#Oxlib15: Andrew Green’s keynote on the Future of Academic Libraries

Andrew Green’s keynote speech went to the heart of what libraries offer: collections and services. Delivered against a deceptively innocuous photo slideshow, the speaker offered consistently challenging proposals for change.

Marros, Camarthenshire
Marros in Camarthenshire — see what I mean about deceptively innocuous photos? CC-BY-NC-SA Andrew Green via Flickr

Green began by evoking the academic libraries of his early career, institutions with a ‘quasi-religious’ devotion to local print collections and a sense of control over emerging technology. However, growing user independence, coupled with more accessible and homogeneous ‘common collections’ have since undermined the role of academic libraries.

How can we reassert our value in this climate? Green proposed that less effort should be invested in common collections.  Instead, we should focus on services such as sharing our expertise in digital literacy, collaborative working, intellectual property and Open Access. Library holdings remain important, but Green stressed that we should emphasise our distinctive collections and share these with wider audiences (see the RLUK 2014 report).

In keeping with the conference theme of ‘developing professions’, Green encouraged staff to cultivate a broader skillset. We need to become digitally adept, expert promoters and successful fundraisers, with an ability to engage academics and new audiences.

While provocative, Green’s talk expressed confidence about the future, and challenged us to be ambitious in finding our role within it.

[written for the Bodleian Libraries Staff Development Newsletter, August 2015)

Thing 23: Don’t Look Back in Anger (reflections on the programme)

Looking back at my expectations and ambitions in my Thing 3 post, I have learned more about social media and engaged with more people online. I’ve live tweeted from Librarycamp ‘13 at Birmingham back in November and explored other people’s images on Flickr.

However, I’ve been quite inconsistent with Twitter, at times checking daily and at others leaving my account for weeks. I’ve also failed to tweet regularly, and have shied away from advertising my blog posts for this programme. In some ways this is justifiable, because my reflections on my own experiences with social media may not be relevant or interesting to others. I’ll endeavour to draw attention to other blog posts in future.

I’ve also posted in splurges rather than consistently, which I realise is neither good for instilling a blogging habit nor for building up an audience. However, it has encouraged me to write rapidly and without an inhibiting degree of self-consciousness, and I’ve enjoyed it. At times I’ve probably not taken the idea of my personal brand seriously enough (I don’t think my facetious blog tags will do me any favours), but then again, I repeated the Google Search for myself (in Incognito mode) suggested for Thing 6, and all of my Emma Jones tags have done their job- I’m there!

I went all out on the tagging [Photo: Flickr user ekai CC-BY-NC-SA]

In terms of my next steps, I’d like to explore some of the tools that I didn’t spend as much time learning about during the 23 Things programme, like Instagram and Prezi. And if I suddenly become a prolific social media user (or have to manage a number of accounts as part of my job), I’ll probably want to explore a social media manager like HootSuite. I’d also like to look at more digital tools and skills. I fancy trying my hand at some of the exercises on Codeacademy, as I’m a complete novice. I’d also like to take a look at image display software for books, as the Wellcome Trust have just made their document viewer freely available. This might be useful for small-scale digitization projects in future job roles, and is something my supervisor has discussed with me. I think Balliol Archivist’s proposal for a 23 Things-style CDP programme aimed at library, archive and academic staff interested in the history of the book and managing collections would be really useful- we should make it happen!

Things 21 & 22: Shut Up and Drive (Doodle polls and Google Drive)


Doodle polls have been the saviours of my inbox many a time. I get irritated with long threads of emails involving large groups of people trying to arrange meetings, with dates and times being ceaselessly volleyed back and forth. One of the most frustrating aspects of this for everyone is that no one wants to be the adjudicator. With Doodle polls, a simple table can show which time and date is the most popular, which saves arguments and distracting emails. I’ve used this tool to arrange group Skype calls before, but I can also imagine using it to coordinate times for small group tailored training sessions or to arrange times for library tours.

