Wednesday, 28 March 2007

CILIP Seal of recognition

I have just heard that SINTO has been awarded the CILIP Seal of Recognition. Heather Taylor at CILIP commented that "The assessment report commented positively on the quality of the documentation provided, and on the strong evidence that they were based on the needs of the members and encouraged cross sectoral co-operation".

This is great news. On my blog of 20th February I explained some of the reasons why we wanted to go for the Seal of Recognition. It's not that the SoR makes the quality of the product any better but that it provides external validation to individuals and organisations that our product will meet their needs. I hope that the SoR will encourage people to select our events and will help them make the case for funding from limited training budgets.

Heather also replies to my comments in that earlier blog
You are right that the identification of training and CPD needs is an important
part of the programme development process, and this is reflected in the assessor
comments mentioned above. We have indeed noticed that applicants are including
statements regarding this in their applications. Please note however that the
assessment for the SoR is always based on the content of the programme(s)
sent as examples, and is not an overall quality assurance exercise, since
there are other elements which are outside CILIP's remit - e.g. choice of
venue, access, catering, quality of technical equipment etc.
There is no denying this. Occasionally we run events that do not meet the standard we would wish for all sorts of reasons. Just because we have the Seal does not guarantee that every courses will be excellent but it does show that we strive for excellence.

A Mixed bag

Devastating news in the Guardian yesterday that several of my fellow bloggers such as Gillian Anderson, Barbra Streisland and Mariah Carey are not keeping their blogs up-to-date and may be loosing interest altogether. So if you have migrated to this Sintoblog looking for consistency I can assure you that I am in for the long haul! And following my earlier musings about whether anyone was reading this I had lots of comments (well three to be exact) encouraging me to continue and not worry too much if no one responded.

A celebrity blog that is staying the course is that of incoming CILIP President Ian Snowley Ian has been keeping a blog for some time - his 100th posting was in January 2006 - and as the new President of our professional association there should be some interesting professional postings. Ian's blog is more personal than my SINTO blog but I am working on that. (Toast and LIME marmalade for breakfast this morning). His latest posting begins "I hadn't planned to post from China, but I'm here in Beijing with an internet connection in the room, so I thought I would!" Now that is just showing off Ian! My readers in Beijing might like to know that it was quite foggy this morning in Sheffield.

The plagiarism for librarians course which was due to run yesterday was cancelled because of lack of demand but the Plagiarism Information Service did run a course in the morning for FE colleges and one librarian did attend that. I will be putting up a copy of the presentation and other information on the SINTO wiki.

I attended a meeting of the MLA Yorkshire Workforce Development Group on Monday. The purpose of the group is to “act as a strategic body focused on addressing the challenge of the sector which is to enable museums, libraries and archives to be learning organisations which develop a motivated appropriately skilled, diverse and outward-looking workforce capable of delivering high-quality services to all users.” I plan to put some information about workforce development on the wiki (and see my previous blog postings).

I have for some time been producing a Business Information Newsletter which I circulate to SINTO members on a regular basis. The latest issue is due out soon but you might like to note the following item from Sue Sayles of Sheffield Libraries.

I would be glad if you would put details of the next Sheffield Inventors'
Group meeting in your e-newsletters.
Its a joint meeting for April/May.
Monday 23 April 2007, at the Central Library,Sheffield, 6pm-7.45pm. Meet in the entrance foyer Speakers will be David Thomas and Aldo de Leonibus of Inventya on "Product to the Marketplace"
There is also the opportunity to network with other inventors and talk with business and patent information providers.

To book a free place at the meeting, email or telephone 0114 274 4743
From June the meetings of the Sheffield Inventors' Group will revert back to the first Monday in each month.

Thursday, 22 March 2007

New features on SINTO Wiki

The SINTO wiki continues to develop. As I mentioned in my previous post I have created a page for library & learning centre buildings which will focus on new builds and refurbishments in our area. I hope that librarians will use this to share information about new developments.

Also, Gilly Pearce has added a page about the SINTO Social Inclusion Group and one on the anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. This lists information about events and activities in our area and nationally. We hope it will be a useful source of information for anyone working on similar projects and that people will add information about what they are doing.

