CPD25: Researchers and repositories

On Wednesday (11th May) I attended two events hosted by CPD25: Engaging and Supporting Researchers and Open Access and Repositories.

Engaging and Supporting Researchers

Although both the talks at this event were very interesting and informative, they weren’t quite what I was expecting – which was how to engage and support researchers from a library perspective in a higher education institution (i.e. what I’m trying to do as part of my current role). The first talk was by Glenn Cumiskey from the British Museum, about digital preservation at the British Museum. This was really fascinating – digital preservation is not an area I’m very familiar with, although it turned out that lots of what he had to say is quite relevant to my work with the institutional repository. It was also thought-provoking from an archives perspective (which also comes into my current role, albeit in a minor part), and also my other role as a cataloguer/metadata person. As I managed to write down his ‘five Vs’ – things to be taken into consideration when dealing with data – I will share them with you:

  • Volume (of data)
  • Velocity (the rate at which data is created)
  • Veracity (of metadata – can be inaccurate, go what is good enough for now [interestingly different from the ‘traditional’ view of cataloguing]
  • Value (of the data – we should not keep data that is not of value to the organisation)
  • Variety (of formats – issues such as software/hardware dependence, small publishers that may not be here in 1o years’ time, etc.)

Glenn finished his presentation by talking about what data should evoke, using the Lampedusa Cross as an example.

Next up: Mahendra Mahey. He spoke about British Library Labs, and about the weird and wonderful things people have done with British Library data sets and online collections. His slides are available on SlideShare.

Open Access and Repositories

The afternoon started with Andy Tattersall talking about altmetrics –  alternative measures of  the impact/influence/engagement of/with research, using social media rather than traditional methods such as citations and journal impact factors. It was great to learn about something I’d previously only had a vague awareness of. I think we definitely need to look at how we could use altmetrics with the repository – maybe looking at engagement with the library research Twitter feed (which includes a feed of new items on the repository). I also wrote down five points Andy made about the value of altmetrics, so here they are:

  • Altmetrics complement, not replace, traditional metrics
  • They help people understand how research is being received and used, and by who(m)
  • Almetrics are not intended as an indicator of quality
  • They can help provide further evidence of engagement and societal impact
  • They give credit for research outputs other than articles

You can see altmetrics in action, as it were, on many journal articles, wherever you see the altmetrics ‘donut’.

Andy has written a lot about this subject, including a blog post on the CILIP website. This video might also be useful if you want to find out more:


Stuart Lawson was next, with an overview of Open Access, which I do know a bit about. Although I didn’t know about Sci-Hub. I was sort of shocked by it(s existence), but then I have led a (mainly) quiet and innocent life. I was also quite impressed. Anyway, possibly the less said about that the better…I enjoyed Stuart’s talk and obvious enthusiasm for his subject…and now I know it’s possible to do a PhD about Open Access!

Christina Emery from Knowledge Unlatched spoke next. I’m afraid I didn’t make many notes, partially because I’d read a lot about Knowledge Unlatched for one of my appraisal objectives! It is a good idea, I think. Here is a handy video to explain what KU is all about:

Finally, Lara Speicher presented about UCL Press, the UK’s first fully Open Access university press. I learned a new concept/acronym/word: BOOC – book as open online content. I’m quite interested in this because (a) its relationship to Open Access monographs, which I’ve been researching for one of my appraisal objectives, and (b) because I’m interested in books and can be done with them in terms of different formats, arty stuff, their meaning and how humans related to them as physical (or not) objects, and their relationship to the electronic world.

There is a Storify of the tweets from the Open Access and Repositories sessions and you can follow the tweets from the Engaging Researchers sessions using .

RDA in a Day

Last week I went to CILIP HQ in London to attend ‘RDA in a Day’. The course leader was Alan Danskin, who is Metadata Standards Manager at the British Library.

