CityLIS Research Student Profile: Rachel Cummings

We are delighted that Rachel Cummings has returned to CityLIS as a research student. In this post, Rachel shares some initial thoughts on her research interests, as she begins her journey as a full-time PhD student.

Rachel will be working within the area of fashion documentation and preservation. The work will consider fashion as a document, what fashion tells us about our individuality, culture and society, the challenges to documenting fashion, and the benefits to humankind from this endeavour.

Rachel will be working with Dr Lyn Robinson and Dr Joseph Dunne-Howrie. You can follow Rachel on Twitter: @rachelannec1

This post originally appeared on Rachel’s blog:

Introduction to PhD Research


My name is Rachel Cummings and I am extremely excited to say that I am continuing my studies with CityLIS as a research student. I recently completed my Master’s Degree in Library Science from CityLIS, in October of 2019.

I completed my Master’s Degree on a full time basis, with my research and dissertation focusing on the documentation and preservation of fashion pieces using the theories and practices of information and documentation specialists (Michael Buckland, Suzanne Briet, and Paul Otlet to name but a few). My Master’s research focused on the many definitions of the term “document,” with high emphasis on Michael Buckland’s concept of “Information as Thing.” Documents do not necessarily have to be text based, and with the wide definition of the term, within a certain context almost anything that is informational could in turn be considered documents. Fashion is, and has always been a big interest and topic of research for me. For this particular dissertation, I focused mainly on the physical fashion garments themselves, and how to preserve them for future generations.  I knew from the start of my journey at CityLIS that I wanted to focus my Master’s research somehow on fashion and preservation. After completing my Master’s, I knew that I was not done with my studies and this particular topic of research. There was so much that I was unable to touch on during my dissertation and I knew that I could take this area of research further.

For my PhD, I will be researching the documentation, conservation and preservation of fashion based multimedia collections in the age of the digital, expanding upon my previous work and research. Fashion is represented in many different ways in libraries, archives, and museums. These fashion collections that are being represented in the above institutions greatly varies. Fashion collections not always focus solely on the garments themselves, but also the sketches, photographs, fabric swatches, patterns, press clippings, videos and more that in turn make up the entirety of the collection. These components are also represented differently in this newfound digital age. My research will focus on the ever changing terminology and definition of a document, and how we document and preserve fashion. I am also interested in Library and Information Science as an interdisciplinary study, working in conjunction with archival and museums studies in order the conduct this research. There has been a recent public interest in the exhibition and preservation of fashion. With this new interest came new and innovated ways to exhibit and give access to all of those who wished to see and learn. Virtual archives and museums are becoming increasingly popular, and with these new online institutions popping up more and more, I wish to incorporate these into my PhD research as well.

I am incredibly excited to begin this research journey, and even more excited that I will be continuing my studies with CityLIS. Follow along for blog post and twitter (@rachelannec1) updates to see what’s new and exciting in the documentation and fashion worlds!

Further and recommended readings:

Barnard, M. (2014). Fashion Theory: An Introduction. 1st ed. [ebook] London: Routledge. Available at:

Briet, S., Day, R., Martinet, L. and Anghelescu, H. (2006). What is documentation?. Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press.

Buckland, M. (2014). Documentality Beyond Documents. Monist, 97(2), pp.179-186.

Buckland, M. (1997). What is a Document?. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 48(9), pp.804-809.

Kim, J. (2012). Building Rapport Between LIS and Museum Studies. Journal of Education for Library and Information Science, [online] 53(2), pp.149-161. Available at:

If you would like to study for your MA/MSc, or PhD in Library & Information Science, please get in touch with CityLIS!

Posted in Research | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Welcome to IDLE

Our renamed and relaunched Masters module Information and Data, Law and Ethics (IDLE) begins next week, and runs through the spring term.

The legal and ethical dimensions of library and information science have always been an important feature of the LIS courses at City, but have gained a new dimension and new significance with the move to a digital information environment, with new concerns over issues such as big data (and its potential misuse), artificial intelligence (and algorithmic bias), and social media (and disinformation and dangers for democracy). This module has been completely restructured to allow consideration of these new issues, alongside some long-standing concerns, such as privacy, the ethics of the information professional, and how to create an ethical information society.

The main sessions on the module, aside from introduction and conclusions cover: Making ethical decisions; Data, data, data; Information (and data) wants to be free; I want to be alone [privacy issues]; Ethical information provision; Our robot overloads [AI and robotics]; Keeping it legal; An ethical information society. Each of these covers a wide area, so a range of resources will be provided, to cover topics beyond those dealt with in class, and to encourage students to follow up areas of interest. We will try to strike a balance between theoretical/conceptual material, and issues of direct relevance to the practicing information professional, though the two are often intertwined. As a theoretical backdrop, we will make extensive use of Luciano Floridi’s information ethics.

