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#GLTU15 – Gartnavel Hospital Libraries: anatomy of a visit

18 Jun

Thanks to Christine Glasgow (@glasg0wg1rl) for her report of this fascinating visit.

Gartnavel General Library awaits its visitors

Gartnavel General Library awaits its visitors

Yes, library tweeters, I couldn’t resist a cheesy medical pun to lead us into a description of the excellent GLTU visit to the libraries at Gartnavel which took place on Tuesday the 28th April 2015. I had thought about using “a book a day keeps the doctor away”, but as you’ll soon discover, thanks to the excellent services provided by Shona McQuistan and her colleagues, it doesn’t keep them away—it draws them to the library! And not just doctors, but nurses, students, child play experts, community health visitors, canteen staff and numerous other stakeholders use these libraries on a regular basis. On the 28th April, the user group widened further to include 10 or so librarians from a variety of sectors, all eager to learn more about health libraries with #GLTU15.

This was my first library tweet-up and, having never visited a health library before, I really had no idea what to expect. I naively assumed that health librarians simply “help doctors with a bit of research”, but as I was soon to discover, this is only one aspect of the job (and a ‘bit’ of research is putting it mildly!). I also expected to get some interesting cross-sectoral chat with my peers, but again I underestimated how valuable this would be. So, about to have my teeny-weeny preconceptions blown away, I settled into the comfy chairs at Gartnavel General Hospital library, where Shona our host gave us a warm welcome and a CILIPS goody-bag. (Cheers, CILIPS!)

Shona shows us the library

Shona shows us the library

Shona began by explaining the structure of NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Library Network and her role within that as Library Hub Manager (West). Shona manages (what was) the library at the Western Infirmary as well as the library at Gartnavel General, and during the afternoon we visited 3 other information services on the hospital campus, including those at the Beatson, the Public Health Resource Unit and Gartnavel Royal. It was clear from the outset that Shona and her staff have a real passion for their work and that the libraries are a huge part of the hospital community. The library at Gartnavel General in particular has a very warm, welcoming feel, similar to a public library, and many of us were surprised to see a large selection of fiction books on display, alongside popular self-help and fitness titles and language learning and literacy materials as well as the expected medical textbooks. Shona then explained that due to the shift patterns worked by many hospital staff, they may struggle to find time to visit their local public library, whereas the hospital library is right on their doorstep. The library at Gartnavel General is a neutral area where staff can get information on a variety of personal development areas such as quitting smoking or coping with change at work. Shona and her staff also run a literacy and numeracy project as well as IT classes for staff who did not have the opportunity to gain these skills at school. This includes outreach to staff in other locations, such as the laundries in Hillington, and staff are encouraged to take part in the Reading Agency’s “Six Book Challenge”. Many staff have already taken part and gained a sense of achievement from receiving their Challenge certificates. To promote this, the libraries have also held author visits (Christopher Brookmyre and Janice Galloway to name a couple). As you can imagine, this totally confounded my narrow preconceptions of what a health librarian did, and goes to illustrate the importance of the library service to the whole hospital community.

Having said that, assisting medical professionals with their research is obviously a major part of the work of a health librarian, and Shona’s sense of job satisfaction was clear when she talked about the important contribution which the library staff make to patient care. The library at Gartnavel stocks a range of medical texts and we were shown how to understand the National Library of Medicine classification scheme which is used in the libraries. Shona gave us some examples of the type of enquiry she can receive (some were not for the faint hearted!) and explained how searches were divided into ‘levels’ – with a level 3 search taking maybe 5 days to a level 1 search lasting several months. The library staff also help students with their literature searches and this led into a mini-debate about the age-old issue of “how far should you go to help a customer?”

Gartnavel General Library

Gartnavel General Library

This was perhaps the part of the visit which I found most enjoyable and useful as we got to hear the views of librarians from different sectors, all at different stages in their career. Government, health, public, academic, music and college libraries were all represented and on the tweet-up were library assistants, job hunters and those in their first professional post, as well as library managers, subject librarians, retired (but very active!) professionals and even the Director of CILIPS! We all had a good natter about “how far is too far?” This seemed particularly relevant as we had just been talking about the classes which Shona and her staff run to help people to be more self-sufficient in their reading, writing, numeracy and IT skills. A few librarians from the academic sector spoke about their experiences with students expecting library staff to do their full literature searches for them. This led back to our discussion on librarians as teachers and the important fact that we are there to teach people information seeking skills and to provide them with the resources they need in order to help themselves, not to do their work for them. This is certainly a golden rule which I endeavour to adhere to in my own working practice.

