A very useful tool if you want to get into website creation


For most of us creating a website is entering the great unknown... I have recently been shown a very useful (and free) tool to get an idea of the code and structure behind websites. It only works in Firefox web browser (instead of internet explorer which we probably all use), so you would have to download that first (http://www.mozilla-europe.org/en/firefox/).

The tool is called firebug - just download it: http://getfirebug.com/ , install it and it will automatically work in firefox.

Just open any website. There's a little bug in the lower right hand corner of the browser. If you click on it, it shows you the code, the stylesheet and the layout of the website you are currently looking at. If you click on the html code part you are interested in, the part of website created by this gets even highlighted...

CPD 25 'The Future of Librarians'

Hi All,

This looks like it will be a very interesting day for anyone considering careers in academic libraries. I am hoping to attend and will of course try to blog about it afterwards!

I don't seem to be able to insert the URL here, but it is http://www.cpd25.ac.uk/forthcomingevents

National Archives Visit

A sunny Monday afternoon in February found the London Library Trainees visiting Britain’s National Archives, in the wonderfully suburban setting of Kew. A short walk down leafy streets brings visitors, rather abruptly, to the expansive National Archives.

The National Archives is a government department and serves as the official archive of the UK government. It stores and manages 900 years worth of records and takes the lead on information management policy, ensuring that today’s data is available for tomorrow’s researchers.

Helen Pye-Smith, Head Librarian of the Archive’s Library was our guide around the public areas of the archives. Helen explained the services available to visitors and the procedure for requesting and receiving archive material. Many of the trainees were surprised at the relaxed and informal atmosphere, which seemed to foster a sense of trust between staff and researchers.

We also received an overview of the kinds of materials collected by the archive. The archive is primarily used by those researching family history along with professional genealogists and historians. Census records are particularly popular and when first released often require staff to make special preparations in order to cope with the high demand for access. For the family history researcher the archives provide a wealth of electronic resources for free, which commercial genealogy websites often charge for.

The Library has been incorporated into the reading room and visitors are welcome to use the library for reference, borrowing is not permitted. The library mainly collects historical texts. Though the library is relatively large it is run by a small number of staff. As well as maintaining the library and its services, staff are also encouraged to take part in projects, often with a significant historical research element.

There is also a museum, which we didn’t get time to visit, mainly due to the absolute necessity to sample the cafe’s coffee and cake and to catch up on trainee news. With past exhibitions on topics ranging from alcohol to pirates, I think it would definitely warrant a return trip.

Visit to the Ministry of Justice

Visit to the Ministry of Justice Library on 17th March

This was an opportunity to find our more about the role of librarians within the government service. There are some 600 librarians employed across government doing a wide variety of jobs. Ranging from more traditional library work to working with information databases, research and record management roles. The size of government libraries also varies a lot from small libraries working for government agencies with a single librarian, to larger libraries within ministries like health, education and justice.

The Ministry of Justice library is the result of a merger of two libraries in March 2007– the former Ministry of Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor’s Office and the part of the Home Office library that related to the divisions which became part of the Ministry of Justice. Rachel Robbins, the Customer Services Librarian and her colleagues Kathy and Jason, who showed us around and answered our questions formerly worked for the Home Office. At the point that they were scheduled to leave the Home Office, they had no office or library shelves for their material. They managed to secure temporary space for themselves and their library (still in crates) but in different places. At one point it took 10 minutes to find and collect a book and deliver it. During this period they were still able to maintain a service and received a letter of thanks from the Minister.

The two libraries are still not integrated. They don’t have an integrated library management system, although they are preparing a specification for one to send out to tender. They have two catalogue systems and only part of their catalogue is online through the government intranet.

One of the challenges for government librarians is to make sure that the people requesting their services are in fact their customers. For example prison inspectors and psychologists are customers, but not prison governors and officers who have their own library service. These two libraries are unlikely to merge because there is a potential for a conflict of interest. This is an issue that applies to other potential mergers of government libraries. Because of changes in responsibilities arising out of the machinery of government, both the issue of who your customers are and providing service for them is something they need to be constantly aware of.

A lot of their queries are sent by email and they are often asked to do research for customers. Each librarian we spoke to said that they found this aspect was a particularly interesting part of their job. One could sometimes hear their Minister responding to a question or read a government statement and know that some or all was based on their research.

Awareness of their customer’s needs and the nature of their customers work is an important consideration and from time to time visits to meet customers are arranged.

The enthusiasm for the work they were doing, the feeling that their work made an important contribution to the service provided by their ministry, and the positive way in which they responded to what seems like regular change arising out of the machinery of government were responses we received from all the librarians that we met on our visit.

Visit to the Institute of Historical Research Library

On 10 March 2009, we visited the library at the Institute of Historical Research in Senate House. We met in the 'Germany Room', where the Institute's librarian, Robert Lyons, gave us a very informative talk about the scope of the library and the services that it offers to its readers.

Founded in 1921, the library contains a large collection of printed primary sources for the medieval and modern history of Britain and Western Europe and their former colonies. The materials are for reference only, and are not loaned out. The library, for the most part, is open access and does not seek to build up special collections. Also, because its focus is on primary sources, its readers are mainly postgraduate students, researchers and academic staff.

