Category Archives: Discussion Summaries

#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.

#uklibchat Summary – Digital Libraries – 6 March 2014

On 6 March 2014, we talked about digital libraries in their many forms – what exactly they are, what challenges and opportunities they offer our profession, and how library customers use them.

The full archive of tweets from this chat is available here.

Here’s a summary of the discussion:

Q1: What do you think a digital library is?

This is quite a tough question. Some thoughts were:

  • @LAICDGroup: A digital library is any library that offers access to its resources in digital form, online.
  • @archinva: a digital library is an organized collection of materials made available in digital format, I think
  • @LibrarySherpa: IMO, a contained and managed collection of resources and/or data which can only be accessed via computer or device.

@SimonXIX’s feature blog for this chat argued that Netflix and Itunes were basically digital libraries, but weren’t considered as such in LIS for cultural and legal reasons. This sparked debate about whether digital libraries by definition had to be maintained by a library organisation, and whether they had to be not for profit (at least at the point of use). Both of these criteria are problematic. Organisations like law firms and engineering companies routinely maintain digital libraries, and there are private subscription libraries like The London Library which are generally considered to be libraries.

Some contributors thought that what distinguished digital libraries from online platforms like Netflix or Youtube was that their purpose was the dissemination of knowledge, not profit. Others thought that Netflix was an example of a subscription library (like The London Library) but with poor cataloguing standards. Most people agreed that digital libraries had to be organised and curated:

  • @preater: It does imply some sort of organization / metadata / structure, as ‘online data’ != library.

Q2: What kind of digital libraries do you work with in your job?

Many participants working in higher education libraries worked with e-journal platforms, e-book repositories and databases. This is all remotely hosted digital content which library staff make accessible to local users. Examples of more local digital content in higher education were research repositories and locally digitised content.

Those working in public and school libraries worked with e-books, e-magazines, and online reference collections. @butterfly1981′s special digital library collection is made up of PDF documents useful for people working in construction – British Standards, legislation, etc. Some special libraries had more of a mix of types of content, from video and interactive e-learning modules to described and curated web content.

Participants from a variety of sectors, including academic and special libraries, are seeing a transition from print to digital collections:

  • @petewilliams68: Q2. At UEL we’re now buying e-books *instead of* print ones in many areas … we’re mainly e-journal now but becoming mainly e-book too will be a big change 

Q3: What problems do users have with digital libraries in your experience?

The most common problems cited were subscription/authentication issues, search issues, link resolvers not working properly, and technical/device compatibility problems. Digital libraries of various forms often require more search savvy and are less tolerant of errors than Google and popular websites like Youtube.

  • @archinva: my experience as user is of overwhelming websites, unattractive design and confusing organization of content
  • @SaintEvelin: Basic prob of IT skills; full-text search habits v record searching; multiple platform horror; finding the blummin’ things.
  • @jacapo47: Another infolit issue: students being told by tutors they can’t use anything from the internet so disregard e-books and e-journal

People not knowing that the digital collections exist was also still a major issue across sectors.

Some possible solutions to these common problems:

  • @chriskeene: Q3 solution: make sites more indexable/SEO friendly for google.
  • @preater: as libraries – make our own digital content much more easily findable, searchable, and indexable.
  • @SaintEvelin: the great green repository in the sky?? But diff databases do diff things. Hard to pull together in a non-lossy way
  • @jacapo47: I used old useless DVD cases to showcase e-books so each DVD case represents an e-book but is physically on the shelf…
  • @archinva: social media advertising, if not already in use, and posters inside the physical library?
  • @WillBeharrell: Probably unpopular, but RDA v. flexible in describing non-book materials in 3XX fields (which can then be displayed to users).

Q4: What similarities/differences are there between digital and non-digital libraries?

One of the main differences cited was the possibility of using digital libraries anytime, anywhere, as opposed to having to visit a physical library to access print or other physical resources. Digital libraries can be more flexible, easier to update and change. In some cases, the full text resource can act as its own catalogue record. Digital libraries also mean that librarians are less visible to users.

  • @LAICDGroup: similar remit of making information more easily available, although journal subscriptions militate against that.
  • @SaintEvelin: Publishers would love digital libraries to be same as non-digital (or even more restricted).
  • @InformationOwl: Digital libraries have potential to provide more interesting user stats. And stats are fun.

Q5: Do you think digital libraries need different cataloguing rules?

  • @chriskeene: I think we need more flexible, id based, rules for all content. print/MARC approach laughably not fit for purpose
  • @WillBeharrell: RDA already offers considerable flexibility…
  • @butterfly1981: Maybe to accommodate metadata variations as a DL can be made up of items of many formats eg images, videos, sound files
  • @SaintEvelin: So much stuff and so many new possibilities for cataloguing it. Def need for new rules, but tech moves quicker than metadata.
  • @RosieHLib: RDA is more flexible, whatever the standard we need to remember how important interoperability is in digital discovery context
  • @preater: short answer is metadata appropriate to content, and importantly sensible & easily digestible interchange formats.
  • @SaintEvelin: Full-text adds complication/liberation. Becomes its own meta-data (cf. Google). Image/sound identification processes make awe!

Q6: Is there in fact scope for librarians to ‘curate’ large born digital collections, aiding user navigation?

Participants thought there was some scope for this but were unsure. Some people had experience of ‘curating the web’ in their work – curating weblinks or Youtube videos on a particular topic and making them available to their users. This was challenging, and there were major issues with broken links and the constantly shifting nature of web content. However, on balance those who had done it thought it was worthwhile. The lack of permanence of web content wasn’t reason enough to exclude it from our collections – actually print materials can go out of date just as quickly, but we may not notice it.

  • @spoontragedy: Cataloguing/curating web based content is like cataloguing an eel, it’s slippery and sometimes it wriggles away #sillymetaphor
  • @archinva: sometimes it disappears and sometimes you find yourself with three identical eels

Q7: How do you deal with user frustration that not everything is available digitally?

Interestingly, there were many comments was more common for users to be frustrated that everything was online and they wanted it in print. These comments came from those working in public, further education and academic libraries. Certain types of book were particularly in demand in print format, like core textbooks and test preparation materials in careers libraries. Many people prefer to read large amounts of text in print format. Some also have the attitude that material in print is always more authoritative.

Ways of dealing with frustration that not everything was available electronically were to signpost users to inter library loan and other possible services – other local universities, national libraries, business libraries and more. Understanding the range of options in your area is important here.

