Author Archives: sarahcchilds

#uklibchat summary, on reading – 1st April 2014

A summary of our April chat on reading can be found below.  A full archive of the chat can be found at

1. How much of your job is about encouraging reading?

  • Many librarians, particularly those in higher education, said that they don’t tend to promote reading much in their job although some had small “leisure” collections for students
  • Those working in other environments e.g. school libraries did a lot more reader development work
  • The question of what “reading” meant in this context was discussed: did it apply to reading on websites for example?
  • @jamesatkinson81 said “I don’t really feel I encourage reading, more facilitate it”

2. Do you have any suggestions for how to reach groups who don’t read much?

Suggestions made by several users included:

  • More accessible books such as graphic novels, manga, quick reads, non-fiction, film/TV tie-ins were highlighted by many contributors
  • Using “non-book” things to entice users into the library such as board games, DVD vouchers and computers was mentioned.
  • Using technology such as tablets and e-book readers were suggested
  • The social side of reading was highlighted e.g. working with friends of non-readers, book clubs and discussions
  • Don’t judge people’s reading – don’t be snobby or make a big deal if someone reads a “classic”

Individuals suggested the following ideas:

  • @LibraryMargaret suggested normalising reading – carrying a book around with you all the time
  • Take books off the shelves  – put them on tables, pick them up yourselves when talking about them and don’t be ‘precious’ with them @LibraryMargaret
  • It would be good if the kind people who develop games for Facebook would introduce cutscenes requiring reading. @oneofthee
  • Make people feel special – they have been personally selected to read book/article. Present as CPD opportunity @sarahcchilds
  • Get a decent collection of Entry1-3 books that aren’t patronising and don’t have kids as their main characters@LibraryMargaret
  • In an ideal world, I’d like to offer more 1-to-1 sessions to encourage reluctant readers. @oneofthee
  • Tried to make our catalogue more interesting to look at e.g. include book jackets and more interactive to help locate stock @jackoliver40
  • Some put off by thick books with small text, large print books tend to be thick by default! This is where Kindles rock @libraryMargaret
  • Last year gave out World Book Night books at local Family Centres, this year pop up library at Exeter Central Station. @SooLib
  • Beware of overwhelming choice @oneofthee
  • Use displays says @helenmonagle

3. Do you think being a librarian has affected your personal reading habits?

  • There was some debate as to whether social media decreased the time you had to devote to reading, or whether it acted as  a powerful tool for reading recommendations
  • Some people said they read more often and more widely due to a need to be aware of a broad range of books and increased access to a wide variety of titles
  • Others said they were basically unaffected as they had always read a lot
  • Finally, some people said that the amount of reading and researching they did in their job meant they weren’t as keen to read in their spare time

4. Best reply/response to a student declaring “I don’t do reading”

  • Finding out other interests in order to help choose suitable books for them
  • Point out that they do read (magazines, websites etc.) … even if it is just the back of the cornflakes packet!
  • Some people may not be able to read – so tell them they can do it and you will help
  • Find incentives and suggest how reading may benefit them

5. Has the growth of ebooks changed reading habits?

  • Definitely (in HE). Our print loans are in a steady year-on-year decline but ebook usage is growing quickly @daveyp
  • My dissertation survey found most students preferred print books. Cited tiredness after looking at screen all day as 1 reason @Libmichelle
    • That’s definitely changing. Each new intake of students are increasingly choosing ebooks over print @daveyp
  • It’s made people bolder about the choices. Erotic fiction more widely available and promoted for example. If you want to read something privately, you are more able to do so. Also, carrying more ebooks possible, able to use outside building opening hours . @greebstreebling
  • Some people such as @agentk23, said that e-books had converted non-readers
  • Several people commented on their own personal use of e-books and how useful they found them

6. Should libraries do more to encourage ebook lending/reading?

The difficulties that people had experienced both as professionals and personally in reading e-books from libraries were discussed. It was felt that publishers needed to provide better platforms making e-reading easier and more pleasurable; and they also should make more e-books available via public libraries. Issues with e-book formats for disabled users was highlighted.

There was also a feeling however that librarians could do more – some reported an apathy around promoting and assisting with e-books in some library services. @eileenfiddle said she had been pushing e-books to Apple and Waterstones representatives who weren’t necessarily aware of the huge market available to them if they provided e-books for libraries. @pennyb said: “Publishers may be a pain but how often do librarians outside of [certain] roles challenge academic publishers on e-books?”

@libmichelle tweeted a link to a talk at last year’s UKSG conference from a student where he spoke about what he’d like to see in his academic ebooks

7. Ebook readers: Good or bad? Will they lead to the demise of libraries?

Unsurprisingly, the librarians taking part in the chat did not feel that e-book readers would lead to the demise of libraries! The fact that access to e-books is not universal, that libraries are also social spaces were pointed out. @JaimeeUK said that e-books helped us expand offering and user-base, so were a good thing.

On a less positive note, @pattersonty67 felt that US libraries were much better at providing e-books than UK libraries.

