Building an infographic

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I spend a lot of time building awareness of Library resources, services and facilities. And for the last few weeks I’ve been spending a lot of my time working on building awareness about, well, buildings. Over the last couple of years, all of our libraries have been undergoing redevelopment work and the end is in sight for the current phase of the Main Library development project. After the refurbishment of our entrance level in 2011, a new four storey extension is due to open in April. Offering 500 additional study spaces and increasing the size of the Main Library by 42%, the £11 million East Wing is a big thing to communicate…

At the moment, we’re focusing on trying to raise awareness amongst our internal audiences primarily (University students and staff) about the East Wing opening in April, and what benefits that will bring for their study, research and teaching. As well as telling students about the great new facilities the East Wing will provide, with the backdrop of £9000 tuition fees being charged from the the 2012-2013 academic year, we need to demonstrate value for money. We’re using lots of methods to try and get this information across, including working with student media, writing articles for staff publications, social media, our webpages, digital displays… but I’ve decided to go for a something different in terms of printed materials. The thing I’d really like to post about this week is the infographic I’ve created to try and illustrate to the University community the benefits the East Wing will bring to them…

 East Wing in Numbers

How did I go about building the infographic? Well first, I looked at the facts and figures available about the East Wing. The key information I was aiming to get across was the size of the extension and what it means in terms of study facilities. When you’re talking about floor space, 12,400 square metres is quite hard to visualise. But 3 football pitches really serves to illustrate this. I tried to draw attention to the additional study spaces and the increase in study rooms by making these part of images of study tables and doors, respectively. I also looked at the length of shelving provided by the East Wing and decided to compare this to the most iconic building in the city, Durham Cathedral (the Main Library has fantastic cathedral views!). Then I used a combination of images already created (such as the architects’ floor plan of the extended building) and graphics I created myself using a combination of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop Elements and put these together into an A3 document using Adobe InDesign.

We’ve had some really great feedback from the Vice Chancellor, which is brilliant, because the VC is obviously an important stakeholder. As well as sending this to all colleges and departments, the Librarian wants large versions on the hoardings at the breakthrough areas to the new extension and potentially a pull-up banner as well (one of my jobs for next week!).

I’ll be interested to analyse whether this is successful way of communicating this message more widely to University staff and students. And as for that, I’ll have to wait and see!


Written by missrachelsmith

March 3, 2012 at 20:57

Library Day in the Life Project, Round 8

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Ok, so basically I cottoned on a bit late. This week it’s been Round 8 of the Library Day in the Life Project, and I totally didn’t realise until I logged into Twitter yesterday. So the decision’s made for me. Blogging it is.


Well actually, on Monday I had the day off. Because I do that occasionally. And work’s been really busy lately, having started my new job in December, so I’m building up lots of flexitime…


On Tuesday, my diary was quite busy and I had four meetings. In the morning, I met with colleagues to discuss the refurbishment of our Level 3 computer room and developing new IT areas across the four floors of the Main Library. I also saw the Charities Officer from the Student Union about promoting the Library giving one day’s fines revenue to charity, which will hopefully help to combat recent negative press about our fines revenue. In between, I managed to get through Monday’s emails and do a few odd jobs, like updating our screensavers and plasmascreens and putting up a few posters which were lingering on my desk.

I started my afternoon by meeting with my colleague Vicki, who’s helping me to put together Easter vacation publicity materials this year and we talked through the various ways we tell the students about borrowing resources and using the Library during the vacation period. Then, I knocked together a plan of action for this year’s Library 24/7 campaign. I seem to be writing plans quite a lot at the moment, because otherwise I have to hold everything in my head (never a good idea).

