group’.  Discussion changed this to ‘Voices for the Library’, but the twitter account was already established, under a different name.

Now, it is possible to change your twitter name, and we have discussed doing so.  But all the ones we really wanted were taken, and we’d built up quite a twitter following – over 1500 followers – so we decided to stick with it.  It we were running the campaign all over again, one of the very first things we’d do would be to change the twitter name!

One of the things that twitter is great for is running quick and dirty viral campaigns.  This was illustrated recently when @mardixon (not a librarian, but a library user) tweeted “Libraries are important because … [fill in your answer & RT] #savelibraries”. The #savelibraries hashtag got over 5000 tweets, and was a trending topic not only in the UK, but worldwide.  As trending topics are usually breaking news, amusing memes, or celebrity gossip, this was quite an achievement!

Other tools:

Delicious:  we have a delicious account, and automatically add anything tagged with various tags (pling, voicesforthelibrary, etc).  These are then tweeted, added to the facebook account, and shown in a widget on the website.  This gives us a news feed about library news with a minimum of effort.

Flikr:  we have a flickr group, which is a nice visual way to represent the range of things that goes on libraries.  Anyone can add to it. – this is a twitter tool that gets a round-up of ‘top stories’ from your twitter stream, and presents them in a magazine format.  It’s a nice extra way of pointing people to things they might have missed.

To conclude?  Social media is fast, free and flexible, which is just what we need for a time- and resource-poor project!

Posted in Guest-blog, Libraries, Social Web, Twitter, Web 2.0 | Comments Off

Revitalising Information Services

Posted by guestblogger on 14th February 2011

image of Peter Brown, Enfield Libraries

About this Guest Post

Peter Brown is Information and Digital Citizenship Manager at Enfield Libraries. He can be contacted on:

The London Libraries Consortium can be contacted via Madeline Barratt, Libraries Strategy & Performance Manager, Enfield Libraries: or 0208 379 3784.

Revitalising information services

Since the introduction of the Public Libraries Act over 150 years ago, a lot of time, effort and money, have been invested in building large static collections of books that reflected the likely information needs of the populations they served. Traditionally the ‘Reference Library’ – often on the first floor of the older Carnegie or Passmore Edwards buildings – represented the inner sanctum of reserve, and specialisation for the ‘serious’ customer in search of enlightenment (or an undisturbed snooze).

Publishing costs today have pushed series, annual reference volumes and special interest books to stratospheric prices. Publication, processing and shelving of these materials has made the process seemingly lethargic in comparison with instant internet access. The means of production is changing rapidly, likewise that of delivery and we need to get in front of this or be mown down and left for dead!

Despite the pitfalls of the web for the unwary, customers have changed their habits, they are busier people and their hunting grounds have expanded exponentially. Unless librarians radically adjust by seizing the moment, and become knowledgeable mentors to what is out there and how best to harness its information potential, we will be entombed in the stacks along with complete files of Wisden, Whitaker’s Almanac – and Keesing’s Contemporary Archives!

With all library authority budgets under pressure it is inevitable that services will be subject to scrutiny. In London some authorities are currently spending up to £150k on materials and a further £210K on staffing annually to maintain their Reference or Information Services. It will not be feasible for authorities to keep hard copy, online and periodical reference resources with budgets facing considerable reductions over the next four years. Trying to keep all three strands going on reduced means is neither conducive to an efficient service nor to the majority of our customers. Libraries throughout the world should be leading by example by setting standards that will be the admiration of the polity.

At Enfield Libraries we are spearheading the London Libraries Consortium workstream on digital resources and believe libraries must grasp the digital revolution and be purveyors of accurate and up-to-date information. Online legal resources, for example, are constantly refreshed and updated and can offer more information than the hard copy resources we used to purchase.

Some authorities are reportedly considering cancelling online resources due to lack of use, adding that customers are quite happy using Google and Wikepedia. This is a worrying development because not only do they not add value to library services they are also of little help to school children or any other customer lost in the information wood.

In order to get more accurate data on our use of these resources, we recently carried out a review of our own services and the lessons from this are now being shared with the 13 other members of the consortium (Barking & Dagenham, Brent, Ealing, Hackney, Havering, Kingston Upon Thames, Lewisham, Newham, Redbridge, Richmond, Tower Hamlets, Waltham Forest and Wandsworth).

Whilst there are visitors who prefer to come into the reference library and use the dwindling hard copy resources, in general customers are increasingly web savvy and becoming increasingly used to accessing information from PCs or mobile devices such as iPads. Evidence suggests that a similar split exists among library staff – so staff need very specific training so that they can be effective catalysts to assist the cross over. This always-on culture helps to drive staff and customers to our online reference resources. Since the radical change in our information services from mostly hard copy to mostly digital, we have had only a handful of formal complaints – the majority about requesting better access to digital resources – particularly access to LexisNexis from home.

As a result in Enfield we have increased usage of our online reference resources by over 300 percent and saved £40k per annum. We are confident that our colleagues in the consortium will achieve similar gains. To achieve a successful progression to mostly online reference resources, library staff must clearly understand the context of the shift of information away from a centralised model (i.e. from reference librarians based in reference libraries) to branch-based delivery from all PCs by all staff and be confident in using and promoting these resources.

image of poster

Online safety poster

Training and marketing

The Information and Digital Citizenship Team (Paolo Zanelli and I) carried out a comprehensive 12-month training programme for our staff focusing on: homework help; business and legal; newspapers and periodicals; local and community information. We follow up these sessions with mystery shopping exercises to test the effectiveness of the training – and we no longer have ‘Reference Librarians’. Library Senior Management teams must show considerable leadership by example by engaging in being trained if not be part of the actual training team itself. As previously mentioned we had to overcome the general view that library staff are au fait with searching digital resources. Mystery shopping had demonstrated ‘books’ as first port of call even for the birth date of Richard Branson prior to training.

Whilst it’s true that most are familiar with sites such as Google, Amazon and Facebook, training was required in skills suitable to a public library setting providing information that would previously only have been expected in a library with ‘Reference Library’. We then trained our staff intensively for 12 months using the 4 modules (homework help, business and legal, etc). This exercise enabled us to identify a handful of staff that were clearly struggling with the modules due to additional needs, such as basic PC operations, file management, Word, so further training was devised to meet these needs. The Information and Digital Citizenship team combined this with a marketing programme of posters around the library, shelf markers pointing visitors to online resources, bookends, individual emails to all driving instructors in Enfield about Driving Theory Test Pro, and bookmarks.

image of young internet user

Safety first guidelines

Some of the schools in the area have staff, and not always their librarians, who value what we do. They work closely with us and to encourage pupils to use our high quality digital resources. This was a consequence of a marketing campaign aimed at all secondary schools in the authority. As part of the schools campaign we requested a link to the library services on the schools’ Managed Learning Environment, designed posters and drop down leaflets aimed at homework resources. We also use the digital mediums of Facebook (Enfield Library and Museum Service) and Twitter (@enfieldlibrary) to reach visitors. As a result of these initiatives we saw performance of our range of digital resources more than triple.

Most popular resources

Although the subscription covers access from only two libraries in Enfield, is one of our most popular resources with around 20,000 hits over the last 9 months. The more hits we have the greater the value because it is more cost effective; the projected annual individual search cost for is £0.10. It is also a well known brand thanks to television, online and print advertising of the service. Family history researchers also use FindMyPast, available in our family history library. The latter now includes the 1911 census, making the data even more useful to researchers.  We have recently added Nineteenth Century Newspapers to our resources, available via the internet with a library card. This is the British Library’s full run of influential national and regional newspapers representing different political and cultural segments of the 19th century British society. This has proved very popular in other library authorities and we feel will be a good complement to and FindMyPast.