8. Have you read a book recently that you would really recommend? 140 char review!

  • Trust Me by Lesley Pearce: Very moving fictional history account of the lost children sent to Australia @samanthaclare
  • Saga by Brian K Vaughan and Fiona Staples: Innovative Science Fiction Graphic Novel, compelling characters and fairytale dream-like feel (though NSFW) @poetryghost
  • David and Goliath by Malcolm Gladwell: Read this and learn how to play the big guy/team/system and win @oneofthee
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: fantastic book, thought-provoking, achingly beautiful story, very sad but poignant. Interesting tone and POV @jaimeeUK
  • Alex by Pierre Lemaitre: really gruesome with amazing twists. Just as you think you know what’s going on – wham! A twist! @Merrysimclaire
  • Wonder by R J Palachio is a beautiful story. Been referred to as “a book that has made grown men weep” @eileenfiddle
  • The Circle by Dave Eggers: Lots of interesting issues raised that library folk may be interested in! @libmichelle
  • Heroic by Phil Earle: Superb characterisation, gritty, gripping, thought-provoking, based on S E Hinton’s The Outsiders. @CorBlastMe
  • Parasol Protectorate by Gail Carriger: steampunk that is light but fun with great characters mystery and tea @poetryghost
  • How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran: a hilariously marvellous book full of anecdotes of the pleasures and pains of being a woman! @Helenmonagle
  • Grimm books by Adam Gidwitz: Tales with guts and gore. Great storytelling – kids love them @Shazzybroon
  • Pluto by Naoki Urasawa. A robot detective investigates a series of human and robot murders. Hhis life is also on the line @agentk23
  • Tony Benn Diaries 2001-2007: Passionate, political, polemical, personal, prescient on financial crisis. Interesting & easy-to-read @sarahcchilds
  • Any books by Frances Hardinge, Young adult fantasy brilliance. (“There’s a hell of a good universe next door; let’s go” – e. e. cummings) @BethanyWitham
  • Teesside Steal by John Nicholson. Has good storyline, mystery and drama and is by a local author so I can relate to landmarks @jackoliver40
  • Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch: Sensible, logical, police-magic, beautiful architecture, diversity and delight. @BethanyWitham
  • Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye is a delight @BethanyWitham

9. Do you think reading for pleasure should be promoted in academic libraries? Why/why not?

Participants from academic and health libraries agreed that reading for pleasure should be promoted as it gave users a break from academic or professional reading and highlighted that reading was not just something you did because it’s compulsory, However, some attempts at promoting fiction in academic libraries had not been successful. The matter of how much priority should be afforded to promoting reading for pleasure in this environment. As @agentk23 said: “I am pro the idea.. but it’s low on my agenda.”

The idea of academic and public libraries working in collaboration was also raised.

10. Does it matter what people are reading? Or is just reading anything enough?

Opinions were mixed in response to this question. On the one hand, participants were wary of judging users on their reading. At the same time, the need to encourage widely and critically was viewed as important.

Feature #12 – Reading

Our guest post this month is by Mobeena Khan, Stock and Reader Development Librarian at Hertfordshire Libraries. This post is her own views, and does not necessarily represent the views of her employer. If you would like to join this month’s #uklibchat on reading, the agenda is available here:

Reading. When the lovely folk over at #uklibchat asked me to write this blogpost for them, I was so insanely flattered to even be asked that I said yes pretty much right away. Rookie mistake. Because reading? How on earth do I encapsulate reading and what I think and feel about reading in 1000 words. It cannot be done. It just can’t . There’s too much to get excited and passionate and angry and confused about. So, I’ve tried to distil it into reading and libraries and even more so into reading for pleasure.


As most of you know, I’m a public librarian and always have been. We can be quick sometimes, as a profession, to skip over the book part of what we offer. Being under threat, as most public libraries are, we can be incredibly quick to say “We’re not just a building with books, you know!” – and we are indeed, so much more than that. We have free access to computers and the internet, we have services for babies and children and teenagers. We have reading groups and author events and services for housebound users and users whose first language isn’t English. We stretch and stretch and stretch and sometimes, I feel we forget about the books. The books and their magic are part of what draws people in. It’s still the thing that people associate a library with, any library, public, academic, whatever. Sometimes, we forget about the books.

child reading image from pixabay
My job title officially, is “Stock and Reader Development Librarian”. I work across fourteen libraries and when I am asked what I do, I say, only half joking, “My job is about getting things onto library shelves and getting people to look at them”. Reading is a big part of who I am, personally and professionally. It always has been. I joined my local library when I was about seven or eight after a class visit there. I rapidly became one of those children who visited the library every week, on a Saturday and took out the maximum number of books I was allowed to take out and started reading one of them on the way home. It’s probably a miracle I am alive today. I’ve no idea how I crossed all those roads. Reading was and is, easy for me. It’s a refuge. Picking up an old book or the new installment of a series is like being with old friends again; as if no time has passed at all. I am incredibly lucky to have a job that makes sure I try and pass that on to other people.

Because, just as I know I am lucky, I know equally, other people are not. Other people find reading hard. Whether that’s because of low literacy levels, English not being their first language, dyslexia or just not being a reader, reading, this beautiful, every day, vital, necessary thing can be really hard for people. Reading for pleasure is something a lot of people don’t understand and cannot access.

One of the many ways we tackle this in my library service is with a project I help run called “The Book Doctor”. We saw the idea being used initially in another authority and expanded it to use in one of our main urban libraries. The idea behind the project was to offer a bespoke service to our users, away from the pressures of the enquiry desk, whereby members of staff could offer an in depth, one on one service to users who were stuck with their reading. We, as staff members would take the time to talk to users about what they have read and what they were looking for. Users would be able to come to a drop in session where they could talk to a member of staff and get ideas and help to tackle whatever the reading problem was – whether that was that the reader had finished a great series and wanted another one, whether they were looking for a specific genre or books set in a specific period or something completely different. We wanted to empower our readers and users to continue or start to gain pleasure in their reading.

smurf reading image from pixabay

My fellow stock and reader development librarians and I devised a training programme that consisted of training regarding print resources, electronic resources and a list of book prizes that we thought would help in answering questions and helping to widen stock knowledge. About six library assistants were picked to participate in the project and for the first eight of the monthly, hour long sessions, they were buddied up with me or my colleagues. We had posters designed and had the sessions advertised on our social media streams and we helped further identify ourselves as a distinct operation by wearing white lab coats. We have “prescription pads” which we use to write down recommendations for our users and anyone who uses the service gets a free request. The sessions have been running since April 2013 and we are now looking to expand the service to other libraries in the county.