After that, and a quick cup of tea, I had an update meeting with the Deputy Librarian, who’s my new line manager. We discussed support for my role, recent issues and things that were coming up. Of which there is quite a lot…


I spent most of Wednesday morning putting together a statement for the student newspaper about the Library’s budget for resources and staffing over the last few years. Not a pleasant task. We haven’t had the most positive relationship with the student newspaper in the past, so last week, I spent quite a bit of time writing a very carefully worded briefing document about the Main Library’s £11 million pound extension, which opens in April.  In Monday’s newspaper, page 3 was devoted to Library developments, so I felt like that was a job well done. This week, a very vague enquiry about the Library’s spending, which gives no idea of what kind of angle our student journalists are looking to take. And yes, we do spend quite a lot of money, because academic resources are really expensive and we offer long opening hours across a range of Library sites. We are like any other large university library. So I talk to the Library’s Finance Officer and get something drafted…

In the afternoon, I spent an hour serving customers on the help and information desk, I updated our horrible opening hours database and got documentation sent off to IT to get a Bristol Online Surveys account. I also started redrafting the Library 24/7 webpages.


First thing on Thursday morning, I jumped on a bus to the other University campus for an introductory meeting in my new role with library staff there. When I arrived, the network was down across the campus, so I phoned staff at the Main Library to let them know and get information out to customers on our webpages and social media accounts. In the meeting, we talked mostly about Library 24/7, as well as vacation information. There’s a new member of staff there who’s keen on helping out, so that’s great.

Back at the office, I finished off a document outlining what kinds of information a potential new opening hours system would need to display. I spent the rest of my afternoon starting to design an infographic style poster about the Main Library’s East Wing extension…


After an hour on the help and information desk, I finished off the first draft of my ‘East Wing in numbers’ infographic, although it will need a bit more work next week when I’ve got feedback from the Communications and Marketing Group on Monday. Talking of the Communications and Marketing Group, I wrote an agenda for Monday’s meeting and circulate with the meeting documents.

Later, I wrote a news story and social media posts about the updating of our building developments pages, which I’m hoping will go live over the next week. I made some amendments to the budget statement for the student newspaper, but I’ll need to talk to the Deputy Librarian about this before it can go out. Last thing (and this is what I always tend to do on a Friday afternoon!), I wrote myself a to do list so I can hit the ground running next week.

And that was my Library Day in the Life, Round 8! It’s first thing on Monday morning now, and I’m about to start it all over again. Here goes…

Written by missrachelsmith

February 6, 2012 at 08:55

Posted in Uncategorized

New Year, new job

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So it’s been a while. You know how it is – life takes over. Blogging and Chartership work haven’t really been at the top of my to do list. Outside of work, there’s a lot of family drama unfolding. I’m pleased to say though that things are looking much more positive as far as work’s concerned. Back in November, I had an interview for the post of Communications and Marketing Officer for Durham University Library and Heritage Collections. And I got the job!

My new role is to continue and develop Durham University Library’s communications processes. I am responsible for ensuring that we deliver clear, consistent and effective information about Library and Heritage Collection resources, services and developments to internal and external audiences. Planning, managing and developing promotional campaigns, publicity materials and events from initial concept to final production are part of my duties. I’m going to be advising and supporting our Web Steering Group and scoping potential mobile applications. I will be heading up collecting feedback, evaluating how effective our services are at meeting customer needs and responding to the National Students Survey results. I also have some responsibility for internal communications.

That’s what the job description says.

I’ve come back to work after Christmas to a series of introductory meetings and I’m using January to review, plan and prioritise. And at the very start of this process, what I’m already starting to realise is that it’s a big job. I’m managing marketing and communications for 5 libraries, one of which is just about to open a £10 million pound extension in April. So far, so at least kind of within my comfort zone. I’ve worked in the Library for two years and I’ve been involved in all of our major campaigns and publicity activities. I have been a student at the University. I know what we offer as a library service, I know our main customer group and I’m confident I can promote what the Library does to our different audiences.

But as well as the libraries, I’m responsible for effectively marketing our archives and special collections. There’s also the small matter of our growing special collections gallery space, which will be hosting the Lindisfarne Gospels in 2013. And then there’s the two university museums. And all of the outreach work that goes with this.

