Category Archives: Events

Seven Stories Collection Department – CILIP NE Visit

I will freely admit that I am a Children’s fiction addict so visiting the Collection Dept store at Seven Stories has actually been on my to-do list for a while but I haven’t had a specific research “need” to feel I could justify the trip – especially as it would have to be in the working week.  So when CILIP NE committee were discussing possible places to arrange to visit, I felt this would be a great opportunity!

Paula Wride was kind enough to agree to give up her time to host our visit and show us some gems – and also the stacks!  It was lovely to see the original artwork and the archival treasures and I completely understand that this is, and should be, the focus of Seven Stories and their work.  This material is unique, irreplaceable and is what makes it a world class collection – but you need the final printed books too in order to understand why this artwork was created.  So thankfully they have a book collection too – although it’s not yet on the online archives catalogue so you have to know it exists from tours like these.  There’s around 35,000 volumes so it’s no small task to pop it all into even a basic listing never mind a detailed catalogue to help researchers.

As it’s a collection which supports a museum and archive, they have kept to an archival arrangement of stock; keeping collections together in terms of provenance rather than attempting to intershelve and alphabeticise – although I bet many of the Librarians in the group were dying to do that at times walking round- myself included.  I can understand the logic though considering the wider collection.  In some ways, these are simply part of numerous separate larger archival collection yet they can be shelved standing on a shelf without a box so you couldn’t possibly mix them up together.  It is also nice to see at a glance what different authors and organisations contributed as one collection which would be lost if they were swept into one alphabetical sequence.

My favourite sections were those which had come from libraries when they were forced to dispose of their “final copies” sets of books by various authors; often of a 70s/80s/90s era but also some earlier material as well.  I was really thrilled to see copies of the “Young Traveller” series – as described by Kay Whalley at Topsy Turvy conference in 2014.  I will definitely be going back to read some of those.  There were also various career novels which I would love to read and some reference books about children’s literature which would be fun to browse too.

I am determined to make time during the working week for a return visit to read!  I think I could probably be there all day…

Guide for researchers and other visitors to the Collection 2015

CILIP NE Visit 13/10/15


Leave a comment

Filed under Children's fiction, Events

Museums and Exhibitions

Whilst travelling about the country for conferences, I have to say I did manage to fit in quite a few museums and exhibitions as well!

Sadly in Oxford, nothing was open before or after the conference but I did manage to nip into the Ashmolean on the lunch break as it was so close – I loved this in the corridor though – one way to display them all!

image of lots of busts on a wall

I gave myself the whole of Sunday to enjoy exhibitions in London – and it was also Open House weekend – the equivalent of my own Heritage Open Days so I was sure there would be plenty to see.  I started off at my favourite of all – the V&A and their fabulous shoes exhibition.  I don’t pay to visit many exhibitions but I did feel this one was worth it.  Big enough to feel you had seen something but not so much that you feel overwhelmed.  I was in there just over an hour and I read all the captions!  I particularly liked the bit on the upper level where they displayed collections from different shoe collectors and how they store them – one woman had hers on bookshelves as decoration!  Lovely idea if you have pretty shoes.  Another wonderful feature of the V&A is their cloakroom – it made such a difference to viewing this that I could leave my suitcase behind and it’s not even a charge – it’s a suggested donation.

As it was Open House, I moved on to the beautiful Institut francais du Royaume-Uni, nearby on Queensbury Place.  I love art deco buildings anyway, but art deco with a library is even better!  This is the outside – brick in a street of Georgian stonework with lovely detailing

Institut Francais external shot

Then inside:

Inst Fran (4) Inst Fran (3) Inst Fran (1)

Truly gorgeous.  And open to the public for non-members to use the reading room (free wifi!) in Central London.  Definitely worth knowing about.  Just to finish off a great trip, they were having a booksale downstairs – mostly in French but I got some lovely French Language copies of Spot for a friend’s bilingual son!