Beatson Library

Beatson Library

The next stop on our tour was the library at the Beatson, the West of Scotland’s specialist cancer care centre. This library is closed to the public and is for academic and research purposes. The texts available are obviously mainly concerned with the treatment of cancer in its various forms, and doctors at the Beatson carry out important research in this area. The librarians here are therefore specialists in this subject area, and the work they do greatly contributes to patient care. At this stage in the visit, we collected some leaflets about the various online information services provided to NHSGGC staff. These are all collated under a single online interface called QUEST and include document delivery, ILLs, current awareness services and literature searches. Part of these services is the ‘Tools and Measures’ service. I found it interesting to learn that diagnostic tools and frameworks may be copyrighted, and this service investigates whether a tool is under copyright or not so that medical professionals may use it, or purchase a licence if necessary.

Public Health Resource Unit

Public Health Resource Unit

After the Beatson, we visited the Public Health Resource Unit which is also based on the Gartnavel campus. This is the NHSGGC’s information service for all matters related to public health, from smoking cessation campaigns to what would happen in the case of a citywide swine flu epidemic! Staff liaise with emergency services and provide a free batch ordering service for public health related leaflets, such as those found in your local GP’s surgery. It was very interesting to hear about an information service which plays a part in all of our lives even though we may not be aware of it, and it made me wonder how many other unsung information heroes there are across the nation?

The final stop on our tour was the library at Gartnavel Royal Hospital, a mental health hospital which provides inpatient care for the west side of Glasgow. The library is open to all staff but has a more academic library feel than that of Gartnavel General. The vast majority of the resources available deal with the subject of mental health and, once again, library staff become like academic subject librarians as over time they build up specialist knowledge in this area. Some library staff are currently undertaking a digital preservation project, to safeguard the hospital’s historical collections for future generations. Once again, this kind of activity is not something I had imagined to be part of the role of a health librarian.

At the end of the visit, I think it is safe to say that all of us on the tour were impressed by the variety of tasks which make up the job of a health librarian. Indeed, Shona and her staff seem to be fulfilling the role of public and academic librarian at the same time, not to mention the role of subject and special collections librarian witnessed in the three smaller information services. Their depth of knowledge, experience and unrelenting passion for their work is inspirational to see, as is their resilience to the changes currently taking place at NHSGCC (the Western Infirmary transferred to the new South Glasgow hospitals at the end of May 2015). From a personal point of view, I was encouraged to learn that, although some of our skill sets may vary, the values which underpin the work of a health librarian and a public librarian are really no different. Sector aside, every librarian there has a heart for seeing their service users gain access to the information, skills and resources they need to flourish and to help others flourish in their turn. I believe that libraries are places of healing, just as hospitals are, and thanks to Shona McQuistan, her staff and my fellow Glasgow Library Tweeters, this particular librarian is feeling encouraged to continue prescribing books and other online resources to her ‘patients’ for the foreseeable future.

Thanks to Christine for that comprehensive and entertaining account. An added bonus of the visit was strolling between libraries and viewing Gartnavel’s grounds – and, for four of us, a delicious meal afterwards at Sisters’ Restaurant in Jordanhill. Ideas for #GLTU16 welcome!

Looking back on #GLTU13: Cornton Vale

27 Jan

Recent events have prompted Jennifer Higgins to submit this guest post, as she explains:

Following yesterday’s announcement that the Scottish Government is scrapping plans for a £75 million prison, I thought I’d return to a draft blog from #GLTU’s visit to Cornton Vale’s prison library, which I initially started in June 2014. Eight months later, my notes serve as a reminder not just of the day itself, but of the remarkable women we met working in Education and Outreach services at Stirling Council whose ‘back-to-basics’  approach places both education and libraries at the centre of prisoner reform.

#GLTU13’s visit to Cornton Vale women’s prison was a timely occurrence following the recent controversy over MP Chris Grayling’s decision to ban book donation to prison libraries. [A decision declared unlawful in December, 2014]. It was with this in mind that a group of librarians travelled to the outskirts of Stirling, flanked by the Trossachs and the Wallace Monument, to meet Liz Moffat, Outreach Librarian at Stirling Libraries and Carol, who helps to deliver that outreach.

Filing through security, and following a prison officer across the grounds, we were greeted by Kaye Stewart, Learning Centre Manager, who described the work being done at the prison around learning and literacy. Kaye’s sincerity about the education of the women she works with at the prison was, for me, one of the most memorable aspects of the visit. She spoke candidly about the learning projects being run at the prison while showing us around the space. She stopped to describe the importance of a recently opened kitchen space designed to teach inmates life-work skills, the ‘Create and Curate’ art project (where inmates were led by artist Brigid Collins), and how the work of reading groups such as Carol’s embodied the impact that reading has for the women who attend. One woman, for example, disclosed to Liz that she had just finished reading her first book having learnt how to read at Cornton Vale.