Not this kind of Doodle, obviously [Photo: DeviantART user samanthaulita CC-BY-NC-SA

Google Drive

I’ve used Google Drive for collaborative work before, such as group manuscript transcriptions and a pilot Library of Lost Books project. I’ve also tried uploading documents and creating them from scratch using GD (I’m writing this post on it right now!) I like being able to access documents without carrying a flash drive everywhere, and the version control looks good. However, I’ve found typing can be a bit laggy, and I’ve not been able to get quite the same formatting or word counts from Word documents which I’ve uploaded and tried to edit within GD. I’m not sure if I’d be able to use reference management software in GD as easily as I can within Word, but there are features offered by GD that the MS Office suite doesn’t provide, such as in-document Google and Google Image searches, and geomap charts from spreadsheets. Here’s a rather crude geomap I created from the data on books by country of publication in the Fellows’ Library:

Some of the more improbable ones, such as the book from Turkmenistan, have since proven to be isolated cataloguing code errors. But you get the idea.

Due to the differences I’ve experienced in formatting and word counts, I probably wouldn’t edit academic work in Google Drive, but I might well use it to back up project work saved to my work station.

Thing 20: Only Connect (posting a link)

The library I work in has started a new blog for 2014, which allows staff to share news with the college and general public. One of its regular features is the Book of the Month. An early printed book from the college collection is displayed in the Fellows’ Library, alongside a caption. This caption, together with some photos, is shared on the blog. Here’s the caption/post I wrote for February:


February Book of the Month

While I do occasionally check the Stats page on WordPress, I find the metrics ambiguous. If I look at the popularity of the post above, for example, does this count all views of the post (including the default  home page, which has rolling posts), or only the views from people clicking on the post title? The referrer section of the Stats page provides a useful indicator of how people arrived at the blog, but (presumably for privacy) this is sometimes frustratingly general. For example, the referrer may be Twitter, but it is unclear whether the website traffic has been attracted by a tweet I wrote, or one written by someone else.

Bit.ly does a much better job at evaluating the impact of advertising links to posts, rather than counting views by blog followers or views from search engine results. I’ve used it to shorten links before, but never to keep count of views.  I’ve set up an account to track clicks on the link above.

Cheers, bit.ly
“All One Clicks”: Cheers, bit.ly.

I’d like these posts to reach a wider audience, but I know to do that I’ve got to get on with the self-promotion stuff. Next time I post something on the jesuslibraries blog, I’ll tweet a bit.ly link and see if this has any effect on the Stats.

Thing 19: Do the Harvard Style Shake (Reference Management Software)

I’ve always prided myself on taking great care over my academic referencing, so initially I was a little wounded when I discovered that there was software which could manage and format references just as well for me. But after my fit of pique subsided, I conceded that a mechanical process like referencing really should be automated (providing a critical pair of eyes can be cast over it to check its accuracy).

A few months ago I decided to have a play around with Zotero, chosen (with the help of this handy LibGuides table) for being free, accessible from any computer via a browser plug-in, and for its ability to capture PDFs and save screenshots (which I find handy when I’ve seen a reference online that I’d like to look up later). And the types of online resources it can deal with are impressive. It’s a halfway house between a bookmarks folder and more conventional work-in-progress bibliography. Google Books, Youtube, this blog post, anything. The write’n’cite feature in MS Word is also very intuitive.

Zotero: It’s a bit heroic [Photo: Flickr user Graham Steel CC-BY-NC-SA]
Although I haven’t had an excuse to try it yet, the ability to share references looks promising. Wouldn’t it be brilliant if reading lists were sent out like this, with records linking back to a library catalogue or to PDF journal articles? This would be handy for library hotlists (perhaps librarians and academic staff could contribute to a shared Zotero folder?), as well as making it one step easier for students to go through a long reading list. There’s no need to patronize experienced students, and there’s no merit in the slog of looking things up on the catalogue every time.

The only thing I haven’t got the hang of yet is adding chapters within edited volumes to my Zotero folders. At the moment, I’m finding the book via Google Books/SOLO, importing the reference, and then typing in details for each chapter I need. If there’s a simpler workaround for this, it would make my day if someone could let me know!

Things 17 & 18: Picture This (images online and copyright issues)

Pinterest and Instagram

I assumed that Pinterest was all about curating aesthetically pleasing items, but after looking at the Bodleian History Faculty Library’s account, I’ve realized that there’s much greater potential for libraries. Not only can Pinterest showcase a library’s history and treasures, but it can also act as a…well, pin board for flyers, links to online resources and photos of service points.

