By Nick Heavey

Image showing 1 librarian plus 1 reference equals better access to knowledge for all with a picture of an owl

Most of us use Wikipedia every day to find out about the music of Ennio Morricone, the United States voting system or Extreme ironing (yes, extreme ironing). As much as students are dissuaded from using it, Wikipedia is one of the first places used when researching a new topic.  A surprising number of people use Wikipedia healthcare information. In fact, a US study found that a large number of medical students used Wikipedia (67%), however, 65% did not know how to correct mistakes. [citation needed] When so much misinformation has become the fabric of public discourse, the need for accurate, up to date information with high quality sources is more important than ever. And you, dear librarians and library assistants, can help.

What is 1Lib1Ref then? (Librarian murmurs with anticipation.)

It’s short for One Librarian, One Reference and asks us, librarians, across the globe to add missing references to Wikipedia. Because everyone can edit a Wikipedia article, a core strategy of Wikipedia is to ensure that all articles include reliable sources, so readers can verify the information. On the English Wikipedia alone 173,662 articles have no references. I’m sure you’re asking yourself the question: What if every librarian in the UK, all 24 thousand of them, [citation needed] added a high quality references to Wikipedia? 24 thousand citations added are by user just in the UK, twice a year. Something that would take 15 minutes for each individual (Librarian looks at calendar on wall; all events crossed out in 2021) would have an immeasurable impact on not only the quality of the largest encyclopaedia, but one of the most used sources of knowledge on planet earth.

How can I get involved? (Librarian assumes wide legged heroic stance, arms outstretched; a tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning heard.)

First you need to find an article that needs a citation. This is easily done as on the English Wikipedia over 509,480 have been tagged with [citation needed]. If you’ve a something in mind, head to that page and have a look at its current state. Does it have missing citations? Does it have a header asking for additional citations?

Screenshot from Wikipedia showing that the article needs additional citations for verification

What about the citations? (Librarian gazes ponderously into the middle distance)

Have you forgotten our old ally Library search, the sometimes buggy gateway to knowledge, lies at our finger tips 7.5 hours a day (minus lunch of course)? Through Library search we have access to some of the best quality research on earth. Whether that be databases on the history of women’s fashion or access to Nature journals. Right now, in the next 15 minutes, you can add a high-quality source to improve a Wikipedia article. Think about all the people who will be able to now locate a high quality source of information. (Librarian smiling from ear to ear, keeps smiling, ceases suddenly.)

What about humans without access to a university? You could also use the Directory of Open Access Books (DOAB) or the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), which will ensure that everyone can access the original source. For anyone new to Wikipedia watch this video on adding a reference to Wikipedia.

If you don’t have something in mind, then try using Citation Hunt. Watch this video on using citation hunt to find pages with need verification. Maybe you’d prefer to have a look at the list of articles which need tidying up. See the pages on how to participate for more suggestions.

(Librarian’s face assumes a steely resolve). Now no more questions. Immediately go to sleep and dream of a world of free and open knowledge at the point of use, which you helped to build. (Librarian exits, pursued by a crocodile.)

#1Lib1Ref: January 15th – February 5th and May 15th to June 5th.

From digital disruption to digital wellbeing: reflections from an offline window on library work

By Alice Corble

2020 has been a year of many disruptions. Last month, on the eve of another national lockdown and a nail-biting general election in the US, there was a sense of teetering on yet another precipice. At such times of uncertainty, I reach compulsively for information, which nowadays is almost exclusively digital and online, readily available at the instant swipe of a finger or click of a mouse. It was during this moment, however, that I was barred from doing so, as my home broadband connection broke down and my mobile data and coverage rapidly depleted. Four days of disconnection from the online world of information and communication ensued, filled with much panic and frustration, as well as fruitlessly long calls to Virgin Media tech support in international call centres.

Before long I had little option but to embrace the disconnection and use it as an opportunity for a different kind of focus. I estimate that at least 90% of my job coordinating and facilitating reading lists and library teaching is not possible without an internet connection – probably closer to 100% in the present remote working and learning context. After spending some time tidying up my inbox and reading through old emails and digital documents, I turned away from my screen and picked up a book.   