Our other most used digital resources are Britannica (over 15,000 hits over 9 months, £0.17 per individual search and widely used by schoolchildren) and Driving Test Pro (over 6,000 tests taken over the last 9 months, £0.06 for each individual test completed). Another reason for increasing popularity is that these resources are far more accessible to multiple users and offer much more than text or the previously stocked CD-ROMs, as they tend to be very interactive and offer images, videos, audio and hyperlinks.

Future plans

We continue to review our resources and to work with suppliers to get performance data – we no longer subscribe to services which cannot provide us with this information. Single sign on will soon be established by the consortium, which will make it easier for customers to use digital resources. Joint purchasing of online resources is likely when we have completed our benchmarking exercise of LLC member authority usage and costs.

Posted in Guest-blog, Libraries, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »


Posted by Brian Kelly on 17th January 2011

About this Guest Post

Stuart Macdonald is the AddressingHistory Project Manager and is based at EDINA & Data Library, University of Edinburgh. He can be contacted at:

AddressingHistory: a Web2.0 community engagement tool and API


The AddressingHistory project was funded as part of the Developing Community Content strand of the JISC Digitisation and e-Content Programme and ran from April 2010 until September 2010. Led by EDINA in partnership with the National Library of Scotland (NLS), the aim of the project was to create an online engagement tool built using open standards. Such a tool would enable members of the community, both within and outwith academia (particularly local history groups and genealogists), to enhance and combine data from digitised historical Scottish Post Office Directories (PODs) with contemporaneous large-scale historical maps.

Image of map and print directory

Map and Street Directory

Image courtesy of Addressing History – available under a CCAttribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic through Flickr –

Post Office Directories, precursors to modern day Yellow Pages, offer a fine-grained spatial and temporal view on important social, economic and demographic circumstances. They emerged during the late seventeenth century to meet the demand for accurate information about trade and industry due to the expansion of commerce during this period. They were published more frequently than the census and generally had information about local facilities, institutions and associations, listings for private residents, traders, trades and professions, sometimes details of important people, and advertisements.

For Scotland there are at least 750 Post Office Directories spanning the period 1770 – 1912. The NLS are in the process of scanning using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) techniques and publishing this historic collection in conjunction with the non-profit Internet Archive.

During the 6 month project period the AddressingHistory ‘crowdsourcing’ tool focussed on three volumes (1784-5; 1865; 1905-6) of the Edinburgh digitised PODs and mapping from the same periods. However the specifications were such as to accommodate the full Scottish collection as and when they become available.

One significant deficiency of this collection, which the AddressingHistory online tool aimed to redress by ‘crowd sourcing’, was that the addresses were not geo-referenced. It was the pre-existence of large scale geo-referenced and contemporaneous maps (as supplied by the National Library of Scotland) against which the historic post office directories were contextualised that thus allowed manual (geo)referencing down to individual house address level to be accomplished. This is achieved by simply moving a pin on the map i.e. the map is the mechanism through which the geo-reference is allocated by the user to a particular POD entry.

To assist the geo-referencing exercise addresses from each of the directories were parsed using Google’s geocoding software in order to assign a geo-reference.

Technical Development

The AddressingHistory tool and Application Programming Interface (API) comprises several software components, each built with resilience and sustainability in mind. Open Source software was chosen in several instances, allowing for great flexibility and a feature-rich application, whilst containing costs.

Development initially began by scoping the application’s requirements, designing a database structure to store the information contained in the Post Office Directories in conjunction with pre-processing and data-loading software.

An API is available, allowing access to the raw data via multiple output formats. It is accessible via a RESTful web service.

The client application was built upon the API, featuring web based mapping. To the OpenLayers mapping, we added a collection of historical maps from NLS, contemporary to the three Post Office Directories of interest. A user registration, facilities to edit the stored data and suggest specific changes were added towards the end of the development, together with various enhancements – including a view to the original scanned directory pages.

User Generated Content

The AddressingHistory project raised a number of issues regarding user generated content (UGC) created by the community such as mediation, validation and cross-checking of UGC.

At present the AddressingHistory team retain the option to check UGC and will do so on a periodic basis. It has also installed a logging facility in order to identify inappropriate behaviour (e.g. spam) or inaccurate UGC.

Social Media

Screenshot of project blog

AddressingHistory blog

A key element in determining the success of the project was the establishment of a mechanism whereby the ‘crowd’ could contribute to the creation of a fully geo-coded version of the digitised directories. In part an avenue through which such community engagement could be realised was via communication with Edinburgh Beltane – a national co-ordinating centre for public engagement and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences Knowledge Transfer Office. Social media channels were also deployed to engage the public, to develop links within the community, and to act as a vehicle to expose the tool and API to a wider audience.

At the outset of the project a WordPress blog (, was deployed as the key space for communicating and engaging with interested members of our target audiences.

Twitter was an unexpectedly useful space for the project with over 160 Tweets posted under the @addresshistory account with many messages receiving ReTweets and a Facebook page was also created for AddressingHistory for sharing short updates, useful links and to encourage viral sharing and recommendation.

As a longer term strategy we intend to maintain where practicable blog activity, Facebook and Twitter presences. A mailing list has been set up to ensure we can remain in contact with those interested in AddressingHistory developments and a Google group has been established aimed at users interested in using the AddressingHistory API for their own websites, projects, or mashups.


AddressingHistory was an ambitious project which combined a range of technologies from data processing and database design, to Web 2.0 and web mapping services. Much was achieved within the relatively short project in terms of public engagement and amplification through social media facilities and channels, and the delivery of a robust and scalable website and API capable of empowering the ‘crowd’ with the facility to search and edit geo-referenced content from the Scottish Post Office Directories and digitised historic maps from the same era.

With more funding, the AddressingHistory website would benefit from more engineering work on the data pre-processing and loading – perhaps making more use of the different sections of the directories together with advertisements etc.
AddressingHistory would also profit from the addition of further content (for other areas of Scotland) to potentially broaden the user community.

Gauging the success of the project however goes beyond the delivery of engaging and innovative online tools. It will be ultimately be measured by continual and extended use within the wider community.

To access the AddressingHistory online tool and API please point your browsers at:

Posted in Blogs, Libraries, Twitter, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments »

Places still available on Social Web workshops

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4th January 2011

In Spring 2011 UKOLN will be running further workshops for the cultural heritage sector on using the Social Web. Attendance is free. Booking is now open, see links below.

The Social Web: Opportunities in Difficult Times
Ann Chapman will facilitate a 1-day workshop The Social Web: Opportunities in Difficult Times to be held at Discovery Museum, Newcastle upon Tyne on 26th January 2011.

The Social Web: Opportunities in Difficult Times
Ann Chapman will facilitate a 1-day workshop The Social Web: Opportunities in Difficult Times to be held at University of Manchester, Manchester on 3th February 2011.

The Social Web: Opportunities in Difficult Times
Ann Chapman will facilitate a 1-day workshop The Social Web: Opportunities in Difficult Times to be held at Museum Studies Building, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, Leicester on 22nd February 2011.

Posted in archives, Blogs, Libraries, Museums, Twitter, Web 2.0 | Comments Off

Welsh Libraries and Web 2.0 Report

Posted by Brian Kelly on 15th November 2010

The Welsh Libraries and Web 2.0 Report is now available to download.

