My immigrant’s view of public libraries : please support them!

photo of Bibliothek: mid 20th century architectural style.
My local public library

If you aren’t from the UK then you might not know that many public libraries there are under enormous pressure, and communities are fighting to keep their libraries open. My recent visits to my local public library here in Berlin remind me how important a public library is, even for those who can afford books and have plenty of them at home! Here is my list of why the public library is imporant to me, an immigrant:

  1. I can practice my spoken language skills there. Library staff are patient, friendly, helpful and clear spoken, and that’s an important resource to a new speaker of the language!
  2. I can learn about the culture of my host nation. What the library has on its shelves tells me something about the culture of the place where I live. Books aimed at children are particularly helpful as they are not too difficult to read and they also explain more about the education that the “natives” will have had.
  3. I bump into neighbours there and can strike up a quick chat: this builds my sense of belonging to a community.
  4. There are leaflets in the library about courses and events in my local area, as well as books about the history of the borough and city, and maps and walks. The latter are a collection that shows me what is worth buying for myself!
  5. I can also borrow books that I would never buy, for example when friends visit with their children, I can introduce them to the language and culture of my host nation with children’s books.
  6. There are lots of audio books too, and these are good for me to practice my listening comprehension in the new language.
  7. I can borrow DVDs from the library, and watch them in German. I find the German telly pretty “meh”. It’s either too academic for my language skills, or too dumbed down for me to be interested! I do also borrow from the local DVD shop, but that gets pretty expensive.
  8. Most importantly for me, a library is a haven. It is somewhere welcoming, warm and quiet, where I can take a pause from the hustle of grocery shopping or whatever else I’m doing in the precinct, and be taken out of the everyday world and into an inspiring world of thought, imagination and learning, with absolutely no pressure whatsoever to buy or to spend any money. It’s not about the size of your wallet but the size of your appetite for knowledge and culture!

If that fires your enthusiasm for libraries, then I encourage you to check out your own public library. Use it before you lose it!

 

Three especially German things at the Frankfurt book fair.

The Gutenberg Press Museum
The Gutenberg Press Museum

October is always the busiest month of the year, somehow… and, as usual, I am catching up now that it’s November. This year I am full of things to write about, most especially from the Frankfurt book fair, where I was lucky enough to be a panellist on a Hot Spot stage. This post is about all things I spotted at the book fair, which I found to be connected to Germany. 1. The Gutenberg press was represented by its museum, and you could see items being printed at the fair itself.

2. Porsche museum. Another museum proudly signposted the best of Germany, in this case its strength in car manufacturing.

Porsche museum
Porsche museum

Porsche not only make cars, but are also publishers and indeed a fashion company, as I found out at the Frankfurt airport shopping mall!

Helpful students who speak good English!
Helpful students who speak good English!

3. BID, the professional society for German Libraries & Libriarians. They are a kind of equivalent to the UK’s CILIP, properly called “BID – Bibliothek & Information Deutschland”. They were represented by two stalls at the fair: one for the main organisation, and one for a group called LIS. At both of these stalls I spoke to students from the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences: they had also attended the morning panel discussion, being students of my fellow panellist, Dr. Petra Düren. They also spoke excellent English and were good advocates for their professional association!

Familiar faces!
Familiar brands!

I know that there was a lot more of Germany there for those who sought it: there was German apple wine to sample at one of the stalls, and plenty of German beer around, but I didn’t quite make it… I was busy being distracted by all the other people who were at the Frankfurt book fair. People like Open Athens, who I had a nice chat to about how students at the universities I worked at in the UK would often rave about all the information they found “on Athens”. What the students really meant, of course, was the resources that the library subscribed to for them, and which they authenticated to, using OpenAthens!

More soon about all the other people I spotted at the Frankfurt book fair, in my next blogpost…

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!

Who uses a Digital Library?

 

knitting on the needles
A work in progress

I always knew that OA and digitisation were “good things”, but today I’m excited about mining them for myself! My biggest hobby just now is knitting, and I just realised that vintage knitting patterns are being added to digital libraries out there. Like this one from the National Library of Australia’s TROVE collection.

(An aside: I realised this because there’s a fabulous social website for knitters called Ravelry where I can find patterns, yarn suggestions and often details of other knitters’ projects using those patterns, not to mention all the groups and other features, and I stumbled across details of this pattern on Ravelry, over my morning tea!)

Here is a list of digital library users from the recently launched (31 March 2014) German Digital Library (DDB): “Scientists, armchair historians, genealogy researchers, journalists, students, school pupils, teachers – the DDB is aimed at all interested parties.”

Perhaps they can also add “knitters and hobbyists” amongst those interested parties. I had a quick search there for “stricken” which means “to knit” in German, and came up with 153 results including a book on the rules of knitting which has patterns in it too. There are no photos of finished objects, but then it was published in 1846! It’s also not quite so useable as the Australian Women’s Weekly example because there is no nice, typed version of the text, only the image files which I found not that easy to read. But if I had a serious interest in historic knitting patterns, these collections would indeed be a treasure trove.

Many of those 153 results were images, of people knitting or of knitting equipment. I was curious to see how the knitters of yore held their work and whether their yarn was in their left hand (continental style) or right hand (British style), but either the paintings were not detailed enough or the resolution of the images was not good enough, so if I was studying such a thing, then the digital library would alert me to places that I would maybe want to visit in person: a story that must be familiar to libraries with digitised collections.

The marvellous thing about a digital library is how easily accessible and searchable it is, and that opens it up to use from all sorts of different users, some of whom the librarians would perhaps never have thought of!