  • @octavosaurus: It’s difficult to convey the time/cost factor in digitisation of content to users.
  • @RosieHLib: yes & generally the ‘everything online is free’ attitude without a thought about the cost of creating things online

There was a discussion about whether the attitude that ‘everything online is free’ would change over time:

  • @archinva: it’ll probably change increasingly to “you can subscribe to everything online”
  • @SaintEvelin: The old web anarchist in me hopes not. P’haps that’s the very niche public libraries can seek to fill (at a tax cost)?
  • @SaintEvelin: An idea of increasing “enclosure” of what’s been in the common for n years is a worry (even if it was all nicked!)

Q8: Would you be in favour of a national digital library? Is this feasible?

Participants thought this was an inspiring idea but challenging in terms of cost, copyright issues and coordination. Public libraries in Northern Ireland do now have a joint digital library since they have become one library authority. Maybe a national public digital library as a collaboration between UK library authorities is a possibility.

  • @chriskeene: Think national lib an interesting idea, digilib has so much infrastructure to do well that scale can really help.
  • @SaintEvelin: Today we have it. It’s Spotify. Tho it’s commercial, not state run. No appetite for state-run since ’70s…
  •  @ShirleyBurnham: Once it’s up and running, they can close all our physical libraries and tell us to get stuffed. Bright idea?

#uklibchat Summary – New Year’s Resolutions 7 Jan 2014

This is what people said at the start of the year. I wonder how well people have been doing so far with the New Years Resolutions that they mentioned?

I’ve put together the direct answers to the questions asked. For the an archive of the actual tweets during the session please click here

Q1, What was your biggest achievement in 2013?

Quite a few people mentioned getting a  a professional job or a permanent job as their biggest achievement in 2013; for others it was starting an MA or finishing their degree.

Other notable mentions:
@Karenmca: Biggest achievement was publishing an @ashgatemusic book! 3 reviewers so far and seem to like it.
@pennyb: Winning an @slaeurope ECCA – I don’t seek external validation too often, but that really changed how I see myself. #uklibchat
@LottieMSmith: obtaining a bursary to go to IFLA WLIC and experiencing my 1st global conference #uklibchat
@poetryghost: I’m also really pleased we got 6 young people through Bronze @ArtsAwardVoice last year
@DonnaLanclos: received an internal grant to do research
@catmacisaac: finding my feet with new responsibilities for HR issues, budget & social media.
@kosjanka:Q1 I’m rather fond of what happened with @voiceslibrary idea, and watched how it grew and supported folk over the year.

Q2. If you made a resolution last year how successful were you?

Not many people who attended the chat had made any, here are some of the responses:

@libchris: semi successul – got as far as gettting mentor! Applied for more jobs, but overcoming interview nerves still defeats me :( #uklibchat
@SaintEvelin: Not v successful, but playing the New Job Excuse card ;-)
@Kosjanka: My resolution last year was to complete Aclip. I failed, totally. But I did gain a new mentor, which I hope will help.

So a mixed bag.

Q3. Do you have any professional new year’s resolutions for yourself?

@Jaimeeuk: #uklibchat I don’t want to call it a New Years Resolution but just an aim to complete #chartership by Nov 2014 (before new rules apply!)
@Karenmca: To continue forging ahead with social media ( + @whittakerlib, but try to draw better line btn work/home
@BookishKirsten: More of an aim, but hoping to get enough work submitted to go to both #aberils study skills and complete diploma. And get web editing experience/training. Seems like a useful skill to acquire!
@library_lizzie: I have lots of things I want to do in 2014 – one of them is to know my limits and not try to take on too much. Personal resolutions: participate in at least 1/2 uklibchats, get dissertation published & be more active on MmIT committee
@AgentK23: Get chartered, and this time there’s a deadline so it is more likely to happen. Plus watch TEDtalks and make infographics #uklibchat
@DonnaLanclos: hard to have a new resolve, still working on goals from last year.
@catmacisaac: I’ll be on maternity leave this year so aim is to keep up to speed with trends/issues while I’m away from work.
@SaintEvelin: It’s a rollover: Write more; get involved; be more assertive; generally get stuck in. Need to stop being so quiet and bumbling
@payne_clare: try to live up to the values of the nhs constitution in my work and behaviour
@avenannenverden: If I have any resolutions for 2014, it would be to actually understand everything about the budget and such.
@Kosjanka: I don’t really do resolutions. I constantly re-evaluate what I do and how best to work in the environment I’m in.

Q4. Do you have any new year’s resolutions for your institution?

@JaimeeUK: I’d like to see more use of Twitter on an enquiries basis, or introduction of Librarian Chat sessions. Instant internet reply
@SaintEvelin:Be good. Don’t stray from being a great acad library disseminating knowledge & delivering what people want/need. Get a porch.
@LibraryMargaret: I’d like to see more using technologies in enquiries, doing more IL work with students and generally getting away from desk .
@BeccyPert: Maybe hire an interior decorator… our building is pretty uninspiring :(
@BookishKirsten: Carry out annual user survey, and hopefully improve service based on that.
@avenannenverden: We have lots going on at our library, and I hope we’ll manage to land more project money for events.
@Karenmca: I’d like to find a way of using @whittakerlib library to inspire even more creativity @RCStweets
@Kosjanka: I do want to see my organisation finally release it’s data and information on the world, and make our catalogue OA.
@poetryghost: I’d like to see more communication and decisive management in the lead up to a new library (in 2015)

Q5. How do you move forward from ‘failed’ resolutions?

There were a few good tips for this. Reassess the resolutions and carry on the ones that worth keeping, think about why things went wrong and learn from mistakes, but there’s no need to wring your hands over them. Try to be realistic with future resolutions.

Q6. What is the next big thing for libraries?

Some of the responses were:

  • gamification
  • OA and HE funding
  • move towards websites and learning tool being mobile device friendly
  • augmented reality
  • RDM (Research Data Management) and Improved CRIS  (Current Research Information System)
  • someone mentioned the 14 predictions Phil Bradley had made.
  • the continued war on local services – perhaps leading to a breaking point and massive radical action from the public to defend their libraries
  • library as a meeting place, and a space for events and for debates
  • the dream of ending paper-based copyright declaration forms
  • more widespread stocking of e-books in public libraries

Q7. Do you have any suggestions for #uklibchat topics for 2014? (Including past chats you would like to see repeated)

  • More generic LIS topics
  • Library services to alumni ..barriers, good practice, hints and tips
  • Services to distance learners
  • Research Data Management
  • Making activities in the Library on a small budget
  • Negotiating with vendors/ purchasing strategies
  • Getting the most out of our diminishing budgets
  • library wars RPG session

#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 – What They Don’t Teach You In Library School – 1 October 2013

Our chat on 1 October focused on advice and tips for those starting out in library and information work. It attracted quite a few participants doing graduate traineeships and working on library and information qualifications,  as well as those who’ve been in the profession a bit longer and shared their perspectives. There was some interesting discussion about library qualifications, and what people valued the most and least in their experiences of them. Some of the other questions gave people a chance to talk about their training and development needs and what skills they thought were most important in their roles.

