Monday, 23 April 2007

SearchMuze @ LIS

While I was wandering around the Library & Information Show I stopped at the SearchMuze stand as I had not come across this database before. SearchMuze is a music and video database which provides librarians and retailers with information about new UK releases of music and video. Not being a music librarian I don't know how this compares with other products and I did not get as far as asking about the cost of subscribing, but it seemed like the sort of tool that would be useful in a library - not least for tracking down details of music used in adverts!
SearchMuze were offering a free trial. Go to their web site and log in as demo with the password lis (I am not sure how long this will last for).

Friday, 20 April 2007

Library & Information Show

SINTO organised its annual coach trip to the Library & Information Show at the NEC, Birmingham on Wednesday. There were 28 of us on the coach from the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, Dearne Valley College, Sheffield Libraries and Corus.

The show was in a different hall to last year and my impression was that it was a bit smaller again. There was a good showing by Library Management Systems companies, furniture suppliers and library equipment suppliers. LIS has never been very strong on information databases and publishers (it clashes with the London Book Fair) but it did have a fair number. There was the usual selection small companies and organisations that provide an element of serendipity.

There was also a programme of free seminars. This is a bit of an add-on to the main event. The lecture areas, basically, tents in the exhibition hall, are not very large and fill up quickly. The programme is very varied. You don't expect to get groundbreaking presentations on state-of-the-art topics but rather reviews of general professional interest. I attended three presentations; Developing information literacy by Sheila Corrall, The corporate need for the information professional by Lesley Robinson and Wikis, Blogs and RSS by Karen Blakeman. (The presentations are meant to be posted on the LIS web site soon). Also running on the Wednesday was the (charged for) Library 2.0 Forum. I did not attend that myself but I am sure it will be covered by other bloggers.

So how was it for me? I'm a regular visitor to LIS because of our annual coach trip but I am not looking to purchase anything myself so its a bit hard to judge. Every year you can find someone, either am exhibitor or librarian, who says that it is not as good as it was and they might not come back - but my impression is that it still provides a valuable service for the profession. Generally people attend for one of two reasons. Either they want to compare a range of products such as Library management systems or furniture, or they want a general CPD event to keep them updated about what is happening. (Or they want to stock up an free pens!). You can argue that you could achieve both these goals by browsing on-line rather than traveling to Birmingham but it is useful to see and touch products and there is always the opportunity for networking. I met, among others, Ian Snowley - Cilip President, blogger& globe-trotter and was able to renew an invitation for him to visit Sheffield. He is planning to speak at the Department of Information Studies in the autumn so perhaps we can put on a joint event. Perhaps it could be an opportunity for librarians who are not members to ask what is the value of Cilip today? What do you think? [Desperate appeal for feedback :-)]

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Brian Kelly - an apology :-)

My apologies to Brian Kelly who I called Brian Ferry in yesterday's post. It may have been because Mr Ferry, late of Roxy Music, was in the news for admiring Nazi iconography but it is probably just that I hit the wrong key. Anyway, to make amends I will give another plug to UK Web Focus. I mentioned his blog from the Museums and the Web 2007 conference yesterday and he has hosted a guest blog on library blogging. Apart from that there are lots of useful references to new developments with Web 2.0 so it's worth getting a feed.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Museums and libraries

I mentioned in my last post that I had a very enjoyable holiday on Jersey over Easter. As I have explained before, this is not intended to be a personal blog so I will not be showing off my holiday snaps. I suppose I should be offering a description of the public library service on the island but I am afraid that I did not have the time (nor the inclination I must say) to visit libraries while I was there. I did however visit some of the tourist attraction on the island - La Houge Bie neolithic tomb, Mount Orgueil Castle and the Jersey War Tunnels. These are all magnificent sites but I was impressed by the quality of the presentation and interpretation of all three.

I am an inveterate visitor of historic and pre-historic sites and with a degree in archaeology I am happy with "serious" and technical guidebooks but I recognise that sites and museums need to be accessible to a wider public and to be family-friendly. These sites have struck a very good balance. They provide excellent displays and interpretation with plenty of detail while at the same time being interesting, fun and at times deeply moving experiences. (The coverage of Jersey's occupation by the Nazis during World War Two and the lives of the slave workers used to construct the defences are handled with sensitivity).

Not all museums manage to get this balance right. I don't like to use the term "dumbing-down" but sometimes the desire to make a place accessible to children means that a lot of detail can be lost. I'm afraid I feel this about the Sheffield City Museum at Weston Park. Now don't get me wrong. I think that they have done a wonderful job with the refurbishment and it is an interesting place to visit for adults and children but something has been lost. Take the Benty Grange Anglo-Saxon helmet. In the old museum this was presented in a very traditional way - a glass case in a room about archaeology which contained the helmet and a modern reconstruction and some information cards about Anglo-Saxon warriors and the link with the poem Beowulf which describes similar headgear. Today it is presented as an example of how people dressed in olden days with very little contextual information.