This is just one way that we’ve tried to help our users get more out of the library service. We utilised staff skills and expertise to help enable people to get more out of reading, to find other ways into it, other ways through it. I’ve barely touched on some of the other issues around reading such as helping people with learning difficulties or dyslexia access the library, encouraging children to read and fostering a lifelong love of reading through libraries and there are probably a whole host of others that haven’t even occurred to me. But as library staff, we should continue to embrace reading. We should keep promoting it in every form to everyone who walks in through the door. Whether they read themselves or listen to a talking book or have books read to them, reading is a vital part of who we are as people. It strikes right down into the core of who a person is. The right book at the right time can change your life. We should never forget that.



Agenda – #uklibchat on Reading, Tuesday 1st April 2014

It’s no joke – we will be running a #uklibchat on the topic of reading on 1st April. Despite the fact this is a topic that is highly connected to libraries and librarians in the popular imagination, it’s taken us nearly three years to have a chat devoted to it.

Reading can sometimes be defined in narrow terms as just being about reading fiction for leisure but we’re interested in exploring this topic from as many angles as possible – whether it’s e-reading, academic reading, professional reading, the science of reading, the future of reading…the possibilities are endless! However, it’s you guys that shape our agenda, which you can contribute to here.

The chat will be held at 6.30-8.30pm UK time on Tuesday 1st April 2014. Watch this space for a guest blog post, coming very soon!

EDIT: You can now read Mobeena’s post here.


#uklibchat Summary – Putting the User First – 7th November 2013

The idea for this chat came out of a conversation between @agentk23 and @sarahcchilds. We wanted to do a chat on something to do with customer service, but didn’t want to only cover old ground on being polite to customers and smiling nicely. We agreed that with an increasing number of library users accessing material virtually as well as physically, customer service is not just about empathy and interpersonal skills. It’s also about UX, web design and learning from and acting on user feedback and research. We hope the tweets in the chat have made you think about customer service and libraries differently! Please find a summary below – a full archive of the tweets from the chat is available here:

1 What is unique about your library’s user-group? What are their characteristics?

Most respondents to this question were from public or academic libraries, although we also had a prison librarian (@crdolby), a school librarian (@mariamernagh) and a polar librarian (@senorcthulhu)!

Even those coming from the same sector often had quite different answers  e.g.

Public library:

  • We are rural, right beside a river, mostly lower middle class, many seniors & job seekers @shelmick
  • I’d say our user group was not unique in a general way, but is diverse as would be expected for an urban area. We have large Asian and Polish populations as well as significant populations of Afro-Carribbean and Somali. @poetryghost

Academic library:

  • Our users are predominantly academic usually looking for something specific. Users are usually students, academics, support staff and we also get some traffic from the local community such as  local business people who want access to print materials and individuals who want to photocopy and browse stock @jackoliver40
  • High-fee paying students so high expectations @priestlib
  • Mostly foreign students and academics looking for foreign language material. @ludiprice
  • I work at an academic art college. Images are very important @donnagrundy
  • Students and academics, with very varied experiences of libraries and expectations of what we can deliver. @bookishkirsten

2. Have you undertaken any surveys or focus groups of your users? If so, did you change anything as a result?

Many librarians collected feedback via surveys, meetings, focus groups and suggestion boxes.

Discussion then turned to the actions taken as a result of the feedback:

  • National Student Survey and Course meeting result: – faculty specialised software available in library PCs, convenient for students after lab closed @uowkwani
  • We listen and action what we can, depending on what it is of course! an e.g. of change as a result of feedback through a user forum was to trial a brighter lighting in a specific study area@jackoliver40
  • We take the annual round of Public Library User Surveys. This year’s was on Children and Young People. The results do inform the manager’s plans and ideas, but I’m never sure quite how much. Especially when, as last year’s adult one, for one reason or another the results were not published to the public @poetryghost
  •  We do a nearly annual survey, and make some changes based on results e.g. more plug sockets for laptops. We ask in survey if there are any books the library should have and doesn’t, and generally buy them. but some suggestions from survey we will always ignore e.g. for coffee machine in the library! @bookishkirsten
    • Feedback is never same as “marching orders. ” We went to a 24/5 schedule after survey via easels of our undergraduate students about what they wanted. They wrote 24/7!!  @donnalanclos

Ways of dealing with low response and lack of enthusiasm in providing feedback were mentioned:

  • Both refreshments and feedback (actions taken post meet) vital to focus group success. @priestlib
  • We have tried but responses were quite low. We do a lot of informal surveying over tea and adjust services @senorcthulhu

3. Do you think staff customer service training is effective in improving things for users?

The main benefit of training given was ensuring a consistent approach. However, doubts were expressed as to how much could be achieved via training due to its blanket approach and the fact that some had inherently good customer service skills and some did not. More specific training (e.g. mental health awareness) was suggested to remedy this.

The book Success at the Enquiry Desk by Tim Buckley-Owen was suggested as a great training tool. (@donnagrundy)

4. In your experience, what are the barriers to putting the user first?

Common issues mentioned included budget; lack of strategic direction, lack of support from management;  staff shortages; lack of knowledge of users; resistance to change from staff; bureaucratic restrictions; laziness; poor communication and lack of creativity.

This question also sparked the following interesting points/discussions:

  • Sometimes we think we know what the users want and so design our services from that instead of the other way around @jackoliver40
  • Also mired in “we are a service” mindset but unwilling to reevaluate what “service” means @donnalanclos
    • Deftly put – & I find an unwilligness and/or inability for staff to put themselves in user shoes @priestlib
    • I find that less than just a sort of disconnect from the current crop of users. @donnalanclos
  • How is ‘user’ defined? Does it include non-users that are part of target population? i.e. are non-users surveyed? @lolinthelibrary
    • I always think it’s an odd Q. For me more interesting Q is “how do we *want* to define users?” @benymlee

5. What do you think are the good and bad bits of your library’s online UX?

Good points:

  • @donnalanclos said they had an in-house UX shop at her university. They constantly keep on juggling web pages, to make it quicker for find content
  • OPAC allows you to expand your search to our partner libraries. I also like that we are starting out in social media – meeting users where they are in the way they want.  @poetryghost
  • We’ve just moved to LibGuides, more flexible & options for social media  @databyatt