We started off with a brief introduction to FRBR – Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records. As you may remember (not really), I had my first introduction to FRBR when I attended ‘FRBR for the Terrified’, back in 2013. Fortunately, I remembered some of what I learned then as it has become no less confusing over the years! I liked the definition of FRBR as a “conceptual model – a tool for thinking about/expressing part of the universe you’re interested in”. The FRBR model uses groups of entities and their primary relationships to try to  ‘express part of the universe’. As well as FRBR, there are other models in the “FR family”: FRAD – Functional Requirements for Authority Data and FRSAD – Functional Requirements for Subject Authority Data.

The next session was about using the RDA Toolkit, which was really interesting as we don’t have access to it at work so it was my first time seeing the ‘inside’ of it. We also got to actually use it which was most helpful. We then had an ‘RDA primer’ – “a very brief introduction to RDA terminology and some core concepts”. I wrote them all down, but I won’t list them here – at least not right now. Perhaps I’ll make an RDA primer page.

After lunch, we looked at RIMMF. I’ve written a very little bit about RIMMF before – but now I’ve actually used it! This was quite exciting (I’m a bit easily excited by anything cataloguing-related, I fear) and slightly brain-bending after a while when it got more complicated. We practised by cataloguing examples of books (lots of Christopher Brookmyre) using RIMMF. I can see how useful it is for learning the concepts of RDA – it gets you thinking and thus cataloguing in a different way than using MARC and trying to fit/force RDA into it…

Which is what we looked at next (RDA and MARC). I thought it was interesting that any record that is not full RDA should be referred to as a hybrid record rather than an RDA record, even if it contains RDA elements. I suppose, technically, there aren’t really very many true RDA records out there. The ones we refer to at work as RDA are really hybrids of RDA and MARC.

Lastly, we looked ahead at what is (probably) around the corner in the world of metadata/cataloguing/standards/entity relationship modelling. It was interesting to hear about developments such as the LRM – Library Reference Model – and to realise that the world of metadata and ways of thinking about ‘things’ and their relationships to each other and their creators (ontology) is always evolving. One of the reasons I like cataloguing is because it’s a bit like philosophy (perhaps it actually is a form of philosophy?). Thinking about RDA, FRBR and the like certainly stretches the brain, anyway!

Also, the sandwiches were very good.

The only thing was, I felt like it was all a bit theoretical, even the practical bits. No one can catalogue properly using RDA as it should really be used because library management systems don’t have the capacity to do that. Even at the British Library they are creating hybrid records rather than true RDA ones. Also, the fact that ideas, concepts and models relating to RDA/FRBR are evolving, while being interesting, makes one feel in a state of flux. Gone are the days when there were cataloguing rules as with AACR2. This is a good thing, but in a stereotypical-cataloguer-like way I quite like to know where I’m going…It did feel a bit like playing or conducting philosophical exercises because of the lack of practical application. Which was fun, but felt worryingly pointless.

I guess this is mainly because we’re not even attempting to catalogue using RDA so it’s difficult to see how it can be applied in the real world, as it were – so one of my next bright ideas (!) is to go and a library where people do use RDA and see how they apply it in real life. Hello, University of Kent! I will be inviting myself to see you soon…




A short and very belated report about Open Access Week

This Open Access Week (October 24-30, 2015 – yes this post is very belated), the repository team decided to try to make more contact with academic staff by running some drop-in sessions on the use of our institutional repository. These took place during lunchtimes in the staff common room. We put up posters about Open Access (OA) (produced by the research centre), handed out flyers about OA and how it works within the University (especially with reference to the REF and the repository) and set up a table with a laptop so that people could ask us questions about OA and the repository if they wanted to.

Sadly, we didn’t get very many takers, but at least we raised awareness a little bit, and I did have some conversations about the repository with staff I wouldn’t normally have contact with. It was nice to be on the main campus for a bit as well, and feel more integrated with the University for a couple of hours (the library building is not on the campus). Although we had limited success in terms of conversations with people I think it was a useful exercise in terms of ‘showing our faces’ and the opportunity to raise awareness of OA through being able to put posters and flyers where academic staff should see them. It was also good to work in liaison with the research centre and meet members of staff I had not spoken to before.

