CityLIS News: Child and adolescent literature, literacy, and library services

We are pleased to announce that we are adding a new elective module to the choices available to our MSc/MA Library Science students. The new module addresses LIS concepts as they relate to children and adolescents, and it will be available from the academic year 18/19.

The new module will be delivered by Visiting Lecturer Jen Aggleton, who introduces herself and the module content in this post.


Jen Aggleton is a qualified teacher and librarian with several years’ experience working in children’s services. She is in the final stages of a PhD in Education and Children’s Literature at the University of Cambridge, and lives in a small flat which she shares with a cat called Mogget and far too many books.


Over the years I have worn several professional hats – a teacher hat, a librarian hat, and a children’s literature scholar hat. These hats all have their own individual style and charms, and like all of the most interesting fashion items, wearing one, or another, or all three at once, made me feel differently about the work I was doing at the time. For the module I will be teaching at City, ‘Child and Adolescent Literature, Literacy, and Library Services’, all three of those hats will be worn, and passed around the students to try on as well.

Any public service which involves working with children and adolescents inevitably comes up against competing priorities. There are the practical concerns, such as organisation of spaces, collection management, budgets. There are the theoretical concerns, such as how we conceptualise literacy and literacies, and the role of the library in supporting these. And above all, there are the ideological concerns. Whose values and priorities do we follow when delivering services? Those of a school, or the current government? Our own professional judgement about what we think children need or want? What about the views of the children themselves?

Readers of folklore or fairy tales will recognise the power of threes, and in this course we will frequently be exploring things from three different angles. Alongside the three concerns mentioned above – the practical, the theoretical, and the ideological – we will also be looking at three main elements at the heart of child and adolescent library services: those of literature, literacy, and service delivery. And because whilst two threes are powerful, but three times three is unstoppable, we will be exploring these themes across three different types of library: the public library, the school library, and the academic library.

Due to the complex nature of delivering library services for children and adolescents, this course will be rooted in debate. We will be discussing the position of children and adolescents within society, and students will be encouraged to reflect upon their own constructions of childhood. We will explore long-established concepts such as Jacqueline Rose’s idea of the ‘impossibility’ of children’s fiction, as well as contemporary movements such as the We Need Diverse Books campaign. We will ask what it means to be literate in the 21st century, and how libraries can support the development of multiliteracies. We will consider how the space and organisation of a library influences engagement, and how we can evaluate and improve our services. Students will be asked to consider the role of libraries in supporting and extending the current and future national curricula. We will engage with ideas about why we read, what Reading for Pleasure really means, and how we can best support it. We will consider whose voices are heard in service delivery, and how libraries can work to respect children’s rights amidst competing priorities.

None of these issues have single, or simple, solutions. This course aims to enable students to engage with these ideas, evaluate them, and adapt them into context-specific working practices which they can apply in their own professional roles. By the end of the course students should be able to identify what hat is in charge of any aspect of their service delivery, and whether they need to swap hats, add hats, or create new hats altogether.


If you would like to study with CityLIS, take a look at our course pages, and look out for announcements about our regular open evenings. Follow us @CityLIS on Twitter.

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CityLIS Virtual Dissertation Collections. 2. History

This is the second in an occasional series of posts in which we celebrate and publicise the excellent work done by CityLIS students in their dissertation projects. Each post will focus on a topic, and present a series of dissertations in that area; this one deals with historical studies within LIS, following the interest shown in the first of the series, which covered dissertations dealing with art and artists.

CityLIS dissertations are small-scale research projects, taking four months full-time or eight months part-time. Good dissertations can produce results that may be immediately valuable for practice, as well as expanding the knowledge base of the library/information discipline.

The fifteen dissertations listed below provide good examples of the range of historical dissertations undertaken at CityLIS over the past 10 years. Some follow rather traditional paths, examining the history of a library service, or a form of service provision, or a publication; others look at themes and trends over time. One form, which we feel is particularly apposite, looks specifically at what historical analysis can contribute to solving present-day problems.

Two dissertations on the list may be accessed in the Humanities Commons repository; anyone interested in the others may obtain a copy from Lyn Robinson ( or David Bawden ( If any former students whose dissertation is on the list happens to read this post, please consider putting a copy in the CityLIS area in Humanities Commons.


Dissertations: History

‘The public libraries of London’ collection: oral history in the digital age
Marianna Ou  (2017)
Presents the process and outcomes of building ‘The public libraries of London’ collection of interviews with current and former staff members of London public libraries, to be housed in the Layers of London website.