I went on to the Science Museum and their “Information Age” exhibition – as a Librarian, I really felt I ought to!  I did enjoy it – although seeing all the old radios and TVs made me think how much my Grandad would have really loved this exhibition.  I particularly liked the telephone exchange section – I would have liked to try putting in cables…  They should do a “could you have been an operator?” interactive test!


Leave a comment

Filed under Events

CILIP Libraries and Information History Group annual conference

As soon as I saw the call for papers for this conference which was themed “Libraries and the Development of Professional Knowledge” I knew that the Mining Institute should be represented.  After all, it’s the focus of what we were created for back in 1852!

I applied and I was lucky enough to be invited to come and give twenty minutes on the MI and our collections.  It was hard initially to find a focus for a paper which was essentially an introduction but after some discussion with the organisers, I focused it around the men who created the collections and entitled it “In Lasting Remembrance” – a regular phrase from the Annual Reports.  If you would like to see my presentation, the slides are all on Slideshare and I’m also very happy to come and give this paper or versions of it at other events….  It was a lovely opportunity to do some research for myself rather than on a topic dictated by a researcher (recently this has been dust from coke ovens – 3000 pages of it….)

The other papers were very varied and initially I was worried that these papers were far more academic than mine!  Despite this I got a friendly reception from the other speakers and delegates and I hope some of them will call off next time they are in the North East and see it for themselves.  I was lucky that one of the other speakers, Martyn Walker, had not only visited but used our library in the past and he was vociferous in his support for our collections!

I particularly enjoyed John Tiernan’s talk on Librarians of the Mersey District which highlighted firstly how underpaid and undersung public librarians have always been and secondly how early women were involved at a very high level.  His description of their early meetings held in each Library and including a tour to show them off to their colleagues sounded very familiar even today….

The keynote speaker was Anthony Watkinson from CIBER talking about the history of journals and publishing.  I was intrigued to hear about the economics and the “80-20 rule” – only 20% of an academic publishing house’s journals will make any money – the rest will only break even!

I was also really enjoyed hearing Christine Chapman talk about “Building a Natural History Library” with the Willoughby Gardner collection including how they highlighted his collections beyond just supporting the work of the curatorial staff of the museum.

shelves at Pusey HouseThe location in Pusey House was beautiful as you would expect of Oxford, although smaller than I expected.  Our conference room was surrounded by shelves; many of which held boxes which read “miscellaneous pamphlets” – made me feel very at home!  Other elements were similar too – there was a confusing door entry system to rival my own in Newcastle and made me realise how offputting and confusing this must be to outsiders.




After lunch we got the tour of Pusey House including the beautiful Library:

PuseyLibraryWhich still runs on these:

Puseycards(Well, apart from a small selection of titles which have now been added to the main computerised Oxford LMS.)








At the end of the conference there was the option to go to the pub and chat, however I have to say that I got a better offer from Emma Jones who offered to take us round the Jesus College and see their Fellows Library.  I was very very tired (long trip, IBS plus 2 year old = 4 hours sleep) but I couldn’t resist.  I’m very glad that I went:

Jesus College Library Jesuscollege1  Jesusme


Filed under Events

NAG conference 2015

Conference comes round again so quickly!  September is also a hugely busy time for me with Heritage Open Days happening as well (498 visitors in 3 days since you ask, very good total for us…) plus another CILIP NE conference happening plus a CILIP LIHG conference happening the week after.  Never again will I agree to speak at three conferences in ten days!

NAG conference was additionally stressful in that it was firstly the biggest audience of the three but also, as well as speaking about the Seam Project and our Singer-Songwriter in residence, Gareth Davies-Jones, I was also singing with him.

