#CityLIS Student Perspectives: Volunteering at CityLibrary by Isabel Martinez Carrasco

Student Perspectives is our series of guest posts written by current #citylis students.

This post is by current #citylis student, Isabel Martinez Carrasco and is about the volunteer position she undertook at CityLibrary last summer.

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Lyn Robinson informed us recently that new volunteer positions are available at City University Library this summer for #CityLIS students, so I would like to take this opportunity to talk about my previous experience of doing so.

Last year, from July to September 2016, I was participating in a very interesting project at the Northampton Square Library inputting data from the University access control system (PLAN) into LibAnalytics (a data management package) and testing methodologies for analysing the data.

The project aimed to identify, using statistics and data analysis, the real circulation flow of student visits by features such as school and course of study, ensuring confidentiality, at the different libraries locations at City, University of London. With that, the University intended to be better informed about the libraries’ use routines and design a Library Services Operational Plan through which to know if additional resources were needed, report the results to the Library Committee and provide evidence.

My tasks consisted in collating all data in Microsoft Excel, editing, categorising, sorting and filtering it according to parameters set out, and then uploading them to the data analysis program LibInsight. I also collaborated briefly in the data management of SCONUL annual library statistics and library staff training records.

 

At the beginning, I was not confident if I would be able to cope with it because it required the use of advanced functions in Microsoft Excel with which I was not entirely familiar, but rapidly the supervisors of the project, Derek MacKenzie (Head of User Services) and Martin Edwards (User Services Librarian, Law) made me feel at ease. Indeed, their instructions were always clear and very well-defined, and they suggested to me a project timeline in which tasks could be completed reasonably and feasibly.

The project required a commitment of approximately 4-6 hours per week over a 2-3 month period. I must also say that, at that time, I was involved with some personal circumstances that forced me to travel to my country during the summer and both supervisors were always very flexible and understanding to rearrange my schedule, providing that I comply with the agreed hours.

I knew that other #CityLIS classmates were collaborating in respective projects related to content digitisation activities at the main library and contributing to the improvement in usability of the library website at the Cass Learning Resource Centre, and they too were happy as well.

I am very thankful and satisfied for having had the opportunity of volunteering at City University Library. It was a great experience for me and I really enjoyed it. All staff are very nice, and I could use all the facilities, see how the library looks ‘behind the scenes’ and how it is a working really busy information environment. I gained invaluable skills at data analysis and I learned how to use pivot tables and dashboards in an Excel spreadsheet, knowledge that I am quite sure will be useful for my master´s dissertation.

For that reason, I encourage everyone at #CityLIS interested at volunteering at City University library to apply.

You will not regret it.

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You can follow Isabel on Twitter.

If you are interested in studying Library and Information Science, our next Open Evening is on June 14th from 5.30-7.30pm – you can book your place here.

If you are a current #citylis student or alumni and would like to contribute a post, please contact our Editor, James Atkinson.

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#CityLIS Student Perspectives: digital libraries complicate library history, part iii / my independent study by Mariana Ou

Student Perspectives is our series of guest posts written by current #citylis students.

This post is by current #citylis student, Mariana Ou, and is the third and final part of a series of reflections on her Independent Study about Library History.

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In part i of this series of posts, I briefly introduced the field of library history in its values and problems. In part ii I talked about some historians who had been expanding library history by diversifying their inquiries and looking more broadly to the library’s social milieu. In this final part, I consider digital convergence.

iii.i Marija Dalbello and the ‘digital convergence’

A very different library history from the ones we have been talking about is presented by Marija Dalbello in her article Digital Convergence: The past in the present, which is also the last chapter of a 2015 book edited by her, along with Wayne Wiegand and Pamela Richards entitled A History of modern librarianship: Constructing the heritage of Western Cultures. The book presents a ‘cross-national dimensions of librarianship in the context of modernity’, and Dalbello’s last chapter aims to provide a history of librarianship’s digital convergences of the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries.

modernlibrrianship

Dalbello characterises the digital convergence as ‘a series of innovations that are bringing about an increasingly interconnected world of recorded knowledge, documents, data, and information’, with a history ‘nested within a larger history of scholarly and scientific communication, bibliographic systematisation, provision of free and universal access to public information, the world of knowledge dominated by scientific methods, and the authority of professional experts’. Couldn’t this ‘larger history’ that she refers to simply be library history? I understand her inquiry as: how to understand the many uses of digital computing within the framework of library history? I’m not sure I like the idea of ‘convergence’ very much, because we then risk looking at phenomena from the past as making part of a process (‘convergence’) that would be century-old by now, as if people back there were working with the same objectives as we today are. Anyway, her history is compelling as it connects library history to information science (perhaps, information science within library history?) in the context of modernity. Her point:

The convergence of information technology, bibliographic control, and networking constitute an important element in the development of the digital environment that heavily influences how many people use libraries today.