In the Library, we learned about New College Lanarkshire’s contract to deliver education through a librarian in Shotts Prison rather than, as is the case at Cornton Vale, the prison library being staffed by inmates. Kaye described how the new Grampian women’s prison, and those at Greenock and Edinburgh, have led to fewer inmates at Cornton Vale, now earmarked for closure. With budgets for prison education programmes tightening, Liz explained how it was necessary for Stirling Libraries to negotiate a new service level agreement to supply outreach services for harder-to-reach library users. This allocation of prison funds emerged as a recurrent theme as we listened to how the library is used both as a space for relaxation by the inmates and a site for peer-tutoring and emotional support. Kaye suggested that having a librarian in post at the prison could be considered a drop-in-the bucket in comparison to the overall cost of running a prison. The case for prison libraries being put back on the agenda has arguably been made by successful reading initiatives such as book groups and a Reader-in-Residence project (run for a year at Cornton Vale as well as at Perth and Polmont prison libraries, while HMP Perth continues to fund half a librarian’s post). But the impression conveyed was that more is needed to assist prisoners’ rehabilitation, particularly given the grave social circumstances from which some arrive at the prison and return to after serving short-term sentences.

The group was keen to ask questions about prison library censorship. Liz explained how she adheres to the CILIP rule when selecting library stock: “if it’s in stock, then you can’t censor it.” Nonetheless, ‘True Crime’ was conspicuous in its absence on the well-stocked shelves, although the intention is to protect inmates and newspaper and magazine subscriptions do exist. The ruckus around the UK government’s decision inevitably came to the fore when Liz highlighted the view that the library service (as opposed to donations) should be able to provide additional requests for reading material. The requests Liz receives, like those made in public libraries on any given day, ranged from dream interpretations to baby names to the latest Martina Cole or Patricia Cornwell novel. A preference for female authors in an all-female prison might not have come as a huge surprise although we did also hear about a particularly rambunctious book reading by Alan Bissett in the prison chaplaincy that nearly resulted in the Falkirk author being thrown out of prison.

Of further interest was a discussion around the lack of Internet in prison libraries. Could a list of approved websites not be supplied to give inmates access to online content without compromising prison security? ‘Yes’ was the answer from Kaye, but this idea had been snuffed out by the Scottish Prison Service based on expense. Instead, inmates obtain limited access to digital resources through the prison’s intranet. From a digital participation view-point, this use of ‘white sites’ (Americanised ‘safe sites’) for educational use, appeared to loom large.

With only limited knowledge of how Stirling Libraries are delivering its outreach to vulnerable groups, I had no fixed idea of what to expect from the visit. What I went away with, however, was a fresh perspective of the importance of freely-accessible education for the women at Cornton Vale. I admit to being surprised at the tranquillity of the library and the availability of stock, something for which Liz should be given credit. On the way back to the station, she stressed the importance she places on this as part of her outreach responsibilities. I was struck by Carol’s filial comments about wasted talent and her curiosity to know what becomes of the women once they resume their lives. While working in a number of Glasgow’s community libraries over the past few weeks, questions raised by the visit have stayed with me. How, for example, do public libraries assist in the reintegration of ex-offenders back into society? Although they occasionally appear on the target-user groups within library service development plans, what work is being done to achieve this goal? Just as importantly, is it something that public library staff should be trained to assist with? The relationships with reading being built in prison libraries, exemplified through Cornton Vale’s partnership with Stirling Libraries and Kaye and Carol’s rehabilitation work, might not just encourage ex-offenders to continue a positive relationship with reading on their release, but may also elicit answers to these questions.

Library Camp Glasgow: Innovative information literacy

13 Nov

In this guest post, Jane Furness of Edinburgh College of Art writes about her session on information literacy and the ideas that came out of it. In this lovely tweet, a book about shoes is surrounded by – shoes!

In my session I showed the group some of the artists’ books from the ECA Library Collection, (which were all published by the wonderful Redfoxpress). My aim in this “show and tell” was to demonstrate my belief that our students learn better from hands on workshops using physical objects rather than sleep inducing lectures using power point. We then went on to discuss other ways we could “do” innovative information literacy training. These are the ideas that came up from the group discussion:

  • Use Prezi instead of power point: it’s more dynamic and multimedia friendly
  • Produce online workshops and tasks
  • Use Comic Life software to make Library guides into graphic novel formats (as at Glasgow School of Art)
  • Explore gamification of information literacy training – e.g. at Abertay in Dundee (led by the School, not the Library)
  • Run Doors Open Day events – i.e. we get the students in to explore the space and by stealth we “do” information literacy with them
  • Do treasure hunts with QR codes in the Library instead of a lecture
  • Use hashtags to explain the concept of classification
  • Find champions within the student and academic / staff communities to spread the word about the great things the Library can do
  • Use case studies and stories to show personal journeys
  • Use physical objects as teaching tools
  • Set up mood boards in the Library showing all the resources students could use – visually
  • Do 3 minute library talks at other classes
  • Provide library clinics and drop in sessions within the School, not in the Library (i.e. library goes to them, not  them having to come to us)
  • Offer 15 minute library training sessions – not hour-long ones!
  • Embed into teaching sessions with academic staff
  •  As at the University of the West of Scotland, Moodle-register (or equivalent) on all the courses you support to access to discussion boards so that you can jump in to conversations if students are asking each other for research help

Library Camp Glasgow: Jennifer’s view

11 Nov

Picture: Lynn Corrigan

In this guest post, Jennifer Higgins writes about experiencing her first library camp.

