Cultural Heritage A UKOLN Blog for the Cultural Heritage sector (now archived) Tue, 11 Jun 2013 09:46:27 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Farewell for Now Mon, 28 Mar 2011 08:00:30 +0000 Brian Kelly It’s time to say goodbye to all our readers.

For several years now, UKOLN has been funded by the MLA to provide support to people working in the cultural heritage sector. For the last few years the Cultural Heritage Web site and this blog has been an integral part of our work in this area. But the times they are a changing … and UKOLN’s funding to work in this area will end on 31 March 2011.

As you will probably have noticed, the last few posts on this blog have mostly reviewed the support we have provided for the cultural heritage sector: the Cultural Heritage Web pages, this Cultural Heritage blog and our Web 2.0 and Social Web workshops.

From this point on we won’t be making significant posts to this blog and the blog will be closed to comments.  However, UKOLN will continue to host the Cultural Heritage Web pages – this means that there will still be access to the topic pages, to our successful series of Briefing Papers (‘IntroBytes’) and to the content of this blog.

So it’s goodbye from us for the moment. But we don’t know what the future holds, so we could be back at some point. Thanks for being with us on the journey.

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UKOLN’s Involvement With The Cultural Heritage Sector Mon, 21 Mar 2011 13:00:31 +0000 Brian Kelly Background

UKOLN has a long history of engagement with the cultural heritage sector. It dates back to its launch in 1977 when the British Library became the original and sole funder of UKOLN (funding from JISC started in 1992). In UKOLN’s early days our work focussed on library bibliographic data – in particular monitoring the accuracy and availability of catalogue records created by the British Library, and the development of Online Public Access Catalogues (OPACs).

From 1977 to 1996 UKOLN reported to the British Library Research and Development Department (BLRDD) and then, following changes at the British Library, to the British Library Research and Innovation Centre (BLRIC) from 1996 to 1999.

Those official links with the British Library changed in 1999, when the Library and Information Commission (LIC)  became UKOLN’s co-funder. Following changes in Government departments and in Government policies, the LIC and the Museums and Galleries Commission (MGC) were merged in 2000 to form Re:source, which was then renamed the MLA in 2004. The MLA (Museums, Libraries and Archives Council) was established  to coordinate policies across the cultural heritage sector, including libraries, museums and archives.

Work Funded by the MLA

The establishment of the Re:source followed by its renaming to MLA marked the beginning of UKOLN’s involvement with the wider cultural heritage sector.

The post of Public Library Networking Focus was funded between 1996 and 2004. The post was held by Sarah Ormes and then Penny Garrod, with Sally Lewis also working as a research officer. Early work included the development of the popular Treasure Island Web site and the subsequent Stories from the Web initiative which was designed to encourage children’s reading and creative writing skills. UKOLN carried out the LIC-funded public library Internet survey in 1995 and worked on the initiatives that saw public access to the Internet offered in all public libraries and the development of the People’s Network. UKOLN also ran four Public Library Web Managers workshops between 1999 and 2004.

From 2000 UKOLN started working more actively with the museum and archive sectors: for example, staff participated at a number of the international Museums and the Web and the UK-based Museums on the Web conferences.

Recently UKOLN has also run three workshop series for the MLA on Web 2.0 and the Social Web for practitioners working in the cultural heritage sector. The first series was held in 2008-9 and delivered by Brian Kelly. The second was delivered in 2009-10 by Marieke Guy while the final series took place during 2010-2011 and was delivered by Ann Chapman.

The Cultural Heritage Blog was started in January 2009. Initially most of the content was written by UKOLN staff with occasional guest posts. Since April 2010 most of the posts have been contributed by people working in the sector willing to share their experiences.

UKOLN also supported the sector through its Cultural Heritage Web site. This was designed as a source of information on digital information matters for the sector.  An major element of this was the IntroBytes briefing papers series, which provides quick introductions to a wide range of topics; more than 80 papers are now available.