Our guest speakers include:
• Prof. Jane Singer (City University, Department of Journalism)
• Dr. Emma White (City’s Head of Information Governance and the university’s Data Protection Officer)
• Carol Tullo OBE (formerly Director of Information Policy and Services at the National Archives and Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, and now a consultant on information and data policies)
• Prof. Claire de Than (Co-director of the Centre for Law, Justice and Journalism at City University)
• Dr David McMenemy (Department of Computer and Information Sciences at the University of Strathclyde)
• Dr Niccolò Tempini (Senior Lecturer in Data Studies, University of Exeter, and Fellow at the Turing Institute)
• Jacqui Gaul (Head of Library Services at Cass Business School)
• Stephen Penton (City University copyright librarian)

We are also inviting students taking this module to attend two related lectures:
• a session on copyright, given by Jane Secker (City University Learning Enhancement and Development), as part of a module on ‘Libraries and Publishing’
• a session on legal Information, given by Rob Hodgson (Librarian at City University Law School), as part of a module on ‘Information Resources and Documentation’.

The module schedule will be publicised, and we encourage CityLIS students not taking the module but has an interest in these issues to attend any of the sessions.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Welcome to IDLE

Student Perspectives: The Pleasure of the Record

Student Perspectives is our series of posts written by current CityLIS students. This post  is written by Tom Mason who looks at post-structuralist theories of documents and documentality. Tom is on Twitter:@tmoams

Stack(ed against me) / One-Two, One-Two.

I have to one side a small stack of books, some LIS-specific, some LIS-associative, some of which I have read, some I have begun, some I’ve dipped in and out of like a Choose Your Own Adventure book[1], and others that are awaiting my somewhat time-poor attention and focus.

Patient things, books. Their moment isn’t always the period immediately after you come into possession of them. Study throws this all up in the air of course. They now come with demands. They are in league with the deadlines.

And how about this cardboard envelope chock-full of print-outs? Repurposed, just able to pass for a file, it houses articles, interviews, typed-up notes, drafts; all stuff I can’t quite absorb solely via the various screens I attach myself to. Sifting through, was this a paper to read for DITA, or the Foundation module? Was that Floridi interview required or optional? I could check Moodle but perhaps more coffee will flush out the answer to that one.

Bathing in Roland

For our Foundation Module session 4, one optional reading was a blog post by another CityLIS student, Matthew Peck, entitled ‘The Death of the Document Creator,‘[2] after Roland’s Barthes famous essay, ‘The Death of the Author’[3]. Peck discusses documents and documentality (“the ‘social function’ of the document”) and finds analogy with Barthes, positing that “the document creator is dead, long live the document consumer,” i.e. how we interpret and catalogue documents becomes as -if not more- important to the ongoing life of the document than its creator and their story.

What is a document? There is the obvious answer: something written, printed, or saved, that exists as an official record. However, exponential growth of online content, to say nothing of machine-to-machine data, makes this a question whose answer is in flux as philosophies of both information and libraries themselves develop alongside -and in response to- societal and technological changes occurring within our Information Age as it steamrolls onwards.

So, a thought is a thought, occurring and existing, it would appear, in the mind. A thought discussed in conversation is something that might be recalled and recounted later if not recorded at the time, or “lost” to the past. A thought noted down produces a document. A thought, say, tweeted, is of course a tweet, and this tweet is an act of publishing that has also created a document. Whether or not all tweets are documents worth saving and storing is, as above, a topic in process of being explored within LIS and beyond. Do we need to record and classify every online utterance or exchange of data? When we ask this, it is natural to presume it is being done, though perhaps without the classification we are familiar with in libraries. Information is data and as such is harvested. And as we all know, deleting something rarely means it has truly been deleted.

The Pleasure of the Record

In looking at the history of documents, records, classifications and coding across both Foundation and DITA modules, a further Roland Barthes association suggested itself to me that I will explore and attempt to make coherent here. Between the document creator and the document consumer is the description of the document; the bibliographic record; the item description and classification.

From my own patchy and incomplete reading of Barthes work, the passages I recall most clearly and find use for in everyday life are the first pages in The Pleasure of the Text[4], specifically:

‘If I read this sentence, this story, or this word with pleasure, it is because they were written in pleasure (such pleasure does not contradict the writer’s complaints). But the opposite? Does writing in pleasure guarantee -guarantee me, the writer- my reader’s pleasure? Not at all. I must seek out this reader (must “cruise” him) without knowing where he is. A site of bliss is then created. It is not the reader’s “person” that is necessary to me, it is this site: the possibility of a dialectics of desire, of an unpredictability of bliss: the bets are not placed, there can still be a game.’