The full archive of tweets from this chat is available here.

In the week leading up to the chat and during it, we asked people to complete the sentence When I started out in LIS, I never thought I’d…‘ . We got some interesting responses, and Ka Ming put them together here. I’d recommend having a look – it’s an offbeat insight into the work we do and a little bit inspirational.

Here’s a summary of the discussion:

Q1. If you’ve done an LIS qualification, what do you know now that you would have liked to know when you started it?

Some people mentioned specific skills they didn’t realise they would use so much in future jobs, including web design, cataloguing, teaching and event management. There was a lot of agreement with @lisaburscheidt that ‘doing it at a “good uni” doesn’t matter all that much, doing it so you get to know your peers does.’ Lots of participants thought it was important to make the most of opportunities for networking and getting to know people in different areas of the field.

Q2: If you’ve done a grad traineeship, what do you know now that you would have liked to know when you started it?

Some people wished they’d known more about the library school application process and deadlines when they started a traineeship. Some universities have early deadlines and you need to apply quite early in the traineeship year. Others said that it’s important to remember how short a year is, and to take all opportunities to get involved in different types of work and projects.  Try to build an understanding of the profession as a whole and the different roles available.

Q3: What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given relating to library and information work?

This one is difficult to summarise so I’ll just list a selection of tweets. I think this was an interesting question which brought out what was important to participants in their work and their career paths.

  • @midcel:  a good librarian (info professional) should be able to work in any subject area
  • @spoontragedy:  ‘Each book needs to earn its place on the shelf’ – my 1st ever manager in libraries #uklibchat #ranganathan
  • @CorBlastMe: ‘Customers are your work, they are not an interruption to your work.’
  • @thehearinglib:  If you work in a big organisation, do workshadowing. Start a blog to develop professional stance and thinking.
  • @preater:  best general advice – theory should inform practise, but experience of practitioners should feed back to theory.
  • @spoontragedy: In a careers sense, best advice ever was to be open minded about jobs & don’t fixate on only 1 sector/type of role #uklibchat
  • @HelenKielt:  Keep learning, value the opinions of others and think of users first, services second #uklibchat
  • @AmyJoyHolvey: Best advice I was given was; take opportunities to develop skills, get involved and learn about wider professional issues
  • @shinyshona:  If you’re stuck for an answer twitter might know!
  • @ErikaDelbecque: Say yes to every opportunity that presents itself, even if / particularly if it is a daunting one

Q4. What do you think should be taught in library school which is not currently?

The top things mentioned here were project management, web authoring and technical digital library management skills, teaching skills, customer service and information literacy. Copyright, database architecture, negotiation skills and more coverage of collection management were also mentioned. Some people felt that although management had been covered, they wanted more of an emphasis on people management. Voice training would help academic librarians get through induction week!

There was discussion about cataloguing and classification; a number of people agreed that this should be a core module in library school. Currently, some universities have it as a core module and some cover it only briefly. Several people said that they use cataloguing more in their work than they had expected to when they were in library school.

If we’d like to add all these things to library school, is there anything we should take out? @ErikaDelbecque had a good answer for this: don’t take anything out, just pick up the pace; currently too much time is spent on basic stuff.

Q5. What alternative routes into professional librarianship are there? (Less traditional ways into professional posts?)

Quite a few participants had colleagues in professional posts who had come into libraries sideways with other work experience and without library qualifications, or had done this themselves. Backgrounds which people had come from included IT workers moving into systems librarianship and people with teaching or nursery experience working in public libraries. Some people felt this sort of entry route had become more difficult in the past 10 years in academic libraries.

An alternative qualification route is CILIP certification followed by chartership, but no one was really sure how employers would view people who’d gone this route. One participant did know of people who had done CILIP chartership without having a librarianship degree or certification, but had substantial experience and an MA in another area.

Q6. What support would have been useful from your employer? (Support beyond cash!)

More flexible working and days off for study were the most popular answers for people who’d done part time and/or distance learning LIS courses. Many people would also have liked the opportunity to tie their dissertation in with a work project. Participants would also like more opportunities for work shadowing. Day release could be helpful for other purposes besides just studying for a course, like visiting other libraries or going to conferences or other professional events.

Q7. If you’ve done a qualification, what was the best part of your course?

Getting to know fellow students, learning about other areas of the profession, and getting a broad overview of library and information work were definitely the most popular answers here. Specific modules which participants valued included research methods and management. The dissertation got a large number of mentions here too – people had found it difficult but also really valuable as an opportunity to apply their learning, put theory into practice, or look into a subject more deeply. @preater said his answer to this question was a complex one about ‘being able to translate theory in practise, great amounts of accumulated book-learning, & ‘levelling up’.

Q8. Do recruiting managers prefer an MSc over an MA? Also- do you think having a PGDip instead of the Master’s (not doing dissertation) makes a difference to getting a job?

Most participants, including some who had recruiting experience, said no to both parts of this question. The important thing was not the name of the qualification or whether or not you had done the dissertation, but whether or not you had a professional qualification recognised by CILIP (or similar). The PGDip is the professional qualification recognised by CILIP; the dissertation which makes it into an MA/MSc is an academic element of the course. Most participants also thought it didn’t matter where you did your LIS degree – employers were just interested in the qualification.

Some people did feel that they’d gained project management experience, research experience, or subject knowledge from completing a dissertation that had helped them to get a particular job.

Another perspective was that the content of the course mattered more than the degree title, or whether you did a dissertation. Some thought that chartership could help you stand out as a candidate. The reflection and professional development required to complete chartership can also help with job applications.

#uklibchat & #SLAtalk summary – Beyond Borders: Connect and Collaborate Internationally

Thank you so much to those of you who participated in our first joint Twitter chat with #SLAtalk on Tuesday. We think  our experiment went very well and led to a really lively discussion and a chance to network with overseas colleagues. We’d love to hear your feedback though of course!