Although the core work for the MLA was delivered by Ann Chapman, Marieke Guy and Brian Kelly, UKOLN’s work for the sector was also supported by members of our Research and Development Team. Michael Day, head of the R&D team, for example, contributed to the MLA’s Principles Paper on “Supporting long-term access to digital material“. Other members of the R&D team contributed to the DPC (Digital Preservation Coalition) What’s New newsletter between 2002 and 2005.

Additional Work for the Cultural Heritage Sector

From June 2001 to March 2004 UKOLN, in conjunction with the AHDS, provided technical support and advice for the NOF-digitise Programme. This work included development of the technical standards document which described the key standards relevant to funded projects. We also organised several workshops covering various areas of best practices; provided technical support to projects and hosted the NOF-digi Technical Advisory Service Web site.

UKOLN also received funding from the EU and other sources to support R&D and dissemination activities for the wider cultural heritage sector. This included the EU-funded Exploit Interactive ejournal (with seven issues being published between May 1999 and October 2000) and the Cultivate Interactive ejournal (eight issues from July 2000 to November 2002) with research activities funded by the EU including the ARCO (Augmented Representation of Cultural Objects) Project.

Significant areas of work which helped to inform developments in the cultural heritage sector arose from activities which were funded from several agencies. The RSLP (Research Support Libraries Programme) was a national initiative which ran from 1999-2002, funded by the four higher education funding bodies. UKOLN’s RSLP Collection Description work developed a collection description metadata schema and associated syntax together with a simple Web-based tool to enable projects to describe their collections.

The CD (Collection Description) Focus post was subsequently funded from 2001-2004 to support the NOF Digitisation of Learning Materials Programme, Peoples Network Programme, Resource Regional Cross-Domain research projects, British Library Co-operation and Partnership Programme and a range of JISC projects. This work helped to improve coordination of activities on collection description methods, schemas and tools, with the goal of ensuring consistency and compatibility of approaches across projects, disciplines, institutions, domains and sectors.

Currently the JISC-funded LOCAH Project is engaging with the archives and libraries sector. This project aims to make the Archives Hub and Copac data available as structured Linked Data, for the benefit of education and research.  Adrian Stevenson, the LOCAH project manager, is a member of the organising and steering committee for the forthcoming International Linked Open Data in Libraries, Archives and Museums Summit (LODLAM).

Another current activity to mention is UKOLN’s involvement with the RDTF (Resource Discovery Taskforce), a significant initiative funded by the JISC and Research Libraries UK  for which ”The purpose of the Taskforce is to focus on defining the requirements for the provision of a shared UK infrastructure for libraries, archives, museums and related resources to support education and research“.

UKOLN has provided the JISC representative to the W3C Library and Linked Data Incubator group. This group aims to help increase global interoperability of Library data on the Web by bringing together people involved in Semantic Web activities – focusing on Linked Data – in the library community and beyond, building on existing initiatives and identifying collaboration tracks for the future. A report on this work will be published by June 2011.

The Future

UKOLN’s core funding from the MLA officially finishes on 31 March 2011. We have been pleased to have such a long-standing involvement with the cultural heritage sector over the past 34 years.  But despite the announcement of the abolition of the MLA our engagement with the sector will continue including our involvement with the Strategic Content Alliance, the LOCAH Project and our shared research interests with the British Library.

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UKOLN’s Cultural Heritage Blog Mon, 14 Mar 2011 08:00:48 +0000 Brian Kelly UKOLN’s Cultural Heritage blog was launched on 1st January 2009 to support UKOLN’s work for the cultural heritage sector in the area of innovation and the networked environment. It was intended to “inform our readers of developments in this area, speculate on the implications of a rapidly changing environment and encourage discussion on emerging best practices”.