A battle for identity: public libraries in England and Wales 1850-1943
Scott Richmond  (2016)
A comparison of the information role of the public library service, vis a vis its broader social roles, throughout the first hundred years of the service’s development in England and Wales

Anticipating the internet: how the predictions of Paul Otlet, H.G.Wells and Vannevar Bush shaped the digital information age
Dominic Allington-Smith  (2015)
A literature analysis of the nature of predictions of the information future, and the way they have influenced developments, particularly of the Internet.

Reading through wartime: Bethnal Green tube shelter library
Alexandra Santos  (2013)
A study of the wartime operation of a wartime public library setting, and reading habits of the time, based on analysis of materials in local authority archives

The Asiatic Society of Bengal Library: its evolution and contribution to the formation of knowledge about Asia 1784-1940
Sudakshina Roy  (2013)
A detailed historical study of one library service, and its influence on knowledge development in its domain

“Juveniles, women and the working classes”: a review of access to information in public libraries in nineteenth century England
Monica Deacy  (2013)
A study of the nature of public library provision to marginalised groups, based largely on analysis of primary sources, in particular mid- to late-nineteenth century periodicals

Information networks and communication channels of the eighteenth century anti-slavery and abolition campaign in London and the Royal Borough of Greenwich
Helen Dummett  (2011)
A study of developing information society, through an analysis of anti-slavery campaigns, based on analysis of diverse sources, particularly primary sources in local history collections.

An investigation into the relevance of the history and original aims of the UK public library service to current discussions about the future of the service
Rebecca Lacey  (2011)
A comparison of the issues facing the earliest public library services in the mid-nineteenth century, and those raised in current DCMS reports, to assess what lessons historical analysis may have for present-day policy development.

The social and cultural impact of printing in China during the Song dynasty (960-1279)
Melanie Strong   (2011)
An analysis based on secondary sources of the impact of the growth of printing during this period of Chinese history, with an analysis of what this implies for impact of information technologies in non-Western cultures.

The relation between the way subscription and circulating libraries operated in the 19th century and fear of information as a way of empowering women and the working classes
Lindsay Robinson  (2011)
A study of the nature of subscription library and circulating library provision to marginalised groups, based largely on analysis of primary sources, in particular mid- to late-nineteenth century periodicals

A study of public library services in Great Britain during two world wars
Susannah Oswald  (2010)
An analysis of how the UK public library service demonstrated its importance to wartime society, based on analysis of primary and secondary sources.

Collections and use in early medieval libraries: England and the continent in the eighth century
Katherine Carter  (2010)
An analysis based on both primary and secondary sources of the development of libraries in the wider context of early medieval European culture.

“The only rational end of all reading is information”: the Grub Street Journal and the changing culture of information in the 1730s
Eric Howard (2009)
A content analysis of one of the leading journals of the 1730s, to determine to what extent the information culture of that period might reasonably be termed an ‘information revolution’

On the advantages of history for the philosophy of information
Alan Bracey (2009)
A theoretical analysis of the philosophy of information through history, and the philosophy of history itself, as a basis for the study of documents and cultural artefacts, and of the concept of ‘historicism’ in library and information studies.

An investigation into the relationship between university and library in Cambridge and Oxford 1450-1550
Catherine Sutherland  (2008)
An analysis of the relationship between the university and the library of England’s two ancient universities at a formative time of their development, based on analysis of primary and secondary sources

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CityLIS Virtual Dissertation Collections. 1. Art and artists

This is the first of an occasional series of posts in which we celebrate and publicise the excellent work done by CityLIS students in their dissertation projects. Each post will focus on a topic, and present a series of dissertations in that area; this first one deals with art and artists.

The dissertations are mini-research projects, taking four months full-time or eight months part-time. Though necessarily small-scale, the best dissertations can produce results that may be immediately valuable for practice, as well as expanding the knowledge base of the library/information discipline.

All too often, when the dissertation is written up and the student has graduated the results are not publicised any further; this series of blog posts is one of the ways we will address this problem. We are also encouraging our students to deposit their dissertations in the CityLIS area of the Humanities Commons repository; two recent dissertation titles from the list below are linked to the full text in the Humanities Commons.