The report is a snap-shot of the views of librarians of the use of Web 2.0 in libraries in Wales. It compares access by the different library sectors to different types of Web 2.0 technologies and also looks at what libraries are doing and what they would like to do with Web 2.0 technologies. The report is now available to download via the CyMAL website:

Posted in Libraries, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

Netvibes for Centralised Management of the Internet Desktop

Posted by guestblogger on 8th November 2010

About this Guest Post

Eddie Byrne is a Senior Librarian with Dublin City Public Libraries, Dublin, Ireland, and Head of the Libraries’ Web Services Unit. In the public library service since 1980, his experiences extend to website development, content management systems, open source software, web accessibility, cataloguing, metadata, thesaurus construction, and of course Web 2.0. He can be contacted at

Netvibes for Centralised Management of the Internet Desktop

Dublin City Public Libraries is the largest public library authority in the Republic of Ireland, serving a population in excess of half a million. Free public Internet access is available on over 100 Internet computers in 21 locations across the city, and in 2009 alone there were over 380,000 Internet sessions. Free wi-fi is also available.

Due to the number of locations and PCs, computer and desktop management has always proved a challenge. It had long been apparent that a solution was needed that would in the first instance provide library Internet users with a useful and well presented Internet desktop, while at the same time ease the task of desktop management. Prior to the introduction of the Internet start page solution, the practice had been, as and when required, to highlight select websites by placing Internet shortcuts on an already cluttered computer desktop, adding website addresses to a browser’s list of favourites, while also having to edit existing links as and when necessary. This process had then to be replicated on each of the over one hundred PCs in the many and diverse locations, a time and resource consuming task for the Libraries’ IT Unit. It was at the same time debatable as to whether or not these efforts were of any real benefit to the Internet user.

Our Solution

The obvious solution was a centrally managed and purposely designed default home page or ‘Internet desktop’, with changes applied in one location taking immediate effect across the whole network of Internet PCs. From a management perspective this would result in huge savings in terms of time and staff involvement. It also afforded the opportunity to some degree to monitor usage of the custom delivered desktop and as a consequence improve it as necessary.

screenshot of netvibes homepage

Dublin City Libraries netvibes homepage

In late 2007, various solutions were looked at, including a number of web-based start page services. A web-based solution quickly became the front-runner in terms of cost, available time, and ease of delivery, tied in to available staff resources and expertise. Pageflakes, having been found to meet certain minimum requirements, was eventually selected and a custom-built Pageflakes page rolled out in early 2008 as the default entry point to the web on all public-access PCs. All this work was carried out internally, with no recourse to third-party developers or service providers, and consequently no third-party costs. Netvibes replaced Pageflakes in late 2008 consequent on issues experienced with Pageflakes, issues which highlighted the need to have a risk management plan in place.

The ‘Start Page’

The newly delivered Internet desktop, or ‘start page’, acted as a ‘portal’ or gateway, giving library users a single point of access to information and services on the web, while also presenting information from diverse sources in a unified manner. See

screenshot of netvibes mediazone page

Dublin City Library media zone page on netvibes

In terms of structure and substance, content is delivered by means of eight tabs, each tab representing a different category.  These are: – Home (default page), Find It!, News, European Press, Your Pleasure, Traffic & Travel, Mail & Tool Kit and Media Zone. Most of the tabs incorporate some library-related content (event and service promotions, announcements), the Home tab in particular having a particular library focus.

In terms of measuring usage, Google Analytics is used to collate statistical data, with a different script collecting data on each tab, thereby allowing analysis of use of each category of content.

The desktop is managed by the Libraries’ Web Team and management entails ongoing monitoring of the ‘Start Page’, checking for downtime, performance issues, widget failure, broken links, and carrying out periodic manual edits; the bulk of the content is generated dynamically via RSS feeds from the Libraries’ other web presences including its Twitter account and delicious bookmark site, as well as the astute use of the various widgets available to deliver diverse content.

In real terms, the management of the desktop can now be measured in terms of minutes per day, with additional time spent periodically carrying out a more extensive audit and analysis of use. Of greater note of course is the fact that the library service is now providing a value-added service for its users, one available not merely via the library-based Internet PCs but from any location where one can access the Internet.

Further Developments – Children’s Internet Computers

screenshot of netvibes learning zone page

Dublin City Libraries Learning Zone on netvibes

Towards the end of 2009 work began on developing a separate purposely designed Internet desktop using the Netvibes platform for use on the dedicated children’s Internet computers in branch libraries. Because of the particular target audience, security concerns were paramount, and having to get the approval of the Libraries’ parent organisation (City Council) resulted in time delays and additional work in addressing concerns, real and imaginary. As a consequence, access on dedicated children’s computers is restricted to select sites, and as a risk minimisation effort it was decided to restrict the use of widgets on the resulting page to those built, maintained and hosted by Netvibes alone. This desktop is due for rollout in Autumn 2010.

Future developments – Business Information Centre Internet Computers

As of late summer 2010, a purposely designed desktop is being investigated for use in the Business Information Centre, a specialist service housed in the main Central Library.

To Find Out More

The article author, Eddie Byrne, gave a presentation on the use of a start page service by a public library at the Internet Librarian International conference in London in October 2009, see the presentation at:

Posted in Guest-blog, Libraries, Web 2.0 | Comments Off

Web 2.0 Guide for Libraries

Posted by Brian Kelly on 4th November 2010

Produced by CILIP in Scotland and the Scottish Library & Information Council, this is a 10 page guide that includes advice on how to overcome the ‘considerable barriers to widespread adoption’ that still remain and how libraries can ‘reach beyond the “walled garden” to interact with users in online spaces they are already visiting, rather than passively waiting for users to seek [them] out’.

Ideas mentioned include book discussion groups using a blog or a wiki, using Twitter for event news and service updates, and aggregator services such as Netvibes, plus information on legal implications. The guide also identifies the Slainte 2.0 Web site as an exemplar of good practice.

A Guide to Using Web 2.0 in Libraries (PDF)

Slainte2 Web site

Posted in Libraries, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

Help Develop Culture Grid Application Profile

Posted by Brian Kelly on 30th October 2010

This message was posted by Nick Poole on the MCG email list on 19 Oct. 2010.

As you will be aware, the Collections Trust is responsible for developing the Culture Grid as an aggregation/syndication service for museum, archive and library metadata.

The Culture Grid serves object and collections metadata, and works alongside Culture24 as the aggregator of institutional and events data. Collectively, our aim is to maximise museum audiences by increasing the profile of the sector’s digital output through a variety of mainstream digital and mobile channels.

We now need to enlist your help to make some choices about the evolution of the Culture Grid’s Application Profile to ensure that the web services we are offering both increase participation by museums and enhance the value of the services and connectors we can offer to 3rd parties.

Neil Smith of Knowledge Integration (the company that designed, built and now manage the Culture Grid’s technical and operational architecture) has posted a discussion paper on the Museum API Wiki which outlines a number of possible options. Please go to to read and respond to his post.

We need to ensure that the Culture Grid continues to evolve and to add value for museums, so we would hugely value your comments and ideas about the options we are presenting.

If you are interested in making your content available through the Culture Grid, please contact the Grid Manager, Phill Purdy at Also, if you are interested in discussing the future direction of the Culture Grid, you should join the Culture Grid Users Network on Collections Link.

Finally, if you are interested in seeing what you might be able to create using the Culture Grid data, register for the Culture Grid Hack day, 3rd December at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle.

Many thanks for your help!
Nick Poole, Chief Executive, Collections Trust
Follow us on Twitter: @collectiontrust

Posted in archives, Libraries, Museums, Web 2.0 | Comments Off

Reading Group videoconferencing overseas

Posted by Brian Kelly on 28th October 2010

Picked this message up recently from the email list. So libraries, if you’ve got reading groups (seem to be more usually called book clubs in the USA) set up, why not think about this opportunity and contact Tim Boundy (details at bottom of post).

