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Katie Fraser's blog and website

I'm an academic librarian, working in the UK Higher Educational sector, supporting academics and students. Prior to this, I was a researcher, working with social and learning technologies.

My interests include the application of emerging and traditional technologies, research support in libraries, learning spaces, evidence-based practice and the professional development of library and information workers.

You can find out more about more about me from the links to the left. Note that the views expressed on this website/blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other individual or organisation.

Pancakes and Mash: Exposing your data, institutional mashing and local affordable CPD

March 14th, 2011

Mashed Library Lanyard

Genuinely the coolest lanyard I've seen at a conference: it had the programme, wireless internet log-in, campus map, a QR code for the updated programme on the event wiki and a barcode giving access to the university library.

On Tuesday last week I went to my third (and the eighth overall) Mashed Library event at the University of Lincoln. It probably goes without re-saying that I love these events: both as an opportunity to expand my knowledge of what can be done with technologies in libraries and as a chance to network and swap ideas with like-minded information professionals.

Pancakes and Mash (named as it fell on Shrove Tuesday) kicked off with an opening keynote from Gary Green from Voices for the Library, talking about the role of social media and data in his team’s project to save public libraries in the UK. I won’t go into much detail here, but please do go and check out the website and at least read their guide to 10 things you need to know about library closures / campaigns.

This Mashed Library I wasn’t aiming to extend my techie skills, but instead focused on learning more about the kinds of events and projects others were using tech to support. Exposing your data with Nick Jackson and Alex Bilbie from Project Jerome was a great introduction to the kinds of challenges libraries face in using data. Key learning points from this session for me:

  • Cultural change is required to truly seize open data in libraries: asking what companies will allow you to do with data when taking on new software and services
  • Licensing of data is immensely complex, but it is worth trying to negotiate changes or exceptions to terms and conditions
  • It’s easy to substitute data you’re not allowed to use (e.g. bought-in catalogue records) for data you can use (e.g. by matching data by ISBNs)
  • It’s not unusual to find obtaining rights to use data which belongs to your own institution as complicated as using external data.

After lunch, I then went to see Alison McNab talking about De Montfort University Library’s Mash at Lunchtime events – see their blog at Essentially this is a platform DMU is using to share knowledge about technology in libraries internally (within library and across the institution) and represents an interesting model for developing a technologically aware community. This was followed by an interesting chat led by Stephanie Taylor about the ways in which librarians and geeks can work together: although it soon grew clear that library-geeks talking to computer-geeks was a better analogy, as most of the communication challenges were two way!

University of Lincoln Great Central Warehouse Library interior

Shot of the University of Lincoln Great Central Warehouse Library interior.

To finish, a few of us went to have a look around the interior of the Great Central Warehouse Library of the University of Lincoln. Rather appropriately for a Mashed Library event the architecture is a beautiful combination of old and new, with modern glass panels in amongst the old brickwork, and there’s some ambitious use of new technologies like information screens to convey library information and get feedback. Also on the techie side, I have to say that this conference was the best I’ve ever attended for wireless internet access and availability of power points for charging laptops: good work Lincoln and the organisers!

This event was great fun and has yet again extended my knowledge of what libraries can do with data and information. However, one thing that was discussed both at the (un)conference and on the associated Twitter feed, was that many of those attending weren’t funded by work (in my case a combination of different reasons meant I didn’t feel it was appropriate to ask). I encountered mixed feelings about this: the Mashed Library events in general always seem affordable for those living locally, which is great, but it’s also a shame that for most of us this kind of developmental work just isn’t central to our job descriptions. In tough economic times, however, perhaps that’s inevitable.

3 Responses to “Pancakes and Mash: Exposing your data, institutional mashing and local affordable CPD”

  1. I was really sorry to miss this one, and glad it went well. I think the point about ‘attending in your own time’ is an important one. I guess I think there are a few points here:

    I believe that anyone in an information profession should have some basic skills in this area – but clearly this point of view isn’t embraced by everyone, and it is difficult to make this as a general argument to your manager

    I think the model of affordable local events does avoid some of these issues – much easier to get permission to go to an event that costs next to nothing and has low travel costs. I was talking to a manager who asked me ‘why should I send my staff to a mashlib event?’ – we discussed this for a bit, but I felt I hadn’t convinced them until I said ‘well the next event is here (in this city)’ – and they immediately said ‘well in that case they’ll probably come along’

    Some of the events have taken a specific focus – and I think this has made the arguments easier for some staff. The ‘chips and mash’ event in Huddersfield that focused on RFID is a good example. I’m very keen on organising a metadata/cataloguing focused one in the next year, and I think there are lots more areas we could bring focus to (information literacy, subject specialities, special collections, etc. etc.) – perhaps we need to think about this approach more?

    The final point is that despite these issues it is incredibly gratifying that all the events have been very popular in terms of attendance – so while I share some of your concerns, this is also something to celebrate – and reminds me that there are lots of people in and around the ‘library profession’ who are interest and willing to give their time and expertise to these events.

  2. Katie says:

    Oh yes, I’d agree that the fact that there were people self-funding there is definitely more a positive than a negative: I hope my observation didn’t come across as too critical. I thought it was worth sharing as it sparked a few interesting conversations (and, I’m glad to see, is continuing to do so).

    I’d agree that local events are at an advantage for attendance: in terms of value for money, time and stress. I also think the specialisation idea is a good one one – it’s always much easier to argue for attending an event that’s in your core role – though I think such events would be best run in parallel with the more general mashes, as I enjoy the mingling as much as the mashing.

    A side note: I should also, to be fair to my employer, indicate that they have funded me to attend a Mashed Library event in the past, and did send a colleague to this Mashed Library, so it’s not that the sessions aren’t valued. However, I think I’d find it hard to attend one about once a year (my ideal frequency) unless I was working on a specific relevant project.

  3. […] but our former colleague Katie Fraser got there before me!  She has blogged about the event at: Pancakes and Mash: Exposing your data, institutional mashing and local affordable CPD.  We attended the same morning and afternoon workshops (on “Exposing your data” and […]

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