I hope that everyone reading this will circulate the information to their colleagues and also that you will register with the site and encourage your colleagues to do the same. The wiki is intended to be a facility for the entire community of library workers in the area

Rotherham College Learning Centres

This morning SINTO visited Rotherham College of Arts & Technology. The college has recently had a major reorganisation of its learning centres with the result that it now operates six learning centres - four at its town centre site and two at the Rother Valley site. Each centre focuses on a different set of subjects. Within each centre is a reception desk, social learning area, PCs for student use, quiet study area and classrooms. The learning centres provide access to a full range of books, journals and electronic resources and support from the library staff.

The centres have been developed from the existing college learning centres at each site and by making use of former teaching areas. Having to adapt a wide range of different spaces means that no two are the same but by using the same furniture & shelving - and a common template for each space -provides a unity of design. At the same time each learning centre has an atmosphere that reflects its subject coverage - whether it is building or creative arts.

What did come over strongly was the way in which the college's senior management team was able to develop a clear vision of how the learning centres would contribute to the learning needs of the college, and then enabled the librarians to achieve this. The college wanted learning centres that provided a welcoming environment for young people - stylish, relaxed and intimate. The Principal suggested subject-based centres and the head of service investigated this and reported that it could be achieved but would be expensive - not least because of the extra staff required. The college responded by providing the resources required to achieve this. The library staff had to work very hard to put all this in place and have adapted to new ways of working. The result has been a dramatic increase in the use of the learning centres by students, closer integration with teaching staff and a real sense that the learning centres are central to the work of the college.

Further information can be found on the SINTO wiki where I hope we can add information about other new builds and refurbishments in our area.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Plagiarism - am I bovvered?

Next week (Tuesday) we are due to be running a half-day event on plagiarism. I say "due to" because so far the bookings have been very disappointing and we may have to cancel it.
We don't often have to do this with SINTO events as they are usually well attended so we always hold a post-mortem if any event does not attract bookings.

The main problem tends to be finance. Training budgets are limited in all organisations and there is never enough money to go around. Holding an event at this time of year might be a problem for some libraries if it is the end of their financial year although we are always happy to delay invoicing until the start of the new year if required.

Perhaps the subject has been covered by other training events and we just miscalculated.

Perhaps there was just not sufficient interest in this topic. Like most of our events, this topic was identified as being of interest by the SINTO Training Group but this does not always mean that it will be taken up by individuals. In most cases, training is driven by the needs of individual members of staff who express an interest in or a need for training/development often as part of a Staff Development Review within their organisation. I do wonder sometimes how good libraries are at identifying their own institutional training/development needs i.e. what skills and knowledge does the library as a whole need? This may be different from what individuals identify as their personal requirements.

Is it possible that librarians and libraries do not regard plagiarism as being "our" problem. Our role is to provide our users with access to the information they need. What they do with it when they have found it is their concern. If they include it in essays without proper citations then isn't that is a matter between them and their tutors? As I suggested (tongue-in-cheek) in one of my flyers - if essay bank sites (websites where you can buy complete essays on-line) are what students want then isn't it our job to help them find them?

I'm sure that most academic librarians would not go this far. We are part of the organisation and share the responsibility to teach students information literacy (including how to cite references) & information ethics (is this on the curriculum of library induction programmes?). We should also be helping the organisation combat what is, after all, cheating, by a small number of students to help the majority of our users.

However, the fact is that this course has not met with a strong response and unless I get a sudden late rush of bookings it will have to be canceled.

SINTO Website

This blog and the SINTO wiki at are new experimental projects intended to supplement the long established SINTO website at The website has just been revised and improved by my colleague Gilly Pearce. We have kept to the same simple design that we used before but it has been tidied up and I think that the front page gives a much clearer view of what is available on the website.

The SINTO website will remain the main source of information about SINO and its activities. The blog and the wiki will provide extra services, including the opportunity for interaction and user feedback. You will find links to the blog and wiki from the website.