Subject: Trans-Atlantic Library Book Clubs using Videoconferencing

An interesting opportunity for Libraries…

The Internet2 K20 Initiative (the educational high speed network in the States) is looking for UK public libraries interested in participating in cultural exchange events across the Atlantic.

Specifically, several US public libraries with active book clubs are interested in connecting with other book clubs in libraries in the UK via videoconferencing.

If you have an active book club that might enjoy going global and using videoconferencing please let me know, and we can help to connect up your libraries.

Tim Boundy

National Education Network Services Group
Content Coordinator
t: 01235 822370
m: 07787 574036
VC via JVCS:


JANET, the UK’s education and research network
JANET Schools Group
JANET(UK), Lumen House, Library Avenue, Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, Didcot, Oxfordshire, OX11 0SG, UK.

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Halton to Use Open Source LMS

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22nd October 2010

Just spotted this message from Ken Chad on the email list. So far it has been mostly libraries in the USA who have chosen to use an open source  LMS but things are changing it seems.

Ken writes:

Halton is the first UK public library to choose an open source Library Management System. They are implementing Koha to replace their Dynix system and getting their support from PTFS Europe. More information is on the Local Government Library Technology website Open source page

The library systems market is starting to pick up with Staffordshire (currently Talis) and Sterling (currently SirsiDynix) out to tender for new systems and a few more are looking. In HE Queens University Belfast and Kingston University (both Talis) are out to tender and a few others are reviewing the market.

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CILIP CIG Conference 2010

Posted by Brian Kelly on 7th October 2010

Along with nearly 70 others, I attended the CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing Group (CIG) conference which was held on 13 to 15 September 2010 at the University of Exeter. Group and Branch events are a great way to catch up with new developments and meet fellow practitioners. Here’s a quick run through of the programme and slides for the presentations are now available from the conference web site.

Day 1. The Keynote speaker was Biddy Fisher, President of CILIP, who praised those who work behind the scenes and called them the “heart of the profession” and noting that cataloguers “organize chaos”. In the Standards Forum Alan Danskin presented a review of the most recent changes in the MARC 21 formats. This was followed by two talks on RDA. Alan Poulter, the new CILIP representative to the JSC for RDA, set out how he sees his role and his wish to get more interaction from the community. With testing under way, the questions now are ‘what do we do about RDA?”, “what are the major and minor differences with AACR2?” and “what happens if Library of Congress rejects RDA?”. Finally, Alan Danskin reported on the results of the recent survey on potential RDA training needs in the UK. This showed that around 20% of respondents in the UK were expecting to adopt RDA; Alan noted that another recent survey indicated that around 50% of European libraries intended adopting RDA. The evening meal was followed by a quiz.

Day 2. This began with a paper by Gary Steele’s paper on using wisdom of the crowds in choosing LCSH for individual titles. The next two papers focused on workflow management. Stuart Hunt talked about improving performance in cataloguing and technical services workflows by integrating Japanese models. Robin Armstrong Viner’s paper (presented by Alan Danskin as Robin was unexpectedly unable to attend) made many of the same points, illustrated by how this worked at the University of Aberdeen. After lunch, Dunia Garcia-Ontiveros spoke on the continuing need for retrospective cataloguing and the idea of a national register on materials requiring retrospective cataloguing or conversion. Sally Curry of RIN then spoke on cataloguing as a problem to be shared. The day ended with the conference dinner in Reed Hall.

Day 3. The first papers was Alan Poulter on CIDOC CRM, a modelling tool for “exchanging rich cultural heritage data”. Dawn Wood’s talk on repository metadata was on metadata to the learning objects deposited in the Leeds Metropolitan University repository. An ‘open mic’ session replaced the cancelled second paper on repositories and generated some interesting debate. The conference closed at lunchtime, with some delegates visiting either the Met Office Library or Exeter Cathedral Library before travelling home.

For the first time, the conference used a twitter hashtag (#cigx). In retrospect, we (I’m a member of the CIG Committee) should also have thought about archiving the tweets.

CIG sponsored a place for a new professional – read Claire Sewell’s conference blog posts about her experience.

Exeter conference – why I wanted to go

Claire Swell’s conference blog

Claire at CIG conference day 1

Claire at conference day 2

Claire at CIG conference day 3

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e-Books in Public Libraries

Posted by guestblogger on 4th October 2010

About this Guest Post

Martin Palmer is the Principal Officer for Libraries at Essex County Council, where he has been responsible for the provision of e-books over the past seven years. He can be contacted at

e-Books in Public Libraries

I was invited to a meeting of Health Librarians recently to talk about the Essex experience of providing e-books in a public library setting. It was held at the Senate House at London University, which – apart from giving me the opportunity to hear about lots of exciting things going on in a different sector – also provided an interesting context in which to reflect on how e-books in public libraries have developed over the past few years, as I had given a presentation in the same venue (along with Linda Berube, one of last month’s guest bloggers…) on the same subject in 2004.

So, has anything changed in six years?

Well, one would hope so – and a lot has. For a start, the Overdrive download service that we first offered all that time ago is now also available from around 20 other authorities around the country (with more in the pipeline) providing not only e-books but e-audio as well. In fact, growth in interest has been sufficient for the MLA to set up a ‘community of practice’ for librarians interested in sharing their experience, problem solving, requesting advice, and so on.

New suppliers have also emerged, including Coutts/Ingram’s MyiLibrary; Public Library Online (formerly Bloomsbury Online), which offers simultaneous on-line access to ‘electronic bookshelves’; and W F Howes’ Clipper material is available as e-audio downloads. Not only that, but a venerable name from the supply of print material to public libraries – Askews – is about to launch its own e-book service, too.

Not surprisingly, this growth on the supply side has been stimulated to a large extent by a rise in public demand for such material, reflecting a huge growth in e-reading – partly inspired by the latest generation of devices such as the Sony e-reader, the Kindle, and others but also by the arrival of the iPhone, iPad and so on (other multi-functional bits of kit are also available…).

This has been accompanied by a gradual realisation on the part of many publishers that e-books can offer an important new income stream, rather than simply threatening their existing revenue. As a result, some bestsellers now become available as e-books at the same time as the print publication; recent examples include Dan Brown’s ‘The Lost Symbol’ and the accounts of life in New Labour by Tony Blair and Baron Mandelson (ok – possibly not the best adverts for an exciting new medium…), all of which throw into sharp contrast the situation of only a few years ago when it was unclear whether any top-selling titles would ever appear in an e-format.

What hasn’t changed

However, some things haven’t changed that much – and some have had a rather mixed impact. For example, when we first started in Essex, we offered e-books that could be read on generic PCs and laptops, partly because we didn’t want to have to supply reading devices ourselves, but mainly because all e-book readers had temporarily become obsolete and so there were none available to purchase.

The ‘renaissance’ of the e-reader has had the beneficial effect of raising awareness and demand, but has also resulted in bewildering matrix of format/device compatibility questions that – complicated further by Digital Rights Management (DRM) questions – has led in turn to a very confused public. If a borrower has an iPad and it’s compatible with .epub, why can’t they read the library’s .epub titles? (Because the iPad and the DRM wrapper for library .epub e-books aren’t compatible). And so on…

To charge or not to charge?