I have always thought that there should be a closer link between museums and libraries. Seeing the items on display creates interest and then you should be able to find information and borrow books to give you a greater understanding. It probably wouldn't work to have a branch library co-located with the museum but at the very least there should be on-line access to the library catalogue or a hot-line to the library so that people can find and reserve books.

A modern approach to this was discussed at the Museums and the Web conference in San Francisco recently. (I picked this up from Brian Ferry's UK Web Focus blog which I have recently added to my Bloglines feeder). A paper Bookmarking in Museums: extending the museum experience beyond the visit looked at various Web 2.0 approaches by which museum visitors can record their visit and receive further information. The paper concluded that these high-tech approaches were not always as successful as hoped but the idea that a visit to a museum or site is not just a one-off event but can be the start of further investigation is an important one. Museums should ensure that visitors leave with more than the obligatory souvenir pencil eraser and postcards. They should, if they want, have a list of relevant references or at least a link to somewhere that they can follow up their interest.

Friday, 13 April 2007

Forthcoming events

I've just got back from a very good Easter break in Jersey and it's hard to get my mind back into work gear.

Here is a review of forthcoming SINTO CPD events.

Social computing (22nd May) A repeat of the event run in February, this will look at wikis, blogs and other Library 2.0 developments.

The Deaf Community: awareness raising for librarians. (6th June). Not a group with disabilities but a community with its own distinct culture. This event will increase understanding and confidence of librarians working with deaf people.

Supervisory skills (12th June) Aimed at library staff who have recently gained responsibility for a team, either through promotion or as a result of restructuring. How to get the best out of others and yourself.

Skills for the future - the SINTO members' day (19th June). This free event for SINTO members will look at the skills that library & information staff will need in the future.

Assertiveness skills (27th June). Understanding and developing assertive behaviour in the workplace: how to be, not passive..., not agressive..., but assertive.

For more information about these events go to the SINTO web site.

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Library blogs

Yesterday I posted a comment to a Guest post by Roddy MacLeod on the UK Web Focus blog about UK Library Blogs - what do we think we are doing? I explained briefly what I think I am doing with the SINTO blog. Roddy's post and the other comments make some interesting points about blogs and what they are achieving with the emphasis on academic library blogs. Most library blogs have been set up for the same reason as this blog - the technology is there and it seems to have a potential for marketing the service so why not suck it and see! Blogs are not the whole answer to the problem of how we keep our users informed of what we have to offer but they are part of a package of solutions.

The point was made that many students (and I suspect many librarians) are not familiar with RSS as a way of keeping track of a number of blogs. This was covered in our Social Computing course and will be covered again when this course is run again in May. I have recently subscribed to Bloglines for my RSS feeds and the concept works. I can quickly pick up on who is saying what in my field of interest. For more details look at the social computing page mentioned above.

Libraries change lives

Following on from my posting about libraries on You Tube here is news of an initiative from CILIP which I picked up from the Facet Publishing blog.

All the videos of the 2007 Libraries Change Lives finalists are now up on their dedicated Myspace page. I hope you enjoy them and they provide a clearer insight into these fantastic projects.For some reason I found that the clips were very slow to download but they are well worth waiting for.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

The Da Vinci Code

The Da Vinci Code. I have been fascinated by the on-going legal dispute surrounding Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code and the issues that it has thrown up. Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, two of the three authors of The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, took Dan Brown to court accusing him of breach of copyright. Their book, published in 1982 as a work of non-fiction, claimed to show that Jesus and Mary Magdalene married and had a child whose descendents founded the Merovingian dynasty and continues today, with a secret society (the Priory of Sion) protecting their heirs against conspiracies enacted by the Church.

I am probably in a minority in that I have not read The Da Vinci Code (DVC) or seen the film (even though it contains the famous line "I've got to get to a library. Fast" which is a wonderful example of product placement by CILIP) while I did read Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (HBHG) when it was published in paperback. I am interested in Arthurian legends and one theme of HBHG was that the Holy Grail (san graal) is really the true bloodline of Jesus (sang real). I enjoyed the book at the time but did not think it was to be taken seriously.