I’m a diabolical blogger. Only too eager to attend the latest library event happening in Scotland’s central belt, my vampiric tendency is to gorge on the offerings of the day, internalise them in the darkness of my desk before picking over the bones of half-remembered details a few weeks /months later – and usually in response to an information enquiry that requires further support.

But the outwardly reflective nature of the sessions at Glasgow Library Camp 2014 on Saturday at The Mitchell Library has awakened me out of my blogging somnambulism to share a few thoughts on what really was a brilliant day out.

Proceedings started at 10am sharp, minutes after my hasty arrival. This being the first library camp I’d attended, I’d been pre-warned to expect the unexpected. Nonetheless, it was still quite unusual to be greeted by a chorus of questions from “Do you have a pet cat?” to “Do you play any team sports?” while fumbling through my CILIPS goodie-bag for a pen and notepad. Library bingo had been in earnest play since 9.30am, an excited Anabel Marsh and ever-cheerful Kirsten McCormick (General Services Librarian at the Mitchell) explained.

The ice well and truly broken, Anabel welcomed us all, explaining the concept of the un-conference (a more spontaneous version of the traditional format) and introducing the day’s session-pitch speakers. It was then onto the MmITS-sponsored 60 second soapbox rants covering an assortment of cross-sector themes. I was very apprehensive about standing up to recite a verse I’d penned on the subject of female-librarian stereotypes, alongside three spirited pitches from Sharon Wilson, Karen McAulay and Fiona Hughes, but it was well-received. (Ed: Jennifer is too modest to mention she won the prize!)

The announcement of the day’s timetable saw a glacial surge of librarians move to pick their sessions. I plumped for a combination of four sessions that I could sink my teeth into – either because they sparked my professional interest or addressed a latent development need. Here are some thoughts on each of those four sessions:

Jane Furness, Edinburgh College of Art – Innovative Information Literacy

Jane’s session discussed her work as an art librarian offering visually-orientated information literacy sessions to both small groups of creative students and large lecture theatres. Jane highlighted student artists’ preferences for using hands-on, visual materials (such as the fabulous collection of artists’ books from Red Fox Press she had brought) as part of information-literacy sessions in today’s contemporary digital context. She sought contributions from the group on best ways of expressing information literacy concepts to engage students who often have to produce work rapidly. Some of the most salient ideas I took from the session were:

  • The use of stealth IL techniques such as pop-up library sessions and 15-minute library clinics
  • The benefit of introducing students or school-pupils to the library in advance of the academic session when there are fewer distractions around
  • The development of techniques such as QR codes to encourage students to explore new corners of the library space
  • The discoverability of the ‘hidden’ aspects of the library such as Special Collections.

It was interesting to hear from a school librarian who discussed the difficulties implicit in attempting to teach IL to pupils for whom the idea of going into a library to find something out for themselves (and not to answer the pre-set questions of the teacher) was a completely new concept. How to give enough instruction while also letting learners work ideas out for themselves in the library and get other educators on-board with this idea was one outcome we discussed. The group’s response being that IL librarians need to find their champions who can take ideas to senior educators and represent library initiatives on all-staff Boards and meetings. The benefits of the online use of Prezi, wiki spaces, Glasgow School of Art’s InfosmART and the use of ‘Comic Life’ software for creating subject guides were all held up as successful information literacy tools.

Martyn Wade, CILIP Info – Internet Privacy

In what must be a clear-cut violation of library camp rules, I couldn’t help myself from scribbling screeds of notes in fascination at some of the things I learnt during Martyn Wade’s informative session on the IFLA’s manifesto for a privacy statement (to be released in Spring 2015). I’m really pleased I attended this session as it highlighted an alarming number of gaps in my knowledge and encouraged me to reflect on my previous experience as a public library assistant in the habit of regularly collecting data from the public to join them as library members. It was evident that libraries need to be communicating with their suppliers to avoid breaches of user privacy, particularly when accessing e-books that could feasibly entail the downloading of software that routinely collects personal information that can be shared with other organisations. Adobe’s rights management was cited as one prolific example. The over-riding message was that there’s a really strong role for the library and information profession in privacy matters, not least in our ethical and legal responsibility to protect library users’ information and in communicating what we do with that information. Discussion was had around the need for a distinction to be made between digital skills training (‘here’s how you do it’) and digital literacy training (‘here’s the implications of doing it’). Martyn put some feelers out to collect people’s thoughts on the term ‘media literacy’ as a better means of describing the inter-relationships between different media types and conveying the idea of communication on social media as ‘publication’ as opposed to ‘conversation.’ The term was positively received although mixed feeling prevailed over the recent passing of EU legislation giving citizens the right to be forgotten – does this prevent people taking responsibility for their (online) actions and where does the ripple effect of this legislation stop? Foregrounded were the need for a public interest test when applying this legislation and, related to this, the extent of the FoI Act’s scope to extend to organisations currently evading its jurisdiction. I was grateful for the sustenance of a good lunch however the prevalence of Internet monitoring left a bad taste in the mouth. It’s unpalatable that a lot of what people trust about libraries is under threat from this activity and consultation on the content of a privacy statement is surely an opportunity for all in the library and information profession to comment on.