There’s also some confusion for public library managers at the moment in that, as part of the DCMS review of the service published earlier this year, the government made some very clear statements around the question of charging for e-book lending, saying that there was an expectation that it should be free of charge. This was a useful clarification for some at least, reinforcing the basic message of the 1964 Act that public library reading-based activity should be free; for others, hoping to introduce e-books as a way of generating income, it was less helpful…

However, the change of government has led to a period of uncertainty in this area as Ed Vaizey has said that he wants to consult more widely before deciding on the way ahead. Consequently – alongside all the other changes that have happened over the past few months since the election, it’s perhaps not surprising that any services who hadn’t already firmly committed themselves to launching e-books should opt to wait to see how things pan out.

Audience take-up

Nevertheless, it’s beginning to look as though the attractions of e-reading are finally reaching a critical mass-type audience, with mainstream publishers now having ‘teaser’ advertising campaigns which make the first couple of chapters of new books available in e-formats, enabling potential customers to read them on their mobile phones and – hopefully – get sufficiently hooked to buy the book (whether in print or electronically), while the number of reading-based apps now available for the iPhone and iPad seemingly now outnumbers that for games. Not bad for an activity which Steve Jobs seemed to dismiss less than two years ago, saying that ‘nobody reads any more’.

In Essex, we’ve now expanded our coverage from the original Overdrive and ebrary services to include Public Library Online and Clipper from W F Howes, and currently get the equivalent of around 100,000 ‘loans’ per year from our electronic services, with the level of take-up increasing all the time.

That’s not to ignore the fact that there are still many areas of the e-book world that still need both further development and stabilisation – standards are still more notable by their absence, for example, while collection development is still fraught with difficulty.

Looking ahead

However, compared with the position when we first got involved seven or more years ago – where it wasn’t even clear that there was an audience, let alone suitable content – the relationship between e-books and UK public libraries is now much more firmly-based, and (legislation and budgetary pressures notwithstanding) now seems likely to grow much more quickly over the next couple of years.

In fact, as I sometimes find myself talking about e-books in public libraries at events alongside librarians from special and academic libraries, it’s interesting to see that although the involvement of those sectors in e-material tends to rather fuller, and also dates back some time before that of public libraries, there now often seems to be less difference in terms of scale, range and use of collections across the sectors than might be imagined…

Posted in Guest-blog, Libraries | 1 Comment »

An Archive in the Palm of Your Hand

Posted by guestblogger on 27th September 2010

About this Guest Post

Emma Faragher is an Education & Outreach Officer, at the National Library of Scotland (NLS), where she works on learning and interpretation for The John Murray Archive project. Emma can be contacted at

An Archive in the palm of your hand: The John Murray Archive app at the National Library of Scotland

The John Murray Archive exhibition at the National Library of Scotland exhibition highlights the archive of publishers John Murray. The archive records the business of the John Murray publishing firm, widely regarded as one of the world’s most important publishing archives. It comprises over 150,000 papers, manuscripts, letters and other documents representing many of the world’s most celebrated writers, thinkers, politicians, explorers, economists and scientists. The exhibition is an innovative interactive space which uses a mix of technology and theatre to bring a unique archive collection to life.

NLS iPhone app showing text from John Murray Archive

Originally the exhibition had an introductory film. However this was presented in a separate room and evaluation revealed that it was not well-used or understood by visitors. Therefore in 2009 NLS took the decision to remove the film and seek an alternative way to introduce the archive, deciding that this was a good opportunity to pilot the use of new technologies and handheld guides in our exhibition spaces.

Following a period of research and evaluation of existing handheld guides used in museums in the UK and further afield we decided to develop an ‘app’ for iPhone and iPod. At the time of our research this was still relatively unusual, though the popularity of apps as guides in the cultural sector has grown significantly since this project began, in tandem with the rapid growth of the mobile internet.


The app was built with an external developer, Screenmedia. We built the app over a period of four and a half months. The team at Screenmedia worked with our Learning and Public Engagement team to develop a structure and content plan. We developed a themed structure which complements the archive’s website. Each theme includes an audio-visual introduction and access to a selection of documents. Content was developed with liaison from the curatorial team for the John Murray Archive.

Access & promotion

Image of Iphone app interactive

NLS iPhone app - interactive state

The app is available to the public in a number of ways:

  • Remote users can download it from the Apple iTunes store, links have been provided to the store from John Murray Archive and main NLS websites.
  • Visitors to NLS with an iPhone or iPod have the option to download to their own devices using our public wifi network.
  • Visitors to NLS without their own device can borrow an iPod during their visit.

We have promoted the app using social media, including Twitter updates and Facebook and news streams on our website.

In addition we have used more traditional means of promotion, including a press release to local and national newspapers and more specialist press, receiving good coverage. We are also promoting the app in our public areas, including posters, café table tent cards and inclusion on information screens.

To date there have been almost 900 downloads of the app.


We receive monthly updates on downloads of the app which we map against promotional activity. This has already revealed that though social media promotion is valuable, traditional media still has its place – one of the greatest peaks in downloads was following the press release and subsequent publication of stories about the app in newspapers.

NLSiPhone app image

NLS iPhone app - rollover

We track star-ratings of the app following downloads, and have implemented an evaluation screen within the application itself which is linked to our wi-fi system so that people who use the app in the library can send feedback direct.

We are currently surveying visitors to NLS who use the app; initial returns have been very positive.

Some key learning points from the project

Our app began life as a project focussed on providing a service to exhibition visitors, but as soon as we selected our format it became apparent the service would also be of great potential interest to remote users. Therefore as the app developed we ensured that it would be interesting and relevant even if you are not physically at the Library. This has been borne out by the popularity of downloads for the app.

When this project was developed, iPhones dominated the smart phone market, but recent figures suggest that Google Android (the operating system used by a number of other smart phones) is likely to have an equal market share in the future. Further, the, advent of the iPad and tablet computers is likely to change the mobile internet market further in the next few years.

Remote users are increasingly important in our sector and as the popularity of mobile internet, smartphones and other tools develops they will offer many opportunities and tools for the cultural sector to engage with new audiences.

Image of NLS iPhone app

NLS iPhone app - video screen

Posted in archives, Guest-blog, Libraries, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

The Library Debate: What are libraries for?

Posted by Brian Kelly on 22nd September 2010

Had a chat yesterday with Joanne Alcock of Evidence Base (at Birmingham City University) who was in Bath meeting up with some UKOLN staff. Her primary professional interests lie in social media (e.g. web 2.0) and emerging technologies; her blog is Joeyanne Libraryanne.

She mentioned the CILIP West Midlands and Birmingham Salon joint event The Library Debate: What are libraries for? taking place on this evening (22 Sept. 2010). The principle speakers are Brian Gambles, Assistant Director, Culture at Brimingham City Council and local author and keen libary user, Andy Killeen. If you’re not able to get there, you could follow tweets on the night (#libdebate) [not #libdeb as I first posted – apologies and thanks to Joanne for spotting the error) or listen to the podcast after the event by going to the Birmingham Salon blog.

Posted in Libraries | 2 Comments »

The Library Technology Market: a case for an ‘open’ conversation

Posted by guestblogger on 20th September 2010

About this Guest Post

Ken Chad is CEO of Ken Chad Consulting which has the mission of helping to ‘make libraries more effective’ through better and more imaginative use of technology. His consulting work has been wide ranging. He has worked with academic and public libraries and with various government and sector organisations in the UK and internationally. His published articles and conference contributions have focused on the strategic impact on libraries of technology driven change. Ken can be contacted at

The library technology market: a case for an open ‘conversation’

Over the years a number of resources including books, articles and websites have been available to help libraries get the best from the opportunities offered by technology. For example back in the 1980s Juliet Leeves published ‘Library Systems: a buyer’s guide’.  Each April, in Library Journal, Marshall Breeding publishes a review of the library automation marketplace. His  ‘Library Technology Guides’ website is also an invaluable resource despite its US bias. In the UK the ‘eGovernment Register’, maintained by the London Borough of Brent, published a listing of local authority systems (including some library related ones) on their (now defunct) website. UCISA does a similar job for Higher Education (HE) through its ‘Corporate Information System’ (CIS) annual survey.