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What does the library smell like? Working from home vs returning to work

We asked Library staff to write about their experiences of working from home during lockdown. Lizzy shares her thoughts.

By Lizzy

There’s been a lot of discourse around “returning to the office” recently in the press and on Twitter. “OFFICES ARE COOL AND FUN AND NECESSARY” say one side. “OFFICES ARE HELLHOLES DESIGNED SOLELY TO PROP UP PRET AND TRAIN SEASON TICKETS” say the other. Of course, the more boring and nuanced and less clickbait response is to say that maybe those two statements both have elements of truth and will apply to some people and not to others.

Some people enjoy the sense of community an office can provide. Other people find they’re much more productive at home. Some people hate that their commute takes away from family time. Others relish the opportunity to have a bit of peace and quiet in their car or on the bus or train.

Personally I like working from home. I like being able to sing along to music with my feet up on the desk, answering emails with wet hair and one hand in a bag of crisps. I even like the Zoom meetings, trying to make out what books people have on their bookshelf backdrop and watching cats, dogs and kids pop up at the best, most inopportune moments. The lines between work and home blur and suddenly you’re seeing colleagues in their natural habitat, in a space that you might not normally be allowed access to – their homes. It’s revealing and it’s intimate and it can feel strange after only knowing someone in an office context for years and years.

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Listen, Learn and Connect: Mental Health Awareness Week May 2020

By Gemma Price, Lynn Perez and Lucy Oakley

In the wellbeing group for staff, we have been looking at how we can best support and inform colleagues, particularly at this time. We know how difficult the current situation continues to be for all of us, adjusting to unprecedented changes in our work and home lives.

For Mental Health Awareness Week, from the 18th to the 24th of May, we wanted to focus on resources and activities that would help support wellbeing and calmness, and also provide some positive information and ways to connect with ourselves and our surroundings. We sent out an email each day of that week, our aim for each email was for them to be accessible and helpful, no matter what everyone’s individual situation may be.

The week started off with our Music Monday email. We had such a positive response to our previous lunchtime music session that we thought it would be good to share the playlists and engage with people further. We listed several playlists created by staff, highlighting music that made them happy.

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Weetabix Trifle and beyond…

By Rose Lock

Women’s magazines. Trivial, eh? Just a collection of inconsequential articles on how to keep your man happy, patterns for knitted shorts, vile make-do-type recipes, and adverts for lipsticks and washing powder.

Well, yes, all of these things can be found in the copies of Woman’s Own, Woman’s Friend, Woman’s Realm (do you see a pattern emerging?) and Woman that we hold as part of the archives at The Keep, but to dismiss them as trivial really does this amazing slice of history a disservice. The idea of the feminine being somehow less important (as I am sorry to say has been the tendency for more time than I care to think about) gifts us archival time travellers with a view into the past that is wonderfully unguarded and true to the moment. Adverts, advice columns, recipes, short stories; none of these exists in a vacuum, they all come from the worlds women lived in, aspired to, and wished to escape from.

We can use these snippets to see through the wormhole and into the past, and catch a glimpse of the sort of woman who might make Carnival Queen…or, as I have always thought of it, Weetabix Trifle.

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We’ll meet again – or how I gambled away Vera Lynn’s autograph and ended up in a Zambian jungle with a bunch of hippies…

By Danny Millum

Normally when you tell your family / friends about what you do, unless you’re a fireman or a nurse they just zone out (especially when your job title is Metadata Discovery Officer).

But it really seems as if the BLDS was actually my genetic destiny, as it turned out that not only was my dad interested in the project but it turns out that collecting African pamphlets runs in the family.