Some dissertations are also presented at conferences, or published as journal articles. From the list below, Helen Mason’s dissertation was published in this way: H Mason and L Robinson, The information-related behaviour of emerging artists and designers: inspiration and guidance for new practitioners, Journal of Documentation, 2011, 67(1), 159-180. It has been cited more than 50 times since its publication. An open access version is in the City University repository.

The sixteen dissertations listed below show the interest in this topic among CityLIS students over the past decade. They span a wide range of approaches and methods – conceptual analyses, case studies, surveys, interviews, international comparisons, action research,  literature reviews, and more – and deal with issues including classification, social media management, information literacy, information behaviour, collection policies, and document theory. The interest in the topic continues: one of our current students is working on a dissertation on rethinking the idea of art through the lens of Luciano Floridi’s philosophy of information.

The first two dissertations on the list may be accessed in Humanities Commons; anyone interested in the others may obtain a copy from Lyn Robinson ( or David Bawden ( If any former students whose dissertation is on the list happens to read this post, please consider putting a copy in Humanities Commons.

Dissertations: Art and artists

Digital and tangible: the collection and accessibility of sketchbooks in UK galleries                                                                                                                                         James Hobbs (2017)                                                                                                                          This dissertation examines the way in which artists’ sketchbooks are collected, organised, indexed and made accessible in libraries and other memory institutions in the UK, based on document analysis, interviews with artists, and a survey of sketchbook-holding institutions.

The photobook in the face of pervasive digital resources: is there an enduring need for the physical book among students of photography                           Tristan Hooper (2017)                                                                                                                     This dissertation examines the continuing relevance for photography students of the physical photobook, and its role vis a vis digital sources, based on interviews with librarians, lecturers, and recent graduates, and an online survey of current students.

Social media in art galleries                                                                                            Lucia Lopez Garcia (2017)                                                                                                                This dissertation project examines the ways in which social media are being used in art galleries in London to reach current and potential audiences and increase visitor engagement, focusing on the National Portrait Gallery and the Serpentine Gallery as case studies.

How are new media artists working with cultural institutions to document the creation and authenticity of their work for future access and use? A comparative case study of two digital media residencies at the British Library and the Victoria and Albert Museum                                                                        Wendy Durham (2016)                                                                                                                    This study examines the documentation produced by artists-in-residence in cultural institutions, using residences at the British Library and at the V&A Museum as case studies, based on examination of documents and interviews with stake-holders.

Examining digital art as a new form of document                                                Nicole Rogers (2016)                                                                                                                               This study examines the documentary status of digital art, how it is collected, indexed and made accessible, and the present and future roles of libraries, based on literature and document analysis, and on interviews with librarians, and using the Royal College of Art Library as a case study.

The information seeking behaviour of photography students                            Nick Galvin (2014)                                                                                                                               This study examines the information needs and behaviours of photography students in UK universities, using in-depth qualitative interviews, and focusing on the behaviours and sources involved in finding images.

Classification and the domain of history of art                                                   Jennifer Laurenson (2014)                                                                                                             This study examines the relationship between the academic discipline of art history and the classification of the disciplines’ intellectual materials, focusing on the Dewey Decimal Classification, the Courtauld Classification Scheme, and the Warburg Institute Library Classification.

The artist, the muse, and the library: exploring ‘inspiration’ and the library’s potential role in the creative process                                                                             Cait Peterson (2014)                                                                                                                         This study examines the nature of inspiration for art and design, and the role libraries may play in supporting it, with a detailed literature analysis and in-depth interviews with artists, academics and librarians.

Art in the library: do the arts have a role to play in defining the public library of the future?                                                                                                                        Laura Doggett (2013)                                                                                                                        The relationship between the arts and UK public library service is examined by means of a survey and series of case studies, evaluating ways in which art may be used to increase engagement of public library users.

Teaching information literacy to art and design students                              Antonia Williamson (2011)                                                                                                           Good practice in information literacy instruction for art and design students in UK higher education is evaluated by document analysis, a survey of students, and interviews with librarians, and the results used to plan an information literacy workshop for students at Goldsmiths, University of London.

(Mis)classification and the art/craft divide                                                           Suzanne Cowan (2011)                                                                                                                     This literature-based dissertation examines the the way in which the distinction between fine arts and crafts has developed, employing historical and conceptual analysis.

The library as a reflection of current art theory: investigating the pre-modern, modern and post-modern library                                                                 Sara Ahmad (2010)                                                                                                                           This study examines the extent to which art-based theories have been adopted in wider contexts, including librarianship, focusing on post-modernity, and taking the Bodleian Library as a case study.