Karen McAulay, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland – ‘Do you practise what you preach?’

Karen’s session took us through her reflective practice blog developed on a teaching artist course she’d undergone as part of her CPD at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, posing the question: do we reflect enough in our daily roles? Thoughts to come out of the session were how to solicit honest responses from library users to facilitate more impactful reflection, whatever form that reflection may take. Although when and how to reflect is deeply subjective the discussion raised a need to share our reflections more widely as a profession and for this reflection to be externalised at both an individual and institutional level. Due to its portability and transferability between institutions, Evernote won hands-down in response to the question of whether any librarians kept bibliographies, although with Martyn Wade’s words still ringing in our ears, there’s debate to be had about the merits of institution-wide endorsement. In other words, as soon as you stop purchasing, you become the product. I was encouraged by the level of reflection the session generated and Karen’s blog-model is a fantastic template to follow. Read her post on the session here.

Annette Thain, NHS Education for Scotland – Cross-network Collaboration

Annette’s session canvassed for ideas to facilitate cross-collaboration in order to produce more evidence-based practice and foster better information-exchange across sectors. She was also interested in how library assistant training could be delivered as part of these cross-collaborative efforts.

Strong suggestions were made for:

  • Increasing the broker role of library services that have pre-established links with the health sector (such as Sandyford Library or the Dementia Services Development Centre at Stirling University
  • Improving opportunities for work-shadow placements across sectors
  • Introducing more guest lectures explaining services to be delivered on university MLIS courses and establishing links between NES and the SCURL Health Group

We chewed over the representation of, for example, public library professionals in presentations at health and SHINE-organised events as well as NES representatives at CILIPS events. Plus, the idea of receptionists and information assistants in the NHS being trained in the resources available through the public library made a lot of sense to me. What resonated most were the interests of other library sectors to be collaborating specifically with the public library sector to reach a wider audience. Yet the localism of service provision for each sector representative seemed to muddy the waters – is the ‘embeddedness’ of sectors a positive or negative thing? As a newly-qualified librarian, I’ve been nurtured on the benefits of establishing library partnerships yet I still harbour a real scepticism about the essential remit of public services being stretched too thinly through private partnership or joining with trusts. However, where public library visits can be driven up and on an agenda as central to the public library mission as wellbeing, surely such public collaborations are to be encouraged. Perhaps it comes down to connections being made by open-minded individuals in different sectors but I think it would be extremely sad for cross-collaboration opportunities to be passed up on the basis that the practicalities were too difficult to tease out. The public library sector could really be showing its value by pushing forward a physical and mental health agenda – beyond the remit of its collection development policy. Making this a reality has to come down to the vision and enthusiasm of the people on the ground…

… something which led nicely onto the thorny issue of training for library assistants. The number of questions raised rather than answers given highlighted the need for more consistent support of LAs and other information workers as members of the group shared varied interpretations of what staff training needs might be and levels of training provision.

And that concludes my reflection on Library Camp Glasgow! For a first attempt it’s been pretty rambling but if events like this wet my appetite for the importance of the profession, then in future, I could be holding up a mirror on the library profession more often. Given the openness and supportiveness of the group and the value of group discussion, I’ll certainly be looking to pitch my tent and importantly, reflect once again. This vampire has seen the light!

#GLTU13 – Cornton Vale

1 Jul

For GLTU13 on 10th June, a group of us visited the library at Cornton Vale Prison in Stirling. Security was obviously a lot tighter than on previous tweetups, and we had to leave phones and other technology in lockers before we went in, so no tweets and no pictures! However, Jennifer Horan (@Miss_Horan7) has given her impressions of the visit below.

For GLTU13, a tweet-up without tweets, seven of us visited HMP & YOI Cornton Vale, Scotland’s only all-women prison. We were shown round the Learning Block by Liz Moffat, Community Outreach Librarian with Stirling Council, whose duties include managing Cornton Vale’s library, and Kaye Stewart, Learning Centre Manager. The Learning Block includes a kitchen for cookery classes, a salon for hairdressing courses, an ICT suite, a classroom and, of course, a library.