While setting this up we have been having problems with the link from the SINTO website to the wiki. All the other links worked OK but this one just would not work. In the ed it turned out that this was because of the settings on our browsers which had to be adjusted. What we need to know is does anyone else have the same problem? Could you go to the SINTO website and try the link at the bottom of the page under Quick Links? If you do have a problem let me know.

Thursday, 15 March 2007


A recent report suggested that nearly 50% of teenagers write a blog but you have to wonder who (if anyone) is reading them - which is exactly what I was wondering about Sintoblog. Neither the blog or the wiki are attracting much in the way of comments and I was beginning to think they were the great unread . However the site meter on the wiki records 20 visits last week (not counting my own) and a couple of people have told me recently that they have read my blog and found it useful so I will continue for the time being.

Nicholas Carr in today's Technology Guardian writes about how bloggers are seen as parasites i.e. they don't create new content but just recirculate material they pick up from other sources. To some extent that is exactly what I am doing although I see it as digesting material into a format that is useful for busy local professionals who don't have the time to read everything themselves.

The blogs that I use include Karen Blakeman's and Phil Bradley's, both on Internet searching. I would not claim that Sintoblog is in the same league but does it meet a need? I would love to know. Go on - click that comment button.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Abolition of the Slave Trade

On Saturday 24th March Sheffield Archives and Local Studies and Sheffield Hallam University will be running a workshop on the Abolition of the Slave Trade, 1807-2007. The workshop explores Sheffield's connection with abolition including the visit to Sheffield by Olaudah Equiano, the black anti-slavery campaigner in 1790.

The bicentenary has given rise to a great deal of debate and controversy. Although it is right to celebrate the achievement of campaigners such as Wilberforce we must not overlook the contribution of black campaigners. Nor can we ignore Britain's responsibility for setting up the slave trade and the profits that this country made from it.

The workshop will explore the complex dynamics of the abolitionist movement from a local perspective and Sheffield Archives holds many documents that shed light on this issue.

The workshop runs from 1pm - 4pm room 942, Owen Building, Sheffield Hallam University. For more information contact Alison Twells 225 3587 or Pete Evans 203 9397

To book a place send your name and telephone number to or telephone 0114 203 9395 or write to Sheffield Archives, 52 Shoreham Street, Sheffield S1 4SP

Monday, 12 March 2007

Libraries on Youtube

If you go to the video sharing site Youtube and search under "library" you will find a miscellaneous collection of clips. There are excerpts from Japanese game shows, a Mr Bean episode, the infamous UCLA taser incident and a small collection of library promotion video clips. Nothing to get very excited about but I did like a video from a US Community college based on the PC vs Mac adverts that Apple has been running in the UK and USA recently. It features Web vs L. I. Brary in a dialogue about which one is more useful for students. It is a very simple production - basically a slide show with voice over - but the idea is a good one.

And if you want to see an advert that manages to insult librarians and women (especially blonds), grit your teeth and go to

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Access to digital content.

Today I received an e-mail from Brian Osborne, author of several books on Scottish history and Hon. Sec. of the Society of Authors in Scotland, about my letter in Update (see my posting in February on Access to Digital Content). Mr Osborne said that he very much agree with my arguments on the need to provide a national answer to the problem and the essentially limited benefits of extending access via the drop-in use in academic libraries. He adds that the Society of Authors in Scotland is interested in this issue of authors from outside the academic world getting access to on-line research material – and as a body representing authors from all over Scotland is particularly conscious of the problems faced by those geographically distant from HE institutions.

This reinforces my point that the library profession has failed to address the issue of a national information policy. The Library and Information Commission's document Keystone for the Information Age: a national information policy for the UK (March 2000) - is an enormous lost opportunity. Here are some quotes

Britain is closer to becoming an information society but we still lack the overall policy and co-ordination that will add value to the various initiatives that are taking place. We have, therefore, taken the opportunity to re-state our view that a UK National Information Policy is urgently required if we are to remain competitive in the global information society.