“Open Access Monographs and Publishing Models: Collaborative Ways Forward”

Last Monday (19th October) I attended a panel discussion held at Goldsmiths to hear a panel of experts share thoughts and ideas as part of a discussion about open access monographs (OAMs). I attended as part of my research into collaborative models for the publication of OAMs, which is one of my appraisal objectives.  This event was part of International Open Access Week 2015 and was partly a response to the  HEFCE report on Monographs and Open Access (January 2015) – this year’s theme was “Open for Collaboration”. This report (also known as the Crossick report) came out of research led by Geoffrey Crossick, Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. The report found that:

“There is no single dominant emerging business model for supporting open-access publishing of monographs; a range of approaches will coexist for some time and it is unlikely that any single model will emerge as dominant. Policies will therefore need to be flexible.”

The panel comprised  Martin Eve, Senior Lecturer in Literature, Technology and Publishing, Birkbeck University of London; Alison Jones, Managing  Editor, Open Access, Oxford University PressSarah Kember, Professor of New Technologies of Communications, Goldsmiths University of London and Goldsmiths PressJoanna Zylinska, Professor of Media and Communications, Goldsmiths, University of London and Radical Open Access Group. Professor Mark d’Inverno, Pro-Warden for Research and Enterprise at Goldsmiths hosted the discussion and it was chaired by Professor Simon McVeigh,  Goldsmiths’ Academic Lead on Open Access and Practice Research.

The event abstract sums up the main directions of the discussion:

“What is often forgotten is that, alongside transparency of public expenditure, the impetus for open access is the ethical and appropriate sharing of valuable knowledge for the betterment of society.

The proposed panel seeks to discuss the potential of the open access monograph format to contribute to this process of ethical knowledge dissemination, whilst highlighting the challenges presently faced by the publishing industry to make this a viable and financially sustainable reality.

The discussion will involve a group of speakers who hold contrasting perspectives on how this transition to open access monograph publishing should be managed and how it may support or disadvantage their particular professional sector and ethical goals.

Ambitiously and in keeping with this year’s open access theme of collaboration, this panel seeks to encourage the development of collaborative thinking between various kinds of publishers and the academe, in order to promote the ethical sharing of knowledge.”

It was a really interesting discussion, and there was a lot of information to take in. I have made copious notes, which I won’t write out here. If you want to read a pretty good summary of what was said you could have a look at Jeremy Barraud, Caroline Lloyd and Goldsmiths Research‘s tweets (scroll down a bit and look for the hashtag #OAweek).

I suppose the main thing I took away from the evening was that not everyone thinks open access is wonderful! As someone who works on a repository and is supposed to promote open access I think I’d been living in a happy open access ‘bubble’ where nobody ever talked about the potential downsides (or dark, neoliberal, sides) of OA. I still think OA is a good idea, but listening to the panel and the discussion has definitely made me think more about its potential effects on academics and their freedoms and made me realising I have a lot more reading and research to do!

Further reading/listening:

Monographs and open access (HEFCE report)

Open Access, HEFCE, REF and the threat to academic freedom

Opening out from open access: writing  and publishing in response to neoliberalism

The Open Access debate: challenges, threats and promises (podcast)


Open Access and monographs

Long time, no write

Well not on this blog anyway. The main reason for this is that I was on maternity leave from January 2014 until February this year, so not much happened library-wise during that time. Since I’ve now been back at work almost six months I thought I should get back to writing some more about my library-related life.

I’m still working in the same role (Senior Library Assistant, Cataloguing), but only three days a week, which is plenty with a small daughter (B) to look after. We’ve recently gone through the busiest time of year for the Bibliographic Services team – lots of ordered books etc. to invoice and catalogue, so that’s mainly what I’ve been doing, cataloguing-wise. We finished most of the ordered items last week, so now I’m working on some donations.

As far as the repository is concerned, there have been a few changes, including a new Special Collections Assistant Librarian (part-time), who works the same days of the week as me. We’re working on various tasks at the moment, including setting up unique IDs for depositors, re-vamping the repository web pages and getting involved with Open Access initiatives across the university, as well as the usual day-to-day metadata creation and editing.

