Those of you who enjoyed my last post on sandwiches but felt like you wanted it to be longer and even more niche (lol) then read on, this one is for you! It’s an article originally titled Subject Indexing in an Institutional Repository that I had accepted for publication by Catalogue and Index – periodical of the Cataloguing and Indexing Group, a Special Interest Group of CILIP.
I’ve been a cataloguer for some years but have only just started training to become an indexer with the Society of Indexers. I can now see that there are many parallels between cataloguing and indexing and I am often expanding my knowledge of one activity through the other. The clearest example of a task in which the two areas are intertwined is when I classify theses in our institutional repository. Our current repository platform is EPrints using the Dublin Core Metadata Element Set. This allows us to assign subjects to research outputs so that they are indexed and available to users through access points in our discovery layer (Primo). I’m going to avoid discussion about the systems involved here and their interaction with each other and am going to focus on the details of this task and try to understand some of the benefits and flaws of the current workflow.
I visited San Francisco in August 2015. This post is about that trip and exploring the city. I’ll also talk about a visit to University of San Francisco’s Gleeson Library.
There were many highlights to my time in San Francisco.
The locals had lots of friendly open conversations with us.
It was good to walk around the neighbourhoods, wandering and exploring. It led to finding interesting buildings and independent cafes and shops.
The city felt modern but with many nods to the past, such as the traditional architecture. There were also plenty of tourist areas and modern shops.
A vivid memory of the trip was the intense heat- often most intense whilst walking up the steep streets. Luckily Brighton is steep in most directions so it wasn’t too much of a shock! Being there felt (despite the heat) like a breath of fresh air.
I have a confession to make. In my application for the Erasmus+ Staff Training Week at Koҫ University in Istanbul, I made a promise I didn’t keep. Brimming over with enthusiasm and good intentions, I promised a video blog. I imagined an expertly shot montage of Istanbul, Philip and I in charismatic candid moments, sensitive and illuminating portraits of the people I’d meet, all set to sweeping inspirational music. What I actually achieved in the entire six day trip was a three second video of Philip on the moving walkway at Gatwick airport. Which I can’t even show you here because it’s the wrong way up. Good work Lizzy.
It sounds like something from CSI New York. And its something that I, an Archivist, have been doing for the last few months. No dusting off old manuscripts for me – digital forensics is my bread and butter. The reality unfortunately is not as exciting as it sounds, but maybe you, my library and archive colleagues, might be interested in this young yet burgeoning aspect of digital preservation.
On my desk currently sits a normal looking laptop computer, but boot it up and you’ll be looking at an unfamiliar screen that is the first step in preserving all Special Collections’ digital collections. I call it the digital forensics machine and we will use it to transfer digital records off of physical storage media like external hard drives and usb sticks and into a digital repository. Our digital repository doesn’t exist at the moment, but we can prepare our records to be transferred to it for when we do get it. I’ll explain what a digital repository is in another post where I’ll also explain what digital preservation is. For the moment I want to describe the digital forensics process and explain why we need to do it in the first place.
The Innovation Group hosted the second Library Show & Tell event in the Barlow Gallery. Staff from across the Library and The Keep presented wonderful examples of their work, and a grand time was had by all! Look out for links in the photos…
Brighton winter palace
Andrew Bennett showcased the Unbuilt Brighton project
Proposed summer and winter palace, situated on Kings Road to the west of the West Pier, c1910 (ACC 2791/8/1)
Including some fascinating images of Brighton architectural features that never quite got made...
Classification is a big part of my job and certainly the part that I find most enjoyable and challenging. The other day I was looking in vain for a resource that would provide me with a table of ‘date letters’ that are sometimes used when classifying collected works. After a couple of discussions about this it became clear to me that there are many practices in cataloguing and classification that might seem like they are needlessly complicated and opaque. I want to explain that there is a reason for things to be done this way.
Every time we make a decision about how to classify something we are doing it with the collection and ultimately the user in mind. When someone has looked up a book on the catalogue we want them to be able to find it easily on the shelf, but when they get to that shelf we also want them to find a load of other books that are relevant on either side i.e. we want to enable browsing. We want them to arrive at the shelf and first find the general books about a topic and then to be able to walk down that stack seeing how the subject narrows and becomes more specific as the classifications are expanded. In an ideal world we would want each classmark to represent only one book – this is part of the reason for doing the reclassification projects which you can read about here.
I am a graduate archive intern working for the University of Sussex’s Special Collections held here at The Keep, and until a few years ago, I had never visited an archive. Looking back, I am not sure what preconceived ideas I had about what might go on in a building like this. Whilst I had no doubt as to the intellectual and cultural value of the collections stored here, I don’t think I had any real idea of the range of material, or the variety of ways it can be used or interpreted. I must admit though that my lack of knowledge of archives, or how to navigate an archival catalogue had, in the past, made me apprehensive about engaging with archival material. But then I had never been to The Keep!
Since joining the team here, I have been inspired by the variety of work that goes on, and the range and depth of skills and knowledge possessed by the people who work here. As I consider furthering my career in the archive sector, I am now in a better position to recognise there are many challenges that the sector, and therefore the individuals working within it, face and one of these is user access.
Picture the scene – you’re at a party, a gathering or any occasion where you might meet someone new for the first time. You greet each other with awkward smiles, you swap names and as the rules of small talk dictate, you must find out each other’s jobs. That’s just what you do. He works in digital marketing because of course he does, it’s Brighton and he has a beard. You take a breath and you say “I work in a library”.
A flicker of something you can’t quite make out flashes across his face. “Oh wow, that’s cool”, he says, nodding a little too enthusiastically, “So…do you just get to sit and read all day?” Your mind flashes back to the mountain of invoices you typed out yesterday, the student sobbing at the front desk, the time you sang Baa Baa Black Sheep to 40 uninterested parents and babies. “Yeah, something like that”.
“So long as you write what you wish to write, that is all that matters; and whether it matters for ages or only for hours, nobody can say.”
― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
In response to feedback from the Library Staff Conference and comments from colleagues about quiet working spaces across campus, the Innovation Group approached Sussex researcher Dr Catherine Pope to facilitate a writing retreat for Library Staff. Our aim was to provide staff with a set of writing techniques that would help them structure their work, but more importantly, to provide a suitable space to knuckle-down and apply them. There were no rules about what to write: the idea was to be as open and inclusive as possible.
Part 1: the Workshop
Catherine scheduled a preparatory workshop in May, a half-day series of exercises at Jubilee, where we learned about (amongst other things): the Pomodoro technique, freewriting vs. generative writing, anti-procrastination techniques, and the sage wisdom of many professional writers (sample quote: “If you want to be a [professional] writer, you must do two things about all others; read a lot and write a lot. There is no way around these two things that I’m aware of, no short cut.” – Stephen King).
The attendees came from all sections and grades in the library, and the span seemed to emphasise the inescapable fact: writing is hard, no matter role you do.
Catherine emphasised the need to just write: it doesn’t matter what the first draft looks like, the process is the thing, get it out – all variants of the same command: stop faffing! It was refreshing to hear such direct, sensible advice – confronting the simple nature of the task made it easier to stop worrying about all the complexities, analogous to moving house: get everything in, then start to tidy the rooms.
The 5 hours flew by (most of it spent actually writing), and the group came out buzzing, and looking forward to applying what we’d learned. Continue reading →