We’ve summarised the discussion below, but the archive of all the tweets from the session can be found in this Google Drive spreadsheet. Alternatively, for those of you who prefer the Storify format, the tweets from the first hour of the session have been Storified on the SLA blog.

The first four questions had been set in advance by the SLA team, and questions 5-8 were posed by participants through our open agenda document

1. What tools or technologies do you use to assist you in today’s global workplace? Describe a success story and share the impact of the project.

Lots of tools were shared by participants, which fell broadly into a couple of categories:

  • Online translation tools for informal/quick translations – including Babelfish, Google Translate, and Leo (German-English)
  • Time zone tools –, and setting up multiple clocks in your desktop in Windows (In Windows 7 this is under Control Panel > Clock, Language & Region > Add clocks for multiple time zones)
  • Currency converters – and, and also searching Google e.g. searching “gbp 60.00 usd” to get answer. ($98.42)
  • Video and telephone – GoToMeeting conference calls, Google Hangouts, Skype
  • Collaboration and networking tools – Google groups, Google Drive,  Dropbox (downsides – blocked at many institutions – DM @LibrarySherpa for some ways round this!), blogs, Twitter, Facebook
  • News – Newseum

2. Have you successfully performed research using another country’s resources or researched in another language?

Lots of you have! Examples included:

  • Library catalogues – e.g. Library of Congress, WorldCat, KVK
  • Translation/transliteration tools – Yandex for Russian translation and for deciphering German script
  • jobs resources from India, Ireland, UK, Australia and South Africa
  • researching Chinese Records Management Law, using Chinese Gov Websites
  • Subject specific glossaries
  • Google site search (site:) to find embedded PDFs on foreign site with info I needed that was hard to find
  • Used @ResearchGate to ask an academic in Spain about an article of theirs requested – and found an ILL on there too
  • SLA’s transportation div list  to help find US transport policies
  • IFLA Facebook group
  • getting translation help from a local professor for a Saudi equine legal question

3. Share a challenge caused by working beyond your own borders, and how you overcame it.

Common challenges included:

  • language barriers – can be overcome by finding common ground such as pidgin French or Spanish. Difficulty understanding accents were overcome by listening more carefully and using visual clues. Email or other text can be easier to understand than spoken word.
  • time differences – SLA committees often span 15-hour differences in time zones. Use Doodle to find a time that works best and take great notes for those who cannot be there. Use email, forums, Google Drive etc. so that people don’t need to be all in one place at one time.
  • communication – simple things you’d usually mention in passing get missed because you don’t think of it in formal meetings!
  • culture clash – “I learned (the hard way!) that conference customs are different in UK than in US. I made apologies, then adjusted.” Try to avoid using slang or other cultural terms which may not be well understood outside of your country.

4. What skills do you think make you more successful in working and collaborating in a multinational environment? How can you better network beyond your borders?

  • sensitivity and openness knowing you’re dealing with different language & culture (even between US & Canada!)
  • staying dedicated and open to embracing differences. Collaboration can convert differences into strengths!
  • curiosity to learn new things.
  • networking professionally through an association (e.g. SLA and IFLA) or through more informal networks such as #uklibchat.
  • going outside your comfort zone and networking with a wide variety of people – not being afraid to approach people
  • several people recommended going to international conferences, or a national conference that’s not in your country

5. How does your own culture affect how you work and communicate?

This is quite a tricky question to answer, and we also discussed what could be meant by ‘culture’.

  • In UK and US we need to work harder to see international context. Need to be aware that most media is English-language centric.
  • Living and working with non-English-speakers means a sense of empathy for those facing a language barrier, and a greater awareness of differences
  • Countries don’t define cultures
  • Digital divide and other differences in tech – it can be easy to forget how privileged we are
  • Social media cultures – barriers between those on social media and those not, and also each media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) has its own culture
  • Differences in organisational structures – e.g. Finland have pretty flat organizational hierarchies, so not afraid to talk to anybody because of their status
  • Cultural differences in communication exemplified?!

6. What are some ways to get involved in the international library/information community?

Lots of ideas were suggested (and many had come up elsewhere in the chat)

  • through our own companies – colleagues, exchange programmes, interns from foreign countries
  • join organizations that are international in scope and get involved – volunteer for active roles within the organisation
  • conferences
  • social media – chats like this one, blogs, feeds
  • mentors
  • exchange during studies – Erasmus can fund CPD trips to Europe for those in HE
  • When you are travelling, try to have local colleagues take you out – send some emails/get in touch on social media in advance and see if anyone wants to hang out! 

7. Which professional groups have a good international mix of members?

Library groups:

  • IATUL (for academic/research STEM community)
  • SLA – Although @SLAhq has many US members, they embrace the international community. 2014 President @KatefromUK is UK-based.
  • IFLA – IFLA New Professionals group on Facebook:
  • SCIP (Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals)
  • “Librarians without Borders”
  • Hashtag based communities such as #kidlit, #libraryschool tend to be international as well as of course #uklibchat

Groups from other professions that we might be able to learn from:

  • @85Broads
  • @womenintech
  • IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police)
  • IAWP (International Association of Women Police)
  • International Association for Counterterrorism & Security Professionals
  • SPARC (Scholarly Publishing and Academic Resources Coalition)
  • SSP (Society for Scholarly Publishing)
  • @APRA_HQ
  • The Wikipedia community

8. If you’ve visited a library or library organisation overseas, what were the differences that you noticed?(Particularly interested in non us/uk libraries)

Several people had visited libraries overseas, including:

  • State library in Melbourne – a really buzzing place. Felt like a real hub for studies, and very open.
  • Hong Kong public libraries were very well used. Students would queue up for study spaces
  • Latvian libraries – a blog post by Ned Potter talks about what we can learn from them
  • Toronto’s Lilian H. Smith Library – gorgeous statues at entrance and a well attended Teen reading group going on
  • Libraries in the UK and in Santiago, Chile \- aside from the language (signs, etc.), there was no appreciable differences.


#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

Summary – Project Management

Please see below for a summary of the chat. A full archive of all tweets from the conversation can be found at the following URL (hosted in Google Docs):


What projects have you been involved with that required project management skills?

We had a wide range of examples in response to this question, showing that project management skills can be applied to small everyday projects, as well as big on-going tasks!

@jackoliver40: I’ve been involved with a larger project to create a new service desk to smaller e.g. intro of laptop loan and I had to lead on creation of a new service desk (we call it iZone) which was tied into a wider refurbishment. Challenging!