We met a group of women inmates who were participating in a book group and were reading Alexander McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. This was obviously a beneficial activity to the women, especially one who told us that before she was sent to prison she couldn’t read, but she has now learned and is a member of the book group. Poor reading skills and illiteracy are very often issues for prisoners. We then spent time in the library, looking at the resources and asking Liz and Kaye about how the library runs.

Although Liz visits the library as part of her remit to ensure it is in order and can run well, it is mainly staffed by a group of prisoners. Along with a wide range of fiction titles, including new publications, there is also (a smaller) range of non-fiction and audio books, and a number of foreign language books in a variety of languages. Some of the women imprisoned do not have English as a first language, so foreign language books accommodate this, though Liz pointed out that many of the women do not have the literacy skills to be able to read. The library has a budget for book buying from Stirling Council. Liz also spoke to us about the issues surrounding stock selection in prison libraries. While no librarian likes banning books, they must follow the rules of the prison, and there are some books that just can’t be stocked for the safety and well-being of inmates and staff, for example, recent local true crime books and books featuring facts about unacceptable prison behaviour.

The library has three computers for prisoners’ use, though there is no internet access. This is a complex issue for the prison system, as so much information required for learning and gaining qualifications, including Open University courses, in which the women are encouraged to participate, is available online. There are plans to allow prisons access to the internet in the future; however, these ideas have been in the planning for some time.

We were very impressed with the library and its contents; the couches and light colours of the room express comfort and make a visit to the library appealing, but thankfully we were free to leave the locks and keys and return to the comfort of our homes.

If Jennifer’s account has sparked your interest, I also recommend this post on Me and my big mouth which was written in response to the ban on sending books to prisoners in England, and is full of useful information on reader development in prisons.

School Library Camp

24 Jun

In this guest post, Jennifer Horan (@Miss_Horan7) describes Scotland’s first School Library Camp.

School Library Camp Scotland, the first of its kind, took place on Saturday 14 June 2014, in the Andersonian Library at the University of Strathclyde. It coincided with three other regional School Library Camps, in London, Manchester and Leeds, and was open to school librarians, librarians in other sectors, other school staff and anyone else with an interest in school libraries. It followed the usual unconference format of Library Camps, where sessions were user-generated and were pitched on the day.

I got the idea to organise the Camp after attending Library Camp Glasgow in the Mitchell Library last year, and becoming the star attraction as “school librarians never come to these kind of things”. I then became aware that, other than the School Library Association’s annual conference, I rarely see another event advertised which is based solely around school libraries. (Though maybe I’m not looking hard enough.) After finding online a few other like-minded school librarians from south of the border, School Library Camp was born.

Much Twitter-publicity later, we had a potential full house of 50 delegates, a large meeting room at Strathclyde and lovely gift bags, courtesy of CILIPS, SLA and various school library suppliers.

The day itself went well, though we had a disappointingly low turn-out which reduced the number of session pitches. Despite this, seven successful sessions were held during the day: Stock development; E-books in schools; Reader development; Job security; School vs library management; Twitter tips and a brilliant session from Glasgow University PhD students on their study of children’s literature. I decided to make the last session of the day a general discussion about what groups had covered and to allow for any further points to be raised.

We concluded the day in true Library Camp style with a raffle-ticket-under-a-seat prize of gift books (kindly donated by Waterstones) and homemade cake. The day received very positive feedback, with delegates enjoying the informal, user-led style. There were some requests for shorter, more focussed sessions to allow more movement and variety – a style to be considered for a possible School Library Camp 2.


Library Camp Glasgow: Reader development

5 Dec
Photo: Lynn Corrigan

Photo: Lynn Corrigan

This session was pitched by Wendy Kirk, Librarian at Glasgow Women’s Library, as a way of finding out what other libraries are doing in terms of reader development.  It was a chance for people to share experiences, and to be inspired by examples of best practice and new ideas. Wendy’s notes from the session follow.

I started the session by chatting about what Glasgow Women’s Library is doing at the moment, with a focus on our weekly read aloud Read, Relax, Recharge group. This group is very much focused on the concept of reading for wellbeing and relaxation, and is very sociable (group members bring and share their lunch and there is always lots of tea!) The group is particularly popular with older women, who have expressed how important it is to them in terms of company and the chance to ‘get out for a few hours.’

At the session, people talked about the importance of evaluating the impact of reader development activities, and how best to capture this. As well as simply logging numbers attending, for example, book groups, it is crucial to get qualitative feedback. Often this is vital for funding. Someone suggested a questionnaire that the Literacy Trust use, which is about people’s self-perception as readers.  You do the questionnaire at the start of someone’s reading journey, and then again once they have been, for example,  attending a book group, to see if their self-perception has changed.

