Tag Archives: #ub11

Umbrella 2011 : Beyond Pathfinder – currency of staff IT skills (F5)

 Beyond Pathfinder: currency of staff IT skills
Alan Brine, Head of Technical Services, Kimberlin Library

Pathfinder was an elearning project where a number of IT skills were listed and staff were asked to mark them as “I can” “I need reminding” or “I can’t”.  Following the survey, they offered a range of different training options.  A popular option was the Wiki The 56 Things to remind people how to do tasks that perhaps, they encounter less often.  The 56 things developed into The 67 Things.

Personally, I think this was a very useful project and an easy way to assess skills gaps in a large organisation.  It may even be applicable at the Institute with the volunteers.  I could create a similar list including different volunteer tasks such as scanning, cataloguing report series or shelving and ask people to complete it.  It could be expanded with “I would like to” and “I am not interested in” to allow for the difference in volunteer staffing where they can choose not to do a particular task!  I also like the idea of a Wiki to store information on how to complete things.  At the moment I’m on the low-tech option of a folder of “how to” sheets on desks but that can look messy.  Apart from issues with logging into a computer initially, the rest could be stored digitally.  This may be a project for my next work experience student…



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Umbrella 2011 : Developing your library presence online: working beyond Web 2.0 (F5)

Developing your library presence online: working beyond Web 2.0
Nick Stopforth, Doncaster

This session was described as an horizon scan looking at the next 10 technological developments, some of which are already in place today.  It was about observing what other people are doing really well and taking away from the best of those and discussing these developments and their applications and implications for libraries.

All of this is looking towards Web 3.0 but as Nick pointed out, what does that mean for people who are still Web 1.0 or less?  People without a social media presence and not using Wikis etc.  It’s a big leap for them and many public library users are Web 1.0 or less.

To start us off, Nick explained the hype cycle.  A new piece of technology runs from the trigger point, up the peak of inflated expectations, down into the trough of disillusionment, then finally up the slope of enlightenment into a plateau of productivity before the next product comes along.

First up, RFID and a big recommendation for Mick Fortune’s Blog.  Thinking to the future RFID can be far more than a book alarm but only with standardisation and interoperbility.  One example already in use for visually impaired users was a pen style reader which could speak information on audio books to help people choose their own audio books.

I have to admit, at this point my laptop battery died (there was a serious lack of plug sockets at Umbrella generally!) and my notes are considerably more sketchy.

An idea that still considerably caught my eye as applicable to my job was open source data.  It’s low cost, innovative and solutions orientated with no exclusivity and no paywalls.  The main example is Koha and now I’m eager to talk to other librarians using it…

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Umbrella 2011 : Working with volunteers for the Summer Reading Challenge (E3)

Working with volunteers for the Summer Reading Challenge
Tracy Hager, Wiltshire

Tracy talked about her experience of using volunteers to run the Summer Reading challenge at Chippenham library in Summer 2010.  Volunteers are essential in order to make it possible to listen to the children talk about their books as there are around 1000 children reading 6 books each…

She received 33 applications from volunteers, and 28 actually took part totalling 425 volunteer hours.  Unfortunately 11 volunteers did not fulfill all their planned hours and there were 33 hours where they were completely stood up with no advance warning.  I can sympathise with that moment when the lack of a volunteer suddenly creates extra staff work to cover for the missing shift.  It’s a very frustrating moment!

When Tracy reached her “problems with volunteers” slide, the camaraderie in the audience suddenly increased…  All of us had experienced some or all of these issues I think, and it was a wonderful feeling to be with other people who understood.  Her listed problems were:

  • The ones who did not turn up on time or at all
  • The ones that were too shy or reserved to make the children feel comfortable
  • The ones that seemed to be doing it only for something to put on their CV or university application
  • The ones that did not ask questions and consequently made mistakes
  • It proved difficult dealing with these volunteers, making them aware of the difficulties they had given us, when they missed shifts

Tracy then illustrated these problems with some case studies, showing the ways she had tried to work with these volunteers for example she offered reminder calls for those who were chronically late.  One case study certainly rang home with me about those volunteers who bring their troubles with them and give you far more information than you want or need about their personal health and situation.  I also agreed with the following quote:

We agreed that it is incredibly difficult to manage volunteers in the same way one would an employee, as it feels inappropriate to be anything other than grateful when someone is giving their time for free.