@louise_ashton: Small projects = creating online tutorials from scratch and a project involving reading lists & references

Bigger projects = new LMS, new library website, complete library refurbishment & arranging disposal of a patient lib

@LibWig: implementing a new database for recording enquiries #uklibchat

@Sonja_Kujansuu: I’ve helped out on many projects at work. Many reclassification projects of entire library collections, creating records on an Access database for foreign dissertations. Creating LibGuides, Measuring and doing an inventory of books.

@pmshort: I negotiated for space in the building to create a study support zone

@AidanBaker: Multi-site book move last year; sundry sub-projects to address the dust as it settled

@theangelremiel: I opened a new library. I expanded a 1 library system to 2 locations (without expanding the staffing, that was a mistake)

2. What are the good ways of getting experience in Project management if it’s not something you can do in your day job?

There are a wide array of ways to bolster your project management experience – from volunteering for committee and work, to planning a wedding! Some highlights to this questions are outlined below…

@jackoliver40: I think you can apply basic PM principles to many things e.g. a review of a basic process. Look at why, how, who and plan

@louise_ashton: Chartership needs PM. Extra curricular CPD – dissertations etc. Hobbies, social life too – planning a wedding!

 @louise_ashton: Anything outside of your day to day duties can be considered a project. So anything with a unique end result.

@tinamreynolds: Look out for project management modules whilst studying for an MA/MSc

3. Have you attended a course on PM? Was it useful?

@LibWig: Attended training courses from our in house learning & development team on PM. Found it v useful as was tailored to our workflow

The course we attended was quite short, which was good. Was about 2hrs, with take-away examples, exercises, sample worksheets

@greebstreebling: Yes, I have and it was useful. Not based on software but handouts to take away and worked through actual examples

I’ve had more formal PM training e.g. using MS Project. I’ve also had informal training on our own inhouse methodology

@preater: Not had formal PM training but have absorbed a lot by osmosis working with PMs. Doing Prince2 training later in September

@jackoliver40: Without formal learning, you can apply good self-organisation skills and planning. Works as well as any formal learning

@louise_ashton: Courses are good but it helps having had some experience to relate it to. Am trying to put what I’m learning in to practice

@tinamreynolds: Conference organisation for a prof body is a good way of getting PM experience

 @Sonja_Kujansuu: It has been briefly covered in training sessions I’ve go to at work and on my #libraryschool course but not very in depth.

 @pmshort: I attended a very good PM course run by JISC [please comment if you know any more about the JISC course! Ed.]

@darrentheviking: I’ve done a couple based around Prince 2 and a week long one around Accept (model for pharma industry)

4. What key skills do you need for project management?

Our respondents had a great range of skills that you can show and develop!

@louise_ashton: Having an overall vision of the end result. Clear aims and objectives.

@tinamreynolds: Organisation – must be organised or everything fails

@louise_ashton: Delegation of tasks is crucial!

@jackoliver40: Organisation. Need to be able to plan in advance. Need to listen to the project team and take input. Delegation of tasks

@LibWig: Understanding timescales and implications of missed/revised deadlines also important

@louise_ashton: Being able to manage resources and people. I think being able to motivate others is key too.

@pmshort: Taking ‘knocks’ on board and moving on. Learning from setbacks

@jackoliver40: You have to take ownership but try not to take things personally! Very hard to balance. Take time to reflect is good practice

@AidanBaker: Being able to tell joined-up thinking from project creep; knowing when to stop. #uklibchat

@edchamberlain: Tracking project progress across several teams and groups can be v. difficult.

@preater: Key skills IMO are getting buy-in across departments at the right level and being an effective political operator.

@Sonja_Kujansuu: Ability to understand the perspectives of other people working on the project.

@theangelremiel: Big one here is the ability to describe a project in as simple terms as possible… but no simpler.

5. What is it like working in a project team (not as manager)? Are expectations and requirements different from your desk job?

Unsurprisingly, our respondents explained that it can be very different to your day to day role – but this of course partly depends on what your core job description consists of! Time to work on the project was cited as becoming a problem in a number of replies.

 @theangelremiel: I’ve found on large projects there can be a problem if you’re also working a regular job. Time constraints & conflicts.

@jackoliver40: I have also been part of a P team. V diff to desk job. You need to plan time to commit. V good to gain broader experience

@theangelremiel: I think a crucial element of the definition is task-focus and time sensitivity. It’s a team that exists for the job. #uklibchat

@louise_ashton: The recognition that you often have to do projects alongside your everyday duties

@pmshort: Time management is vital…and the ability to get away from the day job. Prep for meetings and reflection time afterwards

@preater: Balancing requirements of day job vs. projects is challenging work time management.

@theangelremiel: My current job is in a very small team. Tough to differentiate between “project” & “regular” tasks.

@theangelremiel: @preater #uklibchat plus ego management. If you have a boss & a project boss heaven help you if they don’t get on.

@jackoliver40: I use my calendar to plan my time and colour code it to reflect meetings, core work, uni wide work, project work etc. helps!

6. What library activities fit project management activities?

Our first answer summaries the majority of responses quite nicely for this question!

@louise_ashton: Anything that is outside normal day to day activities.

A lot of projects seem to be about the implementation of a new system or way of working.

@jackoliver40: I think any task that involves a timeline and a change to process, no matter how small

@greebstreebling: Author events, literature festivals, refurbs, pretty much anything really #uklibchat

@louise_ashton: There seem to be a lot of digitisation projects going on at the moment

7 . Are there practical resources/stuff which show successful project management cases in similar places?

Only one resource was suggested for this question, though I suspect that there are plenty more out there. The problem is that they aren’t collated, but rather exist as examples in case studies etc. Other explained that libraries don’t market completed projects as such, but instead promote the resource that they have developed on the project, such as a new website or catalogue.

Look at the SLA survey in latest Information Outlook for September 2013.

8. Can you suggest any useful tools for project management?

Don’t under estimate the power of Excel!

@jackoliver40: We have formal documentation that helps e.g. PID, highlight reports, end report. Personally I like MS project for planning

@louise_ashton: The famous Gantt chart

@louise_ashton: I’ve seen massive projects – £1m lib refurb planned using Excel

@AidanBaker: I used & re-acquainted myself w. Gantt charts.

@preater: Tools for collaborative work a great help I think. Doesn’t need to cost; but we get huge value from @atlassian @confluence.

