Posts Tagged library

23 Things – 20/23 Library Roots and Library Routes

This Thing is about Library careers and the story behind how we find ourselves in them.  And there quite often is a story!  As Laura Woods said in the Thing 20 Blog post very few people seem to grow up wanting to be a librarian, simply because they don’t really know that it’s an option.

I was one of those people.  The first time I remember someone talking about Librarianship as a career was when I was an Undergraduate and another student told me they were planning to go into the profession after their course.  To be honest I thought it sounded like a bit of a dull move – much like everyone else who knows very little about the profession, I misjudged it and had no idea about the opportunities available.  At the time I was pretty much decided on a career in teaching anyway and it wasn’t until four years into life as a primary school teacher that I realised I was on the wrong career path and needed to try something else.

I decided to look at careers that took me back to my roots in classical history, so I considered things like museum curator, archaeologist and even academic , I tried out Counselling too by attending a short introductory course – but none of them felt right either.  In the end I turned to the Prospectus careers advice page, filled in their career questionnaire and up popped librarianship!  I did a lot of research into the career, looking at CILIP pages, the National Careers Service job profiles and Graduate Trainee blogs and eventually did some volunteering at my local university library.  It was only really after volunteering for four months that I felt sure this was the right career for me as I finally got to see what librarianship was really all about!

The next step was trying to figure out how to actually get into Librarianship.  While I applied for jobs as a library assistant, I had no library experience to speak of so was unable to really access the career through that path.  Thankfully, Graduate Traineeships exist exactly for this reason!  The fact that so many people come to librarianship as a second or later career means that there are these avenues available to help get people the experience they need to access the workplace.  I was lucky enough to be accepted as the Graduate Trainee at St Hugh’s College in Oxford, which provided me with the opportunity to develop key skills and gain invaluable experience working in a busy academic library, while also partaking in the Bodleian Library Trainee Scheme, which gave me a greater insight to the scope of library work.

Currently, I am a library assistant at St Hugh’s and also a part-time student, working toward an MSc in Information and Library Management at UWE.

My route into libraries has been anything but direct but it does seem to be quite a well-used road and hopefully, having other experiences behind me can only ultimately increase what I have to offer to the profession.


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The Big Book Move

We recently completed a slightly epic book move project, which saw our Librarian’s long-held ambition of having all of the books on the ground floor rearranged into the correct number order, come to life!  This will (hopefully) help make it a lot easier for our readers (and me) to find and re-shelve books.

With support from our Librarian, I was given the challenge of organising and planning the move and in order to celebrate its completion (and in honour of my addiction to ‘The Great British Bake Off‘) I created a useful (if not entirely serious) ‘recipe’ guide to show how I did it!

I definitely enjoyed the challenge and it’s great to stand back and see the final result with everything tidy and in order.

As it was my first book move project, I learned a lot about the process and would feel confident approaching the next one.  I also gained great experience in managing the project; having to make decisions on the best order for the move and how best to utilise resources such as other members of staff, available trolleys and time.

Next steps? I guess this is making sure the ground floor stays tidy and in order 🙂 But also making sure our readers can find things in the new order.  I’m also looking forward to applying the skills gained here in future projects too!

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Law and Order in the Library

Part of my traineeship involves the completion and presentation of a library based or library themed project, so for the past few months I’ve been planning, researching and writing up and today finally presented my findings at our project showcase to an audience of trainees, supervisors and guests!

My project is a case study based on the library rules and regulations within a range of Oxford University Libraries.

If you’d like to know more, here is a more detailed version of the slideshow I presented at the showcase:

Law and Order in the Library

View more PowerPoint from louisecowan

Comments and questions welcome!

ps) apologies – slideshare seems to have mangled some of my formatting/design, hope it’s not too distracting!

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23 Things – 3/23

“But above all else, seriously, create a public Internet identity, maintain it, link to it, build it, love it, hug it, and call it George. I can’t tell you how important this is.”Danah Boyd

What’s in a name?