She follows a chronological narrative in the structure of her article: Origins and prototypes, 1890 – 1960s, including Otlet and La Fontaine’s Mundaneum, and the development of the Dewey Decimal Classification and the Universal Decimal Classification; Online catalogs and the World Wide Web, 1970s into the 1990s; Digital libraries: mid-1990s to 2005; and The ‘semantic web’ and social media from 2005, including the ascendance of the digital humanities and large-scale collaboration projects of digitisation.

Despite my reservations with regards to the idea of ‘convergence’, I find this approach to library history fascinating: it fits Information Science inside the broader, cultural framework of modernity, conferring some social perspective to this subject often considered technical and neutral. Dalbello’s article proves that library history can express itself in a multitude of ways.

iii.ii library history for public libraries

One challenge concerning digital library history, if I may call Dalbello’s fine work that way, is the risk of reducing library history to ‘the development of technical practices and procedures for information organisation’, or something like that, if we forget the value of library history as proclaimed by Shera and the importance of culture to library history.

Also, something revealing we get from when library history starts talking about digital information technology developments is that it stops talking about places and spaces; suddenly, no more descriptions of shelves and stacks, no more reading rooms, the people coming and going, no more where it was, how long they stayed, what was where. With the digital, materiality becomes insignificant and so does place/space.

Materiality & space are much more expensive than computer storage. That’s one of the main arguments for public library funding cuts: there’s just a cheaper version now. But people know the value of the materiality of the book and of the people you share a space with in a public library. This knowledge is not measurable through any quantitative tool available. And even harder: each person knows in an unique way, based in her very particular experience. As Wiegand explained in his Part of our lives: ‘Assessing what happens in library places does not easily fit into statistical taxonomies documenting library use, yet anecdotes demonstrate that public libraries help build community in multiple ways’.

Anecdotes. Stories, personal experiences and narratives: they characterise the value people see in public libraries. It is fundamental that we work to document and publicise these narratives as library history.

References

Richards, P., Wiegand, W., Dalbello, M. (eds.), 2015. A history of modern librarianship: constructing the heritage of western cultures, Libraries Unlimited, An Imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC: Denver; Santa Barbara.
Wiegand, W., 2015. Part of our lives: a people’s history of the American public library. Oxford: Oxford UniversityPress.

***

You can follow Mariana on Twitter.

This post is an edited version of the original which was published on the author’s blog on 2nd May 2017.

If you are interested in studying Library and Information Science, our next Open Evening is on June 14th from 5.30-7.30pm – you can book your place here.

If you are a current #citylis student or alumni and would like to contribute a post, please contact our Editor, James Atkinson.

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CityLIS Repository on Humanities Commons

*** This CityLIS Reflections and Research post describes our collective repository project on Humanities Commons. ***

Many of you will already have noticed our CityLIS group on Humanities Commons.

Humanities Commons is a trusted, nonprofit network where humanities scholars can create a professional profile, discuss common interests, develop new publications, and share their work. The Humanities Commons network is open to anyone.

Humanities Commons is a project of the office of scholarly communication at the Modern Language Association. Its development was generously funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Humanities Commons is based on the open-source Commons-in-a-Box project of the City University of New York and the CUNY Graduate Center and is an expansion of the MLA’s MLA Commons, which launched in January 2013. The founding partner societies of Humanities Commons are the Association for Jewish Studies; the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies; and the College Art Association. Each society has its own Commons hub.

Humanities Commons was designed by scholarly societies in the humanities to serve the needs of humanists as they engage in teaching and research that benefit the larger community. Unlike other social and academic communities, Humanities Commons is open-access, open-source, and nonprofit. It is focused on providing a space to discuss, share, and store cutting-edge research and innovative pedagogy—not on generating profits from users’ intellectual and personal data.

The network also features an open-access repository, the Commons Open Repository ExchangeCORE allows users to preserve their research and increase its reach by sharing it across disciplinary, institutional, and geographic boundaries. Developed in partnership with Columbia University’s Center for Digital Research and Scholarship, CORE is underwritten by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Office of Digital Humanities.