@tinamreynolds: Obvious one would be MS Project. I like gantt charts for at a glance use #uklibchat

 @jackoliver40: I think for anyone doing smaller scale projects, excel is perfect to aid planning. Doesn’t need much more for a good outcome!

Thank you to all our participants!

Summary – Across Library Sectors

Our Across Library Sectors chat took place on Tuesday 9 July and attracted wide participation – we trended on UK Twitter for the second time in #uklibchat history. 

We’re trialling a new way of doing our chat summaries this month, in part to deal with the increased volume of participation we’re sometimes getting now. This post will be a narrative summary of the chat, recapping key discussion points and views expressed, and giving any relevant links. It won’t give a full listing of individual tweets, just quote selected ones. If you want to view the full archive of tweets from the chat, you can find that separately here.

The chat was about people’s experience of working in different sectors of the library and information world – differences, similarities, and advice on moving between sectors.

Q1. What library sectors have you worked in?

We had participants from the school, academic, law, public, government, careers information, media, further education, museum, corporate, and NHS sectors. We had quite a few participants who had changed sectors, some multiple times. Others said that they’d tried to change but found it difficult.

Q2. What is your favourite thing about the sector that you currently work in?

I think an interesting way to look at this question is to divide it by sector and see what people from different sectors have said:

Careers Information: 

  • @libmichelle Think it’s the contact with students. Get to talk to them every day. Also the look of relief when you say “so you have no idea what you want to do? That’s okay!”
  • @spoontragedy Contact with students, ability to learn more digital/web skills, and interesting subject matter of service


  • @herslantfinely Best thing about health libraries is helping health professionals access information for evidence-based practice

The satisfaction of knowing that you are supporting patient care was echoed by others.


  • @poetryghost I love that we deal with everybody. Babies, children, parents, singles, elderly, everyone. This can also be a downside!

People discussed how they love seeing customers grow up – sometimes from baby bump onwards – and getting to know the regulars. Some people also loved that in public libraries, you never know what’s coming through the door or what enquiry you might get next.


  • @VickiMcGarvey feeling you are making a difference to someone’s life

Making a difference to individuals was mentioned by other people from the academic sector, and came up quite a bit in general.


  • @BishopWalshLib The pupils! And being able to decide what I do and when I do it.

Autonomy was mentioned by many as a favourite part of being a school librarian. Others also mentioned the variety of the role.


  • @LibrarySherpa the variety, the fast pace, dealing with legal topics, and some more … the int’l and various domestic jurisdictions, office culture

Further Education:

  • @CaraClarke I like working as part of a team. My previous job in a school was as a solo librarian. I find team working more enjoyable

Several managers said that they valued not being too remote from the service and still being able to work ‘on the shop floor’.

Q3. What are you curious about regarding other sectors?

As this one involved a lot of participants answering each others’ queries, I’ve reproduced more of the conversations here. One of the greatest parts of #uklibchat is people who might not otherwise interact sharing knowledge and experience with each other directly.


I’d be interested in health libraries but all jobs seem to want health library experience – how did ppl get into them? #uklibchat

@LOLintheLibrary I’m curious about staff-customer contact in public libs. Do you have regular customers that you get to know over time?

@VickiMcGarvey how do public library colleagues cope with constant resource challenges?

@HelenKielt Are there better opportunities for career progression in some sectors rather than others? What are ppls perceptions? #uklibchat

@libmichelle Curious about health libraries – do you ever see any patients? Or just health workers? #uklibchat

@amycrossmenzies I’m curious about how public libraries decide on their “quick picks” sections. Does it involve lots of research or random?

@theangelremiel Does anyone know us NHS librarians exist? Or rather, did they know before that awesome talk at UB13?#uklibchat

@libmichelle Also for law/media librarians, do you prefer working in private sector? Are there extra benefits/perks? #uklibchat

  • @Schopflin @libmichelle in my experience there are more perks in public sector eg pensions although of course that’s changed #uklibchat
  • @libmichelle @Schopflin That’s interesting. Worked in admin in private sector previously, would have said more benefits there.

@samanthaclare do other librarians see clear trends in library usage? I expect Academic librarians see this strongly? Summer quiet in NHS

  • @VickiMcGarvey #uklibchat Q3 we have peaks & troughs of library usage in the yr increase in eresource usage in HE
  • @libmichelle Q3 In careers summer is a busy time – not as many students coming in but lots of work and planning for next academic year.

@SarahLeaphard I’d love to know about ‘weeding’ in other sectors. Is it sector specific or do we all follow similar ‘rules’? Just finished mine!

@CaraClarke Im curious abt role of academic liaison librarian in a uni lib. Being linked to a curriculum area intrigues me.

@order_and_light I want to be a music librarian:that’s the dream! Any media librarians got suggestions how to attain said dream?

  • @rugabela @order_and_light @uklibchat #uklibchat Hi!! I did a course on Music librarian in my country through my job centre. It was the most beautiful course I’ve ever done but it requires a lot of knowledge of music language and found a few offers who wanted a musician specialised in libraries. Hard to get into it!!
  • @samanthaclare @rugabela @order_and_light @uklibchat sometimes the experience require is SO specific, i.e. subject first degree then library postqual.
  • @order_and_light @rugabela @uklibchat Thanks so much for the reply! I do read music and took it for GCSE (ha!) but am aware that opportunities are limited :(
  • @order_and_light @rugabela @uklibchat I wish I had more of an opinion! Music lib in town is being downsized and librarian was hired on account of having contemporary musical knowledge.

@LOLintheLibrary Interesting responses to my Q. My children loved talking to public library staff. Doesn’t happen now due to self-service! :-/#uklibchat

@mishdalton A bit late joining, sorry! Question for academic liaison librarians – whats the biggest challenge/difficulty you have?

  • @wiley9000 @mishdalton Definitely is difficult communicating things clearly to busy academics! What’s biggest challenge for you?
  • @mishdalton @wiley9000 Similar actually – communicating info to busy doctors who are rushing off to treat patients! #uklibchat
  • @wiley9000 @mishdalton Hehe I did wonder if it might be! Do you find they generally value your work? #uklibchat
  • @mishdalton @wiley9000 Those who use the library definitely, but many aren’t even aware of it. I’ve 8,000 users as a solo lib which is tricky
  • @wiley9000 @mishdalton That does sound tough! More extreme version of my ‘wishing I could get out into department’ problem

Q4. What sectors do you think are easy/hard to get into?

Many different sectors were mentioned as difficult to get into for different reasons. Media, health, law and corporate libraries were all mentioned as difficult to get into without prior experience. However, @spoontragedy thought some small sectors eg. careers information could be easier to get into as recruiters didn’t expect niche sector experience that not many people had.