The blog has been running for 27 months now, so how have we done? Well, in that time we have published 186 posts. Some of these have been brief news items, some were more reflective pieces and others described how the sector is using all things digital. Initially most of the posts were written by my colleagues, Brian Kelly and Marieke Guy, and myself.

In addition to those, we started fairly early on having occasional guest posts from people working in the sector. Our first guest post The Black Art of Blogging was by Catriona Cardie, who was inspired by one of Brian Kelly’s workshops on blogging. This was followed by posts such as When Peregrines Come to Town, Dull Library Web Sites and What’s my Email Address Anyway, Miss: Communicating with the Facebook Generation.

Then from April 2010 we changed the focus of the blog to concentrate on guest posts to reflect what people were already doing. Mostly we looked for people in the cultural heritage sector, though we’ve also had guest posts from a school librarian, three academic librarians, a library and information sciences lecturer and a journalist specialising in the library sector.

And what a fascinating set of posts these have been. The guest posts have been interesting and inspiring – a total of 42 guest posts in all. These ranged from My Life as an Object (a Renaissance East Midlands project) to Using a Blog as a Research Diary (by a PhD student), The National Library of Wales and Flickr Commons and Archives 2.0.

There have been lots of interesting ideas with the potential to be re-used elsewhere. So many thanks to all our contributors, you’ve been great.

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Voices for the Library and social media Mon, 07 Mar 2011 08:00:16 +0000 guestblogger 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!

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Looking back at the UKOLN/MLA Social Web Workshops Mon, 28 Feb 2011 08:00:34 +0000 Brian Kelly The last in the 2010-2011 series of UKOLN/MLA workshops on Web 2.0 and the social web took place recently, so here’s a quick look back at what happened.

Seven workshops took place at venues all over England: Birmingham, Exeter, Leicester, London, Manchester, Newcastle and York.

image of map with workshop locations marked

UKOLN/MLA workshops 2010-2011 series

One Hundred and One

The number of delegates who attended. Of these, nearly two-thirds were from libraries, a third from museums and art galleries and the remainder from archives, plus some students on museums and tourism courses. It was great to have a mix of people and everyone enjoyed the networking opportunity.

We were lucky enough to have 1o case studies given by local practitioners during the workshop series. These talks illustrated a wide range of examples and ideas. Most of their presentations are online and out there for you to use – have a look on the corresponding workshop page listed on past events for 2010 and 2011.


The Building a Business case group activity resulted in twenty-eight ideas for using social media to address a particular aim. Notes about each idea were reported on the on the wiki pages for each workshop and have now been brought together on extra wiki page.

One hundred and ten … and counting

To support the workshops a number of complementary materials were created and used. All materials are available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 licence. The workshop materials are available from the individual workshop pages.

Please do use the materials available with your teams and pass on details to any one interested.


Delegates were asked to complete an evaluation form after each workshop and most people did. Thank you so much for your constructive comments, we really appreciate the positive feedback and your suggestions will be helpful in future event planning. We hope we helped people feel positive in a practical way about what Web 2.0 can offer them, like this delegate who said “It introduced me to lots of new sites and aspects of the social web. I have got at least 3 ideas for promoting aspects of our service from this.”

What we used – Registration

We used Eventbrite for as our booking system – it’s free to use if your event is free. It also allows you to send emails to everyone registered for the event: we sent out emails to (a) confirm that the event would take place and a link to the final programme, (b) to let them know about the wiki and (c) to thank them for attending and to remind them of the resources available on the event Web page and in the UKOLN Cultural Heritage Web site.

What we used – The Wiki
We set up a wiki for the workshops, with a separate page for each workshop. Delegates were contacted the week before the event and encouraged to add some information about their role and what they hoped to get out of the event. We also used the wiki pages to record the ideas that participants came up with in the group activity.

We used Wikispaces for this – it was easy to set up, the public view was nice and clear and delegates were able to add information easily.

