Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Laura Tolley

The following message is from Sheffield Hallam University.

It is with great sadness that I write to inform you that Laura Tolley, Senior Information Adviser (Acquisitions), died on Friday 25 April. We last saw her at work only a week or so before this date, so there is a great sense of shock amongst those of us who worked closely with her. Laura was a long serving member of staff who will be known to many, both in LITS and across the University. Our deep sympathy goes to her family and especially to Paul and the children.
Laura's funeral will take place on Friday, 2nd May at 2.30pm at Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium, Periwood Lane, Sheffield S8 0HN.
The family have requested no flowers but have asked that any donations in Laura's name should be made to Nightingale House Hospice in Wrexham.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Local librarians in the news

The recent Education Guardian supplement Libraries Unleashed contained a couple of references to local LIS celebrities! In the item Information alert Wendy Wallace introduces Sheila Webber as follows:

"In real life, Sheila Webber is a senior lecturer in information studies at Sheffield University. In Second Life, she is Sheila Yoshikawa, blue-haired babe and cultivator of a Japanese garden - Webber's avatar in the online virtual world populated by millions. 'I see her as a digital extension of me. I do some teaching, some professional networking and some shopping. I have a huge wardrobe and I'm much thinner.'"

Wendy interviews Sheila about Dr Ian Rowlands report on the 'Google generation'. The report, Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future, found users "power-browsing" or skimming material, using "horizontal" (shallow) research. Most spent only a few minutes looking at academic journal articles and few returned to them. "It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense," said the report authors. Dr Rowlands is one of the key-note speakers at the SINTO Members' Day on June 12th.

"Students of all ages need to learn to make independent assessments of the quality of material by looking at the authors' experience, funders, use of sources, and where published. 'They have to be taught these skills explicitly,' says Sheila Webber. 'Some academics recognise its importance but don't see it as their job to teach it. University librarians do see it as their responsibility - but there aren't enough of them to do it. Academics must join in.'"

Elsewhere in the supplement Martin Lewis, director of library services at the University of Sheffield is interviewed about how technology has changed his role. "Users can carry out more routine transactions themselves while we provide more time offering learning support to students. As teachers of information literacy, we can give students critical appraisal skills so they can use the internet."

Monday, 21 April 2008

SINTO Foundation Agreement

From left to right. Ann Betterton (Sheffield Hallam University), Janice Maskort (Sheffield Libraries, Archives and Information) and Martin Lewis (University of Sheffield).

This photograph shows the signing of the SINTO Foundation agreement last week. This might strike you as odd as SINTO has existed since 1932!

In fact, SINTO in its present form, as a forum for strategic planning and partnership (rather than an inter-library loan organisation), was established in 1993 by Sheffield Public Libraries, the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University. The three partners agreed on how the new organisation would operate but for various reasons a formal foundation agreement was not signed. Over the next few years several attempts were made to draft an agreement but these all fell through.

A few years ago this caused a particular problem for SINTO when Sheffield City Council announced that it would be absorbing the funds held for SINTO by the City Council in order to cover a deficit in the city's finances. The lack of an agreed foundation document meant that the status of SINTO was uncertain. When this particular problem was resolved it was decided that a foundation agreement was essential and this was signed at the SINTO Executive meeting on the 15th April 2008.

The signing of the agreement should have little impact on SINTO members. We will continue to operate as we have been doing in the past. But it is worth asking, if SINTO did not exist would we want to invent it? The principles that SINTO stands for - partnership, co-operation, information planning - are important and as valid today as they were in 1993 or 1932. As it says in the agreement, SINTO was established "as a means of achieving more effective and efficient library services and thus contribute to the economic, educational and social infrastructure of Sheffield, South Yorkshire and the surrounding area."

Friday, 11 April 2008


The 2008-9 edition of the SINTO Members' Directories are now being distributed to all SINTO member organisations. The Directories are distributed in electronic format which of course means that an area the size of Wales in the Amazon rain forest will not now have to be chopped down to produce paper, while the saving in CO2 emissions from the fleet of lorries that would otherwise be needed to deliver them will preserve the polar ice caps and save thousands of polar bears and penguins - not to mention those gorgeous baby seal pups.