Bad points

  • Erm…not really having an online UX? We have a website that needs dramatic improvement! @senorcthulhu
  • Ours is very 1990′s. Current WIP is moving to open source Kuali OLE @ludiprice

6. What are the barriers to better online user experience?

  • Time to review. Resource, both financial and staff. Working with the technology that is available @jackoliver40
  • Lack of professional web design in libraries
  • A crippling reluctance to free libraries from straitjacket of parent org and let them create what users need @MyWeeklyBook
  • politics (small p) @ludiprice
  • Imagination @priestlib

7.What are the alternatives to surveys to find out user experiences? (avoiding survey fatigue)

  • Getting out and talking to users informally. Engaging with the user to listen to what the issues are @jackoliver40
  • Ethnography – and using already done studies as a springboard for policy, don’t need to reinvent wheel  @donnalanclos
    • I did ethnography of amateur web repository I am admin of, it was a fascinating insight into how users tick @ludiprice
  • Secret shoppers & focus groups perhaps, inaction on Facebook and Twitter  @databyatt
  • I try to chat informally to library users & non users in our organisation. It always elicits useful feedback @jothelibrarian
  • There is a lot of possibility with the web – pop up chat boxes on web pages, rate this page, blog post comments, etc . @libraryweb
  • I’ve looked at data and stats from wherever I could get them reliably to help target specialist services e.g. looking at age of population across area to target home library service (some call this housebound library service). I essentially compared and contrasted diff electoral wards on age percentages. Added in care homes and also sheltered accommodation, looked for day centres etc. to give a pic of where elderly stuck at home are @poetryghost

8. Have you tried an ethnographic approach to finding out more about your users?

  • Surely HE libraries could use anthropology students to help them with library studies? Could be a good dissertation project… @sarahcchilds
    • I employ MA students in Anthropology and other social sciences as my research assistants @donnalanclos

9. How do you deal with resistance from some staff to improve service?

  • Performance appraisals and performance management, one to one meetings, reminders, emails. Anything but losing your temper. @donnagrundy
  • I think you really need to massively sell the benefits and have a coherent co-ordinated message. you also have to be very clear about the aims and what you are trying to achieve not just “better customer service” + listen to people’s concerns @poetryghost
  • I’m not a manager, but I try to lead by example. Fortunately I work with fab super-motivated colleagues!  @jothelibrarian
  • Be persistent. Use evidence from user feedback. Keep repeating the message. Take action if needed @jackoliver40
  • The better the organisational culture, the more it supports people to develop and improve service.
    I write about my work/experiences on our intranet: makes good learning material & encourage others to share @jothelibrarian
  • Um… Be contagiously enthusiastic, bat your eyelids and smile a lot???? @ludiprice

#uklibchat Summary – Change – 6th August 2013

Highlights from our lively chat on change are presented below.  You can access the full archive for the chat via

1. What are the biggest changes you have had to face in your career in libraries?

Many changes were personal: changing jobs, moving sectors and moving countries. Physical changes such as moving the library from one site to another were also mentioned. Another major point of discussion for this question was the impact of technology in libraries, including changing LMS. The following exchange between Andrew Preater and Liz Jolly picked up on the idea that technology change is not necessarily new:

  • Probably the unrelenting pace of change in technology and its influence on libraries in my sector (HE). in my view, the late 2000s saw a major acceleration. I would guess others longer in the profession would pick out some different timescale eg. late 90s was pivotal (I was an undergrad though!). @preater
    • I think arguments could be made for several decades in the 20th century! @liz_jolly
    • I pick late 2000s cos lots of the technological groundwork was done eg mature opensource software stack & things technically *possible* became more or less *pervasive*. @preater

2. How do you/your colleagues tend to react to change? What about your library users?

3. Do you feel on the whole you are positive about change?

Most people felt they were positive about change themselves but felt some colleagues struggled with it. e.g. @stevenheywood too often people want things to change so long as it doesn’t affect themselves. Natural but only up to a point…

Additionally, it was reported that users often find change harder than staff

Many very much embraced change and @clareangela felt this positive approach was essential for librarians:

  • If you don’t like change you have no business being in this industry @clareangela
    • Went to some training for new librarians where the presenter said “If you don’t like change, leave libraries” @sarahcchilds
    • So true …libraries are about changing lives and if we can’t embrace change how can we effectively enable this? @liz_jolly

Issues with change included: the lack of genuine consultation, the significant cuts experienced in UK public library services and poor change management. Another common attitude is encapsulated in the following quote from @theangelremiel

  • I’m guarded about change. Too often a whim is presented as a fait accompli. On the other hand, if it’s a good idea I’ll go to it all hands to the pump. I just need to be persuaded first. It’s also definitely true that poor change management can turn something harmless into a disaster

4. How can you keep colleagues open-minded, positive and motivated throughout the change?

The need for communication and engagement with staff was strongly emphasised as being essential to the management of change.  Consultation was advised but many contributors passionately argued that that there needed to be at least a small possibility that staff input would actually be acted upon. @poetryghost mentioned the slogan “Inform, involve, explain and train.” Being honest, acknowledging concerns and explaining reasons for change were also highlighted.

@jwebbery also wisely stated “Change needs to be owned by all stakeholders”

An even wiser statement was made by @sonja_kujansuu “It’s important to continuously supply colleagues with biscuits and cake to keep them motivated throughout…”

5. How are library spaces changing? (Physical changes or the ways they are being used?)

Library space was seen as not just physical, but also online. Flexible study space was widely discussed, especially in universities – @saintevelin described HE libraries as “a venue more than a collection”

6, What skills do librarians need to successfully lead change?