Final thoughts

Thank you to everyone who came along, either as a delegate or as a speaker. You all made the event more than just a series of talks. Hope you are able to take some of the ideas forward back at the workplace.

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Around the World in 80 Gigabytes Mon, 21 Feb 2011 08:00:50 +0000 guestblogger About this Guest Post

Alexandra Eveleigh is an archivist with a background working mostly within the local authority sector. She has a long standing interest in the impact of digital technologies upon archives, and her PhD research at University College London seeks to evaluate the implications for professional theory and practice of user collaboration initiatives using Web2.0 tools.

She can be contacted via her blog Around the World in Eighty Gigabytes or follow her on Twitter.

Around the World in 80 Gigabytes

Web 2.0 is here to stay. This blog is as good evidence as any of the enthusiasm with which a whole variety of online tools designed to encourage audience participation are being adopted and adapted across the cultural heritage sector. In his recent book, Cognitive Surplus, Clay Shirky argues that increased experimentation is a defining feature of this brave, new technological world. But as public sector cuts begin to bite, there is a real need to begin to evaluate existing initiatives, to map current trends in the use of Web2.0 tools, and to find out what has worked and what hasn’t within our sector. Are some participatory models more successful than others, and why? What outcomes do Web2.0 projects aim to achieve, and how can these be measured? Are these kinds of initiatives sustainable – that is, are the results sufficient to warrant the effort that organisations put into the development and maintenance of such projects? For example, are wikis merely going out of fashion or are there specific structural constraints which make this particular model of online collaboration especially challenging to design and sustain in professionalized heritage contexts?

Advocates for the use of Web2.0 technologies in archives (and I’d be one of them) tend to make much of the opportunity to reach new and different audiences, to expose archive collections to the world, even to democratize the archive. But even if as professional archivists we aspire to a transformation of the civic function of archives in our use of Web2.0 tools, we cannot achieve this on our own. As Stuart Macdonald commented in his guest post about the AddressingHistory project, the success of these types of initiatives will “ultimately be measured by continual and extended use within the wider community”. Encouraging two-way engagement is not like the usual kind of organizational development project, in that there’s no fixed end point at project launch. Web2.0 experiments are easy to start up, but hard to pull the plug on, even if only a few people are contributing, without adversely affecting community trust in your organization and their willingness to participate in the future.

image of Old Weather home page

Old Weather project home page

My research is focused upon those initiatives which depend upon the skills or knowledge of members of the public to supplement or create new information about archival collections (as opposed to platforms like facebook which primarily enable passing comments or indications of approval on content submitted by archivists). This incorporates a wide spectrum of participant behavior from the small, atomized contributions required to take part in the Old Weather transcription of ships’ logs or to tag archival photographs on flickr commons, right through to the sustained effort and specialist knowledge needed to make a substantive contribution to The National Archives’ wiki Your Archives.

image of flickr commons home page

Flickr commons home page

I’m particularly interested in what motivates people to participate online, so that we can establish what social and technical structures best support user participation, and feed this knowledge back into the design of future initiatives. Do online collaborative tools genuinely open up archives to crowds of ‘new’ users as is often claimed, or can the expertise of those with a prior interest and awareness of archives be more easily or usefully tapped? What mechanisms can be put in place both to encourage contributions and to establish the trustworthiness and relevance of submissions? I’m also interested to find out how potential contributors find out about online participation opportunities in the first place, and the interplay between different Web2.0 tools in promoting such projects. Some of the initial data I’ve collected suggests that although social media like twitter and facebook can play an important role in raising awareness amongst fellow professionals of new projects, and in sustaining enthusiasm amongst the participant community once established, traditional press coverage still packs an unrivalled punch in terms of making initial contact with would-be participants in cultural heritage contexts.