I’m really excited to have been offered the promotion. It’s definitely going to be a challenge and a job that I can hopefully do some really interesting things with. It’s my first ‘professional’ level post, and my first ‘graduate’ job. And I’ve managed to get it without postgraduate qualifications in either librarianship or marketing. I feel massively lucky that my colleagues have recognised that I work hard, that the standard of work I produce is good and that I’m capable at handling whatever’s thrown at me.

But with the very serious concerns I have for my family, who are falling apart over 300 miles away, I can’t help but feel that a lot is being thrown at me right now.

2012 is certainly going to be interesting…

Written by missrachelsmith

January 15, 2012 at 12:09

CPD23: Conferencething

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This week, I’m thinking about Thing 15 in the 23 Things for Professional Development programme: attending, presenting at and organising seminars, conferences and other events. Actually, the reason why it jumped out at me when I looked down the possible CPD23 topics for this post is because I’ve been reading tweets and blog posts over the last couple of days about the Library Camp event at the weekend – it sounds amazing and I kind of wish I’d been there! Except I don’t, because I would now be even more tired than I already am. Which is pretty tired, post Freshers-madness last week.


I’ll tackle attending first, as that’s the one I have most experience of. I went to my first big conference last year – the UC&R and CoFHE 2010 conference – after I managed to wangle a sponsored place from UC&R Northern. As a Library Assistant, I didn’t feel like I could really ask to go to a big national conference like that (in my head, that’s the kind of event that the Subject Librarians might attend, or members of Senior Management Team). So I was really pleased to be offered the place and be able to attend. It was my first opportunity to meet people from libraries all over the country and I took away lots of ideas. Attending really broadened my horizons in terms of being able to evaluate what we’re doing well as a library and what’s not so great.

Since attending that first conference, I haven’t looked back in terms of going to conferences and events. You can read my thoughts about some of the events I’ve attended here, here and here


As well as attending conferences, I’m now also exploring the possibility of presenting at them. I helped the library to win a CILIP Marketing Excellence award, and alongside a colleague gave a presentation to the 2010 PPRG conference about our winning Library 24/7 campaign. Earlier this year, I blogged about answering a call for papers for the first time and being unsuccessful.

What now? Well, I think I might feel ready to throw my hat in the ring again. The LILAC call for papers is out and there might be a good short paper in some of the work I’ve been doing recently, if I put my mind to it. Or if only I could find someone who is equally afraid of presenting a workshop on their own at the 2012 UC&R and CoFHE conference… (hint hint!).


The other Thing to think about for Thing 15 is organising events. That’s something I haven’t really got involved in outside of a work context. Have you been involved in organising conferences and seminars? Is it something I should start to consider?

I’ve certainly found this week’s Thing thought-provoking. And maybe something else will come out of it…

Written by missrachelsmith

October 11, 2011 at 10:05

Public libraries: 3 big changes

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Two weeks ago, I headed back to the town where I grew up on the south coast to spend three days working at a large public library. As a child, I used the library to take part in the summer reading challenge, and as a teenager, to revise for my GCSEs and A levels. I hadn’t been to the public library for a while, and as I woke up at my parents’ and walked to the library in the pouring rain on my first day of the placement, I wondered whether I would find it as I remembered it. There’s a lot of talk in the news and in the industry press about public library budget cuts and I was interested to find out how that was affecting the library and the services it offers. And I was intrigued to see what it was like to be behind a public library counter, rather than in front.

Whilst I was revisiting my old life, I found a library service which was changing and moving to new ways of working. These were the key points of change I picked up on during my time at the public library:

1. Budget

The budget the public library is operating on is massively and rapidly reducing. The county council library service had to make £1 million of savings in the last financial year and they’re looking at making the same cost saving this year as well. To do this, the library was attempting to save money where possible and had implemented lots of little income streams, such as asking people to pay to hire meeting rooms, selling greetings cards and auctioning rarer books for disposal. This was a difference between the public library and the university library, where I work, that I wasn’t expecting. Traditionally, libraries are seen as a ‘free’ service (although they’re not, of course. Customers pay for the public library service through their council tax and for the university library through their ever-increasing course fees). Beyond simply borrowing a book, there wasn’t much you could do in the public library which was free. This seemed a little sad from a customer perspective, but from the perspective of the public library’s tightening budget, necessary.