It is very difficult to criticise someone’s work, even constructively and gently, when they are working for free to help you.  I must admit that I have been known to chicken out of the situation entirely but simply moving the volunteer onto a different, usually easier, task rather than spending time with them to improve their work on the original task.  This is partly because of the lack of time I have to spend with each individual and partly my personal dislike of criticising people’s efforts.  I always feel it must be largely my fault for not training the person more thoroughly initially!

Another useful tip was sending out evaluation forms in thank you cards.  This is more appropriate for a short term, fixed project than for ongoing volunteers as I find you rarely know in advance when they’re leaving but it was a very nice idea.

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Umbrella 2011 : Using volunteers in libraries – the Dorset experience (E4)

Using volunteers in Libraries – the Dorset experience
Tracy Long, Dorset

Tracy first gave us a useful introduction to Dorset for those of us who are geographically challenged!  It is the  smallest of shire counties, mostly rural with small towns along the coastline.  It has a population of 400,000 with many older people. There are 34 libraries, which is quite high per head of population and these are centred in market towns and some villages.  They have very varied opening times from 45 hours a week to just 6 hours a week.  Dorset also have 259 library volunteers, contributing 8500 hours per year.

The volunteer hours add value, and improves the services they can offer, providing things that they wouldn’t otherwise have the resources available.   This includes:

•Home Library Service – ran in partnership with WRVS
•Summer Reading Challenge volunteers
•Friends of Libraries Groups
•Community Supported library opening hours

Home Library service
This is a partnership with WRVS with whom they have a Service Level Agreement.  Their demographics mean this service is particularly important to Dorset.  All of the administration of the volunteers has been outsourced to the WRVS as a paid contract.  They deal with the entire administrative side including the CRB checking process however the volunteers themselves still describe themselves as being library volunteers.

Summer Reading challenge

This tends to attract young volunteers aged 16-25.  They have used volunteers from a scheme called Reading Partners who usually work in schools to help with reading but in the holidays they are available to work in libraries.  There was some initial resistance from staff however they are now generally positive with a feeling that the volunteers offer a better service than the limited number of reading and learning librarians are able to provide.

Friends of Libraries Groups

Tracy pointed out that it is easy to overlook these groups as being volunteers but their activities extend what the libraries can offer.  They support with time and also cash.  This money helps provide furniture and equipment.  Initially they wanted to provide books and stock, but the librarians felt that was part of core responsibility so directed money towards extras like display units.
The Friends also offer support at local library activities and events such as running the refreshments or helping with IT courses.  They also provide social contact which can be important role for public libraries by running coffee mornings, bring a book and have a chat events.  Dorset has 13 friends groups.  A campaigning role is also beginning to emerge for these groups.

Community supported opening hours.

In 2006 Dorset had a a funding shortfall.  Initially the Council decided to close 13 out of 34 libraries.  Resistance and campaigning followed and the proposal dropped however instead they needed to reduce hours in all 34 libraries.  The final decision was made to reduce the hours.  Doing this first became key in some of the legal areas which followed…

20 of the affected communities were invited to support local library service delivery by three possible options:
–Fund additional opening hours
–Take responsibility for library building
–Extend library opening hours using volunteers

6 local parishes decided to buy extra opening hours through their council tax.

2 communities responded to the option of providing volunteer staffed opening hours.  These are very small libraries which currently have 6 hours a week with one member of staff in small rural villages in affluent communities.  Dorset have found that this characteristic is important, it’s considerably more challenging to recruit from larger towns and less affluent areas.  These communities also already had established Friends groups which provided the initial volunteers.

The volunteers are extending staffed hours, but the council is still responsible for the library service.  The volunteers are providing the council’s library service for an extra 6 hours over a number of days.

Benefits of Community Staffed Libraries:

•Longer opening hours for local community
•Savings achieved
•Community engagement in local delivery
•Local advocates for library service – an unexpected bonus.
•Civic pride and ownership


But that enthusiasm needs to be channelled and library staff have to know what’s going on.  One example of volunteers’ enthusiasm running out of control would be when Dorset volunteers recently painted the library building.  Wonderful, except it was a rented building and the library did not have responsibility for it’s upkeep!


Volunteer recruitment and turnover – Worried initially whether they would be able to do it? However these concerns have been unrealised – they have only lost 1 volunteer after 18 months and that was because they were leaving the area.  They have found a high level of commitment.  These volunteers do tend to be retired professionals, especially from the people and caring professions.