Other suggestions of good practice or sources of information included:

  • National Reader Development Network – open for anyone to join
  • Scottish Poetry Library – their work with doctors on the concept of ‘nothing but the poem’
  • ‘Sell a book’ – encourage people to bring in their favourite book and ‘sell’ it at an event or book group
  • ‘Best book award’ – get your book group to vote for the book that they’ve liked the most at the group, or get them to rate each book after reading it
  • LGBT book group at Hillhead library (Glasgow Life) – this group started off reading LGBT texts only but is now mixing these with mainstream texts

People also talked about sharing book recommendations that are particularly good for using with groups, and came up with the following suggestions:

The session showed how much is going on in libraries! A great session full of interesting practice and generous sharing of ideas.

Reader development session. Photo: Lynn Corrigan

Reader development session. Photo: Lynn Corrigan

Library Camp Glasgow: Libraries as creative incubators

4 Nov

Delphine Dallison pitched the following: “Glasgow School of Art launched The Hatchery this year as an online resource for creative people to take inspiration from libraries as a source or a site for creativity. Glasgow Women’s Library has also been leading the way in this area with the 21 Revolutions project*. I’d like to hear from other libraries about how they engage with artists and other creatives.” In this guest post, Delphine tells us how the session went.

* GWL recently won the Enterprising Museum Award for this project.

All images are used with permission.

The reason for pitching this session was because, although now a graduate trainee librarian at the Glasgow School of Art’s library, I had also previously studied at the Glasgow School of Art in Sculpture and Environmental Art and used libraries as the setting or inspiration for a number of projects. The first project I ever did in a library was at the GoMA Library, where I’d developed a series of postcards challenging gender stereotypes and then proceeded to slip them in between the pages of books, so that the books could become a method of surprise delivery of the art work. I was also obviously quite tickled by the idea that GoMA could be unwittingly promoting my work at such an early stage in my career as an artist. Later on, I pitched a similar project idea to the Glasgow Women’s Library, which although the project itself never really saw the light of day, led me into a collaboration with GWL which has lasted many years now and also was also the catalyst for GWL inviting me to be one of the 21 artists they commissioned as part of their 21st Anniversary celebration.

I went on from there to discuss a few of the artworks which were created by some of my fellow artists as part of that commission. The 21 artists and 21 writers were asked to take inspiration from books in the lending/reference collection of GWL and various items in the archive. One of the points I was keen to make when discussing that session was how the artists didn’t just limit their scope to the books, but actually investigated every aspect of the library.

For example, looking at the work of Shauna McMullan, 165 Stars, Found in GWL Lending Library, we can see how Shauna went through all the books taking photos of all the different marginalia and eventually narrowed it down to the asterisks she’d collected.

165 Stars: Shauna McMullan

165 Stars: Shauna McMullan

I’m always really moved by this artwork, as I feel that each asterisk captures that moment in time when a woman (or a man) felt so strongly about a passage in a book that they felt the need to single it out with a star. Was the star meant for themselves? Or were they hoping that the star would catch other people’s attention at a later time or day and encourage them to also partake in the reading of that exact passage?

Some of the other artists did indeed take inspiration from the books, but then felt drawn to doing a bit of detective work, like Amanda Thompson, who first came across an entry about Mary McCallum Webster, a little known Scottish female botanist, who made a great contribution to Scottish botany by writing ‘The Flora of Morayshire’. Through her research, Amanda Thompson found a memorial to Webster and was able to get it added to the Mapping Monuments to Women project.

Moneses Uniflora: Amanda Thomson

Moneses Uniflora: Amanda Thomson

Amanda’s project was a great example of how some of the women artists used the brief to highlight the lives of some of the women who contributed to Scotland’s heritage, but who’ve been left out of the history books.

One last example of how the GWL artists holistically used the library as inspiration was Ruth Barker, who designed an edition of scarves which when wrapped around someone beautifully illustrate what Ruth calls “the virtual hug” she receives as a welcome to the library whenever she comes to visit.

A scarf for GWL: Ruth Barker

A scarf for GWL: Ruth Barker

To find out more about the 21 Revolutions project, follow the link in the introduction or keep an eye open for the publication coming out in March 2014. Click on the images above to find out how to purchase limited edition copies.

The next point of discussion I wanted to raise was about the GSA library’s new online resource The Hatchery which was launched just after the summer. In this resource, the GSA librarians have been attempting to create a record of any instances during which students and artists have used the library as the source and site of their inspiration and artworks. The hope is than in future, students will be able to use the resource to feed their own inspiration and maybe librarians can look at ways of fostering similar instances of creativity in their own institutions. I went through a number of examples of artworks which were recorded in The Hatchery, or will soon be added, such virtual artist books which will only take the physical form of catalogue entry, exhibitions being inspired by our rare books collection or sculptures being made from long-lost USB memory sticks. (Click on the image for more information.)