Skills mentioned included communication, project management, empathy, having vision, leadership, staff engagement, acknowledging success and failure

@theangelremiel summed up his feelings thus: “Drive to make desirable/inevitable change. Strength to resist destructive/avoidable change. Wisdom to know the difference”

7. Change management. What are the dos and don’ts from your experience?

Some great dos and don’ts were offered by our participants (Nice to see more dos rather than don’ts -keeping things positive – Ed)


  • DO understand range of appetite for change and emotions
  • DO be resolute in implementation.
  • DO have a clear reason for making change.
  • DO Listen to your staff, communicate with them, give out information
  • DO listen and respond. Sometimes you can make greater changes through consultation and engagement
  • DO know how you will know if you’ve been successful. If you can’t define success you can only fail.


  • DON’T let rumour take over
  • DON’T just say change comes from your superiors, even if you don’t like it engage with it and make it work
  • DON’T present change as permanent (if poss), inflexible
  • DON’T fall into the trap of: ” We must do something. This is something. We must do this.” Do have a clear purpose.
  • DON’T Keep all information close at heart

8. With all the changes faced by libraries, are perceptions of the profession also changing?

@liz_jolly said “Do we spend too much time worrying about this? We should develop our professional confidence, be clear about our value and impact to our communities and stop being so concerned about perceptions!”

Although others expressed the need for us to keep thinking about how we’re perceived in order to help us do our jobs better.

9. How are the information needs of library users changing? Are we meeting demands?

@libraryninja said [It's] more ‘how do we ensure people can find the right information from a trusted source?” So many don’t have a clue how to search etc.

@poetryghost expressed her view that “In a way it is the manner of supporting library user needs that is changing. We’ve always been guides and advisors about quality info.”

A couple of points were made about technology e.g.

Public libraries are struggling to keep up with huge expectations around fast, reliable Internet connection and up to date PCs. #nomoney @PaulTov

10. How do you keep colleagues and library users informed about changes?

Whilst new technology such as social media was mentioned, signage and good old-fasioned face-to-face conversations were also felt to be important.

11. How can library services change and benefit from collaborations with other sectors?

Convergence of professional services incl library, student services, learning development now fairly common in HE so skills relating to working collaboratively with others from different professional backgrounds also important @liz_jolly

12 What changes do you anticipate will occur in libraries in the next 10 years?

Growth of online resources was mentioned – and issues around it – such as information preservation and the continuing need for space for printed items .

I personally found these two tweets thought-provoking:

  • We’ll see pervasive use of #opensource next-gen library systems and shared-services approach to same. At least in HE. :-) @preater
  • Bridging the widening gap between academic and public sectors will become ever more difficult. @mickfortune

Agenda: 6 August: The Changing World of Libraries and Information

For many of us working in libraries, both our workplace and the general world of information appear to have been in a constant state of change for the past few years. Open access, the changes in the use of library space…not to mention all the technological change…

Therefore, at #uklibchat, we thought it would be a great idea to do a chat on change – what kind of change you’ve come across already, how you deal with it and what change(s) you might want to see in the future.

As usual, we’ll be chatting on Twitter from 6.30pm-8.30pm UK time on the first Tuesday of the month: Tuesday 6th August 2013.  If you’ve not joined #uklibchat before here’s our guide to joining in.

You can add questions to our agenda here. You can also read the views of our guest blogger, Andrew, here.

Feature #08 – The Changing World of Libraries and Information

We are pleased to present a guest feature blog post ahead of our next chat on The Changing World of Libraries & Information (Tuesday 6th August, 6.30-8.30pm). Our author is Andrew Preater, who is Associate Director of Information Systems and Services at Senate House Library, University of London. Andrew tweets as @preater and blogs at

Dealing with change in LIS – a personal perspective for #uklibchat

I have to change to stay the same
- Willem de Kooning

In this guest blog post for uklibchat I’ll talk about how I deal with change in my role at Senate House Libraries, University of London.

For my library masters I studied various models for describing change and how to manage change. I won’t dwell on these in detail but to give one example to think about, Lewin’s model1 describes change as a three step process:

  1. Unfreezing: preparing the organization for change, building a case, dismantling the existing “mindset”.
  2. Change: an uncomfortable period of uncertainty with the organization beginning to make and embrace changes.
  3. Freezing: finalizing the organization in a new, stable state and returning to former levels of comfort.

I use this model as a way of understanding a traditional view, sometimes presented as a “common sense” view, of change processes though I find the underlying assumptions in the model itself quite manipulative – for example the idea that to create change, the transient pain of change must be understood to be less for the organization than the pain of keeping things the same. Other models have more steps and so greater complexity. Kotter’s eight step change model2 is one example; at that level of complexity it reads more like “Kotter’s tips for implementing change” rather than a theoretical model.

The main things I take from these models and work experience are that:

  • The major challenges in implementing change come down to people rather than technology or machines.
  • The period of implementing change will be disruptive and uncomfortable, as a manager you cannot ignore but must engage with this.
  • Communication at all stages is key to a successful change process – including celebrating success afterwards.

At Senate House Libraries we’ve experienced a considerable period of disruptive change since the mid-2000s. One conclusion I’ve made from this is we are definitely no longer in the business of steady-state librarianship. Our “business as usual” now includes an implicit assumption that we need to constantly review and adjust our processes and services to meet changing needs and demands, hence my inclusion of Willem de Kooning’s wonderfully mysterious quote above.

This does not mean slavishly following every new trend in technology or being led by the nose by technology, particularly technology as repackaged and sold by library software and hardware suppliers, but actively maintaining current awareness and honestly evaluating the status quo as thoroughly as we do new ideas.

I say this because in some libraries I notice a willingness to subject the new thing in a change process to exacting and rigorous examination but not examine the status quo in the same way. There is an assumption here about the ‘rightness’ of our current approaches, whatever they happen to be. What I find troubling about this is the idea our way of working will remain ‘right’ for any length of time in a changing landscape. It is absolutely right not to try to fix something that isn’t broken or enact change for the sake of change, but this is something only knowable following evaluation.