Some thought academic libraries made a lot of internal appointments, making it hard to break in. Some people from more niche sectors felt that sometimes jobseekers didn’t consider them, or recognise their roles as information work. @CaraClarke thought that health libraries seemed hard to get into as the language used in the sector was different to others.

Salary levels in a sector are a big part of how easy it is to get into. Some participants had accepted a lower level post to get into a higher paid sector – eg. moving from a qualified librarian post in public libraries to a library assistant post in an academic library, with similar pay but a lower level of responsibility. @niamhpage thought it was easier to move early on in your career.

Q5: Why did you (or do you) want to move sectors? Or if you don’t want to move, why are you happy where you are?

Many people had pragmatic reasons for moving sector:

  • @order_and_light Q5. I moved sectors after redundancy from my public library job.
  • @libmichelle Q5 I want to move as can’t progress where I am. Also only work p/t and need full time.
  • @Kari_Luana Q5. I was also forced to move when my pay was frozen but the train costs kept going up #uklibchat I cried a lot when I left

Seeing a lack of career progression in their current sector and wanting to develop new skills, or get the chance to use skills like research, were also mentioned by many. Several participants who had moved out of public libraries, or were considering doing so, were reluctant to leave but felt they had to because of the difficulties and cuts in public libraries. This put off potential new entrants to public libraries too.

Not many offered reasons for staying in the same sector/workplace but @Schopflin did:

  • @Schopflin #uklibchat I genuinely respect what my manager is aiming for and have great colleagues. And I know how rare this is!

Q6: If you have moved sector, what do you think helped you move successfully?

According to our participants, understanding your skills and how they might be used in other sectors is important here. Some people thought that the combination of their library experience and qualifications and other experience they had from other jobs had been important for them. Working in a varied role that allows you to use a range of skills definitely helps. Professional development is an important way of learning and a lot can be learned from networking. Networking is particularly important for those working in small teams or solo, for example in health and school libraries.

There was an interesting discussion about the trade-off between quality and quantity in service provision. If you are a small service attempting to serve a large number of potential users, is it better to provide a high quality, intensive service to a few or a more shallow, basic service to many? @mishdalton said ‘I think its better to reach & bring real benefits to a small number than a bigger number but not deliver real value’.

Q7: What skills were transferable from your previous sector? What new ones did you have to learn?

Skills most mentioned as transferable were enquiry skills, customer service, being calm and diplomatic in pressured situations, and understanding user needs. New skills that people acquired included classification, records management, budget management, web authoring, and event management. It seems like the new skills you have to acquire when you move sector tend to be more ‘hard’ skills and the ones you bring with you more ‘soft’. It’s also important to get to grips with the culture and aims of your new organisation. @jwebbery thought the differences between sectors had decreased in the last 10 years.

  • @theangelremiel It was like going from playing the violin to playing the guitar.  Principles the same, practice very different

Q8. What were the biggest challenges you faced when trying to adapt to a new sector?

The most common challenges were culture shock, building new relationships with colleagues and other services, and learning sector specific jargon. Moving to a new sector can be scary, especially for those that with management responsibility in their role, but also could be exhilerating and lead to lots of new learning. School librarians who’d moved into the sector mentioned managing pupil numbers at break times. Several people who moved away from public libraries found it hard to get used to a less diverse customer base, or less customer contact. Some people who’d moved into special libraries found acquiring new subject knowledge challenging (eg. chemistry in a pharmaceutical library, weaponry in an army library!)

Q9. Have you moved from a library role to a less traditional information role? How is your job similar/different?

People who had made this kind of move often were now working with a narrower customer base with more focused information needs. Some had more customer contact than before, as they’d moved from a large team to a smaller one which was quite customer facing; some had less customer contact as they were more desk based. @Kosjanka felt she had to more flexible than before, as her role and organisation changed frequently:

  • @Kosjanka Q9. Government policy can have huge impacts on our work and direction, and we need to keep moving to keep relevant.

Q10. Do you have any advice to people who are considering trying out new sectors? 

  • @theangelremiel Go for it! I always recommend living in another country or doing another job. Teaches you about yourself
  • @libmichelle Q10 Use a careers service to check over your application! Either your old uni (will generally see grads for a few years) or try the National Careers Service
  • @theangelremiel re: “the cutting edge”, all edges cut.  Make sure you look at how people in all disciplines do their jobs.
  • @shibshabs Q10. Spend time thinking about everything you do even ‘minor’ tasks, and think abt transferable egs for application & interview
  • @libmichelle Q10 I did lots of library visits as a grad trainee. Found people are very receptive to this, and I loved doing them!
  • @Doombrarian Q10 I haven’t moved for a while,but I’d speculate that up to date skills, engagement with new tech & networking will be important
  • @OrionCards to just do it & give it a go.  Apply for stuff even if you think you have no chance.  It worked for me.
  • @theangelremiel Q10. look for library jobs in nontraditional places.  Ask yourself which skills transfer. Better to apply & fail than not apply
  • @Kosjanka Q10 #BlatantPlug Follow @VoicesLibrary. A new librarian / library advocate every week! We have folk from all sectors tweeting.
  • @shibshabs Q10. If you expect to be asked for ideas (and you prob should) look overseas – USA libs are innovative!

After the end of our agenda, @theangelremiel asked: if you had to leave your current sector, where would you want to work next? The answers to this included public libraries, museum libraries, NHS and academic libraries.


For those interested in the law sector, see this slideshare presentation debunking myths on legal info by @mariegcannon and @LibWig.

@stjerome1st wrote a blog post about his experience ‘across the sectors and through the decades’ inspired by our topic.

Have a look at our Library Sectors tag to see all three of the feature posts from #uklibchat blog contributors we published in the week leading up to this chat.

When I started in LIS, I never thought I’d…

For our October 2013 #uklibchat What they don’t teach you in Library School,  we invited librarians on Twitter to finish off the sentence  ‘When I start in LIS, I never thought I’d..”

Here are the gathered results!  Teaching gets a lot of mention, and the fight to save libraries, but you may be surprised at some of the things that Librarians have to deal with: murder,  teepees, parrots and poop (maybe not so surprised at the last if you’re a children’s librarian).

