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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.

Feature on RLUK Conference in CILIP Update

January 30th, 2009

As a second step in my campaign for media dominance, I’m mentioned in an article in this month’s (the January / February issue) of CILIP’s Library and Information Update. Hello to anyone who’s found their way here from the article – it’s on the RLUK (Research Libraries UK) Conference I attended back in October 2008 and here are the posts from the conference mentioned in the article.

Just to avoid / add to the confusion, the article’s got a teensy error in it: I’m actually a student with a PhD, rather than a PhD student – I’m currently studying for the MA in Librarianship at Sheffield, and my PhD was in Learning Sciences at Nottingham University. Still, nice that Update were so interested in our experiences as student attendees at the conference, and I hope this is a positive sign for RLUK continuing to offer student places at their future events.

RLUK Conference: Part four – Future of Librarianship

November 8th, 2008

The final theme was the future of librarianship, and this covered two main aspects – the need for leaders of the future, and the research library-specific consideration of how librarians’ roles might change.

There were two talks on leadership. The first came from Alistair Work, and mainly focused on how individuals react when the moment to show leadership arises. He also asked an interesting question – given that long-term professionals tend to develop certain styles of thinking, with associated neural changes, what does a librarian’s brain look like? For me, an equally interesting question was whether a newly qualified librarian is going to end up with a similar brain to the librarians in charge today, and what, if any, differences there are between the current cohort of library school students and those of a few decades ago. In addition, Sheila Corrall, my Head of Department presented an evaluation of the Leading Modern Public Libraries programme – it seems well worth a look for those interested in library leadership across the sectors.

The other main theme was the emergence of new types of librarian role in research libraries. Often when speakers talk about the changing role of librarians it is simply a matter of integrating new technologies into old posts; this was about how changes from technologies might create entirely new posts. For example, with the advent of open access, researchers will need librarians to manage internally produced repositories of publications, and even data. In research libraries it seemed like librarians were being encouraged to move away from liaison roles to the support of researchers’ information needs, and with my background in research this certainly sounds like an exciting opportunity!

So, that’s the end of my thoughts on the RLUK conference. There’s a bunch of stuff about the course and visits backed up to talk about, but that will have to wait until my next update!

RLUK Conference: Part three – Digitisation

November 6th, 2008

Another theme of the conference was digitisation, and as one of my main interests is in the use of technology in libraries both of the parallel sessions I attended focused on this theme. Alice Prochaska from Yale University spoke to the whole conference about the opportunity for libraries to exploit their special collections as a “unique and distinctive” resource in the information age. The major question to be asked in doing this, however, was “how do we prioritise our digitisation programmes?” and several speakers over the course of the conference gave their opinions.

A session themed around OCLC’s Shifting Gears paper, led by John MacColl, argued for mass digitisation – getting as much ‘out there’ as possible so that collections could be sifted through by researchers rather than librarians. A number of strategies were put forward for this – from ‘scan on demand’ to simple ‘scan the first one and keep going’ strategies. However, researchers still have to find the digitised information. One issue identified in the following JISC / RLUK session was that collections tend to be available through individual portals, and designing usability and interoperability into these has not been a priority. The other, recurring throughout the conference was whether to add metadata at the collection level, at the level of items, and whether user tagging could substitute for / add to metadata added by librarians – I’m a fan of the tagging route, but it was interesting to see the range of (passionate) opinions on whether it was a good idea!

Again collaboration rose as a core theme, with the collaboration between JISC, JSTOR and the pamphlet owners on the 19th century pamphlet collection an interesting example – JSTOR provide the infrastructure for storing / accessing the collection. The difficulties (and opportunities!) of working with commercial partners were something I hadn’t seen spelled out in concrete terms before, and again the OCLC Good Terms report on such collaborations seems like a useful resource.

Finally, and particularly up my street, the difficulty of storing born digital information was considered. At RLUK the focus was very much on how to store websites / pages, and whether regulatory backing could be achieved to allow this to happen. This discussion came up again recently for me in the context of Game City where the National Videogame Archive was launched. Videogames can be ‘born digital’ but they are associated with physical media, such as cartridges, and other physical materials such as instruction booklet and inserts. Digitisation of materials sounded like such a simple concept before I started digging!