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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.

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.

Visits to Sheffield Public Libraries

January 6th, 2009

Happy 2009! It’s an odd time of year for our course, as there are no lectures until the start of February – it’s undergraduate examination time. There’s plenty to be getting on with in the meantime though, a large assignment, thinking about dissertation topics, and other bits and pieces (preparation for the next semester, conference applications for student places and so on). To fill in blog space, and because I haven’t so far, I thought I’d write up some thoughts on my visit to Sheffield Public Libraries. This took place all the way back in October, but this semester’s been a little packed!

This visit was a little bit different from the Derbyshire Public Libraries visit, as instead of going to the flagship library as we did in Chesterfield, we visited a couple of branch libraries, in this case Parson Cross and Upperthorpe Libraries. These were an interesting mix. Parson Cross is quite far out of Sheffield, and a fairly old library, but due to be replaced by an exciting new library within a community centre soon. Upperthorpe is a relatively new library, based in a community centre including a swimming pool – in fact, I remember the renovation works on the old swimming baths where it’s housed taking place when I lived in Sheffield before! To illustrate this post you’ve got a picture of the children’s library in each, Parson Cross to the right, and Upperthorpe below. I’ve picked the children’s area as they’re always nice and cheerful, but I also think the pictures nicely illustrate the slight differences between the two – with Parson Cross being cheery but slightly dingy (or well-loved, perhaps), and the Upperthorpe slightly brighter and airier.

After the tours around the two libraries (we were bused between the two) we had the opportunity to talk to some senior staff from Sheffield Libraries. As with the Chesterfield Public Libraries visit I came away feeling a little bit of guilt about public libraries not being my sector of choice. However, I think the visits did confirm for me that I really wouldn’t like to work in a branch of a public library. Don’t get me wrong – they both looked like fantastic places, and I’d happily be a library user in either. The community aspect of libraries, while valuable to me, however, is not what I’m interested in libraries for: my passion lies in the information side of library work, and helping people locate and use resources. On the other hand, it made me think about the possibility of working in a public library in a more central, administrative area. Some of the profit making and project based arms of Sheffield Libraries sounded really intriguing, and I’d definitely be happy working in a more information-focused role in a public library. Never say never!

Visit to Chesterfield Public Library

October 8th, 2008

The first library visit of the MA course today, and we went to Chesterfield Public Library, with the slightly broader remit of hearing about Derbyshire Public Libraries in general. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll have picked up that my career plan isn’t really focused on public libraries. I’m not one to turn down a library visit though: I do believe that the different library sectors can learn a lot from each other, and it’s also generally interesting to go and see the services other sectors offer. I also have to say that if I was less certain of my career goals I would have been swayed completely!

Derbyshire sounds like a fantastic library service to work for: they seem up to speed with the political agenda, open to new ideas about how to make the library service work for the public, and full of initiatives for drawing new users in. My personal favourite aspect of the library was how much natural light came in: I find so many libraries in every sector lack this. Of course, part of their agenda was to sell their service to us – in a year we’ll be potential job applicants – it’ll be interesting to see whether that’s a theme in future visits too!

One of the things I enjoyed thinking about during the visit was how academic and research libraries could learn from the way things are done in public libraries. The picture in the top right shows the front-facing books displays which seem to be becoming pretty common in public libraries. I was wondering if academic libraries could benefit from similar displays. Universities often concentrate on core texts for undergraduates, but as a postgraduate I certainly would have been tempted by a display of intellectual classics. For example, when I was an undergraduate my lecturer claimed that every educated adult should have read ‘The Selfish Gene‘ by Richard Dawkins, and I know I’m always telling people to pick up ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat‘ by Oliver Sacks. Promoting books as tangible and desirable artefacts isn’t really done in academia, but it could lead to wider reading, expand minds and encourage interdisciplinary thought. In fact, reading without a specific learning outcome in mind is something the academic sector could borrow from public libraries in general!