Responsibilities (CRB, insurance and roles) – Be clear about roles and responsibilities.  What they will need to do to become a volunteer.  There was an initial resistance to CRB checking.  Totally unnecessary they felt so they had to set context and give an explanation.  They also needed public liability insurance.  Generally they found volunteers were most worried about the security of the building.  They didn’t want the responsibility of unlocking the building and unsetting the alarm.  Getting into the building was actually the biggest obstacle.

TUPE regulations  – This was a big risk.  Dorset had to get the county solicitor and head of HR for advice followed by 2 sets of barrister advice on it.  This relates back to the key decision that council made to reduce opening hours before there was a suggestion to involve volunteers.  Anyone involving volunteers in staffing hours needs to talk to legal professionals.

Trade Unions relations and staff views  – it is important to keep them informed and engaged.  People ask what the views of local staff are and there is lots of resistance initially.

Volunteer policy and supporting documentation – Crucial to have the written documents.  They used the County Council Vol policy as a framework.  This is very clear on how you will use volunteers and staff.

Training  – this is an important part of what you deliver to the volunteers.  This includes not just training on operational processes, but also diversity and H&S issues.

Access to LMS – This could be a big issue.  However with RFID (which Dorset has in all 34 libraries) and the volunteers do not have or need access to the LMS.  The training which would be required is too comprehensive for them to manage and there are too many data protection issues.  Anything that requires LMS access they have to pass on to paid staff on their next shift.  It works well because these are such small libraries. 

Role of Volunteers

•To help library users access and use:
–Books and other stock
–Other library services
•To help customers with using the self service equipment
•To undertake clerical duties associated with providing a library service eg shelving
•Referring library users to the Library Service as appropriate
•Liaise with local volunteer co-ordinator and library service staff as appropriate
Dorset has found it is essential to have a volunteer co-ordinator who can be available as one point of contact and Responsible for co-ordination of volunteers (e.g. rotas, holiday and sickness cover).  They also provide team supervision and support for training which stops the local staff being overburdened by queries.  This (volunteer) role has initially been taken on by the Chairman of the board of Friends.

 Next Steps?

Proposals include reduce opening hours again and use volunteers to make up hours.  Then brings into questions for TUPE where you are substituting a paid member of staff by a volunteer before making the decision to reduce hours.

The other option is for 10 libraries to become community managed where they take full responsibility.  The Library service will provide a support package including books, IT, and limited staffing support.  The choice is do we want to close 10 libraries or have a 25% reduction of professional staffing and a 55% reduction in book fund?


I found this extremely interesting as an introduction to community staffed libraries, especially the fact that this is working well, but only in very specific areas with a specific demographic.  I found it amazing that they had such low turnover of volunteers, however I do find older people are more stable volunteers myself, turnover tends to be amongst younger, job seeking people.  I was also surprised that they had found someone to take on the huge role of volunteer co-ordinating unpaid and someone who could do this reliably and well.  I do however think it is unlikely that they will find ten more individuals who are willing and able to take on this role and there may be difficulties in this area.  I thought the number of volunteer hours was also actually quite low, 8500 sounds a lot but it is spread across 34 libraries and in comparison we managed 7500 in just one library last year.

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Umbrella 2011: Technologies and Access (D3)

Technology, personalisation and librarians : research and practice
Nigel Ford, Sheffield

This talk focused on how people have very different information needs and behaviour and also process information in different ways.  He suggested using these differences to provide personalised information servicesHowever in order to do this, we need greater understanding of users to provide better services through greater interplay between LIS “researchers” and “practitioners”.  This would create effective user models from their different styles of thinking.

The different styles of thinking were local (narrow/convergent) or Global (broad/divergent).  Being strong at one means you may find it difficult to do the other.  Divergent thinking has often equated with creativity.  Creativity represents seeing some new relationship (integrating theme) between previously disconnected phenomena.  I could quickly apply this styles of thinking model to myself and another member of staff.  I am definitely the “local” one and he’s the “global” one, but combined we make a good team!  I can see the local difficulties with his new big global creative ideas…

Nigel also talked about his new project: PATHS – personalised access to cultural heritage spaces.  This is a big 3 year project which has just started using www.europeana.eu – a vast digital library.  They hope to provide personalised access to 15 million items.  Users will navigate throughthe collection via pathways based on different themes.  These could be an artist or media, historic periods, places, famours people or other topic.  They can be linear or branching and jump off any point.  You can edit other people’s paths which are storable and editable and learning objects in own right.  Users can be encouraged to develop their own paths or use paths created by others (including ones created by librarians, educator, curator).  The idea is users will be able to control the level of divergence/convergence to match their cognitive style.  It’s still under development but the system should be able to offer useful “see also” suggestions rather than annoying ones.

