For those of you who didn't make it to the CPD25 conference last month, Samantha Halford, one of the organisers, has sent round a link to her blog to everyone who went where she's compiled some of the presentations and a list of useful websites etc. as well as some people you might want to follow at twitter for more library related information:

Information Studies at City University

On November 9th, a number of London based trainees made our way over to City University for their Information Science open evening. After a thought-provoking video demonstrating the limitless nature of information in the 21st century, we were given a presentation by Lyn Robinson, director of the Information Studies programmes taught at City:

Information Science
Library Science
Information Management in the Cultural Sector

The presentation was incredibly informative, discussing those qualities unique to the course at City, the vast array of graduate destinations, funding (or lack of) and the differences between the three courses offered via the Information Studies programme.

Many trainees who want to stay on in London end up choosing between the ‘traditional’ UCL course and the ‘technological’ City course, but, as well a focus on advancements in information technology, Lyn stressed the importance of recognising that the course at City is very academic in nature and that much of what is taught has a strong theoretical focus. For me, this was a major selling point for the course but for those with less interest in the theoretical or philosophical aspects of information science, this might not be such a great choice!

Many of us were wondering what the differences were between the Information Science course and the Library Science course and as it turns out, the answer is very little, but I will try to differentiate between them:
The Library Science course would be better targeted to those who wish to end up working with specific collections aimed at a specific audience for example the collections available at the Institute of Historical Research, the Warburg Institute or the Institute of Classical Studies. It is perhaps geared to those with a stronger academic subject focus, possibly those that wish to become subject librarians.

The Information Science course deals with, but is not confined to, libraries with a more vocational emphasis, such as law libraries, business libraries, media libraries etc. many of which could be in the private sector. The optional modules for Information Science seem to place slightly heavier weighting on digital solutions, though this is strong for both courses.
The Information Management in the Cultural Sector course runs slightly differently as you become a student of both the LIS department and the CPM (Cultural Policy Management) department. This is for those wishing to enter librarianship within the cultural sphere i.e. libraries at places such as the V&A, museum libraries, gallery libraries etc. with a heritage/arts focus. There was no representative for the CPM department so it was hard to know exactly what experience they expect regarding the heritage/arts industry, and Lyn mentioned that those with a limited background in these areas might struggle with some of the content but again, this was quite vague.

For those wishing to go into rare books, manuscript studies etc. definitely look at other courses. Technological competency is an absolute must, and the course challenges the whole notion of the library as a physical collection within a traditional space.

Overall, the course sounded very interesting and both members of the LIS department that were present were very knowledgeable and helpful. On a less upbeat note, there was uncertainty as to whether there was any AHRC funding for 2012 entry available, and (although this is still uncertain) fees are likely to be £6,000 or above. City also does not offer placements as part of the course, though there are occasionally possibilities for volunteering. Apart from a couple of optional modules where there is an exam, all assessment is based on written assignments.

You can follow the current intake on twitter at #iss1112 or Lyn Robinson @lynrobinson

Hannah (IHR)

Istituto Marangoni library

A small group of the trainees visited the library at the Istituto Marangoni, the international Fashion and Design School, at its London campus on Tuesday 8 November. We were met by Katherine Rose who took us through to the building, past groups of trendy-looking people and rotating red sofas, to the library. The library itself is just one narrow room with huge windows on one side looking out onto the street and shelves filled with bright, shiny books and magazines on the other. Katherine is the only librarian at the London campus (there are two other campuses of the Istituto Marangoni in Milan and Paris) and her attention was needed by some students as soon as we arrived, while the trainees had a browse around the shelves.

When we sat down to talk, Katherine explained the London campus had been there for six years and until she arrived in Summer 2010 there was no librarian, no collection development plan, no classification system and no thought about the library at all. In the past few years the Istituto’s programmes have been validated by Manchester Metropolitan University and one of the conditions for validation was that the library be brought up to standard.

Katherine talked us through her first year at the library, from choosing and implementing a library management system, writing and updating the collection development plan, cataloguing and classifying the entire collection from scratch and trying to persuade students unused to the idea to use the catalogue. It was interesting to hear from a solo librarian and there are definite advantages and disadvantages to working alone in a library. The best part appeared to be having the opportunity to try your hand at every element of librarianship; however the downside was that Katherine rarely left the library for more than ten minutes each day and could never attend external training or personal development events. She did talk about the online networking that a lot of solo librarians take part in and that most of her contact with other people in the profession was through email, forums or blogging.