Instagram’s not something I’ve explored before, but I’m excited by the idea of using it to publicize rare book holdings. Although the images wouldn’t be good enough for bibliographical scholarship, I’m sure that they could contribute to a library’s branding by reaching a much wider audience. There’s definitely a strong contingent of intellectually curious, artsy users on there, and what better subjects to put through some retro filters than old books?

Instagram rare books
Rare books on Instagram (via statigr.am)


I’ve shamelessly scoured Flickr for most of the images I’ve used on this blog so far, as it’s so easy to find reusable images by licence. Google Images now has a search filter that allows users to search for Creative Copyright (CC) images, but I’ve found that most of the results point back to Flickr photos anyway (possibly because the licence metadata is so clear).

Inspired by 23 Things, I decided to set up my own account. I really like the layout of the photostream and the ability to post photos to groups, although I feel like I’m being tricked into posting my photos on Facebook every time I log in using that account; as much as I don’t like password fatigue, the idea of knowingly giving permission to Facebook to monitor my activity on other sites bothers me more.

I’ve put my photos up with a CC-BY-NC-SA (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommerical-ShareAlike) licence. I feel I should be a bit more permissive and allow users to remix my photos and take them out of context, but for now I’m quite attached to the idea of being credited. Here’s one of my photos from the handpress printing course I’m taking with Paul Nash (Bodleian/Story Museum):


Typesetting, Story Museum Oxford


And here are a few Flickr users that are worth following:

Kungliga biblioteket (National Library of Sweden)

Penn Provenance Project

Balliol Archives and Manuscripts

Medieval Fragments Project

Copyright Issues

I’d really like to get a handle on copyright issues because I feel that information professionals, as their job titles suggest, should be clued up and willing to give informal advice. Many librarians already have to give guidance about avoiding plagiarism and  making work open access, so it wouldn’t be surprising if readers looked to them for authoritative advice on other kinds of copyright issues.

For instance: who owns the copyright of images and transcriptions of medieval manuscripts when the authors are dead? Do the repositories that pay to preserve them have a claim? And if so, do they own all images, or only those which have a creative element (3D rather than 2D)? Can these be reused? Do the the reproduction licence costs and commercial profits from merchandise outweigh public access rights (for example,  uploading Wikimedia images for all to see and use)? Will Noel’s recent McKenzie Lecture, entitled ‘Bibliography in Bits’, argued that data should be made available for new and unexpected uses, and that CC licences helped dignify images with metadata rather than encourage pirating. I also thought John Overholt’s tweet about copyright claims was quite persuasive:

As you can see, I know next to nothing about this issue. Part of the problem stems from not knowing where to find reliable information, and from not understanding how the laws of different jurisdictions affect an international space like the internet. If anyone’s got some pointers, I’d be very grateful!

Thing 16: The Show Must Go On (presentations)

I’ve never seen anyone deliver a presentation using Prezi in person, but I’ve seen some really effective presentations online, like Ned Potter’s induction to the University of York’s library and Katie Birkwood’s map of special collections librarianship. I think these work well because they have a structure or overarching metaphor which justifies the canvas image and unusual spatial arrangement.

In most instances, I think the linear movement from slide to slide gives a  decent sense of coherence to regular Powerpoint presentations. As I’m not yet at ease with giving formal presentations, I’ll probably stick with Powerpoint for now.  That said, imaginative design is important for slides too. There are plenty of inspiring examples on Slideshare, although typically the slides which get highlighted are corporate ones (and I’m not going to advertise them further here!)

I don’t have a presentation to upload at present, but there’s a project showcase towards the end of my trainee year, which will provide a good opportunity to share a presentation online. I’ll probably use Slideshare, embed it in this blog and possibly share through my LinkedIn profile. This is definitely a way to reach new audiences. Clare Bristow’s Slideshare presentation about the History Faculty library’s antiquarian books has reached (at the time of writing) almost 2000 views, far surpassing the number of people who saw the original presentation. As my project is of a similar nature, this might provide a good template for my presentation.