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As you can see from this post title, this report (such as it is) is a bit out of date!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

FRBR for the Terrified

On Monday, some colleagues and I attended the FRBR  for the Terrified workshop at the University of Kent, Canterbury. It was facilitated by Robin Armstrong Viner, Head of Collection Management at the University of Kent.

Although I’ve been reading a fair bit about RDA (Resources Description and Access) (which is based on FRBR (Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records) principles) over the last couple of years, I haven’t had any training in RDA-related things since we touched on it in the Music Cataloguing for Beginners course I attended in 2011. It was good to have the opportunity to learn about FRBR itself, something with which I wasn’t very familiar at all. I was slightly daunted by it before the session, but, while I still need to make all the information stay in my brain somehow, I feel that I understand it much better now!

The workshop was mainly a PowerPoint presentation, to which I added copious notes, as fast as I could write them down (as is my wont), but we also had a couple of practical exercises to do. I think these were the most helpful parts of the workshop, as we had to really think about and apply the FRBR principles in ‘real life’. I particularly enjoyed the Harry Potter-related task, when we had to arrange cards representing a variety of Harry Potter-related items to their correct part of the “Bibliographic Relationships” table (p. 4 of the PDF).

It was all a good reminder of why I enjoy cataloguing so much. I love the way it makes you think differently about what might be considered normal everyday objects; what they really are, where they’ve come from, their relationships to other things. Learning about FRBR, I found I was having to switch on my ‘cataloguing brain’, which was great!

I don’t know when I will have the opportunity to practically apply what I’ve learned, as it is unlikely that my workplace will be implementing RDA anytime soon; but I was glad to have the opportunity to do some professional development and at least gain some theoretical grounding in these important changes to cataloguing practice.

Thank you to the lovely people at the University of Kent for a most interesting afternoon…not to mention some tasty cake!

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We were given a very useful list of bibliographic references. I won’t include them all, but here are a few links to FRBR and RDA-related readings and resources available online:

I apologise for all the acronyms in this post!

House of art & knowledge

This afternoon a small group of librarians had a little outing to the Beaney House of Art & Knowledge in the fair city of Canterbury. The Beaney, as it’s known for short, is named after Dr James Beaney, a philanthropist and former resident of Canterbury, who left the city a bequest with which to build “an institute for working men.” This became the Beaney Institute and served as Canterbury’s museum of local history and its public library from 1899 until 2009, when it was closed for a major re-development funded by £13,000, 000 of Heritage Lottery Fund money.

The re-developed Beaney continues to house Canterbury’s public library and museum, but also now includes the city’s tourist information office and extended art galleries and also includes space for special exhibitions. Today, we had a guided tour of the building, most of which I’d never been into before. I’d been to the public library and a couple of the gallery spaces, but hadn’t been upstairs to the museum rooms at all.

We started off by going into the library, and looking briefly at the self service machines there. These are RFID -compliant machines, and are used to both issue and return books. If a book is OK to be re-shelved it goes onto a trolley, and if not it goes into a book box/bin to be collected by library staff and dealt with. I did wonder how often things get put on the trolley when they should have gone into the book box, and vice versa!

Next we went upstairs in the library to look at the local studies sections and, interestingly, the registration rooms. As well as performing the usual array of library duties, library staff at the Beaney are now also dealing with registrations of births and deaths, which I must say seems like an odd combination of work, but I’m sure the council(s) know what they’re doing (?)…Anyway, there are little rooms set aside for the registering of births and deaths, and people who formerly worked as registrars are now also employed as library staff. Sadly, the library is not licensed for weddings! Maybe one day…

The local studies sections were quite busy with people – in fact the whole library was bustling – and the rather messy shelves were evidence of the fact that the library is heavily used, a fact backed up by statistics read to us by our guide. I’m afraid I can’t remember the figures at the moment, but they were pretty high, both in terms of visitor numbers and the how many books people borrowed. The local history section contains some fairly old books (1700s) locked away in cabinets, and many books about the local area that I think my mum would like to get her hands on. After the local studies section, we went down into the children’s area, which was free of children at that point, but apparently gets very busy at Baby Rhyme Time – so much so that they have had to increase the number of sessions offered in order to be able to fit everyone in!

Finally in terms of the library area, we looked at the ‘talking books’ and large print books, which are heavily borrowed by sight impaired and blind people; as well as being taken out to housebound folk by library volunteers. I was reminded again what a valuable service public libraries provide.

After looking around the library, we went to have a nose around the staff areas, which are in the basement. I must admit I felt rather sorry for the staff, but at least they have a few home comforts  – a small kitchen and a place to eat lunch (although I wouldn’t blame them if they’d rather go outside). Then, we went upstairs and had a look at the two gallery rooms at the front of the building. These house a variety of paintings and drawings. I particularly like the large cow painting by Thomas Sidney Cooper, the sheep drawing by Henry Moore (in the Garden Room) and a drawing by a local artist I really wish I could remember the name of (in the Front Room). I’ll have to go in and look at it again.

We then went upstairs to look at the other gallery and museum rooms. They are all full of fascinating, and sometimes bizarre, things, e.g. a mummified cat in the Ancient Egypt display. I particularly liked the Drawing Room, which houses displays of paper- and book-based art. There were some intriguing items in there that I’m planning to go back and look at when I have more time. However, I think the highlight of the gallery/museum space was the charming, interesting and amusing temporary exhibition Through the Magic Mirror: The World of Anthony Browne – and we got to see it for free, which was a bonus.

And that was the end of our visit! The Beaney is most definitely a fine example of a house of art and knowledge, and well worth a visit if you happen to be in Canterbury. And of course, it contains lots and lots (and lots) of lovely, amazing and interesting books that you can borrow – free! Sometimes I am slightly overwhelmed by the brilliance of public libraries.