Back when the Executive Committee had been planning this committee and someone said “ooh, Jennie, didn’t I read about your project in CILIP recently?” and I was destined to give a paper.  We then moved on to talk about the after-dinner entertainment.  We all agreed that the casino had been a great success last year and we wanted to do it again, but we would like to offer something to make it different.

casino table

[Thanks to @HeatherSherman for the casino pic]

So we added Gareth to the after-dinner programme to present some songs from The Seam project.  Now, I was delighted to be able to offer Gareth a (paying) gig, but I could see where this was going…  For the larger gigs as part of the project, Gareth had a backing band and even a choir sometimes but always a harmony singer.  I do sing in choirs and a band, however I do like some rehearsal time which, thanks to other problems and commitments, was a little lacking for this one!  I will admit that at the point where we performed, we had never sang “Practical Coal Mining” through together so I was very relieved that we made it to the end of the track successfully.  We did get to sing through the other songs once before dinner so that made me feel a little better!  I actually really enjoyed doing the Safety lamp song – Stephenson, Clanny and Davy – it’s a lovely harmony line.

I think a song as part of the paper was a great novelty for people – we certainly got some positive tweets about it – and it was certainly the best way to show off what the project achieved!   If you want to see for yourself, Gareth is touring with the Seam this autumn with gigs across the North – from Hett to Heighington and Newcastle to Stockport.  Get a free flavour of the tracks on Soundcloud or buy the CD (all of cover price goes to Library) on eBay!

people with pieces of string linking themOne huge bonus was that once the dinner was over, I could relax and enjoy day 2 of conference with the other delegates with no further pressures.  I really enjoyed Anne Welsh and Jenny Wright’s session on RDA – trying to explain the basics of levels and relationships to us courtesy of many cards and bits of string!  A really interactive workshop which was great.  I was also keen to hear from the Royal College of Surgeons Collections Review Project as it sounded like they were also dealing with a collection which included objects, books, archives and journals.  Their scoring system was really impressive (and detailed) and I could see it was impossible to achieve it in full without dedicated staffing as a project (as they are doing) but that elements of it, particularly in terms of measuring usage of an item, might be something I could take away and introduce into my work life.


Leave a comment

Filed under Acquisitions, Events

“How does a multi-venue exhibition really work and what are the partnership benefits?”

“How does a multi-venue exhibition really work and what are the partnership benefits?”

This training day at Segedunum Museum focused around the three previous successful ‘dispersed exhibitions’ ran by TWAM in partnership with other smaller institutions and the National Portrait Gallery to bring national collections to the region.

Dispersed exhibitions place one image or exhibit from a set in each venue, encouraging the visitor to seek out further items at the other partnering venues with unified panels and publicity and central management of the exhibition as a whole. Each venue could then choose whether simply to display the one panel or whether to add further materials around the topic.

The most recent example was WallFace, in Autumn 2014. Despite a £10k marketing budget, I have to say that I did not personally see any publicity for WallFace although I may not have been in their target audience. I have never had a great enthusiasm for Roman history; I prefer the more recent past.

I was surprised how easily they had overcome some large hurdles which I would have assumed were insurmountable for small institutions relating to national loans. Many environmental problems had been solved by the TWAM conservation team creating individual Perspex cases to contain the images which also removed the necessity for constant invigilation. They did admit that the paperwork is still hefty but they had offered smaller institutions help to deal with the documentation. The process was also simplified by TWAM receiving and condition checking the entire group of loans which also substantially reduced the courier costs.

The goals of the exhibition were also interesting; WallFace did not aim to particularly increase visitor numbers but to add value to the existing visitor experience and to encourage some people to visit one or two extra venues. The understanding from the beginning was that very very few people would visit all ten portraits in the exhibition; I found this odd as I would feel I hadn’t really succeeded in seeing the exhibition without seeing all ten. This may be the completist collector in me…. The real goal behind the exhibition was to trial partnership working and improve relationships and connections between the different Hadrian’s Wall sites. They are then using the experience of WallFace to do a much larger project in 2017 which will aim to increase and develop the audience attending the sites.