The Humanities Commons team at the Modern Language Association consists of:

Nicky Agate, project manager
Kathleen Fitzpatrick, project director
Leo Fulgencio, Web developer
Eric Knappe, technical lead
Ryan Williams, Web developer

Contact the team at hello@hcommons.org

[Text copied from https://hcommons.org/about/ on 7/5/2017]

The CityLIS group on Humanities Commons will enable us to share and promote our collective work, to discover other relevant research, resources and authors, and to keep in contact with each other. All students, staff, alumni, friends and honorary members are welcome to join us.

As part of our group identity, we are building a repository of our collective works on the Humanities Commons Core Repository. If you are staff, a student or alumni of CityLIS, please add your work to our collection.

*** All CityLIS PhD theses are welcome. We are also actively seeking electronic copies of CityLIS masters disserations that were awarded a mark of 60% or above (UK merit). Please do not include any grading or related comments when you post your work.

Our repository will also contain significant papers, blog posts, presentations, posters, and other media work.  ***

Adding your work is easy. Sign up to Humanities Commons, (email and password), then upload a .pdf of your work. Please remember to tag it with the group CityLIS. Consider also document type: for example, Dissertation for MA/MSc or Thesis for PhD.

The Humanities Commons is an open access resource, and hence free at the point of use for anyone wishing to search for and download documents. You only need to join (free!) if you wish to upload your work. You do not have to join the CityLIS group to tag your work with our CityLIS group tag, but we hope you will.

Humanities Commons adds to the growing number of open-access subject repositories. These sites, in addition to institutional repositories, provide open, legal access to research and related resources, to everyone who wishes to read the works, whether affiliated with an academicor research institution or not.

See:

@humcommons on Twitter

@citylis on Twitter

What is open access? JISC, 31st March 2017.

CityLIS Onlife Lyn Robinson, 16th March 2017.

Any queries, comments or suggestions to lyn@city.ac.uk

If you would like to study with us at CityLIS , please contact lyn@city.ac.uk, or come along to our next open evening.

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PhD Success for CityLIS Research Student Deborah Lee!

Deborah Leed PhD Award

Deborah Lee with CityLIS staff, research students and colleagues. Photo by @lynrobinson cc-by

CityLIS is delighted to congratulate our research student Deborah Lee on the award of her PhD. Debbie was awarded her PhD with only typographical corrections, a rare occurrance, and testimony to the talent (and effort!) Debbie has put into her work at CityLIS. CityLIS would like to thank Pauline Rafferty (ex-CityLIS!) our colleague from Aberystwyth for being our external examiner, and HCID colleague Stephanie Wilson for chairing the viva. Thank you to CityLIS colleague Andy MacFarlane for being our internal examiner.

Debbie is well known as one of our experts in cataloguing and classification, and we are thrilled to announce that she will be joining CityLIS staff as a visiting lecturer from 17/18. Many of our students and alumni will recall her excellent Cataloguing Workshop, open to all, which we run during Reading Week in term 2.

You can follow Debbie on Twitter @DebbieLeeCat.

 

 

 

 

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#CityLIS Student Perspectives: the widening of library history, part ii / my independent study by Mariana Ou

Student Perspectives is our series of guest posts written by current #citylis students.

This post is by current #citylis student, Mariana Ou, and is the second part of a series of three reflections on her Independent Study about Library History.

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In the part i of this series of posts, I have briefly introduced the field of library history in its values and problems, with the promise to come back to talk about some historians who had been expanding library history by diversifying their inquiries and looking more broadly to the library’s social milieu. And here I go:

part iii

ii.i Adding ‘culture’ to library history

History in general has become a much more diversified discipline throughout the twentieth-century, owning greatly to the Annales school and their introduction of culture, anthropology, microhistory and many other themes to historical inquiry. And library history, it seems, has been benefiting from this widening trend. In his 2016 essay The Library as History, German librarian Elmar Mittler confirms that ‘Library history is an expanding area of research’, and that ‘The main focus of library history is changing with new research methods and the interests of cultural history. Library history as institutional or organizational history is really only of minor interest. Rather, the relevance of the library as part of the history of different fields of study is coming into greater focus’.

This is in consonance with the previously explored Jesse Shera’s ideas about library history as valid only if it considers the culture where the library is both part and agent of. And to be able to do that, the historian has no option but to resort to the history of other disciplines.

ii.ii Wayne Wiegand and the American library history

An active member of the group of library historians who had been widening the field is American author and academic Wayne Wiegand. One of his most preeminent works is what is considered the best biography of Melvil Dewey written so far, 1996’s Irrepressible Reformer; even though it is a research concentrated on an important figure, it is far from being a descriptive, gentle biography—quite the opposite, as Wiegand didn’t shy away from the man’s more controversial characteristics and actions.

