After the Frankfurt book fair: full of inspiration!

Photo of me ready to speak
Is the “Data-Librarian” the Future of Library Science?

Earlier this month I was lucky enough to attend the enormous, international Frankfurt book fair, as I was a panellist for Elsevier’s Hot Spot discussion on the future of library science and the data-librarian.  I highly recommend the opportunity & experience, as the Elsevier staff really looked after their speakers and I got to meet not only my fellow panellists but also some of the audience who came and introduced themselves at the “hot spot cafe” immediately after our discussion.



Photo of panellists & our moderator
Left to right: Noelle Gracy, Jenny Delasalle, Dr Schnelling, Prof. Dr. Petra Düren, Pascalia Boutsiouci

The session itself was filmed, and there was a professional photographer there (I have permission to use these official pictures), so I’m sure you’ll find out more about it over on Elsevier’s website: watch the LibraryConnect section! Our basic panel structure was that we were asked questions by Elsevier’s Noelle Gracy, which came from the community in advance.

What did we cover?

Well, I didn’t get to take notes as well as to talk(!) so I can tell you what I had prepared to say, and what I remember, one week after the event! Here are some nutshell points:

  • The future of library science encompasses more than just data librarianship, of course!
  • Librarians may find that adding skills with data to their CV opens up more job opportunities in the future.
  • Librarians offer a lot to the data community, not least their professional ethics & knowledge of legal expectations, which of course is covered in the module I teach to KCL/Humboldt University’s MA Digital Curation students.
Photo of me with microphone, discussing with fellow panellists
Getting to hear each other’s opinions

Librarians also have:

  • ability to describe items/create valuable metadata records
  • connections with all disciplines across campus (& library building is often central too)
  • experience of assessing quality and significance for collection management
  • skills in training & informing others
  • It’s certainly not all about technical skills: Dr Schnelling was very clear about that point, as I believe it was his question, about what skills future librarians need. But of course there are some technical skills that will help if you are working with data. Especially when considering preservation needs.
  • One easy way to begin familiarising yourself with data management issues, is to look at data management plans, and what they involve.

If you were there, then maybe you can share some more highlights of the talk by leaving a comment, below. I will also blog here again about some of my other top sights from the fair: after the talk, I went around many of the stalls, looking for things specifically German. Of course, it was an international fair, so I found an awful lot more. I will end here with a final photograph of the audience for our panel session. If you were there, then thanks for coming!

photo of audience looking at the Hot Spot stage
Standing room only!

Two events this week: one in Berlin, one on Twitter for #ECRchat

Busy times here as term is underway at Humboldt University and as well as teaching on Wednesdays, today is the day that I present with my co-tutor at Humboldt’s School of Library & Information science, as part of the BBK series about how we teach our Information Ethics module, and why Berlin is a suitable place for our topic.

And Thursday is the day of a long-awaited #ECRchat on Networking and opportunities in the third and public sector at 11am UK time. ECRchat is an event/chat in Twitter itself, using the hashtag #ECRchat. If you’re not already used to hashtag events Twitter, then the easiest way to follow the event would be to look on the Piirus blogpost that I linked to above, at the time of the chat. Or to wait until a Storify summary is announced on the #ECRchat channel.

I am also full of inspiration from last week’s Frankfurt book fair, but you’ll have to wait for me blog about it because I obviously have a lot of things on at the moment!

Is the “Data-Librarian” the Future of Library Science?

Next week I’ll be at the Frankfurt book fair! I’m going to be on a panel at an event with this title. If you’ll also be at the fair and fancy hearing me speak, then here are the details:

Thursday, October 15th, 10-10:30 a.m., on the Hot Spot Professional & Scientific Information stage in hall 4.2 (Frankfurt Book Fair)

It’s on the perennial theme of the changing role of the librarian, this time looking at the difference that data makes. I’ll be drawing on my experience of working in libraries in the UK, and of course of training information professionals of the future at Humboldt University. Without giving the plot away too much, my perspective is that librarians have always done many different roles but it’s our professional training, self-identification with the profession and use of all its experience in matters like ethics and customer service that makes us librarians, and thus a part of a profession. The “data librarian” will just be one of many different flavours of librarian in the future. I myself, am a peculiar “flavour”: A librarian without a library 😉

I’m looking forward to meeting my fellow panellists and to discussing in more detail how data might affect the future role of the librarian. And I hope to see you there!

Its different in Germany. 10 everyday things a Brit might notice!

This post isn’t library-related, but I wanted to share some reflections on the things that I’ve found different here in Germany, compared to the UK. I’ve written before about some of the challenges for a Brit, so this post covers different points. And I’ll start with something at least book related!