For me the operational aspect of library service must inform strategic thinking and planning, as it’s those staff that are in constant contact with library members and understand the fine detail of the service. For this reason I involve my whole team in developing operational plans and contributing to strategy by identifying priorities for future work. My view is change shouldn’t just be something that ‘just happens’ to staff but something for all to take an active role in.

Personally I am influenced by approaches from IT as I have a systems background, and more broadly am influenced by application of researched-based and evidence-based practise in librarianship. To be clear I include qualitative research in this as an essential partner to quantitative research, adding much-needed richness and depth to our understanding of user experience and behaviour.

One change process at my workplace where I’ve used this approach is implementing a new discovery layer, or library catalogue, as part of our implementation of a new library management system, Kuali Open Library Environment (OLE). OLE does not have a traditional catalogue so a catalogue or discovery layer such as VuFind or Blacklight is needed.

To do this, we have built and developed the case for changing by:

  • Presenting about the project formally at all-staff meetings and individual team meetings.
  • Informal conversation with staff to answer questions and build awareness ‘things are happening’ around discovery.
  • Involving staff in thinking creatively about discovery in a workshop environment (I blogged about this aspect a few months ago).
  • Giving discovery the respect it deserves by treating it as a Web project that puts user experience at the core – and being seen to do so. This includes hosting a student from UCL Department of Information Studies doing ethnographic research on catalogue user behaviour.
  • Answer technical questions quickly and with confidence, including in-depth questions about SolrMARC (really) and metadata issues.

The important point for me as the head of our systems team is so much of this is not about technology, it’s about surfacing opinion and including staff in conversation. For example we’ve set up a beta test VuFind 2.0 instance to provide food for thought, but it’s not core

By necessity this blog post is brief, but I hope this specific example and the more general things I’ve said above help seed discussion for uklibchat.


  1. Lewin, K. (1947) ‘Frontiers in group dynamics: concept, method and reality in social science; social equilibria and social change’, Human Relations, 1 (1), pp. 5-41, PsycINFO [Online] DOI 10.1177/001872674700100103 (Accessed: 27 July 2013)
  2. Kotter, J.P. (1996) Leading change. Watertown, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Summary – Managing Your Workload – 5th March

1. Do you think your workload has increased in recent months or years?

  • Definitely – fewer people in the team plus tasks get added at each appraisal but not often removed
  • With new initiatives in literacy and the importance of reading for pleasure, school librarians have a greatly increased workload.
    • So effectively – with increased interest comes increased workload?
    • Yes. The increased interest is great but means we need to manage our workload really effectively to cope.
  • Most definitely. Half the staff as last year and last remaining library assistant keeps getting moved by bosses to other roles
  • Do budgets affect the workload in libraries? What do you think? Less money= less staff, more tasks each one?
  • Definitely increased! Less staff, less money for labour-saving resources, more pressure to keep up results!
  •  Also find it frustrating that organisational culture is often anti productivity tools even free ones like
    • Nirvana has only limited free features I think – time management seems to be something people pay for
  • Solo librarian – lack of budget for additional staff definitely increases workload, no-one to delegate to
  • While volunteering at the national library association, I have noticed librarians don’t have time for extra activities and lately the lack of time grows into the lack of motivation.
  • Yes! Now we’ve finally got more librarians after being denied the money for them for years I’m not allowed to coast! I don’t mind the extra work though as is all interesting stuff, apart from endless checking of reading lists. I think when I was doing ALL the cataloguing & a lot of desk work etc. it meant no time for other projects. Now I do
  • I’ve always been able to cope with even a quite busy workload, problem though is stress, even with light workload. The key I think is a strong vision and set of goals (i.e. plan) for the future, based on good information
    • I don’t mind the workload as far I know it is worth it.
  • I would say my workload has changed rather than increased and become more variable. previously had far more control over my work, now I’m handed it down in projects from on high, if they run out, tough. Hate it

2. What is your biggest challenge in managing your workload?

  • Managing the day to day with the strategic, reacting vs planning & still managing not to burn out a big challenge
  •  Setting priorities
  • Having to spend so much time on the desk as no library assistants & being constantly in meetings & sorting out technology!
  • Everything concerning customers. They must always notice that everything is working right despite huge workloads. Have you ever noticed the face of users when they see the circulation desk so busy? Some of them even say: Sorry!! Some users even apologised to me/staff for making me/us work too much!!  I was surprised to see users who are so polite or “compassive”: “Sorry for all the work I made you do!!”
  • Saying no to ‘extra-curricular’ things. I’m doing a lot of fun projects but lately feeling I’ve taken on too much
    • Agree on that. It seems extra things are more fun and inspiring. But you really need to concentrate on your work.
    • I think it is important to split time management skills for work and extra curricular – I use different skills at work to at home
  • Biggest challenge is carefully mapping out my workload – then that all going out the window when an urgent request comes in!
  • Being able to set daily goals and seeing the point of what you are doing
  • Balancing interesting professional work with routine tasks essential to keep library functioning
  • Biggest challenge to managing workload is making sure that there is time to fit everything in, and that nothing gets missed
  • Estimating the time that project tasks will take. I have a tendency to underestimate and end up taking on too much at once
    • Sounds familliar, especially projects with large team, depends on pace of others & politics, can be much slower than think
  • Access to resources. Don’t get right tools for the job because rest of organisation doesn’t get what we need/do
  • Prioritising, knowing when to say “no” and the never ending stream of emails (gah!)
    • When to say no is difficult for solo librarian as no can mean poor judgement on whole service so its tough to say but need to learn
    • It’s not easy, but better to do a smaller number of things well than do lots of things half-arsed ;-)
  • Remaining enthusiastic for all aspects of the role not just new exciting things & allocating time accordingly!
  • Got to stage where I have lots of beneficial projects to work on but routine desk stuff gets in way (and too few others to do it)
  • Getting important but not urgent stuff done e.g. strategic planning, important administration
  • Biggest challenge can be keeping track of multiple deadlines for multiple projects and sometimes all the work to do at once