How have new ICTs affected the handling of artists’ books in art libraries   Conor Donegan (2010)                                                                                                                    This study examines the way in which artists’ books are handled in UK libraries, in terms of physical organisation and access, and of inclusion and description in catalogues.

The information behaviour of emerging artists                                                     Helen Mason (2009)                                                                                                                           This dissertation examined the ways in which ’emerging artists’, those newly established in practice, engage with information sources, using an in-depth online survey of new graduates from universities and art colleges, mainly in the UK.

Art libraries in the US and UK: a compare and contrast analysis of institutional culture                                                                                                             Leah McGowan (2008)                                                                                                                     This study examines the differences in the practices of art librarians in the United Kingdom and the United States, based on document analysis and a questionnaire survey of academic, public and museum libraries.

The book as object: depictions of the bound volume in modern Western art      Laura Miller (2008)                                                                                                                         This study examines the bound volume of script as an enduring visual symbol, examining the role of books as objects within Western art.

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Reflections on the Cities, Embodiments and Technologies Conference

A brief account of my attendance at the University of Malta’s annual performing arts conference in March 2018.


The University of Malta’s fifth annual School of Performing Arts Conference was held on 7th-9th March. The title of this year’s conference was Cities, Embodiments and Technologies. The conference sought to generate debate on the how the relationship between performance (in its broadest sense) and culture can be articulated. Cities, Embodiments and Technologies were treated as frames through which speakers were invited to reflect and debate on how identities can manifest in the context of globalisation, and what impact our interconnected world has on the ways we understand history to intersect with the politics of the present.

I was part of the Performance Documentation and Intertextuality panel and presented a paper on the DocPerform Project. My goal was to explain the origins of the project and its goal to address the language barrier that exists between information professionals and performance scholar practitioners. I couched my paper in the context of digital culture, with its attendant themes of participation, technological connectivity, and open-ended art works. I also discussed the opportunities for knowledge innovation and models of practice research my role as artist in residence at CityLIS presents.

The other speakers on my panel were Marc Kosciejew and Marta Botana. Marc argued that performance and documentation enjoyed a symbiotic relationship whereby documentation can constitute a performance, a process creates a continuum of reality. Marta discussed her dance practice in the context of training one to feel connected to a site by treating the body as an intertextual phenomenon.

I couldn’t hope to try and precis all of the papers I heard, but I’d like to focus on a few key ideas and moments that really stood out for me.


Professor Maria Delgado opened the conference with her keynote paper ‘Performing Barcelona: Cultural Tourism, Geography and Identity’. Arguing that the iconography of Barcelona is bound up with theatricality, Professor Delgado cited the 1992 Olympic Games as an event that allowed the city to perform its identity on a world stage. The 1990s saw an unprecedented vogue for street art, a phenomena that was redolent of Barcelona’s strong traditional of performing outside of established arts venues in illegitimate spaces. This gives the city a porous identity. Tourists become readers when they visit Barcelona by inserting themselves in the topographical performance. Barcelona, in a sense, is a hypertext city that remains perpetually open to new formations.

The mutability of contested space was a theme picked up by Sophie Van der Bergh who addressed the tension between locationality and non-place in relation to the Iranian-Belgian artist Sachli Gholamalizad’s piece (Not) My Paradise. The performance concerns her grandparent’s migration rom Iran and the inability of any ethnic diaspora to completely leave behind the connection they feel with their home soil. Home becomes a fluid concept, one not necessarily rooted to a location but more akin to the preservation of memory and stories.

Babel Re-Play is a large scale practice research project based in cities across South Africa and Switzerland. The tower of the mythical Babel acts as a metaphor for the investigators to explore how the nomad, the figure who is forever wandering without a home, disrupts to hegemony of the cityscape by resisting becoming part of its textuality, which is to say it’s formal construction. In this sense, the nomad stands opposed to modernity by retaining their links with ancient myth. Using WhatsApp, Georges Pfruender, Cynthia Kros and David Peimar exchange images and films of the built environment in order to bring “the periphery to the centre”. The project uses WhatsApp as a cyberspuare, a digital environment that fulfils the function of a town square by allowing multiple actors to convene and share stories and experiences. The algorithm controls how much nomadic thinking can occur.

