Monday 25 June 2012

International librarian of mystery

On the eve of my return to Australia after 2 years in the UK I thought I would reflect on my professional time here for ALIA’s awesome Blog Every Day of June.

For my first role in the UK I went back to working in a type of library I know and love: the public library. I worked with Lancashire County Libraries, the home of the amazing Get it Loud in Libraries, for the first 10 months I was in the UK. A library in a tiny market town, where King Charles II is alleged to have spent the night in the Royal Oak pub during the English Civil War (1642-1651), called Garstang; it was the most fantastic introduction to life in North Lancashire.
In the spirit of public libraries everywhere Garstang library was a place for local people to borrow books, to meet, and to be involved in all the free activities on offer: knit and natter, baby bounce and rhyme, toddler rhyme time, reading groups and craft and chatter sessions.

Get it Loud in Libraries is an initiative run by library staff to encourage young people into libraries. If they love music and come to an event, such as Low, Warpaint, Florence and the Machine, and The Wombats, then they will come into the library to access recorded music, sheet music, books, and all that public libraries have to offer. It was always a novelty to see bands performing amongst the bookshelves and hopefully something that will catch on in public libraries the world over.

*Warpaint at Lancaster Library. They use rolling stacks to allow for a stage to be built and space for the audience*

Next up was a foray into institutional repositories, open access and metadata.
I worked at the University of Salford Library with the digital developments team as Metadata and Repository Officer. The Library was full of great people and is a really innovative service pushing boundaries wherever it can. Some really interesting services have been implemented such as RFID, the mostly un-staffed MediaCityUK and the library (There were students filming and recording all over the university building when I visited for Open Access Week 2011, on the stairs in the computer labs. They also have those cool interactive touch tables which are surely there for Pac-Man rather than work), the institutional repository USIR, with an open access mandate with the high profile backing of the VC, Martin Hall.

Working with the repository and open access really opened my eyes to a really important information tool available to the public and the academic community. The challenge of working with academic colleagues in this emerging area was also really interesting, a major part of the role was to work with research and academic staff towards developing an understanding of open access initiatives and how these could provide greater exposure of research. I was able to work with some really inspiring staff with a real passion for open access, repositories, and digital developments. My time at Salford was really influenced by their enthusiasm, expertise and friendship.

*MediaCity UK and the University of Salford campus*

My work now has a macro level perspective of higher education in the UK as I work with the membership organisation: Universities UK. As part of my role with UUK I have laid the groundwork for my successor to implement the open source information management system, Koha. As part of the process I visited a number of libraries to benchmark our service against libraries that have already implemented Koha or are part of membership organisations. It was a great way to get out and meet professional colleagues and to further develop my understanding of our profession. I would recommend actually getting out and visiting libraries and library staff, it’s a great way to benchmark services and policies and to meet other library folk.

I am soon to return to Australia and the best professional tool I am bringing home with me is the idea of professional networks, of the social media and the in-person kind.
I’m looking forward to meeting you when I’m back in the country!

Samantha Hutchinson

*Coaster art near the UUK office*

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