However all these resources are ‘closed’ to some degree. They are also very incomplete as far as library technology is concerned. The eGovernment register ceased in June this year and passed the baton to the SOCITM application software index. However this is currently even more closed with very restricted access and editing rights. Marshall Breeding says that he is ‘solely responsible for all content’ on the Library Technology Guides web site ‘and for any errors it may contain’.

It seemed to me that it would be possible create something more comprehensive, accurate and useful by taking a very open and inclusive approach:  something that harnessed the capabilities and goodwill of the library community.  I had read David Weinberger’s marketing book ‘The Cluetrain Manifesto‘ some years ago and I think his notion back in 1999 that ‘markets are ‘conversations’ rings true more than a decade later.  ‘Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter’. Perhaps then we could enhance the quality of the technology ‘conversation’ in the library domain. Maybe being ‘smarter’ could take, at least some of, the cost and ‘friction’ out of the market and make it easier for everyone. Moreover it seemed to me everyone could benefit from this open and inclusive approach, not least in having the content freely available for anyone to re-use.

I started with simple lists of who had what Library Management System (LMS – or Integrated Library System (ILS) in American parlance). The truth was that working in the library software business for over 20 years I actually knew most of it by heart! My job was made easier, for HE at least, because I had been closely involved in the much cited JISC/SCONUL ‘LMS study’, which is a great source for data and analysis. During the work on the study vendors were very open and helpful about giving me their customer lists and information about their business and strategies. SCONUL were enthusiastic about getting more value out of the study by putting it online in a more interactive format than a PDF. I persuaded them that a wiki was a simple, inexpensive and effective tool to help in that goal. It would also allow the community itself to keep the information and analysis current. A further possibility was to expand on the original study’s coverage which was very focussed on the LMS. The Higher Education Library Technology wiki was born.

The underlying wiki technology (Wikispaces) is very easy and inexpensive to set up and maintain and we soon had a good part of the SCONUL LMS study uploaded. We chose Wikispaces too because, after some serious evaluation, we judged it easier to maintain and edit that alternatives such a MediaWiki (the platform for Wikipedia). We knew the proportion of active contributions would be small. That is a fact of ‘Web 2.0’ life. I knew about Jacob Nielsen’s ‘90-9-1 Rule’ for large scale online communities and social networks. He argues 90% of users are ‘lurkers’, 9% of users contribute intermittently and only 1% of users are heavy contributors. With this in mind we didn’t want to make the task of contributors harder than absolutely necessary. It was uncertain if our small-scale community would fare worse in terms of contributors. In fact it’s been about the same but with a higher proportion of ‘intermittent’ contributors. I also had in my mind a comment, I believe attributed to one of the founders of Flickr, to the effect that an important factor in building critical mass and success was putting tremendous effort early on to encourage and support their contributors. We believe that’s important and our role in Ken Chad Consulting as ‘wikimaster’ is all about enabling things and keeping up the momentum. It’s most certainly not about control. We haven’t had a single case of spamming or abuse. (Though of course we have tools to deal with them). We also know that sometimes it takes time for resources to get embedded in the community’s consciousness. The wikimaster has an important sustaining role.

As well as a Library Technology wiki for HE we’ve created one for local government public libraries. Clearly there is overlap but there are significant differences too. For example HELibTech has much more emphasis on the management of e-resources. We felt that the audiences would differ significantly and this has been the case. This leads me into another point. We have an inclusive view of our audience. We welcome contributions from librarians, and vendors-and indeed anyone with an interest. Just sign up and get started.

screenshot of local government library technology wiki

Local Government Library Technology wiki

Finally how valuable are these wikis to the communities they are designed to serve? Feedback so far has been good. For example when SCONUL held a ‘community event’ about its recent study into the feasibility and business case for shared services they created an entry on HELibTech. We saw a significant rise in traffic, some of which has been sustained. Clearly though with communities based around a market of around 180-200 institutions in UK HE and public libraries respectively, we are not expecting a huge audience. Both wikis have a small but growing number of ‘members’ and, as the community of ‘lurkers’ grows, so does the number of contributors. Finally an important factor in determining value is to realise this is an equation. Using modern tools we can deliver valuable services effectively and cheaply to relatively small communities. All the time Web 2.0 tools are getting better and (mostly) less expensive. Costs are often less a factor of the purchase price than the cost of maintaining the service. Enabling the community to keep the content up-to-date is much less expensive than a printed annual guide, survey or ‘closed’ website that incurs heavy editorial and production costs. We think it’s more accurate too. Feel free to join in the ‘conversation’….

Posted in Guest-blog, Libraries, Technical, wikis | 1 Comment »

PLING and Web 2.0

Posted by Brian Kelly on 17th September 2010

A colleague, Stephanie Taylor, has just drawn my attention to the use of Web 2.0 by a new action group, PLING. It is interesting to see which services they are using. Stephanie writes:

Public libraries have been in the news a lot since last week, with central and local government cuts seeming to pose a threat to the concept of free public library services. There have several radio phone-ins, various articles in national newspapers and even (!)  some television interviews.

A small number of working public librarians have got together to form a group – Public Libraries In Need Group (PLING). They have been using Twitter to alert fellow professionals to news and encourage them to comment on articles and participate in phone-ins etc. They have also set up a Facebook page and created a Flickr group. The general idea is to provide a platform where the case for a free public library service in the UK can be argued, and to promote the benefits of existing services.

If you feel strongly about a free public library service, you can join in.

If you have an interest in good use of Web 2.0 tools, they are an excellent example of what can be done in this area without spending money to communicate effectively.

You can find more info at the following places if you are interested -

Follow them on Twitter  –
and look up #pling

Facebook -

And a Flickr group where people are posting positive images of  public libraries -

They also now have a website –
Interestingly, in a Web 2.0 way, this was the last thing to be done/launched!

Posted in Libraries, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

Web 2.0 or Not Web 2.0? Using Ancestry in Museums

Posted by guestblogger on 13th September 2010

About this Guest Post

Patricia Collins is a curator based in Norfolk working on a freelance basis for museums in the independent sector.  She can be contacted at

Web 2.0 or Not Web 2.0? – Using Ancestry in Museums

Reading Brian Kelly’s recent AIM research paper prompted me to post this about

Ancestry is the market leader in on-line family history. Users can not only research their family trees by accessing databases of census details, parish registers, military record cards and the like, but they can also upload their own trees and make them available to other researchers. Hence the site fosters collaborative working and information sharing; both key components of Web 2.0 technologies. However it is a subscription-only facility whereas Web 2.0 technologies are freely available.

image of Ancestry web page

Screenshot of Web site

What, to my mind, makes ancestry different is that public libraries across the country are subscribers so that anyone with a library ticket can access it and public libraries are (still) always free. This means the user group is huge, non-exclusive and, because the organisation has partners across the world, international.

Web 2.0 or Not Web 2.0, I’ve been using ancestry to create genealogies for people associated with local museums. Museums often have displays, objects and research files relating to the ‘great and good’ of their communities. I put up trees for local heroes such as an archaeologist and a naval commander and all their servants with links to objects and documents in museum and archive collections. When other ancestry genealogists began to interact with the trees, the research went well beyond county or country borders and further back in time than the information held in the local museum.