CharlieRosina When I started in LIS I never thought I’d be lecturing to 300 students! Or teaching legal research skills! #uklibchat
poetryghost @spoontragedy @uklibchat #uklibchat When I entered LIS I never thought I’d have to deal with poop and vomit… #childrenslibrarianproblems
BookishKirsten When I started in LIS I never thought I’d attend a conference session on BDSM-related material in libraries. #uklibchat #radlibcamp
spoontragedy When I started in LIS I never thought I’d use quite similar skills in children’s librarianship & careers information services #uklibchat
CorBlastMe #uklibchat When I started in LIS I never thought I’d get to travel for work and have my own reading tepee!
Speranda when I started in LIS I never thought I would need to study Japanese #uklibchat
preater #uklibchat When I started in LIS I had no idea the breadth and depth of work I’d eventually become involved in.
LucyWoolhouse When I started in LIS I never thought I’d see a mummified rat. #uklibchat
spoontragedy When I started in LIS, I never thought I’d chair a panel of management consultants at a careers fair (doing this tomorrow!) #uklibchat
midcel When I first started in LIS I never thought I’d work in such a diverse range of workplaces or with such flexibility #uklibchat
AmyJoyHolvey @uklibchat When I first started in LIS, I never thought I’d get the chance to support patient care and clinical research #uklibchat
poetryghost #uklibchat when I started LIS I never thought I would dress as Scooby Do. Sorry if that’s a repeat.
libbyhex @uklibchat when I started in LIS I never thought I would be a prosecution witness in a work-related murder trial!
madlibscholar When I started in LIS, I never thought I’d do a PhD and fight so hard for libraries! #uklibchat
losbiblio When I started in LIS I never thought I’d find a practical use for a toy desk hoover #uklibchat
MartindalePam When I started in LIS I never thought I’d be talking about professional issues, with people I’ve never met, using a mobile phone! #uklibchat
mickfortune When I started out in LIS I never thought I would be working in it for 40+ years. Hoped it might last to Christmas. #uklibchat
HelenKielt @uklibchat When I started out in LIS I never thought I’d actually be excited about starting a research module! #uu_lim #uklibchat
jackoliver40 When I started out in LIS I never thought I would be involved with so much project management and people management #uklibchat
jackoliver40 When I started out in LIS I never thought about how little I would actually handle books & other stock materials #uklibchat
MartindalePam When I started in LIS I never thought I’d have the privilege of assessing other people’s fellowship and #chartership applications #uklibchat
jacapo47 When I started in LIS I never thought I’d want to stay in it! #uklibchat
JFJ24 When I started in LIS I never thought I’d…end up lecturing in LIS #uklibchat
losbiblio When I started out in LIS I never thought I’d have to do so much maths! #uklibchat
louise_ashton When I started out in LIS I never thought libraries & roles could change so much #uklibchat
Kangarooth Happy birthday blog! Things I never thought I’d do when starting out in LIS (thanks to #uklibchat for the idea!)
Kari_Luana When I started in LIS I never thought I’d enjoy teaching so much #uklibchat
JoHarcus When I started out in LIS I never thought I’d be juggling three part time library posts at once! #uklibchat
ces43 When I started out in LIS I never thought I’d spend so much time teaching #uklibchat
JenFosterLib Just scheduled a tweet inviting students to find our parrot. One for @uklibchat I never thought….
GsyRach When I started in LIS I never thought I’d be so dependent on relationships with staff outside the library #uklibchat
JenFosterLib When I started out in LIS I never thought I’d spend summers discussing paint coding and the merits of dust trapping carpets #uklibchat
CaraClarke When i started in LIS i never thought i’d work less with books if i started to climb ladder. But u do. #uklibchat
CaraClarke When i started in LIS i never thought i’d do job appraisals, risk assessments, funding bids or contents insurance estimates #uklibchat
CaraClarke When i started in LIS i never thought i’d teach people how to do referencing. It completely baffled me during my undergrad deg! #uklibchat
CaraClarke When i started in LIS i never thought i’d cover a paperback without creases. (10 yrs later, still can’t cover hardbacks neatly!) #uklibchat
CaraClarke When i started in LIS i never thought i’d become a line manager or have to ‘protect’ liby funds from other depts #uklibchat
CaraClarke When i started in LIS i never thought i’d become a tropical fish tank owner. An obsessed one at that! #uklibchat
CaraClarke When i started in LIS i never thought i’d do a 10mi walk, bagpag in supermarkets to raise money or coax teenagers up a mountain #uklibchat
CaraClarke When i started in LIS i never thought i’d dabble in html or grasp techie talk terms such as client, VPN & MFD #uklibchat
CaraClarke When i started in LIS i never thought i’d speak in front of 500 people, travel abroad for work, become a long distance commuter #uklibchat
lushlibrarylass #uklibchat When I started out in LIS I never thought I’d meet Baggie Bird, work in a hospital, or dress up as a hamster. #WBA #funtimes
thehearinglib When I started out in LIS I never thought I’d… learn so much about business principles and management. Sign of the times..? #uklibchat
librarylandL When I started out in LIS I never thought I’d… become possesive over cataloguing and classification #uklibchat
Annie_Bob When I started out in LIS I never thought I’d… get so familiar with the inner workings of a printer #uklibchat
Annie_Bob When I started out in LIS I never thought I’d… be part of the #uklibchat team!
BishopWalshLib #uklibchat When I started out in LIS I never thought I’d be arranging 3 author visits a yr and speaking to 300 pupils at a time!
HelenMaryH When I started out in LIS I never thought I’d run storytime sessions or do creative things like make displays #uklibchat
alanfricker When I started in LIS I never thought I would speak to a huge crowd of doctors in the Governors’ Hall at Tommies #uklibchat
poetryghost When I started in LIS I never thought I’d spend so much time maintaining a website #uklibchat
Jo_Bo_Anderson When I started in LIS I never thought I’d have to take the local authority to court over library cuts + hate that I had to #uklibchat
SaintEvelin #uklibchat When I started in LIS I never thought I’d be engaging in a twitter conversation about LIS at half 8 during #gbbo
spoontragedy When I started in LIS I never thought I’d give summer reading challenge talks to 300 primary school pupils at a time #uklibchat
sarahehogg When I started in LIS I never thought I would consider a teaching qualification of some sort…but I think it would be useful #uklibchat
spoontragedy When I started in LIS I never thought I’d get to know my local police so well (public library ;) #uklibchat
eileenfiddle @uklibchat When I started in LIS, I never though I’d be teaching!

Apologies if I’ve left anyone off, this was collated manually using a quick search of the tweet archives. Everyone is welcome to add to this, by posting in the comments box.


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