Theresa Moerman Ib: Lost Memory

Theresa Moerman Ib: Lost Memory

This was really the launching point of the session’s discussion and it was heartening to see the warm response of the various library staff and other people attending the session. A number of people showed an interest in how The Hatchery will continue to develop in future and whether there will be scope for links to other libraries’ creative efforts.

The discussion also brought up interesting points about audiences for art in libraries, with Ally Proctor sharing the experience of a friend of hers who, while presenting artworks in a library in the US, came across an unexpected audience of homeless people who habitually use the library as a safe and dry refuge from the outdoor conditions. Could art in libraries be a means of reaching out to these disenfranchised audiences?

Karen McCauley spoke about how the Royal Conservatoire’s library has often hosted musical events, rather than visual art, obviously influenced by the students’ artistic focus and there was discussion of maybe developing some sort of exchange where students from the Conservatoire could perform at the GSA Library and GSA students could create art for the Conservatoire.

After the end of Library Camp Glasgow, Karen also brought up some new discussion points via her blog, which would be interesting to thrash out at a later event about how librarians evaluate the value and reach of creative efforts taking place in libraries. For me the idea of art in libraries is an important component of the political stance taken by environmental artists to displace art from its position of elitism and commercialism and instead make it available to everyone on a platform where the audience feels included in the work.

Secondly though, how do librarians speak about the work once it’s been produced? Do they have the necessary critical vocabulary to do so? In my first week as a trainee at GSA, there were indeed a lot of questions going about on what constitutes a crit term for the critical analysis session students at GSA regularly have to take part in to develop a critical awareness of their work. It was interesting to me to find out that none of the librarians at GSA had ever taken part in one, even though I’d imagine that their insights would be really valuable. I’m not sure though that there is such a need for complex language in the analysis of art. Most importantly, I feel that everyone should be able to provide a critique of an artwork, without in depth training (even though this may go against the past 3 years I spent studying at GSA). In 4th year Environmental Art, my crits used to get broken down in 3 parts:

–          Describe what you see.

–          Describe how it makes you feel.

–          Interpret the meaning of what you see and how the work makes you feel.

Finally, depending on whether the interpretation matched the artist’s intention or not, the artwork would be deemed successful or unsuccessful. I feel this structure could easily be transferred to the context of a librarian discussing work taking place in their library, but equally could be passed on to any member of the public, trained or untrained, who wished to discuss an artwork.

Hopefully, this is only the start of many discussions on how libraries can provide the framework for many forms of artistic expression.

Delphine Dallison

National Libraries Day in Dundee

11 Mar

Kevin McGinley, Library Information Worker and Social Media Admin for Leisure and Culture Dundee Libraries, has written this guest post on how @dundeelibraries created their contribution to our National Libraries Day Storify.

My first library cardImage used with permission of @dundeelibraries

My first library card
Image used with permission of @dundeelibraries

National Libraries Day on 9 February 2013 was a culmination of a week’s worth of celebrations in school, college, university, workplace and public libraries across the UK. Our involvement began when we were asked by Anabel Marsh of Glasgow Library Tweetups if we would like to take part in a Libraries takeover on Twitter. It seemed a great concept and we quickly decided to take up the challenge. We were inspired by the fantastic faceBOOK project by photographer Keith Pattison and decided to use this as the inspiration to tweet similar photos throughout the day. We have to say we were a bit nervous about how our customers would react to having their photos broadcast all over the world, but we need not have worried as almost everyone we spoke to was keen to take part.

After a bit of planning and admin (gaining permission via photo consent forms etc) we soon set about snapping customers as they visited our libraries, asking them what they loved and why they were visiting their library. We tried to get a broad spectrum of activities photographed and hopefully we managed to give a nice flavour of what we offer in terms of Library services. Yes, books and reading are core but it doesn’t do any harm to show that libraries are involved in wide range of activities from Pram Pushing Groups to Video Games Coding Workshops for young people.

We decided to schedule some of our tweets in advance via Hootsuite, just in case we were overwhelmed on the day. This worked well as we scheduled tweets every 30 mins and mixed them in with live tweets. We had retweets and replies from all over the UK and it was brilliant to see #nld13 as the top trending topic on Twitter. What was also great was the feel-good factor it created in our own libraries as lots of staff got involved in the lead up, snapping photos on their mobile phone as the chance arose. Special thanks go to Jacque, one of our Library and Information Assistants who, as Tinned Tomatoes, doubles as a very successful food writer and blogger in her spare time. Jacque took photos, and also helped tweet on the day ensuring the success of the project.

If anyone is thinking of trying this type of project in their Libraries, the best advice we can give is just go for it. It’s great fun! You can view the full set of photos we used on the day on our Facebook page.

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