However, the Green benefits of the SINTO Directories don't just stop there, oh no! Using the directories opens up a whole world of resource sharing which is essential to a sustainable lifestyle.

The General Networking directory lists all SINTO members, including many separate site libraries, and provides all the contact details you need. Exactly how you make use of this is up to you but the possibilities are endless. The green mantra is "think globally, act locally" and the directory helps you to do this. There are many ways in which you can improve your library services and save resources by working in partnership. A small example is the list of Library Management Systems used by SINTO libraries. If you want to see how a particular system works you can visit a local library - and use public transport as well!

The Inter Library Loan Scheme directory takes this even further. Here is all the information you need to contact those libraries that take part in the SINTO ILL scheme. Again, sourcing things locally should be a central theme of your environmental policy (you do have one, don't you!).

And don't forget that SINTO training events are all run locally - and we serve Fairtrade coffee!

All this Green stuff does get confusing but just remember that using SINTO will save all those polar bears in the Amazon rain forest.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

University of Sheffield Information Commons on YouTube

Don't miss Martin's comments on my posting about the Leicester University Toilets! He draws attention to a pop video on YouTube that was shot inside the Information Commons.. The correct link to the video is here.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Business Information in Yorkshire

There have been some significant changes in the provision of business information in the Yorkshire region.

As from April 2008 the Business Link services in the Yorkshire and Humberside area have been delivered by a new provider. Y&H IDB has been selected by Yorkshire Forward as the contractor for the new regional Business Link. Y&H IDB has been set up by Examplas (which runs the east of England Business Link) and Reed in Partnership (which delivers New Deal and Train to Gain programmes in Yorkshire.

The main change is that the four regional Business Links have been replaced by the single Business Link Yorkshire based in Barnsley. It offers a "fast, friendly and practical business information from our experienced team of Information Advisers". The range of business information on offer is vast, backed by a broad network of library and technological resources. Information Adviser will help new start ups or established companies obtain the most appropriate package of support.

At the same time the South Yorkshire Euro Information Service has closed and been replaced by the new Enterprise Europe Yorkshire based in Bradford. Enterprise Europe Yorkshire is part of a Europe wide network with over 500 partners. Supported by the European Commission and Yorkshire Forward, they provide a comprehensive enquiry service on EU related matters for local businesses.

The development of these Yorkshire wide agencies for business information highlights the issues raised by SINTO in the Libraries are Good for Business project. This showed the difficulty of providing a comprehensive business information service for Yorkshire through 15 separate public library authorities. Despite their being no central planning or co-ordination, a structure has emerged with two libraries (Leeds and Sheffield) providing a regional service, others providing a specialised local service and a few which do not attempt to duplicate provision but refer specialist enquiries to other sources.

The project also demonstrated the difficulty of co-operation between Business Link and the public libraries with a lack of a strategic approach to co-operation and partnership working. Business Links have seldom regarded public library business information services as significant - but while Business Links serve the needs of businesses, business information is important to a much wider audience including consumers, trade unionists and business students. Public libraries also act as an access point for small businesses, start-ups and pre-start-ups. It would be nice to think that the development of a single Business Link would make dialogue and partnership easier, but with the demise of MLA Yorkshire there is no longer a single voice for libraries in the region.

One recommendation in Libraries are Good for Business was that public libraries (through the Society of Chief Librarians Yorkshire) and Yorkshire Forward should develop their role in the Better Deal for Business framework beginning with libraries signing up to this framework. SCL Yorkshire was not able to take this basic step and in most authorities business information services are being cut back. The contrast between a single Business Link and EIC on the one hand and a fractured public library provision on the other is stark and the profession seems unable to respond, as it has done in the past, by working together.