(Barthes, 1976, p. 5)

What this has always conveyed to me is that, put bluntly, we cannot please everyone and aiming to do so is both futile and misguided for the writing (or artwork, music, etc.) itself. An audience for any serious work is part imagined, part unknown. In this lies the thrill of the writing’s life when gone out into the world. The writing’s intention is to reach –and to seduce- an unknown reader, though its reception and use can never truly be known. As with many things in life, it is for anyone, not necessarily everyone.

In terms of Library and Information Science, could we perhaps see the creation and aim of a bibliographic record in some similar way as Barthes intends with writing? In creating records, we do not target a specific or ‘ideal’ seeker of the document, of information and knowledge. Rather, we create a framework and within this we insert information by which the resource can be found by the curious. The document’s record -its description- is the bridge between that document and the document seeker, it is a gateway to the document. In revealing the document’s existence to the document seeker here, we have our LIS “site of bliss,” offering the next move in our game of knowledge; that which will take place with the document itself.

Question Time

I am of course generalising, and questions arise that leave me unsure of the analogy. When Peck says “document consumer” does he mean the writer of the document record (who assesses the document in order to classify it for storage and retrieval), or the further user; Barthes’ reader, anyone? Are the creators of bibliographic architecture and records the matchmakers, shooting arrows at documents and their receivers? Or is the record itself the matchmaking device?

The cataloguer and the record generated are in league, for the future (and rather than deadlines, we are now talking lifelines). The cataloguer interprets the document so as to classify it. The ego is necessarily sidestepped, as the intention of a record is -surely- factual, concise and succinct information for the later provision of the document to someone else; the reader, the researcher, the user of the document. Whether or not the cataloguer is consuming the document is debatable. We assess every book that comes into our libraries, but we almost certainly cannot read them all.

Records are the necessary housing for the cataloguing and retrieval of documents and data. While they require formula, are inherently meticulous, exhausting even, they are also intriguing, pleasurable enticements. They act as bridges between curious seeking intellects and meaningful documents. Meaning is that which occurs between people and each other, people and things, people and documents. Records assist in the locating of documents as landmarks assist in the mapping of terrain. Without records, without descriptions of things, without markers, where are we? How do we find things?

Records could also be seen as locks along waterways, mediating the flow and also assisting the boat in getting higher or lower to the next level of the watercourse. At a time when the flow of information appears ever-increasing, this is of use, and perhaps we must be conveying not only the necessity but also the pleasure of the record. Barthes again:

[…] these terrible texts are all the same flirtatious texts.

(Barthes, 1976, p. 6)

Back to the stack

I have not gone into actual systems and standards of records, of which there are many. Neither have I addressed the theoretical side with the depth it might require from this point on. My stack of books includes reading of a more technical nature and practical application.

LIS is providing me with a bridge between the day-to-day realities and processes of library work and the technical, theoretical and historical layers to that work. Dominic Dixon, a CityLIS research student exploring links between the philosophy of information and LIS[5], spoke eloquently during an ‘After Hours’ session at City about his belief that librarians should have time factored into our roles to develop and build on these layers of our work, rather than simply carrying out the tasks required to keep our libraries running.


Until then, it’s study having to flow around work. But while this terrible stack of reading material won’t read itself, it flirts with the bookish nature and its aspirant academic aspect, and I am seduced enough to wade in, wade on.

Coming soon:

My bibliographic reveries are not enough to stop time[6]


[1] See

My own favourites as a youngster were Joe Dever’s Lone Wolf series

[2] Peck, M. ‘The Death of the Document Creator’ 2017. Available at:

The death of the document creator

[3] Barthes, R. trans. Heath, S. (1977). Image, Music, Text. London: Fontana.

[4] Barthes, R. trans. Miller, R. (1976). The Pleasure of the Text. London: Jonathan Cape Ltd.

[5] See Dominic Dixon’s website:

[6] Quote from: Battles, M. (2015) Library: An Unquiet History. New York / London: W. W. Norton & Company Ltd.