Image of Wesleyan tea-pot

From Ancestry - Wesleyan tea pot from Robert Robinson archive

An example is Swaffham People – Rev Edmund Outram. Mr Outram was a curate in Swaffham in the 1930s. He had a passion for photography and created a magic lantern slideshow of the town and its inhabitants which he then showed in the local Assembly Rooms. The magic lantern slides became part of the local museum collection. Having put information about Mr Outram and some of his images onto ancestry, I heard from Sussex genealogists that he had made similar slideshows there. From Leicestershire, I received images of graffitti made by Outram’s great grandfather in a church bell tower. We discovered his original magic lantern in West Sussex County archives, his father’s collection of weather records in a Cambridge University collection and encountered someone who had been married by him. This created a far richer portrait of the man and greater understanding of his legacy than we could ever hope to achieve alone in Norfolk. A digital research community had been created.

image of basket making tools

Photo from Ancestry - Oliver Meek basket making tools

My task then became that of site moderator adding the information from ancestry researchers to the Norfolk trees as appropriate. Museums often describe themselves as beseiged by enquiries from family historians and are not always best placed to answer them.

Enquiries can be time consuming and rarely generate any income for the museum. Using ancestry has met some of the industry targets – widened museum user and advocate groups, increased local knowledge and made collections available to a far wider audience. As the digital research communities grow, they take on more of the enquiries thereby taking the weight off museum staff. The enquiries that do come into the museum are often from those wishing to make a visit in person.

Small museums often relate solely to the local geographical community of residents and visitors to a town. By focussing on local great and good on ancestry, museums have engaged many different communities of interest – naval historians, collectors of ceramics, family genealogists and who knows what the next posting will bring.

I would be very happy to hear from others in museums or libraries who are also using ancestry.

Posted in Guest-blog, Libraries, Museums | 1 Comment »

Using a Blog as a Research Diary

Posted by guestblogger on 16th August 2010

About this Guest post

Marianne Bamkin is a PhD research student at Loughborough University. As a very mature student she has previously worked in shops, been an Early Years practitioner, a teacher and a children’s mobile library assistant. Marianne qualified as a librarian in 2008 and her passion for reading and interest in teaching literacy has led her to investigate the influence of children’s mobile libraries on children’s reading.

Marianne can be contacted at m.r. or visit her university profile or follow her on Twitter.

Using a Blog as a Research Diary

image of diary

Traditional 5 year diary

I have always been a diarist, ever since I was bought one of these five year diaries with a tooled fake leather cover and a lock on the front. I must have been about 8 or 9 years old. I therefore instinctively used an online web log to write about me, my family and my thoughts of what was happening in society. Therefore, it was a natural progression to use the internet as a space for recording events, thoughts and feelings as a researcher when I embarked on the journey of taking a PhD. The aim of my research is to discover if children’s mobile libraries in Britain help children’s literacy and give them a love of books. A children’s mobile library can be described as a vehicle that provides all the services of a children’s library.

The blog “Children’s Mobile Libraries; the story of my research” was started for several reasons. I wanted to record anything I found out about children’s mobile libraries in the course of my investigations and comment on the findings. I needed a space to write notes taken from any literature I found about children’s mobile libraries and I wanted to publicise the fact that I was doing the research to attract attention from anyone researching the same area and anyone who was working on or had worked on a children’s mobile library. I describe the blog in my first post as a “Scrapbook from which I can assemble a thesis”.

It has become more of a scrapbook as time has gone on, and more gadgets have become available. Like a scrapbook, it gets untidy, currently I have a string of posts that are just links to interesting news articles that I have not yet commented on. Periodically, it gets tidied and preened. Like a scrapbook, I stick pictures in it, pictures that I have taken of children’s mobile libraries as I visit them. It is a space to deposit anything I find of relevance and want to pass on to children’s mobile library operators. At one point in the research, I realised that some of the blog posts may have been boring for third parties to read. I had needed to find out more about the psychology of reading and posted notes from the text books that I was reading. So I revised my ideas of what and what not to post. Another problem arose when I started doing fieldwork in earnest.

Blog screenshot

Screen shot from my blog

I thought I could write up all my field notes on the blog, but realised that I had promised anonymity to all the participants and there could be plagiarism issues when my thesis is eventually submitted and put through the plagiarism software; it would pick up that I was plagiarising myself! The intensive, reflective field notes are therefore simply typed up and not shared with the rest of the world. The words that appear on the blog about the places I observe are now mainly descriptive and give information that is generally in the public domain. In some ways the blog has been a success, it is an excellent depositary for interesting facts and articles. It has been somewhat of a failure in attracting attention to my research. I know that some people in the mobile library world have looked at it, my business card includes it’s address. I suspect that one of my supervisors looks at it. I try to use tags to my advantage, including the names of people and places. However, I have never had any comments other that the odd commercial company trying to sell through the blog and I suppose it is unfortunate that most of my writing time gets taken up with statutory reports that I have to produce for university, so the blog is not updated as regularly as I would like.

blog screenshot

Screenshot of my blog

I have visited 13 children’s mobile libraries from 9 library services across the country and I am constantly surprised at the isolation of their staff. Many children’s mobile library operators ask me questions about what other services do and how they do it (and I am the one who should be doing the questioning). Others are surprised that they are not the only children’s mobile library. I foresee a need for a central point of information for all people who work in a children’s mobile library. This could be the continuation of the blog past the end of my PhD, or it could expand into something more interactive, a wiki or a website or even a Facebook group.

image of pile of files

File overload

I use Web 2.0 extensively in my search for data and set up blog, twitter and news alerts for the terms Mobile Library and Bookmobile (the American term for a mobile library). Twitter appears to be extensively used in America for alerting customers to the arrival of the bookmobile at a certain town or the sudden cancellation of a stop. Twitter is also used globally to show pictures of new vehicles and to announce the demise of others. I also pick up the tweets from people who have just visited their local mobile library, or seen one driving along. Mobile libraries seem to stir up a lot of pleasant memories for people.

Blog posts are commonly from third parties who visit a mobile library or have found an interesting subject in the news or on the internet such as an unusual form of distributing books. So far there I have not found many blog entries like this one, from a library service about their mobile library, and certainly British libraries are a little slow off the mark. Interestingly, local village bloggers and small local news websites often comment on the mobile library service. Newspaper websites cover disasters, announce temporary changes in service and when a new service starts. Basically, mobile libraries are born, have accidents and die on the web but there appears to be very little about their day to day existence.

This is why I am doing the research.

Please take a look at and if you feel inclined, please leave a comment about any mobile library experience you have had.

Posted in Blogs, Guest-blog, Libraries | 1 Comment »

23 Things …

Posted by guestblogger on 9th August 2010

About this Guest Post

Helen Leech is the Virtual Content Manager, for Surrey Library Service. Here she writes about her experience of collaboratively developing a wiki using the 23 Things concept. She can be contacted at or follow her at

23 Things …

Speaking as a public librarian, there’s a sense of delightful anarchy in working together with another authority on a Wiki. So many new technologies are banned to public library staff across the country. We can’t Facebook, because we would waste working time. We can’t freely communicate with staff in other public services, such as the NHS, because we’re all on secure Government Connects networks. We can’t Twitter, because God forbid we should say something out of the corporate line. Every mention of social media is accompanied by the scare stories about copyright infringement, people dissing their boss and getting sacked, illegal file sharing and the spectre of the Digigal Economy Act. We are bound around with restrictions, and anything to do with social networking is treated with the utmost suspicion.

I’m lucky to be working for an authority – Surrey Library Service, part of Surrey County Council – which is realising the worth of Web 2.0 and is loosening up. As a result of this, I’ve been set relatively free to explore and develop new tools, with the aim of improving our customer service, changing the library culture and raising staff awareness (and skills).

