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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.

Mashed Library Liverpool

June 12th, 2010

This post was originally written by me and posted on the University of Leicester library blog at It is replicated here to preserve this blog as a central record of my professional development.

Liver and Mash, Parr Street Studios, Liverpool

Photograph of Liver and Mash, used under Creative Commons licence, courtesy of

I went to my first Mashed Library event, Mash Oop North, in Huddersfield in July 2009, had a fantastic time, and was pleased to go back to Liver and Mash in Liverpool in May this year. The Mashed Library events unfold in a relatively informal unconference format, with lots of discussion of ideas and ways of quickly and easily implementing mash-ups in library and information services.

This post won’t be so much a reflection on the event as a collection of tools and ideas which I found inspiring, and hope to come back to over time. Hopefully there’ll be something to inspire others too.

Liver and Mash started with an OCLC Mashathon, a workshop that OCLC have run around the world looking at how OCLC services can be used in mash-ups to create new uses for data. Karen Coombs from OCLC has blogged a little about the Mashathon here. OCLC offer a wide range of services and resources, here are a couple which caught my eye:

  • The Worldcat Basic API is available free for up to 1,000 queries a day (assuming non-commercial use) and can return a list of books held in OCLC’s comprehensive Worldcat Catalogue from a query. The list is returned in RSS or Atom format, and can be formatted by a number of standard citation guidelines. I’d be wary of using it long-term on an academic library site with the query limit, but there are further options available to those subscribing to OCLC services.

Unfortunately, we were lacking a reliable wireless signal on the day, so weren’t able to develop much on site. The second day, however, moved on to a wider variety of applications, so I was able to take notes and experiment later. Again, here’s a selected few:

  • Tony Hirst from the Open University spoke about gathering data on use of library websites (e.g. via Google Analytics), and segmenting users into groups by types of behaviour. Gathering behavioural data definitely sounds like something I’ll need to think about in our forthcoming redesign of the library website as part of the team moving the site to the University’s new content management system, Plone.
  • Julian Cheal from the University of Bath, demonstrated some ways of using RFID. I’ve long had a bee in my bonnet about the limited uses (issue and return) we have for RFID in libraries considering we’re one of the biggest users of the technology, and it was interesting to see demonstrations of library cards generating prompts and information as users entered the library or carried out library-related activities.
  • Lastly, John McKerrell talked about using maps in mash-ups. Maps are something I’ve seen used quite a lot on library websites, but only occasionally do these services go far beyond embedding Google Maps. Services which particularly stood out were Mapstraction – which allows web developers to switch quickly and easily between different map services, Get Lat Lon – which is a quick and easy way of finding latitude and longitude values for a given location, and OpenStreetMap – a free, collaboratively-edited map.

While I’ve not jumped in and used any of these services straight away, both the Mashed Library events I’ve been to have really opened my eyes to the wide variety of options available to me for using and integrating data on the web. You may see a few of these services turning up on the library website as we get further down the line with the Plone rollout! To finish the post, here’s a video of Liver and Mash, which I think catches the atmosphere and creativity of the event pretty well: YouTube video of Mashed Library Liverpool.

Mashed Library: Unconference Thoughts

July 10th, 2009

As well as commenting on the more formal learning I took from Mash Oop North, explored in my blog posts on the opening sessions I also wanted to take time to comment more generally on the unconference.

I was funded to attend Mashed Library by CILIP Yorkshire and Humberside – I’m writing a report for their newsletter in ‘payment’ and because I was travelling from Nottingham rather than Sheffield, where I study, they generously offered to put me up in a hotel before the event to allow me to avoid a super-early start.

I’m really glad I got to go to the event early as the Monday night getting-to-know-you meal and drinks were invaluable in finding my feet and getting to know some delegates beforehand. I commented on my previous posts that Twitter was useful in following ideas being generated and discussed elsewhere in the event itself, but the pre-show was great in that I got to meet up with people who I knew from Twitter beforehand. It was great to put people to IDs / pictures of faces, and I found a few more interesting people to follow as well. I’ve always tended to arrive at events like this on the day, and I think I might actually arrive early wherever possible in the future, as it really helped me settle in.

The conference was brilliantly organised: not only were we asked to indicate our own experience and interests beforehand, but we also got to vote on pizza toppings for the lunch, and influence which of the opening sessions ran parallel to each other. I missed the Yahoo! Pipes session, as it ran opposite one my choices, but fellow-Twitterer @spiky7 and I had a play with it in the afternoon and created an exciting tool for stalking conference organiser Dave Pattern. Unfortunately we had to edit out his #mashlib09 tweets as they overwhelmed the timeline!

If you’re interested in learning more about Mashed Library then it’s well worth visiting the Mash Oop North blog, where there should be further updates on the event. Next year’s event will take place in Birmingham, entitled Middle Mash, and I’d recommend attending if you can find a place – this year’s sold out with speed!

Note: the picture shows the Ikea rat on display at the Rat and Ratchet, which we called into on Monday night. I have the exact same toy rat, so he made me feel right at home.