SINTO, meanwhile, produces a directory of business information services in Yorkshire to enable resource sharing, networking and referral; and runs a business information group. for more information contact the SINTO office.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Leicester University Library Toilets

This picture is taken from the Facebook group Leicester University Library Toilets Appreciation Society ( here but you have to be registered with Facebook).
The Group was set up to celebrate the toilets in the new David Wilson university library. It probably only confirms suspicions that Facebook (and Social Computing in general) is about trivia - but the library itself does have a Facebook page. As far as I know the University of Sheffield Information Commons isn't on Facebook. Are they missing out on a marketing opportunity or just being sensible?

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Interview with Roy Clare, MLA

On Wednesday I had a telephone interview with Roy Clare, Chief Executive of MLA, to explore the implications of the restructuring of MLA and the probable demise of MLA Yorkshire.

Roy began by stating that everything that he was doing was customer focused and that his concern was with the users and audiences, not with the structures. He said that there was a need to do more joining up, not only between libraries, museums and archives but between the MLA, the Arts Council and the Sport England. There must be an end to compartmentalism between these different Government bodies.

A growing trend in Government policy was the increasing importance of local government and the role of regional non-departmental public bodies. These bodies are competing with each other for the ear of local authorities and regional development agencies, and there needed to be a fundamental change in how things were done. It was the intention to have more collaboration and a Director of Programme in each region.

Roy pointed out that the old MLA structure had been complex and that the available funding had to be split into a number of separate pots to support the regional MLAs. However, he insisted that MLA is not walking away from the regions and that it will maintain a strong leadership through three areas:

  1. A focus on connecting with local authorities. This will include ensuring that culture is reflected in all Local Area Agreements.

  2. Connecting with the Regional Development Agencies. Working jointly with other agencies MLA will promote the core role of culture, art and sport for regional regeneration and development.

  3. Promoting learning society capacity in the regions. The concept of the learning society for promoting learning and skills development was central to regional development and the new MLA will be working on this.

Roy explained how MLA would operate in the regions. A Regional Transition Working Group has been set up which will be led by Sam Bestwick of MLA East Midlands to oversee the transition and Roy did not want to speculate on the final structure. Roy expects to have high calibre people in the regions. They would not operate autonomously but would consult with an advisory group that would work with other non-departmental public bodies. The reduction in the overall MLA headcount would mean that more funding would be available in the future for organisations to bid for to support projects.

I asked Roy if the MLA would be looking to work with consortia of libraries, museums and archives in each region. He said that the Yorkshire Regional Museums Hub was a good model of the type of organisation that was needed and that he was keen to encourage closer collaboration within and across domains. The staff of the new MLA would not be domain specialists and libraries, museums and archives should work together. Roy identified two upcoming events; the new comprehensive spending review and the next general election. For both of these it was essential that culture was high on the agenda and that we all had to stand together to achieve this.

Finally Roy said that we owe a great debt to Annie Mauger, John Tarrant and all the staff of MLA Yorkshire for their work. The architecture has now changed and bodies like MLA need to change because of this.

Roy Claire has offered an explanation and justification of the changes at MLA. Few will disagree with his message that the cultural sector as a whole needs to get its act together and promote itself as a force for regional regeneration. This will require people of exceptionally high calibre who can lobby the decision makers. They will need to understand the particular characteristics and needs of each domain and at the same time be able to meld this into a vision of what we can offer the population of our region. His support for regional consortia as partners in this process is to be welcomed and it is significant that he has highlighted the Yorkshire Hubs from the museums domain as a model of good practice.

What is missing in Yorkshire is any framework for libraries to work together and with other domains. Clearly the Yorkshire Hubs model needs to be replicated for the libraries domain. The role of MLA Yorkshire was limited but it did achieve some things. The Libraries are Good for Business project which looked at business information provision across the region is a good example. This research could only have been commissioned by a regional body and it demonstrated the difficulties of delivering a regional service through separate library services. MLAY did a good job of promoting the value of libraries with Yorkshire Forward, but at the end of the day we were unable to offer the region an integrated business information service or even a robust model for co-operation at a regional level. (This example also shows that although libraries and culture overlap there is not an exact fit). Roy sees MLA working with the Arts Council and Sport England to promote our role with the regional development agencies but the RDAs will be asking how we can deliver a co-ordinated service and that will prove difficult without a regional framework.