I thought Danah Boyd’s blog on ‘Controlling Your Public Appearance’ offered some great advice and loved the above quote!  George… it’s a great name for a public Internet identity!  And since we’re talking ‘brand’, I guess this would be a good place to explain why I chose ‘Peripheral Device’ (and not George) for my blog name.  Two reasons:

1. I just love the word Peripheral

2. Here is Wikipedia’s definition of a Peripheral Device:

“A peripheral is a device connected to a host computer, but not part of it, and is more or less dependent on the host. […]It expands the host’s capabilities, but does not form part of the core computer architecture. “

…to me that sounded just like what a personal-professional blog is and does (If I were metaphorically a computer).

The Brand – Reflection

One of the things that attracted me to working in librarianship is the push throughout the profession to get involved with new technology and social media and to keep up with the latest developments.  When I was a student, I loved e-resources and if only they’d had iPad loans in my day….  So before I joined the profession I already had a kind of on-line presence with accounts on Live Journal, MySpace, FaceBook, DeviantArt, Goodreads and Twitter.  However, I’d always used nicknames because these accounts were ‘just for fun’ hobbies.

The first thing I did when I became a trainee was make a new Twitter account using my real name, that I could use in a more professional capacity.  I did this partly because it’s what everyone else seemed to be doing but also because I was quite happy for people to be able to find me this way.  This is also why I chose to use a photograph of myself – though in doing this post, I’ve realised I need to put one on my blog too!  I also need to work on matching my ‘visual brand’ across platforms and am quite looking forward to making a Twitter background to match my blog’s theme colours and design (I do love Photoshop!)

At the moment I tend to keep professional and personal things separate because I find it easier and I’m not sure if the professional world would like to know who I support in F1, what I’ve been drawing or what book I’ve reviewed that week.  It’s definitely something I need to work on as I’d rather have a more ‘profersonal’ approach – I’m not much of an open book though so I’m hoping it’ll come with practice.

The Google Search

Unfortunately, (fortunately?) there happens to be a rather famous academic from Texas who shares my name so a simple search mainly brings up links to her publications and Wikipedia page!  Happily though the third link down is actually to my posts on the Oxford Graduate Trainee Blog.  When I add ‘Oxford’ it makes things a little better, the trainee blog takes up the top three – though my Twitter link doesn’t appear until page 2!

Nothing pops up that I wasn’t expecting and because I’ve linked to my blog via the trainee blog and my twitter via my blog it’s quite easy to find me on-line.

In Sum

When I was proof-reading this post a couple of things that I’d mentioned about myself seemed to jump out – I like new technology and following new developments, I like being creative (Photoshop!) and I like books even when I’m not at work(book reviews!)  I hope this translates into a ‘brand’ which shows I’m professional, forward thinking and creative – but I’d also like my ‘brand’ to say I’m helpful, friendly and keen to learn.

Interestingly and helpfully – now knowing what I’d like my brand ‘to say’ may just help me focus on ‘saying it’.  🙂

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QR Codes

[This post is based on a talk I attended at Oxford Brookes University as part of my Graduate Training and a talk I attended at the Radcliffe Science Library, Oxford -‘New Technology at the RSL’ – as well as my own experience. See the introductory post here.]

Okay, what is a QR Code?

Here is an example:

This small square of code contains within it the URL for my main blog page.  If you have a smart phone or tablet, you can scan the code using a QR Reader (a quick search in your phone’s app store will bring up a wide selection!) and the URL will open on your device automatically.  Pretty handy!

Even better, QR codes can also be used to encode:

  • Text
  • images
  • Address details
  • Telephone numbers
  • Calendar events

They are free to make and use and you can even change their colour to match your branding or design!  You can also track the number of users who accessed content via your QR Code to monitor how successful they have been.


So, how are they being used in libraries? 