WallFace also allowed them to develop events and education around the exhibition. The learning and participation work was done by Conchie & Co who asked schools what they needed most. The answer was Key Stage 3 resources so Conchie then linked the exhibition into the KS3 Art curriculum and was lucky enough to find a school who had decided to base their year around Hadrian’s Wall! Part of the end result has been a single unified website for educational resources around the wall including not only such practicalities as where to park your coach, but also a “homework help” section specifically designed to help the pupils with the independent research required in KS3. Conchie summed up by saying it was crucial to find a way to meet the needs of the school, then grow their needs to also meet your objectives.

Bill Griffiths (Head of Programmes, TWAM) ended on the key messages that dispersed exhibitions are a real, reproducible model for the future for the museums sector but the key to successful working in this way was understanding that it was about co-ordination not control, and equality of all partners. He believes WallFace shows what can be achieved with the true spirit of collaboration!


The day was well worth attending, even if simply to give myself some time to think about exhibitions and how the Institute can tackle this in the future. I felt the event was sadly under-attended with only about 20 people in the room, at least 9 of whom were speakers. I will be interested to see how the concept of dispersible exhibitions is developed in the future; and should one relevant to the Institute come up, I would certainly investigate the possibilities. The only remaining difficulty for a small institution I believe would be security and insurance which was touched upon but not fully developed. I would be interested to know the actual cost (in both money and time) to one of the small institutions involved in a previous dispersed exhibition before I would be willing to sign up!

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, Training

Sustainable Collections Care 16/10/13

Environmental impact is a big watchword these days, but I will admit I hadn’t thought of it in relation to collections care.  All this dehumidifying and lighting and heating that we have to do to make collections accessible and safe has an environmental impact.  It also has a financial impact too thanks to the rising energy costs.

This (free) training day at Bede’s World was provided by the Conservation Advisory Network and covered:

  • Sustainability at the Bowes Museum (Jon Old)
  • Saving money and the environment, solar panels and LED lighting in a Grade I listed building (Dennis Jones, Durham Heritage Centre)
  • PAS guidelines and how they can be effectively used to reduce energy usage (Dawn Bradshaw, TWAM)
  • Museum and Gallery lighting with LED technology (Dave Warburton, Concord)
  • The National Trust’s approach to Environmental Sustainability and Collections Care (John Wynn Griffiths)
  • Biomass Heating (Edward Milbank, Pennine Biomass)
  • Going for Gold – how to become a gold rated ‘green’ museum (Helen Marrit, Killhope)

LED lighting was a big topic and kept coming up through most presentations.  Our lighting is largely big fluorescent tubes (which we hate and would love to replace) and a few (energy saving) ordinary bulbs.  In the long term, yes, I would love LED lighting and movement sensors.  In the mean time, we are trying to train staff and volunteers to switch off lights and we’re experimenting with turning less lights on in the main library.  I used to just switch them all on regardless every morning, now I do half and see if the day is bright enough to manage without.  Like many environmental measures, it requires a bit of thought and a little bit more time.

“Green Teams” were also mentioned a few times which is the idea of having a group of staff who are really committed to being environmentally friendly.  Killhope try and recruit new members of staff straight into the Green Team so they have ecological working practices taught from the start of their career at the museum.  At the Institute, it is largely me and Simon, but he has definitely brought greener practice with him.  We now recycle (although this entails taking your washed out yoghurt pots home again as the City Council doesn’t provide business recycling bins) and we also are more aware of switching off machines and screens completely.

It was heartening to hear that the new specifications for environmental conditions are more relaxed.  The new PAS 198:2012 has made guidelines more achievable thanks to doing a lot of work into whether broadening the parameters would damage collections.  There is also a switch to considering items separately rather than as collections.  There’s new emphasis on thinking about what the building can achieve on its own – do you need the machines year round?  I found this an interesting thought.  I automatically run dehumidifiers 24/7, 365 days (or as near as I can get it) but do I actually need to?  With seasonal variations, probably not.  I should pay more attention to the meters and the RH levels before I switch them on.  I know that our stores will never get too dry (lower limit still 30%) so I tend to run them “just in case” when I could save energy, and the environment, without them.