It was evident from the times that Katherine had to go and help students that she clearly knew her readership and collections extremely well, in total there were approximately 1,400 books and a large magazine collection. The large fashion and history of fashion collection is supplemented by books on history of art, architecture, interior design, graphic design, marketing and fashion business. Katherine also spoke about the three specialist e-resources that she had chosen to invest part of the budget in. The library is currently reference only for the 600 or so undergraduate students but as the institute now aims to validate its postgraduate courses, the library must make a percentage of its collection available for loan which means another large project for Katherine in the near future.

Katherine finished her MA in Library and Information Studies from UCL in 2010, so we took the opportunity to pick her brain about courses and the application procedure. It was incredibly helpful to have her and Anna – the other Courtauld graduate trainee and a recent graduate of the City course – there to give us advice about those particular Library and Information Science courses. Katherine spoke about her experiences at UCL and which modules she particularly enjoyed.

Our visit to the Istituto Marangoni ended with biscuits and a look around the workrooms and studio of the fashion school. As all of the trainees are currently working in small to medium sized libraries, it was incredibly interesting visit: the size of the collection, the subject matter covered and the recent history of the library was completely different to what we were used to. It was also insightful to hear from a new professional working as a solo librarian and was a thought-provoking way to start our series of visits.

Jen (Courtauld Institute of Art)

The Women's Library

On Tuesday, November 1st, some of the trainees attended a talk on the history of the Women’s Library, part of an ongoing series of seminars run jointly by the Institute of Historical Research and the Institute of English studies, both part of the School of Advanced Studies in the Senate House.

The talk was given by Dr. Jane Grant of the Centre for Institutional Studies, University of East London, and was held at the library itself, in Aldgate. The library is a fantastic purpose-built space, situated in a former wash house, and served as an excellent location to discuss the unique challenges faced by independent library collections over time and to hear about the tumultuous history of the Women’s Library. Dr. Grant gave an interesting and amusing description of the history of the library, which was initially established in 1926, as the Library of the London Society for Women's Service, the successor of the Society for Women’s Suffrage, later the Fawcett Society, which ran the library until 1977. Today, the library is part of London Metropolitan University. The collection of books, archives and artefacts focuses on the experiences of women and the women’s movement, with particularly strong collections on the British women’s suffrage movement.

We started the evening with a tour by one of the librarians, who explained the nature of the collection and the challenges of selecting and cataloguing material with a small staff, as well as answering any questions the audience had about the collection. She also highlighted the concerns the library has in making sure they don’t ‘step on the toes’ of other libraries in terms of their acquisitions. The catalogue, and different methods for searching their very varied collection, were also explained and demonstrated. We were then able to have a look around, not just at the books on the shelves (though they were enticing enough!), but at some of their vault materials, including the 1902 minutes of the Society for Women’s Service and a collection of 1980s feminist postcards. After this, all moved to the cafĂ© to listen to Dr. Grant’s talk.

Detailing the evolution of the library from a few shelves of books in a London pub to its current location in Aldgate, Dr. Grant demonstrated some of the difficulties that such a unique and important independent collection can have, particularly in gaining funding and support, and the importance of volunteers in keeping the Library up and running. There was also discussion of the Library’s current status as a branch of London Met, a partner selected because of its willingness to keep the collection intact, and give it a purpose-built home, instead of dispersing it and rejecting duplicates, as some other potential university partners had suggested. Dr Grant also illustrated the struggles faced by the Women’s Library during the Blitz, when its Marsham Street building in Westminster was severely damaged, though thankfully leaving most of the collection itself intact. During the following discussion, a representative from the Feminist Library commented on this transition, speaking about her own library’s difficulties in finding a suitable partner in higher education, especially in the current climate. The discussion then broadened out to the importance of special independent collections, and the vital importance of ensuring that they are used, promoted and preserved.

Altogether, a thought-provoking and fascinating event, giving insight into a previously unconsidered element of libraries. The story of the Women’s Library is an inspiring example of what can be achieved when collective belief in a cause is able to triumph even in seemingly dire circumstances.

Next stop, the Feminist Library!

Hannah (ICS) and Hannah (IHR)