The final keynote was given by Professor Ann Cooper Albright who shared her research into the epistemologies of falling and its links with images and memories of 9/11. During her presentation, Ann showed us images of those who fell from the Twin Towers and reflected on the ways these pictures had come to symbolise a moment of global disorientation. The memorials erected in the days after the attacks can be read as an attempt to make sense of the incomprehensible atrocity the world witnessed that day.


I selected these moments because they have some resonance with the concerns and interests of those who work in the LIS field.

The gentrification Barcelona has undergone, for instance, has a powerful effect on how visitors and residents read the city. Delineating between legitimate and illegitimate forms of art runs the risk of making those artists who don’t fall within the former category invisible to the wider public. Documenting their practice becomes a necessity if they are to carve out spaces for themselves from where their art work can be encountered and experienced as part of Barcelona’s heterodox identity.

Proffering the city as text has wider implications for the ways non-text documents can be made to construct national identities for a public who may want to resist the conformity of the topography they traverse in their everyday lives. The figure of the nomad carries their home inside of them. Drifting through cyberspace makes nomads of all of us; we all create temporary homes and identities that possess a presence not contingent on the presence of the body to effectuate change in the environment we inhabit. The digital nomad can disrupt the homogeneity of cyberspace by giving the outside world a temporary home in the highly ordered and regulated environment. The outside brings new readings and knowledge to bear on how the web constitutes a home and a site where futures of our global future can be imagined and brought into being.

The commentary that an event with such a global scale as 9/11 possesses can sometimes obfuscate the experience of the individuals who experience such events first hand. The unofficial memorials that follow episodes of trauma and grief give a voice to the personal, which when erected in public spaces act as an attempt to keep living memory in a dialogue with official narratives and pronouncements. As documents, they function as the first attempt to formalise memories of the dead using public spaces as a site of collective contemplation.

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Guest Views: Focus groups with CityLIS students by Alex Asman and Diane Bell

This Guest Post by CityLibrary Librarians Diane Bell and Alex Asman looks back at a session they ran for CityLIS students earlier this year.


LibGuides is an easy to use content management system which is used by City, University of London Library Services and  libraries across the world to create small websites which are called ‘guides’.  LibGuides is owned by a company called Springshare and is part of a suite of products called LibApps, this includes LibCal (used to manage workshop, room and computer bookings) and LibWizard which is used to create quizzes, tutorials and other interactive content.

Within Library Services at City, we have a number of cross-team operational and project groups which enable us to work with colleagues from other teams and sites within the library.  We have found this approach to be successful, for example in the area of employability

One of these groups is our Library Guides group. An aim of this group is to lead on the future direction and development of Library guides. We were aware of the excellent potential of us collaborating with students from CityLIS,  our internationally renowned Library School.  User-centred design is useful to identify with users and include their ideas into service development (German, 2017).

We decided this year to offer workshops to CityLIS students to make them aware of our innovative use of Library Guides  and other Springshare products and our use of technologies but also to obtain their insights and feedback.  We felt that a knowledge of these tools would an advantage to students because they are so prevalent in many organisations.

We introduced a new Library guides home page in the summer of 2017 and the students gave us feedback on the design and clarity of this. We also looked at examples of some of our guides and those from other institutions.

Some aspects we discussed were:

  • It is key to consider the audience, purpose and objectives.
  • Front loading of important content in a prominent place on the guide.
  • The benefits of clear guide design and navigation.
  • Using bullet points or small paragraphs of text and having some white space on the page.
  • Incorporate accessibility features and consider ease of use eg. clicking/ scrolling.
  • Use of language and avoidance of jargon/terminology or acronyms providing a glossary.
  • Students highlighted the inter-disciplinary nature of LIS and the fact that is a postgraduate course.

Our Information Literacy Group has developed a new, introductory online guide (City, University of London Library Services, 2017) and a workshop series called Library Essentials and we also took the  opportunity to produce short videos on using the library (see slides on some of our use of technologies).

Our workshop presentation is below:

We have collated student feedback from our workshops and will be trying to incorporate it into some of our guide design and content and will also look for opportunities for collaboration and discussion and the sharing of expertise with CityLIS students. One thing we are looking to do is to develop learning objectives for our guides and to consider tailoring them to a specific audiences.

German, E. (2017). ‘LibGuides for instruction: a service design point of view from an academic library’, Reference and User Services Quarterly, 56(3), p. 162-167. Available at:

Alex Asman (Subject Librarian, Arts)  and Diane Bell (Research Librarian)

City, University of London.

Reblogged from: Citylibresearchers and CityLibrary’s Staff Development Blog.


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