  1. Independent bookshops. Naturally, I love these! Most of them are for German language material of course, and there are also many independent publishers based here: Germany still has fixed prices for books, and there’s a good read in the NY times if you want to find out more about this.
  2. Sensible shoes. This is something I approve of: you rarely see German women tottering around on ridiculously high, cheap plastic heels. There is a good reason for this: many pavements are made of tiny cobblestones which make going out in high fashion shoes into an extreme sport! Plus, I think many Germans aim for something high quality that will last a long time: if you’re going to invest a lot of cash and wear the shoes for many years then just you won’t put up with something less than comfortable.
  3. Good public transport. I can’t speak for the whole of Germany but here in Berlin it’s usually on time and many bus stops have a digital display to tell you when the next bus is coming. And if you get lost on foot, there’s usually a map at the bus stop, showing you where you are! The S-bahn is perhaps the least reliable option, but only because it’s so old that they’re always having to repair it.
  4. Two single duvets on your double bed. This idea is GENIUS! No more fights over who’s got too much/too little. ‘Nuff said!
  5. Wait for the green man. (I mentioned before that I always look 5 times when crossing. And I probably don’t need to mention the famous Ampelmann with his hat.) Lots more Germans than Brits will wait at pedestrian crossings when there are literally no moving cars around, for the green light to cross. There are also sometimes cars waiting to turn across your green light as they are allowed to make such turns. So why wait for the green light when the turning car is bound to show up? Strange!
  6. Main meal at lunchtime: bread and cheese/cold meat for dinner. The evening meal here is called “Abendbrot” which literally means “evening bread” and of course said bread is usually dark brown and full of nutrients, bought from one of the many bakeries of which the Germans seem so proud. I still like to cook at evening time since I work from home so my other half gets two proper meals a day now and has had to start watching his weight!
  7. Sunday closing. Not just Sundays either: fewer shops here are open late at night in my part of the German capital city than in a provincial town in the UK, and whilst museums are open on Sundays (and well visited since there’s not much else open!), they are closed on Mondays. Small business owners go on holiday and just put a sign on the door to say when they’re back, or open only at quirky times of the day. There is a rhythm to life here which is rather old-fashioned and sometimes a nuisance but it also feels highly civilised and respectful of life outside of business. You can still get milk & basics from a 24 hour petrol station if you’re desperate, and the shops at the main train station and airports will be open for those arriving on a Sunday. Bakeries will be open on Sunday mornings for your all-important daily bread, and you can eat in a cafe or restaurants on a Sunday. Florists are also open on Sundays so you can buy something to give to hosts/place on a gravestone. Quaint but civilised!
  8. Sausage as haute cuisine! Well, maybe not quite but it’s certainly something of which the Germans are proud. I can’t get a good British banger with all its breadcrumbs, chemical flavourings and unknown ingredients: the sausages here seem to be made of meat. And salt: there’s lots of salty, meaty food!
  9. Swimming pools close in summer months. Actually, this is not as bad as it sounds because the lifeguards have all gone to work at outdoor bathing sites (quite a few are nudist, another difference from Blighty), but it does make me wonder why they can’t take on more lifeguards as casual staff over the summer. Then I remembered that it probably takes 5 years at university to qualify as a lifeguard here in Germany (I exaggerate!) because every job here is treated like a profession, requiring hard-won qualifications. In a way this is also quaint but civilised.
  10. Plugs are smaller. Obviously the British 3-pin plug is superior (I jest!) but I like the neatness of the continental plug when travelling. I don’t like the fact that my products with 2 pins for the UK bathroom socket have to be plugged into first an adapter for 3 pins, and then an adapter for continental sockets. Apparently continental plug items can sometimes be plugged into UK bathroom sockets (I’m not recommending that you do this: sounds dodgy to me!), but it definitely doesn’t work the other way around.
  11. Knitters hold the yarn in the left hand, and knit much faster! (OK it’s not every day for every Brit, but that’s why it’s no. 11 on my list of 10!) I learnt to do this and it really fixed my problem with overly high tension. I now knit combination style and avoid repetitive strain problems, plus I’m trying out 2 colour fair-isle with a yarn in each hand. Not mastered that yet, but we’ll see…

So that’s my list, and you may have gleaned that I find Germany quite charming as well as confusing or frustrating at times. I wanted to mention the reliance on cash again, but I blogged that last time (it’s still annoying!). I don’t have children but from what I can tell, the support for parents is better here. Also, I haven’t touched on German bureaucracy: maybe I’ll write about that another day!

A trip to New York city

So my blog is called “A librarian abroad” and I haven’t blogged very much about my trips! This week I was in New York to visit a client: I saw lots of Soho/Noho and I must say, it’s my favourite part of the city. I daresay that I felt more at home there because it’s got lots of older architecture which makes it feel more like Europe, and of course because it’s where New York University is to be found. Here is a picture of their lovely red sandstone library:

NY Uni Library
Or is it a pic of a tree? I’m no photographer, sorry! But you get the idea: the library is opposite Washington Square Park…

I didn’t try to go in and visit: it was really, really busy and I could see the card barriers just inside the doors. I did look in through the windows, and I love the repeated square maze-pattern lighting, which you can see if you look very hard in my picture. Not only is it visually appealing but there’s no need to worry about the alignment of your shelves & your lights, as with strip lights!

It’s nice when you can speak your own language on your travels. Well, almost! I learnt to call the toilet a “restroom” for a few days, and to ask where the nearest “trashcan” is, but still forgot to call a full stop a “period”! Also, there’s no such thing as a flapjack in the US (apparently there is something called a flapjack but that’s what I would call a pancake!) and the nearest I could get to the ubiquitous (in the UK) British flapjack was an oatmeal cookie or granola bar, neither of which is quite the same.

And of course, as a tea drinker, I struggled to get a decent cuppa: it’s even more difficult than in Germany! I actually bought one “tea” that was undrinkable from the “Argo Tea Cafe”. I was enticed in by the name, but suspicious when I saw the bubbles on top of my tea and caught a scent of something more like bubble-gum than earl grey tea! Then I realised that there was no trace of either tea leaves or tea bag. I tried to drink it, I really did, but I had to settle for a bottle of water in the end.

Finally, here is a photo of the nearby physics building in the same warm, glowing red sandstone finish as the library, which of course my photos don’t capture:

NY Uni Physics building
With classic NY street “furniture!