image of milkyway project home page

Milkyway project homepage

Certain trends are already becoming evident within the (broadly defined) archives domain. 2010 was definitely the year of the transcription platform, as organisations seek to strike a happy balance between motivating participants to contribute and maintaining adequate organizational control over the content created. Some distinctions are also now becoming evident between different styles of project. Some aim to ‘crowdsource’ lots of small contributions from as many people as possible, yet the commitment required and connection established between each individual participant and the archives may only be fleeting. More community-focused initiatives, on the other hand, bear a close resemblance to traditional volunteering opportunities or outreach work, specifically aiming to capitalize on participants’ emotional attachment with the subject matter in hand. But this is a dynamic field, and sometimes its hard to keep up with all the new projects unveiled: I wonder what new ideas 2011 will bring?

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Revitalising Information Services Mon, 14 Feb 2011 08:00:56 +0000 guestblogger 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.

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Searching by Colour at the Hermitage Mon, 07 Feb 2011 08:00:24 +0000 Brian Kelly How useful is this approach to finding a book or a piece of art work? It’s not uncommon for people to remember that a book had a red cover or that the woman in the painting wore a blue dress but library catalogues and museum databases haven’t traditionally indexed items in this way.

One museum that is doing this is the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg with IBM’s experimental Query By Image Content (QBIC) search technology. You can search by colour – set the colour and the amount of that colour in the painting and click search. I tried specifying yellow as the main colour and got back a variety of portraits with yellow backgrounds. You can also do a Layout Search where you not only specify the colour (I chose pink this time) but also the area of the image in which it occurs and then click search. My three pink ovals, which I thought might bring up some paintings of flowers brought up a variety of pictures with pink in them but no flower paintings.

This reminded me of a presentation at the CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing Group 2006 Conference in Exeter.  ‘Image, shape and multimedia resource discovery‘ by Stefan Ruger was a fascinating exploration of non-verbal ways of searching. The PDF of his slides is available at

If your institution has been experimenting along these lines, either add a comment or why not email me ( about writing a guest post on your experiences for this blog.

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Some Places Left for Social Web Workshop Thu, 03 Feb 2011 08:00:02 +0000 Brian Kelly There are just a few places left for the final UKOLN workshop for the cultural heritage sector on using the Social Web. This event will be held in Leicester and is being run in partnership with the School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester.

The workshop will provide ideas on how to match different social web and Web 2.0 tools and services to your work projects, information on best practice, how to build a business case and a chance to network with colleagues.

Attendance is free, so why not book now? Bookings will close on 13 February. To register a place, follow the link in the workshop page listed 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 Museum Studies Building, School of Museum Studies, University of Leicester, Leicester on 22nd February 2011.

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From My Inbox Mon, 31 Jan 2011 08:00:24 +0000 Brian Kelly With the start of a new year I’ve been clearing out old emails and come across some news items that haven’t made it into fully fledged posts of their own. Here’s what I found:

Finding collections 1

Sarah Washford has created a Google Maps mashup of UK Public Libraries using Web 2.0 technologies.

Finding collections 2

There is a new service for people interested in finding out what Scotland’s libraries, museums and archives hold. The service uses a geographical interface using a Google mashup, showing location of services, collection descriptions, tag clouds for people and subjects and much more.

Check it out at:

Is your library, museum or archive on the map? If not, email:

All comments and feedback can be blogged at:


Do you use Twitter? If so, how do you read / manage access to all those tweets? Tweetdeck is one useful service. Here are a couple of examples of how it can be used:

Alternatively there’s Tweetgrid if you want something browser based (and it is available for Mac as well PC users).

If you’re thinking of using Twitter yourself, then there is a useful article by Paul Boag in Smashing Magazine on using Twitter.

Who’s got a Twitter account?

There are now a few historical figures and iconic characters with twitter accounts; here are a selection:

Spotted on other blogs

On the Fresh+New(er) blog: On January 30 the Powerhouse Museum becomes the start point for a locative mobile story/game called China Heart. This exciting free project runs all through Chinese New Year celebrations until February 13. Read more.

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