Below is a list of uses gathered from both of the talks I attended at Oxford Brookes University and the RSL and also some from my own experience:

  • Providing quick links to enable readers to navigate library collections on mobile devices
  • Locating and saving specific and significant information quickly e.g. QR codes can be included on handouts or posters to provide subject librarian contact information, library guides, maps based on contact information, maps of the library, links to YouTube video guides, links to audio guides of the library for download
  • Q points [RSL] – scanning codes to get information about the section of the library that the reader is currently in
  • Advertising event details or new services e.g. At Sunderland University QR codes were placed beside books on shelves to advertise and link to the e-book version
  • Advertising and promoting Facebook, Twitter and other on-line services
  • Encoded onto the library catalogue to provide the shelf mark on a mobile device [Oxford Brookes and ORA(Oxford Research Archive)] so that students don’t need to write it down or memorise it!

QR Codes are therefore a great way to market your library’s services!  However, the RSL came across a couple of issues when trialling QR Codes in the library that are useful to be aware of:

  • Lighting and Placement: because QR codes need to be scanned, they need to be readable by the scanning device. This also means that you can’t reduce the size of your code too much or the code may become unreadable.
  • Reader Awareness and Knowledge: not everyone knows about QR Codes or how to use them so signage or guidance needs to be in place to ensure it works effectively
  • Wifi: if the QR Code links to a website or on-line content, then the reader will need access to wifi or 3G connection on their device in order to view it.
  • Information limit: the amount of information you can put into a QR Code is limited, so you need to be succinct in getting your message across.


What’s Next?

Finally, as is usually the case with new technology, there is always something bigger and better around the corner!  Oxford Brookes University suggested that the next big thing to look out for is: Near Field Communications.

The possible uses for NFC suggested by Oxford Brookes included:

  • A library card which is also able to provide access to the library (like a keyfob) and pay library fines
  • If built into phones, could replace QR Codes with readers simply holding their phone near to the poster/handout/map and having the information transferred.

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Yay for the New Shiny Things!

[This post is based on a talk I attended at the Radcliffe Science Library, Oxford –  ‘New Technology at the RSL’  – as well as my own experience. See the introductory post here. ]

I’d best start this post with a confession: I love gadgets.  If it’s new and shiny and does clever things at the swish of a finger – I’m sold!  In fact the (sometimes slow) building friendship between libraries and new technology is one of the reasons I love this field of work.

However, when I first got into librarianship as a volunteer for Sunderland University, the last thing I expected to see was a set of iPad2s!  Turns out that a number of libraries are now experimenting with the latest tablets and finding effective uses for them in the everyday running of the library…


iPads are a particularly useful resource for roving staff who can use the technology to support readers instantly with queries about library services.  The iPad’s camera feature can be used to record a virtual library guide and design guides to learning spaces (or just take photographs and quickly upload them to the library’s social media sites!).   The Radcliffe Science Library used them in a range of projects including de-duplicating old material and found they increased efficiency.  At Oxford Brookes University Library they’re also used in staff meetings and in giving demonstrations.

iPads can also be loaned out to readers as a powerful device which enables access to  library resources on the move, the option to read e-book and e-journal PDFs on the go or even to design and give presentations by connecting the device to computers and projection screens!  iPad is also great for apps – the Radcliffe Science Library, for example, found a number of useful science related apps for readers to explore!


‘Smartbooks’ for the iPad could be the next thing to watch out for as textbooks become purposefully designed for tablet devices.  Apple, for example, recently updated their iBooks app to allow for ‘interactive JavaScript powered widgets… [meaning] much richer iBook publications.’ – San Francisco Chronicle

Learn more: Apple Eyes Interactive Textbook Revolution – The Independent

Although a couple of years old, this paper on the ‘New Generation e-Book’ by Koychev, Nikolov and Dicheva gives an interesting insight into the possible future of ‘Smartbooks’, which are intended to not only be multimedia, personalised and accessible on the go but like much of web 2.0, are also designed for interaction!  The founders of ‘Inkling’ have already taken some of these ideas on-board, maximising the potential of the iPad in publishing.

RSL – Pros and Cons of iPad Use

This all sounds promising and during their trial period integrating the iPad into the library, the Radcliffe Science Library found a number of positive results. iPad is popular with readers and having them available in the library allows readers who wouldn’t normally have access to such technology, experience and benefit from it first-hand.  It provides a great way to access library resources on the move and is a very flexible and powerful tool.