2. Staff and structure

The county council library service had recently undergone a major restructure in terms of staffing and structure. The public libraries throughout the county had been organised into tiers, determining their opening hours and levels of staffing. After the tiers came a major staffing restructure in March 2011. Collection management was centralised, whilst specialist roles such as the children’s librarians, reference librarians and community librarians were spread throughout the library service, working with a number of different branches. The remaining staff within the branches worked in front-line or management roles and were directly engaged with running the library they were based in.

It was interesting to talk to staff about the restructure and how it had impacted upon their jobs and the service that the library offered. I came away with the feeling that the staffing structure was becoming leaner, that several jobs had been lost, and that even visiting six months down the line, a few of the creases had yet to be ironed out. However, the public library staff seemed to be making the best of it and making it work. I was really impressed by the positive attitude demonstrated by all of the staff I met in the face of such big changes to their established ways of working.

3. Service

The public library is currently preparing for another big change – they’re moving to self-service and RFID in November. This will mean an entire new customer service desk layout in the entrance level to the library, which houses the circulating stock out on the open shelves. Transactions will be handled by RFID machines, which will allow customers to borrow and return items, as well as check their Library record and renew items. There will be a small visitor desk created which will handle library registrations and enquiries, but on a much reduced scale.

I’ve seen RFID in action at a public library in the North East, and it’s spangly technology – the way that the self-service machines recognise a stack of items is pretty magical. The new kit will certainly have the wow factor, but it will mean a shift in the way customers experience the library service. I think that the word ‘service’ implies a personal element, rather than a machine. The library I work in operates on a self-service model and I feel that although it works well in terms of handling the volume of customers we see, we’re constantly trying to get across to students that Library staff are approachable and that we’re (as one of our ‘identities’ says – we don’t call it a logo, otherwise Marketing are down our throats!) here to help. The public library is a public service; by moving towards using RFID, the human element will be reduced and I think that’s a really important part of what public libraries do.

Bearing the first big change that the public library is up against in mind, and the fact that the public library is looking to save a million pounds before the end of the financial year, the move to self-service also rings alarm bells. Will this decision make the impact of budget cuts upon staffing even more drastic?

Over the next year, I’m going to attempt to revisit the public library to see how self-service works in practice and how staff are adjusting to this. I’m also going to try to monitor what the local press is reporting about what’s going on at the public library.

It’s true that change is inevitable, but not all changes are necessarily for the better. It will be interesting to see what kind of changes lie ahead for the public library and what kind of challenges and opportunities they bring.

Written by missrachelsmith

October 7, 2011 at 15:50

CPD23: The best Thing

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Taking the negative view, I am now so behind with the 23 Things for Professional Development programme I am very unlikely to catch up with everything before we hit Thing 23. But the positive person that I am, I have decided to take this as an opportunity to change Things around a bit. So in this post I’m going to discuss Thing 13: Google Docs, Wikis and Dropbox. And the simple reason that I’ve decided to go for this Thing next is because 13 is my lucky number, which makes Thing 13 the best of all the Things. Of course.

Google Docs

I thought that I’d never used Google Docs before. But Google seems to be gradually taking over my life – I’m sure it reads my emails, and now it seems to have started to squirrel away the documents I download from my Google Mail account. So upon logging into Google Docs for the first time, I was quite surprised to see that I had a number of documents there, all of which were not very useful and were promptly deleted. Now that I know I have an account though and can use it to share and collaborate on documents, I might start to utilise this more.