23 Things screenshot

Thing 11 of 23 Things

Towards this, I’ve been co-ordinating a project called 23 Things. In 2006, an American librarian, Helene Blowers, realised not only that her staff needed a course which would improve their understanding of the internet and all the stuff that’s grown up around it, but that the tools were freely available to create an online course. Helene had read a blog article about 43 Things, which suggested technologies and websites that people ought to explore to increase their web-savviness. She took some of these, such as blogging and RSS feeds and pod casting, developed each into a module that was light and informative and engaging, put the modules onto a blog (still available at, and asked her staff to work their way through it, offering an iPod as an incentive prize.

The concept was too fabulous to resist. I, along with around 400 other librarians all over the planet, wanted my own version for my own staff!

But why work alone, when we’re all trying to do the same thing? The Society of Chief Librarians (South East) put me in touch with Pat Garrett from Portsmouth public library service, and teams from the two authorities built a wiki (how wonderfully subversive!), populated it with content harvested with kind permission from Devon and Kirklees, who were working on their own versions, and asked other organisations, via the Jiscmail web 2.0 list, if they wouldn’t mind having a look at it and giving us their opinions.

The size of the response was surprising. Staff from 11 public library authorities, 15 FE/HE bodies and two health authorities worked their way through the Things and told us what they thought of them.

So, as I write, we’re into the next phase, and we’re not doing it alone. Four public library authorities – Surrey, Portsmouth, Aberdeen and Suffolk – are now working together, honing the materials in line with the evaluation, creating a “lite” version for those staff who don’t have much time, and planning to roll it out in our authorities come the end of the summer. You can see the work in progress at And, in the spirit of the original, it’s freely available for anybody to use, but beware – it will carry on changing until autumn.

Working together in this way – our four authorities accessing the Wiki, all of us creating stuff and editing each other’s stuff and making it available for anybody at all to use, embodies the spirit of Web 2.0. It’s a practical demonstration of what our users and customers and communities are doing, it’s a good reason for all library staff to learn revolutionary new skills – and in my opinion it’s a convincing argument for our parent bodies to loosen up a bit!

Surrey Libraries links

Follow on Twitter
Visit the photostream on Flickr
Chat about e-books at Surrey on Facebook

Posted in Blogs, Guest-blog, Libraries, Web 2.0, wikis | 1 Comment »

The National Library of Wales and Flickr Commons

Posted by guestblogger on 26th July 2010

About this guest blog post

Siân Lloyd Pugh is e-Editor at the National Library of Wales. She is responsible for the Library’s online content, ranging from the Library’s website to all web 2.0 provisions. She also monitors all the Library’s online statistics and trains all online contributors.

Siân can be contacted at

The National Library of Wales and Flickr Commons


The National Library of Wales joined Flickr Commons in April 2009. Originally the Library joined as a pilot, which was a part of the Web 2.0 research undertaken by Dr Paul Bevan, leading to the new NLW web strategy. This has been a highly successful and popular pilot, and the work is now seen as an integral part of the Library’s provision.

The Library sought to join Flickr Commons as a way to open its collections to a wider audience. The Library has a powerful online catalogue that allows users to search and view digital images online, but of course if you don’t know that items exist it’s hard to find them in a catalogue. Flickr Commons therefore was the perfect way to bring these collections to the attention of interested parties, that may not think to visit the National Library of Wales’ website, let alone its catalogue.

National Library of Wales on Flickr screenshot

National Library of Wales on Flickr

Roles and Responsibilities

Early on in the project it was recognised that we needed to clearly define roles and responsibilities in order to ensure the smooth running of the account.

Image Selection

It was decided that the images should be selected and uploaded by a member of staff in the digitisation section, as they are aware which photographic collections have been digitised.

Content monitoring and Interaction

The content monitoring and interaction work was undertaken by the exhibitions interpretation officer. At the time Flickr Commons was seen as a sort of online exhibition space where we could share copyright free photographs from the collection, which is why the moderation and responding to comments work was placed in the exhibitions unit. However, a new member of staff joined the marketing unit at the end of last year, responsible for the day to day running of much of our online web 2.0 provision, and so this work was moved to this post.

It was felt that it was important to keep all day to day running of our web 2.0 provision together, and Flickr Commons is an important part of this. This move means that we can easily highlight new photographs on Twitter or write a comment on Facebook about interest in certain photographs etc. We feel it’s vitally important that we join our web 2.0 presence together, while keeping in mind that all outlets are different and have different audiences and this must be respected in order to fulfil each medium’s potential.

NLW Flickr photostream screenshot

National Library of Wales Flickr photostream

Strategic development

As e-Editor I oversee the day to day running of the account, and I am also responsible for the statistical analysis of the data. I am also the first port of call if any problems arise with comments, questions regarding Flickrmail enquiries etc. Finally, I am responsible for driving the project forward strategically, and ensuring that we continue to fulfil our users’ expectations.

Future Development

As I mentioned, we are continually trying to ensure that we develop our web 2.0 presences, Flickr Commons included. We recently held a meeting to discuss our current Flickr presence, and whether we felt it was worth pursuing, and it was a resounding yes from everyone!

The level of interest we’ve had in the profile has been incredible, something we could never have achieved if the photographs were left in the catalogue and on some NLW microsites alone. Our statistics tend to speak for themselves. 45% of our images have received comments, and 72% have been selected as favourites. These statistics clearly show the value for money the project offers. It costs very little to run the account, but it’s incredibly popular. It also affords us the opportunity to reach users who we could never have hoped to reach otherwise.

1. Engaging with ours users

One area that is very important to us to develop in the future is the interaction between the Library and its users. We want to be a living Library that people can connect with, not a quiet establishment to admire from afar.

Designating a member of staff to moderate (although we haven’t really had any issues with moderation) and interact with users, by responding to comments and accepting request to add images to groups is very important therefore. We hope that as our collection on Flickr Commons grows, that this interaction will also develop. Although it must be recognised that it’s impossible to respond to all comments as we receive so many!

2. Upload API

We currently upload all images by hand, but we are looking at the possibility of developing and API to upload selected images automatically. Although Flickr is very user friendly and easy to use, uploading every image takes time, and developing an API to take images from our catalogue and upload them directly into Flickr will make this work much quicker.

3. A cohesive presence

As the content moderation and interaction work now lies in the promotions unit, we also hope to tie the selected images from the digitisation section much more closely with current exhibitions and events that the Library is involved with. This has a twofold benefit. It makes the images more relevant, and hopefully will entice those users who are in a position to do so, to visit exhibitions. It also brings the work of selecting and uploading images much closer to the work of managing the content then generated, thus giving us a more cohesive presence on Flickr Commons.

Who know what the future holds?

In the long term of course, the possibilities are vast.

Currently only very few of our photographs are geotagged, but this functionality certainly offers some very interesting possibilities for the future. One other aspect that we are baring in mind is crowdsourcing. A few of our users on Flickr Commons add additional tags to our photographs, and the notion of being able to crowdsource these and add them to our online catalogue could be very interesting indeed.

Happy, but keeping one eye on the horizon

But for now, we are content with trying to grow our audience
on Flickr Commons, by continuing to add interesting photographs from our collection, and cross-pollinating through our various online presences.

As I mentioned, our original aim in joining Flickr Commons was just to open our photographic collection to the world, and help people enjoy the treasures that we hold – and judging from the response, I think we can certainly say that Flickr Commons has been a roaring success.

Posted in Guest-blog, Libraries, Web 2.0 | 3 Comments »