3. Do you use any particular tools or techniques for managing your workload?

  • I did use TeuxDeux for lists but they’re going to start charging for it, have gone back to pen & paper lists for the time being!
  • A boring one, but: Outlook! Outlook 2010 in particular has some great productivity features: I use the task scheduling heavily
    • Outlook calendar and task manager. Shared calendar makes planning much easier!
    • Outlook Calendar is work default, also Evernote, but really like best good old fashioned notebook & lists!!
  • I find a good old fashioned written to-do list at my desk works wonders! Especially when combined with post-its. And gmail calendar is invaluable – especially when synced across devices etc.
  • I seem to have taken to writing on my hand rather than on Post It’s lately – can’t misplace my hand!
  • Worth scheduling important work into your Outlook calendar as “busy”, so you don’t get meeting requests, etc
    • Or…even better mark it “private appointment” – you are then pretty much guaranteed uninterrupted time ;-)
    •  No such luxury here and big open plan office so people interrupt if they see you sitting there
      • How do you cope with colleagues’ conversations? Do you ever ask them to stop so you can work? (No worries if can’t say.)
      • Headphones & music
        •  I’m very old school (not in the music sense) and need silence to work. Perhaps earplugs
      • I hate noise. It gets me totally distracted. I can’t do anything if it’s noisy and loudly
      • I wish I could find a good solution for this. Sometimes I find myself being talkative.
  • The check-lists always help to have a feeling that your job is moving on.
  •  Also, worth keeping a list of what you’ve done, as it helps remind you that you are actually achieving stuff
    • Like that idea – rather than getting bogged down in what’s not done – occasionally add done tasks to to do just to tick off
  • As much as I embrace technology, paper and pen still beckon at times :-)
  • I use Omnifocus for task management
  • 30 years of reading around the topic == good understanding of the Western approach :) recently looked at GTD, it works well
  • At work I use Outlook and pen and paper lists, for study and personal life I use Remember the Milk
  • John Adair on time management; Manage Your Mind,- Butler & Hope (ch. on self-management); GTD works well under stress
  • I use to do list software in my personal life but Outlook folders & paper at work
  • You can even use a management/ business planning approach – psychology essentially the same as for self-management
  • I find sitting down at the end of the day and working out what I want to achieve the next day really useful
  •  Really like Moleskine (or similar) weekly planner. Diary one side, ruled on the other for my to do list
  • I also have a sort of GTD system with one of those expanding folders that can chuck everything in & review weekly
  •  Librarians would get an opportunity to put their their skills to good use with GTD managing the repository (a key component)
  • Not forgetting the original classic (would be shot if did) – Ivy’s list
  • My favourite tool for managing my workload is the word “no”. As I age, I’m getting ever better at using this tool
    • I never say ‘no’ to one of my students, though. Ever. I always prioritise their needs
  •  I’d say main tools used are my email calendar, reminders in said calendar and sometimes paper calendars. Also planning on paper
  • So much better at prioritising workload after many years – not about who shouts loudest

4. How can you prioritise tasks?

  • Strategic priorities with big impact, can it be done quickly?, is it fun? (important to enjoy your job!)
  • Current approach is writing list of 5 (manageable) things I need to achieve that day and focusing on those – not too overwhelming
  • Use GTD quite heavily to prioritise e.g. Importance, energy, time available divided by context
  • I usually go with the importance/urgency/effort grid!
  • Prioritise the customer first, then management tasks, then jobs outside job description I’ve been told to do, then extracurriculars
  • Prioritise by importance – also get done first things that can be done v quickly
    •  But by postponing things you can’t do very quickly you get a large pile of them
    • Agree, but if can get things done that only take 1 or 2 minutes then they are out of way and concentrate on bigger things!
  • I always love to do things I can do in a short period of time. But it is not always the best option. Sometimes you just have to do at least one long-term thing first
  •  Definitely – ranking in order of importance/urgency all the way
  • Depends on my schedule. Certain things are non-changeable scheduled tasks, like desk duty and meetings
  • I’d like to find some time to look at Axiology (not done so far yet – could do with a good library ;)
  • Mainly I look at work in terms of urgency (nearest deadlines) and importance. Some is unconscious or practised choices

5. What do you do when you are asked/told to do tasks that are not part of your job either as a one off or permanently?

  • Depends what it is! If it fits with my skill set & I can add value, I’d say yes. If not, then I’d try to push back if possible
  • Keep a list of those jobs, as they could be used as ammunition later on for getting regraded ;-)
  •  Usually go ahead and treat it as good experience as long as doesn’t prevent job being done too
  • My job description says: do your direct job duties + everything your boss says to do
  • Because highly competitive teams exchange roles in order to get the goals of the organisation. – you must be flexible
  • Difficult depending on who asks…I try to say no unless I have a good reason
  •  Depends on if it can add value to overall Lib & info service, if its a way to draw people in
  • Depends: is it reasonable; do existing workload/targets/deadlines allow space/time; what’s in it for you?
  • Usually say we’re understaffed so can you get someone else? Funny but that never works. Must learn to just say no.
  • Generally try to be helpful, but depends on task (complexity, competing priorities, time involved etc.)
  • With one-off things it depends on the capacity I have and how disruptive it will be to other work also who’s asking. generally if I can help with brief one off things I will, specially if it’s educating colleagues in how to do stuff.
  • It can however be difficult if for example – I’m supposed to get a formal project sheet for every project.. If a manager gives me a project with no project sheet I’m not supposed to do it. But you can’t argue with a manager. However it means you don’t know what the remit of the project is or if you really can afford the time.
  • With permanent duties fortunately I have the get out clause I can only do projects handed to me these are by definition my duties
  • Good and bad sides to getting a reputation for being helpful: Draw the line at things that are unrelated/another department’s issue
    •  I find I learn to steer clear of people who offload work (not always easy though)
    • It’s not people offloading so much as students/staff targeting for assistance with simple things
  • I have always done tasks not part of my job and would actively encourage others to do same – if you want to move up that is. And I’m grateful to those who offloaded on me rightly or wrongly back in the day (or were just incompetent)
    • If the task is challenging, then it’s OK. But if it’s only something the others don’t want to do.
    • Agreed, but it’s important not to be taken advantage of, esp if other colleagues are capable of doing the work too
      • Not sure I agree – it depends if the being taken advantage of leads somewhere good – sells your skill and competence
  • I usually try to be flexible. I’d rather do it and learn from the experience.