It looks to be an interesting project and on a smaller level, I can take away some hints.  I could look at personalising information about the library to fit my different user groups (e.g. family history researcher, university student, surveyor, solicitor).  Further down the line, I could look at paths through the photography collection where we could make pathways showing different themes through the images.

The Google Generation: understanding information seeking behaviours in the digital environment.

Ian Rowlands, UCL

I was quite disappointed to realise I wasn’t technically part of the Google generation.  You have to be born after 1993 apparently.

Their project looked at information behaviour using information stored on the server about how people used websites and exactly what they actually did.  They have discovered that people often mis-report how they used a site however this browsing history is firm evidence.  It’s known as “deep log analysis”.  In general they predominantly report seeing people skimming across the top level of websites.  And often never coming back!  Return visits to our website would therefore be interesting to monitor.

Their next question was “is there a fundamental difference between the generations and how they experience information?”  It’s important because if so, they would need to adapt for 5 years time when Google generation teenagers become part of the Higher Education world.

This generation are seen as people who don’t read the manual and leap right in.  It’s also often suggested that they’re not very good at evaluating information and using new systems.  However it was interesting to see that this was exactly what people said 30 years ago about young people then and their use of the very latest electronic resources at that time.

The project looked at deep log analysis of usage of British Library Learning and JISC Intute.  They also captured people’s ages and then looked at their information seeking behaviour.  The project discovered that age was a very poor predictor of people’s behaviour.

The next study was partnered with the BBC called the Virtual Revolution experiment.  It is a study of what people click on a website.  The user is given simulated search – where do people land for that first click?  Do they have implicit trust in the search algorithm?  Is that from reading the list and making an informed choice?  Is it about trust in the provider?


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Umbrella 2011: “Store, preserve and retrieve – leave it to the librarians!” (C3)

This group of three speakers focused on information storage and retrieval; two based on institutional repositories and one about physical storage.

Open access and institutional repositories: the University of Glasgow experience
Susan Ashworth

This was my first introduction to institutional repositories and Susan covered it in a very accessible way.  She explained the two routes to open access publishing – Gold and Green and also the drivers from funders towards repositories.

She went on to explain their Enlighten system at Glasgow in which staff are required to deposit full text copies of papers from peer reviewed journals and conference papers.  Helpfully included in their publication policy is a requirement to also provide metadata!  She emphasised that a great deal of advocacy and developmental work is needed to build relationships across the university and encourage academics.

Research repositories: the role of library staff in their management
Jacqueline Wickham – Nottingham

The theme of advocacy and encouragement was continued by Jackie who emphasised the need for advocacy and promotion skills for working in a repository.  She also highlighted the need to check copyright agreements closely.

She then promoted the Repositories Support Project who share advice and best practice and it’s all free and impartial!  Contact support@rsp.ac.uk or 08452576860.  They also have website resources and a buddy scheme as well as events.

Another useful resource was UKCoRR – UK Council of Research repositories, again, independent and free with a mailing list of 248 members.

Collaborative storage for Newcastle University
David Errington

The final session was focused on print information.  Newcastle have rented a 22,000 sq foot space, 5 miles from campus.  Originally they had 5,000 linear metres relocated however it was very inefficient use of space with poor lighting.

Initially they were storing lesser used library material, estates furniture, the marine sciences library, and exam desks.  However then central services got approval for new accommodation in a prime city centre location which meant all the records currently stored in their basements would need to go to the offisite store.  As a solution, they extended the rental period which saved money which could then be spent on compact shelving.  Unfortunately, the offices somewhat miscalculated the shelf space they would need.  The first estimate was 200 metres.  There is currently 700m at the store with more to come!

Buying the compact shelving was a long and complicated process as it had to go to European tender with 22 competing tenders to be evaluated.  Issues such as steps and turning circles had to be built into the design but finally they had 24,000 linear metres in the space.

The store has a whole range of different stakeholders but all information is accessed by library staff.  This gave them the control over how they used the space and also highlights their skills in managing information.  As a further development they then moved 85% of the printed journals offsite from the main library to create space for 350 more users in the library building at far less cost than expanding the building.

In the future, they are looking at researcher space at the store and also the possibility of a scanned article to desktop service (copyright permitting!).  As a further innovative idea they are considering also using it as a park and ride facility out to the main campus.

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