missrachelsmith

A few of (a librarian’s) favourite things…

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My second library anniversary draws ever closer, and in the time I’ve worked here I’ve learnt a number of things about your common-or-garden librarian. Librarians are generally a very nice and knowledgeable bunch of people. High proportion of vegetarians, knitters, technology geeks, film buffs and dog/cat lovers. They do like a good acronym (CILIP, RFID, LMS, anyone?). And if there is anything to be discussed or decided, there’s a group for that: group meetings, project groups, purchasing consortiums, task-and-finish groups, interest groups, regional groups, working groups…

In the spirit of pretending to be a proper librarian, I thought I’d dedicate this post to two of the regional interest groups I’ve recently attended. Here in the North East, representatives from the academic libraries in the area (Sunderland, Teesside, Durham, Newcastle and Northumbria universities) often meet to discuss common interests, ideas and issues. I’ve heard of a few exchange events going on elsewhere in the country through JISCmail lists and Twitter: the cpd25 consortium put on staff training and development days for librarians within the M25 circle, the (lib)TeachMeets in Cambridge bring librarians involved in teaching together and NoWAL, the North West academic libraries group, recently held an exchange of experience event. But these are the more official events, the kind that you can book on – I think there must be hundreds of other exchange meetings going on within the LIS community (I can use librarian-type acronyms too!). In my experience alone I’ve been involved in four different exchange groups that the library contributes to and I’m sure there are others that happen even within my workplace that I’m not aware of.

Anyway – back to my subject. Back in February, I attended the North East Repositories Group, held at the University of Teesside. This was quite a formal meeting, with a proper agenda, minutes and Chair. I learnt that most of the institutional repository staff at the other member institutions were new to their role, suggesting that repository positions might have a high staff turnover rate. Two of the other institutions didn’t have technical support for the repository within the library and relied on external hosting – hearing about some of the problems they faced made me think we were lucky to have this support in-house. A change in staffing structure meant that another university no longer had a repository manager and advocacy of the repository was shifting to the academic liaison team. One institution was just setting up their repository, with their sights firmly set on the REF – I’m interested to see what happens there, as this didn’t seem to be a particularly long-term goal and their repository wasn’t necessarily engaged with Open Access, one of the key projects of institutional repositories. Amongst the group we discussed a range of issues; supporting different kinds of research outputs, publisher’s policies and embargo periods, recording author names, the REF… It was interesting to hear what our peers in other universities are doing. It helped me to see what both what we’re doing well as a team, and where our weaknesses are.

Due to the nature of its subject, the North East Communications and Marketing Group meeting that I attended last week at Newcastle University was very different. Usually more informal, with workshops and presentations, group meetings also involve lunch and tours of the host library. This time round, there was a presentation from Newcastle’s graduate marketing and communications project officer on the ‘marketer’s ideal library’. The presentation came very much from a marketer’s (rather than librarian’s) perspective and discussed a range issues surrounding library marketing including branding, staffing, advocacy, marketing materials and new technologies. Whilst Newcastle’s graduate project placement was about to come to an end, one of the other libraries had recently reinstated a marketing post. Talking to staff from other institutions, library videos seemed very much to be the order of the day, although nobody was planning to be as brave as the Harold B Lee Library. One university had installed a Big Brother diary room-style booth to capture student feedback on video(!) whilst another had gone for post-it note boards to invite and display comments from library users. We also talked about marketing e-books and internal communications amongst staff. Hearing other people’s experiences helped me to understand the common challenges associated with marketing academic libraries and I definitely noted a number of ideas that we might look into here.

There are a lot of groups going on internally, regionally and internationally that the library is involved with. Although I don’t see the need for quite so many groups, I do think attending these regional groups is really valuable for me at the start of my career in libraries. They help me to understand the wider context of the different areas that I work on and they help me to assess how we’re performing as a library service. And in both repositories and marketing, we’re not doing badly at all.

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Written by missrachelsmith

March 15, 2011 at 21:00

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