Wikis are something I do have some experience of. I’ve contributed to a few, such as the Library Day in the Life Project, which I’ve taken part in for the last few rounds. I also thought I’d contributed to the Library Routes Project wiki, but turns out I hadn’t. So as part of this Thing, I added my Library Routes blog post. Excellent reminder.

At the moment, I think I’m content with being able to add information to wikis. However, in the future I could explore setting up a kind of test wiki, so that I get to know this software better.


And actually, I’m also using Dropbox on a regular basis. I share an account with my boyfriend and it’s installed on our home laptop, and both of our work computers. Paul uses this for SERIOUS WORK BUSINESS. I mostly use Dropbox for something much more fun… I’m writing a children’s book. It started off as a kind of distraction, because lots of nasty serious things are happening in my life and I needed to take my mind off them. I’ve nearly finished the very first draft of it now, and I know that when I have finished it, I will be amazingly proud of my achievement. Whether it sits on my mantlepiece as something to read to my future children, or whether it’s good enough to be published.

But if it got published? Now that really would be the best thing.

Written by missrachelsmith

September 21, 2011 at 17:41

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In the clink

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Prison is one of those places I never thought I’d go to. I don’t really fancy life behind bars and I hope I’ll never have cause to visit any of my family or friends there either, you know? But some librarians work in Her Majesty’s Prisons around the UK. In fact, the closest library to the library where I work is a prison library. A Category B men’s prison, the jail serves the local courts and has a high prisoner turnover rate. I arranged to visit for the day to find out more about what prison libraries and librarians do…


Perhaps it’s a bit obvious, but the biggest difference that struck me about my time at the prison library was the importance of security. In prison, everything revolves around it. Walking to the library, we travelled through pairs of locked doors every few metres around the prison buildings. Alongside the librarians, prison officers assigned to the library were present at all times to ensure the security of both library staff and prisoners. Due to their customer group, stealing of library property was an issue and prisoners are unable to access the internet, word processing software or printing facilities. Security issues also extended to the stock that the library offered. There are a number of banned items and subjects which you won’t find in the prison library’s collection, from the obvious – books about bombmaking, for example – to the ones you wouldn’t have thought of, like the Igguldens’ Dangerous Book for Boys.

Customer journey

This heightened awareness of security stretched to the customer experience of using the library. The customer journey begins when the prisoner fills out an application form, or ‘app’ to visit the library. Each wing has appointed times when library officers collect those who have filled out an app. The prison officer takes the men to the library for around half an hour and then the group are escorted back to their accommodation or their next activity. I found it interesting that the customer experience of using the prison library begins sometimes days before their visit. This had its own unique set of problems – sometimes when called to go to the library, the men are busy, for example. If prisoners forget to fill out a library app or are unavailable when the library officers come to collect them, they are unable to return their books on time. These were issues that library staff were debating on the day I visited and I hope they continue to investigate ways to resolve this.

Prison libraries and public libraries

Something that I found surprising was the close relationship between the prison libraries and the public libraries in the area. The library service, like the educational provision in the prison, is tendered out. The county council currently provides library services to the prison and the library staff are employed and managed by the council. Therefore, there were a number of crossover points – one of the part-time librarians working at the prison also works for the main public library in the city and the prison and public libraries use the same library card system. The prison libraries in the county use the same library management system as the public libraries and borrow books from there. This close relationship between the services means that data protection is paramount. Library Orderlies (prisoners who work within the prison library) can use the library management system, but can’t access any information on patrons within the public library network. Similarly, only very basic information – surname, current cell and prisoner number – is held on the library management system about the prison library’s customers.

Although I wasn’t aware that the two systems were so closely linked in my area, it appeared that this had a number of benefits – the library is able to provide access to a wide range of material, and there is continuity between the service provided within the prison and libraries within the local area.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I turned up at the prison gates, but I found the atmosphere within the prison to be calm and controlled, and the prisoners seemed to respect and value the service that the library offered.

I’m not sure that prison libraries are for me, but it’s not so bad in the clink.

Written by missrachelsmith

September 15, 2011 at 09:44