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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.

The 3Cs of Worksop Library: chartership, collaboration and cuts

January 6th, 2011

Worksop Public Library: view from upper floor

View from the upper floor of Worksop Library. Apologies for the blurriness: only had my camera phone!

In November I went on a visit to Worksop Public Library run by the East Midlands branch of CILIP, which combined a workshop on CILIP qualifications (relevant to my chartership) and a tour of the library.

It was good to meet people who were in a similar stage of chartership and the talk from Kath Owen was great. This was the first part of my plan to get beyond the ‘gathering evidence’ stage of my chartership and actually start putting together something which looks like a portfolio. As I’ve finally regained my free time after buying a house in September (hence the lack of activity on this blog since then!) I should have lots more opportunity to make that happen!

Worksop Library is newly built and only opened on 20th September 2010. It’s lovely: my photos really didn’t do it justice, so I’d recommend checking out the photos from the day on the East Midlands Branch Flickr page at It’s a beautiful rebuild.

What was really inspiring for me, though, was hearing all about how the library had gone the extra mile in embedding itself in the community since the reopening. The library had worked alongside community businesses to help open up author days and put on lots of community activities. They were also co-located with other services, including a registry office (and gorgeous little wedding chapel!) and a day centre for those with disabilities.

With my chartership hat on I was particularly interested in how the library has fostered relationships with the other services in the building. I think it’s often assumed that putting two services together will automatically lead to collaboration, but in my experience it’s far from that easy! For example, the Student Development team in the University are based in the library building at my current post, but we’re still working on ways to work together.

At Worksop collaboration and co-location seemed to have worked well: you could tell that staff from different services all knew each other, and day centre users were happy to wander out into the library and get books. I asked after the tour and the staff were keen to stress that it had needed a lot of personal commitment. Clearly something to think about doing more in my post (I’m a liaison librarian, after all!).

The only downer of the day was going into the staff room and noticing a newspaper clipping about library cuts on the noticeboard. It’s all the more heartbreaking to think about the impact of cuts when you see what a little investment in library services can do, and Nottinghamshire County Council is getting hit hard I hope the momentum Worksop Library gained when the new build opened isn’t lost completely in these hard times.

Information Commons dissertation presentations

September 12th, 2009

This was my first week at work at De Montfort: it’s been enjoyable, but as I’m still finding my feet, I’ll wait before blogging it. Instead I’m going to talk about an event I attended during the week. I presented the findings of my dissertation at a couple of events in CILASS, alongside my supervisor, and CILASS director, Professor Philippa Levy: one on Wednesday 9th to a group from UC&R Wales and one on Thursday 10th as part of the SRHE Student Experience Network. I’ll talk about the SRHE event as I was able to stay the whole day and see the other sessions.

The day started with a talk from Kath O’Donovan, Associate Director of Library Services at Sheffield. She talked a little bit about the background to the IC project – a lot of which was familiar from my interviews with staff – and gave a good introduction to the IC.

Kath was followed by a presentation by Krishan Mistry about his IC-related video IC Girls. It’s worth following the link to see this playful take on the IC. I must admit, I have always found the video / song lacking on the feminist front, but it was interesting to hear about how the idea for the video had developed: Krishan’s explained that the lyrics of of the song were intended to mock one womanising friend’s tales of the IC, which made me a little more comfortable with it. There’s all sorts of interesting discussions about viral marketing and student ownership of university spaces triggered by this video, and it was interesting that Krishan had been accused of developing it in partnership with the University – he assured us that he had been avoiding staff during the filming!

Next, Phil and I presented the findings of my dissertation, and I took everyone on a tour of the building ‘through students’ eyes’: specifically focusing on how individual areas in the IC can be meaningful to individual students. I had 30 minutes, but overcompensated for touring 40 researchers / librarians around the building, and only took 15, so we had time for some interesting discussion afterwards.

After lunch, Matthew Cheeseman, the convenor of the event, talked about his Folklore PhD looking at students in Higher Education. He talked about how the nighttime economy – the economy of bars, clubs and alcohol in which mainstream students participate – fitted with the idea of a 24 hour library. I have enjoyed his work a lot, and would recommend checking out his 2008 paper – The impact of a 24 hour library on the student experience at Sheffield.

Finally, IC Manager Alex Hunt wrapped up the event with some tips on managing a facility like the IC. One of my favourite facts from her is that cleaning a 24 hour library is more like cleaning an international airport than cleaning a library – it’s never shut, and you’re always having to clean around the people!

It was a good event, and I particularly enjoyed the range of perspectives from the speakers – from Kath’s focus on the development of the building, to Krishan’s personal student experience, to my relatively study-focused findings on how students used the building, to Matthew’s understanding of the IC as a social phenomenon, through to Alex’s experiences of running it. The event really emphasised to me the different views of the Information Commons (and libraries in general) we have, and how much we can learn from stopping and thinking about these facilities from the perspectives of other stakeholders and users. A big thanks to Matthew for organising the event!

Note: Photographs are views of the IC from one of the higher floors, and of the CILASS space within the IC.