I attended one day of the CILIP Cataloguing and Indexing Group’s biennial conference in September 2014, but sadly I never got round to writing it up – very bad, I know! It was my first cataloguing conference, and I really enjoyed it. It was very informative and encouraging, and good to meet people I’d previously only interacted with on Twitter.

Library Camp South East, 21st June 2014

As you can see from this post title, this report (such as it is) is a bit out of date!

I’d never been to a Library Camp before. A Library Camp is a form of ‘unconference’ – something like a conference but without the rigid structure. Anyone can pitch a session and deliver it, and the timetable for the day is decided on quite an ad hoc basis – basically it can change as and when needed, so you have to keep your wits about you a bit – I managed to go to the wrong room and not realise this for several minutes and had to walk out again, which would have been more embarrassing in a ‘normal’ conference situation, but as it was a Library Camp no one really noticed, or if they did, they didn’t mind! That was one of the things I liked about Libary Camp, actually – if you find a session boring or not what you expected you can just leave and go to another session and no one bats an eyelid. Also, the sessions tend to be more interactive than those at a conference – much more discussion and general participation. The only (?) downside to the ad hoc nature of things was that possibly too much time was spent on deciding what was going to happen rather than actually getting on with it, but that might just be my need for structure and planning side talking. Anyway, it was a good day, not least because I got to meet up with fellow librarians who I haven’t seen much of since being on maternity leave.

I won’t write a whole spiel about what went on, because it’s all here on the Library Camp South East wiki. Please do have a look!

Thoughts from ‘Open Access: Understanding the New Environment’

A couple of weeks ago (23rd October), I attended “Open Access: Understanding the New Environment”, an event hosted by the University of Kent as part of Open Access Week.

Half my working week is spent doing things with our institutional repository. Mainly, I amend and create metadata for the items that go into the repository, and sometimes I answer queries about it and help academic staff deposit their research. Open Access (OA) was something I’d heard a lot about in connection with repositories and other things, and I felt that I should try and find out more about it, both for my own development and in case I was ever asked about it!

The programme for the afternoon consisted of talks from a variety of speakers involved in OA in some way. I won’t write about them all here, because you can read an excellent summary of the day at Phil Ward’s blog, Research Fundermentals. You can listen to all of the talks online, should you so wish.

Although all the talks were of interest, the ones I found particularly interesting were Rosemary Hunter on “Gold, Green or in Between: Establishing an Open Access Journal” and Kevin Ashley’s talk on “Research Data Management and Open Access”. I’d come across OA journals in the course of my work on the repository, and it was fascinating to hear the story of, firstly, the difficulties experienced by academics and journal editors in dealing with big publishers, and secondly, about how an OA journal can be set up. After hearing Rosemary’s talk I, and others, I think, were left wondering why more people don’t set up OA journals in order to bypass many of the problems inherent to other forms of OA. As Phil writes:

[feminists@law, the OA journal] was light in terms of expense (a single Article Processing Charge (APC) could pay for the cost of a whole journal, using online OA), and flexible in terms of the type of media that could be accepted (it no longer had to be solely text-based); but it was not lightweight in terms of academic rigour or seriousness.

Kevin Ashley, director of the Digital Curation Centre spoke about the importance of research data to Open Access. This wasn’t something I’d really thought about before, but Kevin explained it all in an accessible way, arguing the case for the release of research data to (e.g.) avoid duplication of work and to expose ‘bad’ research. He argued that even if research didn’t achieve what it set out to do, the data from that research can still be useful to other researchers in the field, so even data from ‘failed’ projects should be published. I also found his talk interesting because of the fact that it was about data, and a lot of my job involves dealing with data in one form or another. The talk reminded me of the importance of good data and that my hours spent cataloguing and entering metadata into the repository are not in vain!

Although a lot of what was said in the talks was new to me, the speakers were engaging enough to make the information accessible, and I came away from the day knowing much more about OA than I did when I went in, and feeling more confident in my understanding of where my own role fits in to the Open Access environment.