Buried in our loft were the following:

  • East African Annual 1934-35 – Tanganyika, Kenya, Uganda, Zanzibar
  • Table Talk Annual Review 1935 (Melbourne) – incl sections on Australia’s Overseas Territories
  • Holiday 1947 (Philadelphia)
  • Times of Ceylon Annual 1958
  • Zambia 1964-74 – celebrating ten years of independence
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Write for Wellbeing on 12th May

By Suzanne Rose

“Writing is an incredibly powerful tool, because if you can be yourself when writing, then you have what might be a rare space in your life for completely genuine self-expression and self-reflection. Who you are is important – and finding and expressing that is important to Mass Observation, as well as to other people” – Kim Sherwood, Writer.

12th May is Mass Observation’s national diary day and we welcome day diaries from people across the country recording their everyday lives. The more ordinary the better. Of course, we are currently living in extraordinary times and so we are expecting this year’s crop of 12th May diaries to be anything but ordinary.

If, like me, you’ve been juggling home schooling, home working and looking after your own health and well being and that of your family, I would recommend sitting down and writing. You could even download and print off a diary template from the MO website, so your kids can join in too. We welcome drawings as well as written diaries and everyone is invited to take part.

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‘If you are warm and happy in a pile of shit, keep your mouth shut’ – football, poetry and fables in BLDS African port harbour magazines

By Caroline Marchant-Wallis, Daniel Millum and Tracy Wilson

There are many fascinating rabbit holes to explore in the BLDS Legacy Collection, and you often come across them in the most unexpected places. Perhaps this just shows our limited imagination, but when we first came across a run of journals relating to different African ports and harbour authorities our hearts didn’t leap with excitement.

File under “worthy but dull” and move on was definitely the first reaction to a front cover like this:

The front cover of Cameroon Inter-Ports
Credit: BLDS Legacy Collection Project team

And let’s face it, if you were asked what you thought lay within the pages of Cameroon Inter-Ports – Organe du Liaison et d’Information de l’Office National des Ports du Cameroun you’d probably have said the same thing – tables, charts, reports and the odd tedious institutional history.

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‘Are you drunk’ or is there ‘something wrong upstairs in your brain’? : Unparliamentary expressions in Zambia 1964 – 1974

By Caroline Marchant-Wallis, Daniel Millum and Tracy Wilson

We’re taking the opportunity of our (temporary) exile from our beloved BLDS collection (personally given its resemblance to a Cold War nuclear shelter I voted that we should spend the lockdown period in the IDS basement where the collection is housed, but University management thought differently) to spend a bit of time writing about some of the interesting and unusual items we’ve already found as part of the project.

These are found in unlikely sources. At first glance the title The Zambian Parliament 24th October, 1964 to 31st December, 1974 sounds of course worthy of inclusion in the collection, and of interest to scholars of Zambian political history, but possibly a little dry. Yet delving inside shows the Zambian parliament to have been a more colourful and contentious forum than you would expect the official record to reveal.

 The first Cabinet of the Republic of Zambia upon its Independence from Britain on 24th October, 1964. Credit: Mwebantu via The Gambian Observer
The first Cabinet of the Republic of Zambia upon its Independence from Britain on 24th October, 1964. Credit: Mwebantu via The Gambian Observer

In his introduction, President Kenneth Kaunda solemnly states that he has ‘repeatedly reaffirmed our complete confidence and trust in democracy’, and this is followed by a quote from Edmund Burke stating that Parliament should be a deliberative assembly of one nation guided by the general good. However, it appears that not all members had taken this lofty Burkean approach to parliamentary discourse, as can be seen from a brief perusal of appendix one, which contains a list of ‘unparliamentary expressions’ for each year.

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Making the most of your online meetings

By Karen Watson and Adam Harwood

Back in February, myself and Adam agreed to write a blog post about meetings, drawing together all the information, skills and ideas gained from creativity training and out in the world. Lindsay produced a great infographic that you can see here:

Credit: Lindsay Crook

We were going to put this together with some general thoughts we had about attending and chairing meetings. When we chatted about this earlier this year, we were really thinking about the format of meetings. Do we need to sit round a table? Can we go for a walk and talk? Is it OK to move about during a meeting? Move forward a few weeks and here we all are forced out of our meeting rooms into our homes. Having meetings from bedrooms, lounges, kitchen corners.

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