Posted in Student Perspectives | Comments Off on Student Perspectives: The Pleasure of the Record

Student Perspectives: How public libraries are using makerspace technology to allow their users to create and innovate

Student Perspectives is our series of posts written by current CityLIS students. This post is written by Ellena Moyse looks at the american innovation of the Makerspace in public libraries. Ellena is on Twitter:@ElleMoyse

Makerspace (definition):

“A place in which people with shared interests, especially in computing or technology, can gather to work on projects while sharing ideas, equipment, and knowledge”

For my second blog post of the term, I have had a look back on my notes from the previous sessions, and I have realised that every lecture I leave with several questions and ideas written down to follow up, some of these big and complex, some small. The first few DITA lectures left me with a lot of questions around the idea of information literacy – how can this be taught and what are we doing to teach it? I have also found that much of our class discussions around the idea of information literacy end up at this question specifically – what are we doing now to help young people and adults alike to gain fluency?

For those who aren’t yet familiar with the concept: a makerspace (also known as a hackerspace or Fab Lab) is a service run by schools, universities and perhaps most notably – libraries. These programs give patrons access to the space and resources to create and learn. Sometimes these resources are high tech (kits for coding, robotics and circuitry), but many libraries also offer kits for activities such as crochet, Lego, and even learning to play the ukulele. For reference, here is just one example of the types of kits provided from Duxbury Free Library in Massachusetts.

The Forge at Ela Public Library,

Sadly, although makerspaces are extremely common in US libraries, we have very little in UK libraries – although there are a few rare examples – mostly programs involving 3D printing technology (see here).  However, I predict that these will be cropping up a lot in the future as the US programs tend to be incredibly popular. Also, introducing more makerspace programs into public libraries would be incredibly beneficial for the institutions themselves. As librarians of this time, we now must look beyond the concept of a public library as a home for books – we are needing to change and go beyond “physical item storage” – libraries are far more than that – they are study spaces, meeting places, and a space for computing and printing. However, as Burke (2014) puts it this “trend” of reshaping library spaces still has one fundamental turn to take – “one that tilts the work of libraries from information consumers and providers to information creators”. The work that is being achieved from these makerspace programs is helping this turn to come into play. If you are interested in knowing more about the topic, Williams and Willett (2019) offer an interesting perspective in their research paper that examines the role of the librarian in a landscape where they are required to take on the kind of role[s] that makerspaces and similar programs require. Through interviews with library staff they seek to gain understanding on how librarians are adjusting to their role shifting to that of an information professional or even a ‘teacher’ type role.

Many of these Makerspace programs give patrons access to technologies such as 3D printing, coding software, and AI technology. Access is the first barrier to gaining information literacy and this eliminates that first barrier straight away. Much of the research into the impact of these programs shows an incredibly positive impact on its users. Bers, Strawhacker, and Vizner’s 2018 study found, for the environments studied – children had shown “collaboration”, “communication”, “competence”, “innovation”, and “[gained] confidence using digital tools” after partaking in a makerspace program. Keune, Peppler, and Wohlwend (2019) offered an incredibly interesting perspective by looking in depth at a young, female engineering major who felt she had overcome the limitations of the STEM field which “acknowledges women’s expertise less than men’s” with the support of her makerspace program. Keune et al. note how the makerspace program allowed this young woman to build her portfolio, as well as share and build relationships and connections with other learners.

Lastly, Finley (2019) looked at Frisco Public Library’s Artificial Intelligence maker kits – their “most complicated [by far]” which utilizes Google’s AIY Voice project kit, an entry level computer, and a small speaker which results in “a stripped-down version of an Amazon Echo”. With a small amount of Python coding expertise (which the library also offers makerspace classes to teach) these kits enable “mass participation” in Artificial Intelligence. The introduction of maker kits of this advanced level to public libraries would be revolutionary – and much needed in order to meet the demand of a world where employers are desperately seeking information and technology minded employees. Finley also notes that the feedback to these kits has been extremely positive – with patrons stating they are grateful to have access to these “power[ful] tools” and are pleased with the results and the range of things they have been able to create.

The feedback from these makerspace programs seems to be overwhelmingly positive. However, as examined in Williams and Willett’s (2019) work, the introduction of makerspaces may lead the librarian to question their role. Historically, we have been known as the ‘keepers of knowledge’ – however, the introduction of makerspaces and similar programs flips that idea on its head, are we now also expected to be teachers as well as ‘knowledge keepers’? Whatever the case, for the patrons of public libraries, I believe that makerspaces can only be a positive thing. They are a much-needed way of facilitating creativity, innovation, and a great first building block in learning key skills – whether that’s programming or playing the ukulele.


Bers, M.U., Strawhacker, A. & Vizner, M. (2018) The design of early childhood makerspaces to support positive technological development: Two case studies. Library Hi Tech, 36(1), pp. 75-96.

Burke, J. J. (2014) Makerspaces: A Practical Guide for Librarians. US: Rowan & Littlefield Publishers.