In 2004 Dan Brown published The DaVinci Code, a work of fiction based around the same idea. Baigent and Leigh accused Brown of breach of copyright, claiming that the central framework of their book had been stolen by Brown. There was no doubt that Brown had used HBHG as a source, one of the fictional characters in DVC is Leigh Teabing which is made up from the names of the two authors (Teabing is an anagram of Baigeant). However the case revolved around an interpretation of copyright, had Brown copied a substantial part of HBHG? Baigeant and Leigh did not claim that Brown had copied the actual text of their book and inserted it into DVC. Instead they claimed that Brown had copied the architecture or structure of the work - that he had taken the essence of their book and presented it as his own work.

In his ruling against Baigent and Leigh the judge, Sir Peter Smith, pointed out that facts and ideas in themselves can not be copyrighted, only the expression of those facts is protected. He did not rule out the concept that a "central theme" could receive copyright protection but decided that the two authors had not proved their assertion that Brown had copied this. Sir Peter took the opportunity when publishing his ruling to include his own coded message which referred to Admiral Jackie Fisher and the building of the Dreadnought battleship in 1906.

Baigent and Leigh appealed against this ruling but in March this year the Appeal Court ruled against them. One of the judges stated that

“It [copyright] does not, however, extend to clothing information, facts, ideas, theories and themes with exclusive property rights, so as to enable the claimants to monopolise historical research or knowledge and prevent the legitimate use of historical and biographical material, theories propounded, general arguments deployed or general hypotheses suggested (whether they are sound or not) or general themes written about.”

What does this mean for librarians? One key aspect of this case was that HBHG claimed to be a work of non-fiction. If they had presented it as a work of fiction they would have had a stronger case for claiming that Brown had plagiarised their idea. As copyright expert Graham Cornish puts it "A fact is a fact and cannot be protected as such. However, the way in which information about facts is presented is protected." Graham uses an example of train times which are facts and the layout of a timetable which is protected. It is more complicated when a researcher develops a theory which not only presents single facts but puts these into an overall framework which increases our understanding of something. However, the Appeal Court ruling makes it clear that even this is a fact and the researcher cannot claim exclusive rights.

The concept of plagiarism is wider than copyright and, I think I am right in saying, is not dealt with by the law in the same way. I have covered this in my report of the recent presentation by the JISC Plagiarism Advisory Service on the SINTO wiki. If a university student copies the work of another and presents it as their own then they may be in breach of copyright but they are also in breach of the institutions own rules. If an author is shown to have plagiarised another work this may affects their reputation and could result in the cancellation of their contract with their publisher. Fiction also has different rules. If you are writing an academic paper and mention that Jesus and Mary Magdalene married and had children then you should provide a citation for this. In a work of fiction authors are not expected to insert citations or footnotes in the text but should provide an acknowledgement of their sources. A recent case involved Ian McEwan who was accused of copying extracts from the diary of a nurse in World War II in his novel Atonement. McEwan has defended himself strongly against these accusations, arguing that novelists have to do research and at times the words of real people do need to be included in fictional accounts.

As librarians we often take pride in the fact that writers and researchers rely on us to do the research that results in new discoveries or works of imagination. Stef Penney's prize-winning novel The Tenderness of Wolves researched in the British Library is an example. We do need to be aware of issues around copyright and plagiarism and to be able to help students, researchers and writers to navigate around the problems.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Business Information Newsletter

I have just circulated the latest issue of the SINTO Business Information Newsletter to subscribers. This electronic newsletter was started in January 2004 to provide a digest of sources of business information for information workers in small businesses which did not have their own information service. In fact it has proved to be of value to librarians providing business information services in a wide range of library and information services.
Back issue of the newsletter can be found on the SINTO website. It is free to SINTO members or you can subscribe as a non-member for £43 pa. If you would like to be added to the mailing list please contact me.

Looked-after children

According to the latest Government figures there are 1650 children looked after by the four South Yorkshire local authorities and 6370 in Yorkshire & Humber as a whole. This is neither a particularly large (about 5.7% of the age group) nor a cohesive group but it is one than libraries should focus on as part of their social inclusion policies. On the 19th April SINTO is running a seminar with John Vincent and Anne Harding on supporting looked-after children.

This practical course for library and other staff will examine the needs of looked- after children and young people and their carers, and explore strategies for supporting their reading. The objectives are:

· to provide a greater understanding of looked-after children and young people
· to extend awareness of their reading and information needs
· to identify barriers to library use, and to begin to find ways of dismantling these
· to examine strategies for promoting reading effectively
· to consider appropriate resources and methods for exploiting them
· to share good policy and practice and identify ways to develop and sustain them

Background information on looked-after children can be found on the website of The Network . Here you will also find links to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation's Right-to-read project which was designed to get children in care excited about books.

There are still some places left on this course. If you are interested in attending contact Gilly Pearce in the SINTO office on 0114 225 5740.