The Government has an impressive record of achievement in starting to realise the goals set in Our Information Age: the Government's Vision... But a National Information Policy is required as a matter of urgency, to provide a framework within which these diverse initiatives can be co-ordinated. Without such a framework of policy there is a risk that synergies will be lost and the full value of public and private investments will not be realised.

Unchecked, many current information developments could exacerbate social exclusion, further isolating the information have-nots from the rest of society. We need policies to ensure that no-one is excluded from the benefits of an inclusive information society

So what went wrong? Why did the profession fail to follow this up? And how
can we deal with the fall-out from this failure to act seven years ago?

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Downgrading library posts

Three long serving librarians at the University of Leeds are to have their salaries cut as part of a university wide review of gradings according to Information World Review. The subject librarians have filed an appeal and CILIP advisers have been advising them.

This is an example of "red-circling" where posts are identified for downgrading following a job evaluation exercise. An article in Library and Information Gazette (23 February - 8 March) takes a close look at this process. Many organisations use a scheme for job evaluation - the Higher Education Role Analysis scheme (HERA), Hay Group and Gauge are examples. They are "black boxes" - you input details of the job and it produces a recommended grade. In theory this is not a cost-saving exercise, it is just meant to ensure that people in different jobs are on a fair grade for that job - but there are issues. How has the "black box" been constructed? What values have been put on different skills and responsibilities? Are information skills rated as highly as say teaching or IT skills?

Librarians are probably right to distrust this process in which misconceptions about what an information professional does might have become embedded into the black box. But there is also a challenge for the profession. We must always ask ourselves two questions - are we "doing things right" and are we "doing the right thing"?

The first is simpler. It is about basic professional competence- ensuring that we have the skills and knowledge to do the job, that we keep ourselves up-to-date with developments and we have a professional attitude. The second is more tricky. We have to constantly check that what we are doing is what needs doing. Have things changed? This could be the technology, or the requirements of our users, or the expectations of our employers.

I sometimes hear people defending their expertise on the grounds that they have so many years of experience. But the pace of change in librarianship is such that what you did and knew five years ago is largely irrelevant today. If you are still doing the same things and still have the same knowledge and skills that you had five years ago them you are probably no longer competent to practice. Your years of experience are only valid if you can demonstrate continuing professional development over that period and you have re-examined your basic role in the organisation. The paradox is that your awareness of the changing role of your job may be in advance of that of your manager or organisation. One day you are pushing against a barrier of organisational inertia, the next the organisation is telling you that you have not kept up with changes in your role.

This relates to my postings on the new Occupational Standards. While we are defining the skills that librarians need we must not preserve an outdated view of what the role of the librarian is. That role will and must change and we must change with it.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Students & more on NOS

I have just changed the settings for this blog which means that anyone should be able to send in a comment without registering.

Today I gave a presentation about SINTO to students at the Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield. Hello to any of you who followed up my invitation to look at the SINTO blog and wiki.

As students you are very welcome to read my postings and to comment on any of the issues I raise. And if you want to start of a new topic let me know.

Students sometimes feel that they are remote from the "real" world of working librarians and this site might give you a better understanding of the practical issues we face. On the other hand students sometimes fear that when they leave library school with fresh ideas and enthusiasm these will be resisted by the established professionals. In return, librarians sometimes accuse library schools of sending them new professional who are not prepared for the realities of working in libraries. Do you have any views on this?

To follow up my last postings - I have received an e-mail from LLUK about two focus groups to discuss national Occupational Standards for our sector. These are in London on the 15th & 21st March. The e-mail is addressed to those responsible for the strategic direction and development of your libraries, archives or information services workforce? This does raise the question of who has this strategic responsibility. In many libraries training and development is delegated to a senior member of staff but do they have a strategic role? If the Head of Service has delegated responsibility will they be aware of these developments? And in many organisations overall strategic responsibility for workforce development will lie outside the library - but do these people know enough about the needs of the LAIS workforce? Who in your organisation will attend these meetings? And if the answer is "no one, we are all to busy" what will that mean for the future of workforce development? Will we as a profession just wait for the standards to come out and then complain that they are not what we want?