We all smiled when Dawn mentioned the safe working limit for employees was 16 degrees.  I think it’s a given part of the job that we all end up working in cold environments.  Many of us have old (therefore cold) buildings plus a deliberate aim to keep stores cold (7-14 deg in winter) so we all end up cold too!  Several galleries suggested 18 degrees as their aim for the public spaces (given that visitors will probably be wearing coats and moving around).  Later in the winter, perhaps I will do a post specifically on tips to keep warm!  We were certainly sharing ideas on our table!

Biomass heating wasn’t such a hot topic for me, it did look like a great option if you’re currently on oil or electric heating, but if you can get mainline gas, that’s still cheaper.  I did love their solution of installing web-cams into fuel stores so they can check how much you have left without you having to go and look!  Really using the advantages of technology to make life easier.

Finally, Helen from Killhope gave lots of examples of how they have become a greener museum.  One I hadn’t considered was purchasing sustainable office and housekeeping supplies.  I don’t think much thought is currently going into that here, and perhaps we could shift to some more environmentally friendly options.  There’s LUSH soap in the staff kitchen already – there’s a start!

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, Training

CIG RDA e-forum training

Over the last two days I have learnt more about RDA than I thought I would for years – and all without even leaving my desk.  Online training is a wonderful thing!  Free online training without any annoying webinar software that crashes every five minutes is even better…

The format was simple, you sign up to the JISCmail list, you look at their examples online, sign up for free RDA toolkit access (if your institution doesn’t already have it) and then do your examples in advance.  Then over the forum days you gradually submit your records and study the differences and discuss.

It was the most entirely free training I have ever done, thanks to the free RDA access, no travel costs and other free online videos etc from organisations like Library of Congress on RDA.  I will say that it took most of my time and attention to keep up with it (although there was a long lunch break which was very helpful) and I was also trying to manage volunteers and users at the same time.  I think next time I might be tempted to follow it in a separate office somewhere, if I can manage to access my email elsewhere…

I was hugely relieved to discover that my attempts at RDA weren’t very different to other people’s and I didn’t seem to be missing anything too fundamental.  I was also calmed by comments that, when squashed into a MARC based LMS, RDA was not going to (initially at least) be so very drastically different from AACR2.  Or, it didn’t have to be, if we didn’t want it to be.

I’m not sure how soon RDA will impact my work in my current role.  We certainly can’t afford a yearly subscription to the toolkit, although I can access a paper copy at another library as an alternative.  We don’t download records so I don’t have to worry about changes at the British Library creating inconsistencies, but I do want to keep us as up to date as I can, and offer users the best catalogue that I can.  I also would love to see our records uploaded to COPAC one day, so I would need to be consistent with their systems.

Some aspects of RDA really appeal to me, and some (such as losing the rule of three and not abbreviating words like “volume”) fit with our existing in-house rules which is not only easy but also comforting that we had the right idea there!

Other bits seem very difficult, especially when combined with MARC and LMS limitations.  I would need to have a long hard look at conferences especially, and I’m not confident with creators/contributors yet either.

Finally some changes just don’t seem like a good idea!  I can’t accept that changing the structure of ISBNs in the catalogue to include spaces, hyphens or text is a good idea.  It would be a huge conflict with all the existing records and simply not computer friendly.  I don’t think I’ll be making that change personally.  But then, I’m creating a system which is neither AACR2 or RDA.  Is that going to be an even larger problem?  Although we had alternative practices from DCRM(B) and in-house rules already so it wouldn’t actually make much difference there.

The training goes on.  Thanks to the Forum I have a further 30 days access to RDA to help me decide, and there is talk of regional discussion groups who will create records together and discuss the changes and ambiguities.  I do hope there is one here “oop North”!


Filed under Events, Training