A really interesting feature of the library is that its rooms not only house the collection itself, but also act as venues for seminars.

After the introductory talk, Micol showed us around the library so that we could see the great variety of the collection. It not only holds books and periodicals, but also microfiches and copies of past University of London theses in history. Where possible, the materials are grouped according to country/ geographical area. (There are other possible ways of organising them, e.g. by subject area such as women's history, but it seems to work best to have them arranged geographically).

After the tour, we met up in the Germany Room again, where Robert Lyons spoke to us about the issues which the library has faced when considering how to re-design its space effectively. Any plans need to take into account the dual purpose of the library (the home for the collection, as well as a venue for seminars), the needs and views of its readers, and the various requirements set out by legislation such as the Disability Discrimination Act.

At the end of the visit, we were treated to a coffee in the Institute's Common Room. All in all, it was a very interesting and informative visit and it gave us an insight into some of the challenges faced when organising collections and planning library spaces.

CPD25 visit to the Wiener Library

Luckily I got a last minute place on that visit because the history of that Library is just simply asthonishing. It's called the Wiener Library because of one of its main founders, Dr Alfred Wiener. He was a German jew who worked for a jewish community called the "Zentralverein". After reading Hitler's "Mein Kampf" he realized that this man could become dangerous and hence started to collect material on the Nazis in the late 20's. Their plan was to gather as much information as possible to then use it to fight the Nazis. In 1933 Alfred Wiener and the Zentralverein left Germany for Amsterdam where they continued their work - by now they were the Jewish Central Information Office. They were continuously trying to find out what was going on and in 1938, after the "Reichskristallnacht", they started gathering eye witness accounts which still provide invaluable information of what happened during those progroms. They kept writing regular reports to inform Jewish communities all over the world. In summer 1939 they felt that Amsterdam was too close to Germany so they moved the whole collection to London where it was financed by the British Governmenment after the war broke out - they had very important information on the Germans. After the war they lost government funding and therefore had to reinvent themselves as a library. But the money problems lasted and finally, in the 1980's, about 80% of the collection had to be given to Tel Aviv, where there still is a second Wiener Library. Luckily there was a complete list of what the library used to hold and a bookseller bought all the many books on the second hand bookmarket to then sell this collection to some university. But as nobody wanted it the Wiener Library was lucky enough to gather enough money to buy that collection and sort of return to full size once more. Since then money has always been an issue but they received several grants so they were able to microfilm/digitise quite a lot of their material.
The collection focuses on the Nazis and the Holocaust, its causes and effects. They've also got a lot of material on Exile studies, German Jewish History and Holocaust denial. They have a huge press archive, sorted by subject, which they are currently microfilming - not digitising, because of copyright: digitising press material means republishing. Having so much material on the Nazis is on one hand of great academic value, on the other they have to be careful not to attract "wrong" people. Nevertheless they are generally open to the public.
They are only 10 people of permanent staff. Luckily, they always have around 35 volounteers - either elderly people associated with the Jewish Community or German library students.

The Wiener Library is very well worth a visit, especially if you are introduced to their history and shown some of the archive material.

CPD25 to the BFI National Library

Hello- just thought I'd tell you about the cpd25 visit I went on yesterday to the BFI National Library.

The BFI (British Film Institute) Library is one of the largest collections in the world for the study of international cinema and television. It has 60,00 titles, 6,000 periodicals and 2 million cuttings on film & T.V titles and individuals. The hub of the library is its Reading Room, based on Tottenham Court Road. This is a lovely working space, although relatively small, and the library staff are particularly friendly and fun- and devoted, as they often undertake extensive research for their readers.

There is also a large closed-access basement storage facility on site, where many periodicals, magazines, books, pamphlets festival brochures are kept. These are easily accessible to the public through a fetching system. I loved going down into the basement as the staff have decorated it with amazing film posters, quotes, pictures and clippings. The people who work in the library are obviously passionate about film, although they do not all have an academic background in film studies.

Surprisingly, this is a relatively low-tech library, with only 1 internet terminal and lots of material on microfilm/fiche. However, there is a Screen Online terminal in the Reading Room, which houses a program giving access to some of the 'rarer treasures of the National (BFI)Archive.' As well as a talk from the head librarian, the Reading Room manager and a curator from the BFI archive, we also were spoken to by a Special Collections librarian, who showed us some of the rare and fantastic material the library holds. This includes around 30,000 unpublished scripts and 30,000 press books.

Overall, this library really stood out because although it deals with many typical difficult issues facing libraries today, such as lack of funding and space, it is overcoming those trials by focusing on great reader service and maintaining a devotion to the aims of their library. Well worth a look. But only if you can go down to the basement.

Archives in Köln

I don't know if this shocking incident has appeared on English news: The building of the city archives of Köln / Cologne has collapsed yesterday with probably most of the 18 kilometers of material that has been stored there destroyed. They assume that the cause for the collapse was the construction of an underground line which takes place nearby.

You can read an English article about it on Spiegel international: