Monthly Archives: March 2012

Shameless self-promotion

This guest post is by Heather Jardine, talking about the fabulous high visibility initiatives she and her colleagues have implemented for the Bibliographical Services Section of the City of London Libraries. I this these are inspiring ideas, we’d love to hear anything you have to add:

If you are going to do a job at all, you should do it properly. So now that we have decided it is time to promote ourselves and what we do, we have thrown caution to the winds and we are trying almost everything.

We started with tours of the Bib Services Section, what we call “The Journey of the Book”, initially for new staff colleagues but now also for members of the public and for colleagues from other libraries (so now we have three “flavours” of tour – Staff Journey of the Book, Public Journey of the Book and Professional Journey of the Book). The content is essentially the same for all three, but the level of detail varies according to the audience. Fellow professionals always seem most interested in workflow and management issues, members of the public are always fascinated by the processing – all that stickyback plastic takes them back to Blue Peter and their younger days. Yes, it is a faff setting it all up, but we learn as much as our visitors do and almost always people are interested, engaged and persuaded that what we do is valuable and useful, which is enormously satisfying. And, you never know who is going to come through the door on a tour. It might be someone with influence to help us, or someone who will bring us work and income. We all need friends at the moment. We are beginning to think that marketing it as a “behind-the scenes” tour might get more custom – everyone likes to see what goes on out of public view, as the National Trust and many other heritage organisations realised long ago when they started opening kitchens and other below-stairs areas.

One thing leads to another, and because we were doing tours, we decided that we needed a leaflet to hand out both as publicity and as a souvenir in goody-bags.

And we thought that a big, bright, well-designed poster on the wall outside our office would tell people who we were and what we did (it helps that our office is across the lobby from the public toilets, so there are always people about).

After a while, we thought that having a video version of our “Journey of the Book” might bring it to a wider audience, so we made a film and put it up on YouTube. It’s doing OK for views, but we’d probably get more if we had included a skateboarding cat. Oh well, there’s always next time. (That’s one of the things you find out quite quickly – whatever publicity material you produce, you have to review and revise it surprisingly often.)

We have started a blog, too, and made sure that it is picked up by Planet Cataloging, so it gets read as widely as possible.

And we have a page “about” us within our catalogue, and on our Intranet too, of course.

But there is still more to do. Only the other day I was introduced by a colleague as, “This is Heather – she works in the basement”, as if that was the only interesting thing about me. So – what next? My own gut feeling is that Facebook is passé, but we might give it a try nonetheless. Then there is Twitter. I’ve got mixed feelings about Twitter, but I am slowly being persuaded that it can be a useful tool. “Bib Services: the musical”? Probably not.

Perhaps the most important thing to say, is that we started without any special skills or knowledge. We are not marketing professionals, or graphic designers. It’s been a huge learning curve. Maybe when we look back, we think of ways we could have done it better – but there is always next time. Meanwhile, we’ve got something out there. And if we can do it, so can you.

We’d like to hear what you think of what we’ve been doing and to learn from your experience too.

Check out:

The video: An introduction to the Bibliographical Services Section of the City of London Libraries

The blog: Work and expression

About us: The Bibliographical Services Section

Higher visibility at Eton College Library – guest post

Our new guest post is by Louise Anderson @LibrarianLCA about her work as Catalogue Librarian working to make the fascinating collections of Eton College Library more visible.

A new year at Eton College Library hopefully means a new (the first!) OPAC. This is very exciting for us after several years building up to the event. Electronic cataloguing started on the main library, housing pre-1800 materials, at the turn of the century and these are still being catalogued now. I was brought in just over three years ago to catalogue the 19th and 20th century printed materials and am still working on these. With this frenzied activity we have a respectable number of items catalogued with which to launch the OPAC.

This would have happened sooner but we seized the opportunity to piggy-back on the rest of the college collections’ change of management system. We have moved from Mikromarc to SSL (System Simulation Ltd.) and, not before time, from UKMARC to MARC 21. We have been working with other SSL users including the Royal Academy of Arts, for whom the system was devised, to optimise the usability and features and have
been able to tweak it in significant ways. When we are up and running, users will be able to search across the collections, many museum items will have images (hopefully this will be extended to books, mss., and archives), and within our records we can add links to webpages.

A letter and airgraphs from Glen Byam Shaw to Angela Baddeley, MS 442. Reproduced by permission of the Provost and Fellows of Eton College.

This has coincided with a drive to catalogue our literary archives and after researching embryonic GLAM guidelines and looking at records of literary archive holdings in other institutions – including the John Rylands University Library – we have decided to do this in the archival rather than the MARC cataloguing system, allowing us to add levels of detail when time and funding allows. We will still have MARC records with links to finding aids for archives that have already been listed, but this will be easy to copy into an archive system record if we wish to in the future. The decision was not straight forward; we may have to iron out issues with the separate authority files and the format of the data within, and if we ever want to put all library items on a different system the mapping would be difficult, however, the college should always have an archives system.

We have made the decision to continue to catalogue our individual literary mss. in MARC 21, including small groups of letters, drafts, etc., although there was much debate about when a group of mss. become an archive. Is it when they are by the same person in the same period of time, or when the letters are to the same person? Is it when the documents exceed a certain number even if there is not necessarily a subject shared? Or does it matter when in their history they were gathered together in one place? We decided there would be an element of cataloguer’s discretion, influenced by factors such as shared subject, place of production, volume, and if they had been collected together before they came to us. However, this is not yet set in stone and any suggestions would be very welcome!

Now for the fun bit. Our priorities regarding what to catalogue have been influenced mainly by use, retaining institutional knowledge, and what we wish to display in the public arena. Our literary archives have been, and are increasingly most likely to be, our high use items. Archives of Glen Byam Shaw, Wilfrid Blunt, Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Thesiger, and David Horner/Osbert Sitwell fall into this category. Our individual literary mss. are also likely to be well used, and the knowledge about most of these rests with our Modern Collections Curator, which we need to capture electronically. I will hopefully be moving on to these very soon and I can’t wait to get my hands on mss. by Coleridge, Byron, Dickens, Browning, Bridges, and Fleming to name but a few. The same motivation will lead on to cataloguing the WWI materials that have been collected in addition to
those forming the original collection of the Macnaghten Library of WWI materials, given to Eton as a memorial in 1938. We will also need to know exactly what we have when we start curating our 2014 WWI exhibition. However, before all of this we need to finish cataloguing the items in our soon to be published “100 books and manuscripts” (working title) publication, which is a roundup of some of the stunning acquisitions of Eton College Library in the last 40 years, including a King James Bible, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s annotated Sophocles, and journals of Anne Thackeray Ritchie – just to whet the appetite.