LIS DREaM Workshop 1: Edinburgh

I was fortunate enough to be granted an AHRC-funded travel bursary to attend three workshops as part of the DREaM Project (Developing Research Excellence and Methods). The first workshop was held in Edinburgh on 25th October. It was a really interesting and informative day, and in terms of timing the whole programme works perfectly for me – I will be starting my PhD in January so haven’t yet developed a methodology.The DREaM project aims to encourage researchers to make better use of well-established social science research approaches, thereby improving the quality of LIS research in the UK and adding variety to the range of research methodologies used by LIS researchers. I’m very much hoping that my research into the role of public libraries in supporting and encouraging democratic engagement will be a meaningful and valuable contribution to LIS research which can be applied in practice.

All three workshops will follow the same format with different content:

  1. a broad research approach;
  2. a specific quantitative research technique;
  3. a specific qualitative research technique;
  4. a research “practicality” (e.g. ethics, improving research impact, influencing policy).
Workshop 1 looked at ethnography, social network analysis, discourse analysis, research ethics and legal issues. All the sessions were led by interesting, enthusiastic and incredibly knowledgeable researchers and even if I don’t apply the methods we explored, I certainly feel like I’ve gained valuable knowledge about the range of approaches that can be used to produce high-quality research.

Session notes and all the slides and videos used have been put up on the DREaM website, so I won’t duplicate content, but highly recommend them as useful resources.

Thank you to Professor Hazel Hall, Professor Charles Oppenheim and everyone involved in the DREaM project for the opportunity to take part in the workshops and for making the day such a success. I can’t wait for the next one.

Wrapped Up In Books

It’s a right week for books next week!

When I decided  to get involved with World Book Night, I automatically assumed that it was part of Book Aid International’s World Book Day – well, you would, wouldn’t you?! It turns out they’re not, or at least, weren’t. Now though, they’re both helping to put on an event in Southwark (celebrations start at 5pm and close at 10pm at John Harvard Library, Borough High Street, South London SE1 1JA). Ace.

World Book Day – 3rd March

Here’s a little bit about World Book Day because I’ve not mentioned it properly yet. From a lovely lady called Natasha at Book Aid:

“It is opportunity for people to celebrate the education, imagination and information that books provide us all with. There are a whole host of events and activities you can get involved with, whatever your age. They include Meet Talk Give, a fun, easy fundraising activity for reading groups and libraries – as well as initiatives for toddlers and school age children.

Book Aid International is one of the charities that benefits from the day, and it enables them to make a massive difference. They depend on the support of people like you to bring books, and all that they represent, to communities in sub-Saharan Africa and the Occupied Territories of Palestine.”

I’ll be in Edinburgh on 3rd and 4th March at Edge 2011, so won’t be able to take part, but if you can, it sounds well worth it. And make the most of the World Book Day Tokens!

World Book Night –  5th March

There’s been some talk about WBN, what it’s about and potential issues. But I’m sticking with it, and will be in one of my favourite beery establishments, Arcadia in Headingley, from about 8:30pm, with the awesome BookElfLeeds and her Travelling Suitcase Library (so excited about meeting her!) – I think it’s a great opportunity to encourage people to get reading and use libraries. As well as the 40-odd copies of Love in the Time of Cholera, I’ll also be bringing a pile of my own books, and seeing as I’m moving house that day, I think I’d better pack up a little box specifically for swapping!

Edinburgh Has The Edge (2010): Day One

I don’t want to write too much about The Edge 2010 conference, because I’m going to be submitting a piece to the Public Library Journal, but I do want to get a bit down about it, because it really was a brilliant two days. Here are a few highlights.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle, the conference venue

Susan Benton is the President and CEO of American Urban Libraries Committee and gave a fantastic keynote speech about the value of the work of public libraries. She emphasised the need for leadership, partnerships and publicity to send this message loudly and clearly to local authorities, national governments and communities. As well as the need for leadership in terms of promoting and advocating our services, public libraries could act as physical examples of sustainability in the community; working out of green buildings and being actively involved in recycling, etc. as well as offering involvement opportunities for local businesses and educational establishments would enable libraries to take the lead in an increasingly important area. Susan also expressed the thought that public libraries are trusted by communities and are often the first place people go to for information, advice and support. This is something that libraries need to be aware of and use to their benefit in serving their communities.

Nicky Parker and Councillor Mike Amesbury from Manchester City Council presented the plans and developments for Manchester Library and Information Services, which are considered an important political priority in the area. The libraries were given a poor report six years ago, which prompted action to improve their services drastically with an investment of £255 million, being spent on, amongst other things, 2 new buildings, widespread renovation and a virtual library. The challenge in Manchester was to decide which buildings to rebuid and which to adapt; this has been met innovatively with the decision to never build a standalone library again, instead to co-locate with other services such as adult learning centres. Strategically locating libraries in the heart of communities alongside other public services, near transport links, schools and homes, will hopefully make the library service more a part of the community.

Manchester Central Library
Manchester Central Library (CC by harshilshah100 at Flickr)

Mancester Library and Information Services are also investing in new technology such as RFID, automated storage and retrieval, self service and return and book vending machines. I hope that the introduction of these will make the service more widely used and not discourage people from using the Central and City libraries. Although the automated storage system is meant to make access to books easier and because of the current layout of the Central Library does not reduce the amount of open shelving, I am concerned that in public libraries, automated storage may not be as suited as it is in the British Library. Much of the book lending in public libraries seems to take place after time spent browsing the shelves and coming across something they were not deliberately seeking – I worry that taking this away will reduce the chances of someone serendipitously borrowing something wonderful and unexpected. A benefit of the self service borrowing system, though, is the ability to borrow books anonymously – this may have the opposite effect and encourage more people to borrow the items they want or need but are too embarrassed to take to the counter. I would be interested to see the results of any studies conducted!

I particularly enjoyed the speech from The Leader of Newcastle Council, Councillor John Shipley. His conviction that public libraries with their add-on services have become an essential public service that people should pay taxes for other people to borrow books and use libraries was inspiring. Libraries are cheap for the services they provide, efficient and effective – and if they are accused of being high cost – they should be proud, because it means that a valuable service is being provided. Bravo! There’s more about what he had to say on Ewan McIntosh’s blog. As he says, it truly was profound.

Edinburgh’s new virtual library, Your Library, was introduced by Liz McGettigan, Head of Edinburgh Libraries & Information Service and Jim Thompson, Quality Development Manager. Although 97% of Edinburgh’s population live within walking distance of a library, 97% of the population choose not to visit a library. The new Virtual Library is not designed to replace physical libraries, but to work alongside it and serve those who cannot or do not want to make the trip down the road, offering a Talis OPAC, image database, e-newsletter, community organisations database, full text ebooks and audiobooks. Citizens will be able to become members of the library online, and the website features Browsealoud support for the visually impaired, making the service more accessible.

This is by no means everything I found interesting, but I have too much uni work to be doing to be able to write a longer post, and as I say, I’ll be writing a big thing later.

Edge 2010

I am very very fortunate to have been offered  a complimentary place at Edge 2010, a conference taking place on 25th & 26th February at Edinburgh Castle. I’m very excited about it because it’s going to be invaluable to my studies and generally really interesting. There will be all sorts of speakers talking about various aspects of digital inclusion, learning and e-government.

I will be writing up the event, so if anyone has any recommendations as to journals or publications that might be interested in receiving it, please let me know!