Keune, A., Peppler, K. A. & Wohlwend, K. E. (2019) Recognition in makerspaces: Supporting opportunities for women to “make” a STEM career. Computers in Human Behaviour, 99, pp. 368 – 380

Williams, R. D., & Willett, R. (2019). Makerspaces and boundary work: the role of librarians as educators in public library makerspaces. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 51(3), pp. 801–813

Further reading:

Halbinger, M. A. (2018) The role of makerspaces in supporting consumer innovation and diffusion: An empirical analysis. Research Policy, 45(10), pp. 2028-2036

Halverson, E. R. & Sheridan, K. (2014) The maker movement in education. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), pp. 495-504

Luce, D. L. (2018) The Makerspace Librarian’s Sourcebook. Journal of Web Librarianship, 12(4), p. 262

Posted in News, Student Perspectives | Comments Off on Student Perspectives: How public libraries are using makerspace technology to allow their users to create and innovate

Screening: ‘Our Hobby is Depeche Mode’ Jeremy Deller’s and Nicholas Abrahams’ 2007 documentary on Depeche Mode fans.

CityLIS are delighted to be able to show ‘Our Hobby is Depeche Mode’ 2007 on January 27th 2020, ELG02, 18.00-19.30. The screening will be followed by a panel led by current CityLIS student Melissa Ramos, who will be joined by director Nicholas Abrahams.

The screening is part of the CityLIS After Hours seminar series, and is open to all. This film will be of particular interested to those interested in links between LIS, fandom, fan studies and popular music.

Text adapted from:

Sometimes things get lost because it’s easier that way. Like Jeremy Deller’s and Nicholas Abrahams’ 2007 documentary on Depeche Mode fans called Our Hobby is Depeche Mode (aka The Posters Came from the Walls). No one’s quite sure what happened there. Maybe it was accidentally filed under “F” for forgotten? Or perhaps carelessly pushed to the back of the archive where no-one would ever think to look except for maybe a very keen researcher hoping to find that one rare masterpiece for a festival schedule?

Who knows?

Whatever happened, happened. But very few people have seen Deller’s and Abrahams’ documentary, which to be frank is a goddamn shame.

‘Our Hobby is Depeche Mode’ is one of the best films ever made about music. It’s a staggering good documentary that has the audacity to speak to the fans and only the fans. Are you aware that Depeche Mode fans comprise one of the most ardent and hardcore fanbases of any group in the entire world history of popular music? Oh yes they do. Maybe not so much in their homeland England, but in many countries, Depeche Mode are viewed as actual heroes.

Jeremy Deller is a Turner Prize-winning artist and filmmaker. Nicholas Abrahams is a documentary filmmaker, artist and promo director. Their film Our Hobby is Depeche Mode documents the stories of Depeche Mode fans like Mark who was homeless when he found his love for the band. He slept rough under Hammersmith Bridge. His greatest fear was not finding food or comfort or money but would the batteries in his Walkman last so he had their music as company. Or, Masha, a girl in Russia who spends her time drawing intricate comic strips of her imaginary life with Depeche Mode. Or, Orlando who lights a candle every day at his shrine to the band. Or, the thousands of youngsters who gather every year in Moscow on Dave Gahan’s birthday to celebrate “Dave Day.”’

Nick Abrahams is a filmmaker who has collaborated with many musicians, including Icelandic rockers Sigur Ros on several occasions, notably with his short film ’Ekki Mukk’, winner of the British Council Best UK Short Film. Shirley Collins has been his latest muse, leading to the ‘Death and the Lady’ clips and creating the stage visuals for her ‘Lodestar’ tour. He has collaborated with Turner Prize winning artist Jeremy Deller on a variety of projects including  ‘The Bruce Lacey Experience’ and ‘Our Hobby is Depeche Mode’, both feature length films, which have been exhibited extensively around the world. Over the years he has made pop videos for bands as diverse as Huggy Bear, Stereolab, Cornershop, Leftfield, the Manic Street Preachers and Add (n) to X. He sometimes exhibits artworks in galleries. He is currently living in Glasgow, trying to write his first feature film. He is doing this very, very slowly.

SOCIAL MEDIA (though he’s not on there much)

Instagram: @abrahams_nick

A full listing of CityLIS events for the academic year 19/20, including our open-to-all After Hours seminar series, can be found on our Events Listing.

Please contact Dr Joseph Dunne-Howrie [] if you have any queries.

Posted in Events | Tagged , , , , , , | Comments Off on Screening: ‘Our Hobby is Depeche Mode’ Jeremy Deller’s and Nicholas Abrahams’ 2007 documentary on Depeche Mode fans.