There were however, also some issues with the practical aspects of having an iPad available for reader use, iPads after all weren’t designed specifically for use in the library.  Staff aren’t always comfortable managing new technology and need training to use the technology confidently, readers also require guidance when using the technology so library guides and help materials had to be created.  New procedures had to be put in place not only to check the device was charged and updated regularly but also to monitor and remove any reader added materials in order to ensure data protection and confidentiality didn’t become major issues.  Readers also had to sign a loan promise to pay for a replacement if the technology is damaged – considering the cost of an iPad this might put off many readers who couldn’t afford taking the risk.

There is also the fact that in the not too distant future the iPad may well be old technology and the expense of constantly updating to the next gadget – not only money, but time to re-train staff, remake guides etc – is also an issue.

However, in my opinion, the benefits out way the issues in this case.  New technology such as the iPad provides a modern image for the library which boosts reader confidence in our ability to give them the best service possible, it provides readers with another way to access information and gives the library new ideas for service delivery.  At the very least, if you don’t give it a try, you might miss out on something really useful and keeping up to date ensures you’re developing professionally in a positive direction.

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LibDay8 – Top 5 Daily Jobs

Welcome to my quick fire introduction to the main daily jobs I have as a Graduate Trainee at St Hugh’s College Library, written for Library Day in the Life Project – Round 8 .

Although I have only been working in libraries for a short time (it’s my first month anniversary this week!) I thought it might be useful for those out there who are considering applying for a Graduate Traineeship to know a little bit about what is expected of a trainee in the early stages.  This of course isn’t a set list of jobs that all trainee’s do – its just an example of some of the typical daily tasks I have at the library.

So without further ado…

1. Answering Enquiries

Working in the library is all about helping its readers- whomever they may be! So far this week the main enquiries we’ve had at the library office include:

  • Help finding books on the shelves
  • Wanting to renew books
  • Collecting books from the Stacks
  • Help using the printer/copier
  • Wanting to know how to add credit to printer/copier card

Most of these are pretty straight forward but one of the great things about working in a library team is having someone else to ask for help when you don’t know the answers!  When you do know the answers though – its a great feeling to know you helped someone out.

2. Shelving

The bread and butter of my library day!

Monday's shelving for downstairs reading rooms

Usually, shelving takes between 1-2 hours but Mondays are always a lot busier as St Hugh’s is open 24/7 and there’s a weekend backlog.  Our ‘waiting to be re-shelved’ shelves are very handy, both for readers searching for books and for sorting books into reading room sections before re-shelving!

3. Processing

When new books come into the library either having been purchased or donated they need to be processed.  Normally they come to me after being added to the library catalogue by our Assistant Librarian.  Processing involves:

  1. Typing up and printing out spine labels
  2. Edge stamping
  3. Adding the ‘St Hugh’s’ book plate (writing on if the book was donated)
  4. Adding a tag and activating the security on the book (bar-code scanners are fun!)
  5. Covering the books in sticky back plastic! (At first this was a bit of a challenge but my skills with the roll of sticky stuff have improved!)

I sometimes get the odd book that’s been processed but needs a tag.  We have shelves in our office where we store books that are waiting for different jobs – yesterday I made colour coded labels to show where the books need to go. [Why not, right?]

4. Repair

Healing poorly books with glue and special sticky tape!

5. Reclassification

As a number of books at St Hugh’s have inaccurate or incomplete shelfmarks we are currently working on a project to reclassify them.  This involves finding the book on the British Library Website, locating the dewy number (e.g. 907.204) and adding a suffix – usually the first three letters of the author’s surname or the first three letters of the book title if an editor.  I add a new spine label with the reclassified shelfmark and change the information in ALEPH – our library system.


   …from this to this…

I began on the 901 history books and am now nearly finished the 909s! This week so far I’ve reclassified about 88 books. Total reclassified so far: 276 and counting!

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