6 Are libraries likely to create a multi tasking work environment where the staff are requested to do many tasks at the same time?

  •  In my case, a big YES as I was requested to multi task many times!!
  • The front desk usually is anyway, it is wise to do one thing at once
  • Nature of job is multitasking – dealing with enquiries/helping users while getting on with longer tasks
  •  On issue desk (often mistaken for reception) you can guarantee being interrupted doing one thing for another
  •  Already feel like I multi task quite a bit, lots of varied things going on especially on help desk
  • If you´re a solo librarian -as I am- you already multi task. Multi tasking on balance good as long as you are not spread too thin!
  • The time runs faster when multitasking
  • I absolutely agree with those who are saying the enquiry desk demands multitasking. You can’t answer questions linearly
  • The trick is to realise that the interruptions are as or more important than the task you’re doing between them!
  • I think by default most librarians do many tasks at the same time and more so as there is a squeeze on budgets and staffing

7 Would you appreciate training on managing your workload, or do you think it is a skill you are born with?

  •  I’ve attended time management courses, but they’ve never addressed service-led roles. Someone please offer one!
  • Decision making I think is a worthwhile underpinning skill to time management – a lot written on it
  • I think it’s a skill you develop over time and with practice, though courses can hel
  • Think it’s trainable…Can learn a lot from things like this sharing tips & ideas too
  • Both. I also believe the values/education at home, school are quite important: clean your mess, put things back…
  • Can know how to manage work load but lack of similarly skilled staff or poor organisation structure can still negative impact workload
  • The keyword would be ‘self-discipline’
  •  I think it’s something you learn by doing, but training could give helpful ideas if new to it or having difficulties.
  • Having managed heaps of people my observation is that some people are naturals, others have needed telling what to do and when
  • I need a training in not-to-do-things-perfectly. It would save my time a lot.
    • That’s an incredibly valid point! We’re trained in precision, yet to complete all tasks we must let that go. Is hard!
  •  I think training in planning can help but really it’s about devising the tools that work for you – be it calendars electric or paper  or using excel, filing systems, project charts etc

Q 8 : What is the best advice someone has ever given you on managing your workload?

  •  “If you’re juggling too many balls, it’s OK to drop some of them”
  • I was once told to make both a to do and a ta da (ta da! thing done!) list. It works wonders!
  •  Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Sometimes other people are our greatest tool!
  • Prioritising the tasks is the key–Get rid of menial tasks very quickly
  • That Dilbert cartoon with the speck representing your job comparable with planet earth. Helped with perspective
    • SO true. When you have that perspective, deadlines suddenly feel less “dead” and more “line”. Then they’re moveable :)
  •  I think that the maxim is that it is the journey that counts (not so much the destination)
    •  I’d say the opposite: remember that it doesn’t matter how you get there, make sure you remember what you want to achieve
  • Also: still make time to have breaks, important to look after yourself and not burn out! or then nothing gets done!
  • Not sure anyone’s given me advice I remember, really it’s about practice, planning and keeping yourself organised.
  • also remembering you can’t do everything and sometimes one has to say no. I rarely do though.
  • I’d say not just getting rid of menial tasks but sometimes getting on with what can be done rather than what can’t

Agenda – Managing Your Workload – 5th March

Next Tuesday, #uklibchat will be on Managing Your Workload. What issues do you have with managing your workload? Do you find it difficult to get things done? Do you have any tips?

If you want to contribute to the conversation on this, #uklibchat will be running on Tuesday 5th March 2013 from 6.30pm – 8.30pm GMT. If you want to add questions to our agenda, you can do so here. A guide to taking part in #uklibchat is available here and  you can always tweet us @uklibchat or email with any questions.

We look forward to chatting with you!

#uklibchat in the media

#ukibchat has been the subject of a number of articles and reports. Click on the links below for further details.

A Snapshot of Priorities & Perspectives: UK Public Libraries Page 4
In this report of a snapshot survey by OCLC, the #uklibchat Twitter account (@uklibchat) was one of the top three Twitter handles that public library staff follow, along with Voices for the Library (@ukpling) and CILIP (@cilipinfo)

20 Essential Twitter Chats for the Twitter Crowd
#uklibchat was listed as second in the “20 Essential Twitter Chats for the Library Crowd”

#uklibchat – Tweet All About It by Sam Wiggins February 2012
Sam explained what #uklibchat was all about to readers of the leading UK journal for library professionals – CILIP Update.

Twitter Chat: Instant Ideas and Collaboration by Sam Wiggins

E-books in Libraries by Sam Wiggins
Team member Sam Wiggins has written two articles giving brief summaries of two of our early chats – on e-books and library activism.

Hashtags for Information Professionals by Bethan Ruddock
#uklibchat is mentioned as one of the hashtags for information professionals by Bethan Ruddock – as one of the leading hashtags for structured conversations

#uklibchat, #ECRchat, #PhDchat, #Socialchat and Other Tweetchats by Brian Kelly
Brian, of UKOLN, discusses #uklibchat and other web chats

Michelle Dalton | Movers & Shakers 2013 — Community Builders by Library Journal
Michelle, one of 2013′s “Movers and Shakers,” mentions how #uklibchat influenced her founding #irelibchat

#uklibchat #ub13 by Sheila Webber
Sheila Webber, an academic at Sheffield University’s iSchool, reports on Ka Ming’s presentaton on #uklibchat at the CILIP Umbrella 2013 conference.


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