In an assessment of decades of library history in America, Wiegand has recognised that many of the limitations of studies in the field can be attributed to an assumption by library historians that libraries are simply ‘good’ institutions, to be investigated ‘from the inside out’:

To stretch a metaphor, they generally study the history of individual trees with little attention to the ecological patterns and changes in the much larger forest in which these trees are rooted, grow, and survive, prosper, or die. And because librarianship itself has not generated influential or significant theoretical perspectives (it is focused mostly on process, seeking to answer “how” rather than “why” questions), American library history has lacked theoretical diversity.

 

In his most recent and fascinating book, 2015’s Part of Our Lives: A People’s History of the American Public Library, Wiegand traveled all around the country to capture librarians and mainly users’ views, memories, and experiences of the public library, in a ‘bottom-up’, ‘library in the life of the user perspective’ to the history of the American public library—an approach which, according to the author, allowed him to ‘shift the focus from issues of information access to include analysis of the competencies and skills public libraries helped users develop that fostered sociability and invited community involvement’. His history of the public library, then, is ‘primarily about people’ who used these libraries’ spaces in the most various ways and the reading they were able to obtain from them. And concluded: ‘From a “library in the life of the user” perspective, public libraries have put cultural participation on public display’.

ii.iii Alistair Black and the British public library

In the UK, scholar and author Alistair Black is one of the most significant names in recent library history and great enthusiast of a more diversified disciplinary field. His perceptions of what it had been and what it should be match Shera’s, as he recognises a valuable library history as the one that engages with debates on social processes; as he wrote in A New History of the English Public Library: Social and Intellectual Contexts 1850-1914: ‘Too frequently researchers have taken the documents relating to a library, or group of libraries, and examined them with a view to producing a mere chronicle, bereft of references to non-library influences. Such an approach misses the central purpose of library history, which should not be pursued for its own sake, or for the glorification of individuals and institutions, but for the comprehension of social processes, historical and contemporary’.

The strong focus on public libraries in his extensive work in library history is no aimless choice. Just as Wiegand, Black also thinks there is a certain idea of the public library as an institution that is simply ‘accepted’, with no political commitment, which really impairs historical inquiry. Instead—and interestingly, like Wiegand, also using a tree metaphor!—he affirms:

The public library has never been a self-contained institution. As argued above, its numerous cultural roots spread far and wide. …[It] has successfully emerged over the past century and a half as an integral ingredient of the social fabric of our villages, towns and cities. It is ingrained in our cultural folklore. Historians of the public library are consequently best advised to view their subject as a part of, rather than apart from, society.

And that is the reason that ‘there is no reason why libraries should not be examined with reference to the history of leisure, or urbanization, or ideas, or class, or social policy, or the economy, or culture, or central-local government tension, or social space, or professional-expert discourses, or any other issue’—being that the exact approach Paul Hoare and himself used in the edition of the lovely volume III of the Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland 1850-2000where one can find articles on the political roots of the ideal of public libraries, on libraries as leisure, on public library services for children, on libraries in relation to urbanisation processes, on women in libraries, on working-class and public libraries, and many other themes that borrow from other disciplines to paint deeper picture of libraries in historical perspective.

My take: Public libraries can function as both starting and ending point of historical research; you start from there to establish your inquiries, then explore the diverse surrounding fields of interest, to finally be able to come back and understand the library in its comprehensive nature. I am very interested in what the activities of people (librarians and users) in public libraries can reveal of the social and cultural milieu, and how can we capture these experiences that are often very personal and limited.

References

Black, A., (1996). A new history of the English public library: social and intellectual contexts, 1850-1914. London: Leicester University Press.
Black, A. and Hoare, P. eds., (2006). The Cambridge history of libraries in Britain and Ireland. The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Mittler, E. The library as history. Quaerendo, 2016, volume 46, issue 2-3, pages 222-240. DOI: 10.1163/15700690-12341352
Wertheimer, A. and Davis D. eds., (2000). Library history research in America: essays commemorating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Library History Round Table, American Library AssociationWashington, D.C. : Library of Congress, The Center for the Book.
Wiegand, W., (1996). Irrepressible reformer: a biography of Melvil Dewey. Chicago: American Library Association.
Wiegand, W., (2015). Part of our lives: a people’s history of the American public library. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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You can follow Mariana on Twitter.

This post is an edited version of the original which was published on the author’s blog on 31st March 2017.

If you are interested in studying Library and Information Science, our next Open Evening is on June 14th from 5.30-7.30pm – you can book your place here.

If you are a current #citylis student or alumni and would like to contribute a post, please contact our Editor, James Atkinson.

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