Uni returns next week…

Uni returns next week.

I have four subjects to go until I finish my Masters. And I’ve doubled my study load, from one subject per semester to two, to try and finish my Masters by the end of the year.

I’ll still be working full time, so it’ll be interesting to see how I cope with the workload.

The truth is, I’ve spent the last two years aiming at and working towards my placement at the National Library of Scotland. And now that that has been and gone, the rest of my course feels like an anti-climax. I’ve already spent three years on this Masters, and I’m not too keen on spending two more. There are other things I want to do.

My subjects for this semester are Business Analytics and the Information Management Research Project.

Business Analytics is a compulsory subject. I’m hoping it will be either stuff I already know from my management experience, or genuinely new and useful material. I’ve enrolled in the Online version of this subject because the face-to-face lecture is on at 2:30pm on Fridays, which isn’t very friendly to those of us with jobs.

The Information Management Research Project is an elective, and I’m extremely excited about this one. We get to choose a topic! And research it! I am totally going to use this to learn a skill that will be useful in my future career as a systems librarian!

My current plan is to write something about how libraries implement a new library management system.

I’ll need to refine that. It might be a review of project management methodologies, or a case study of a particular implementation, or the selection process, or… I don’t know yet.

Some of that will depend on the sort of resources I can find. I fully intend to use this project as an excuse to compile a list of the journals and books and organisations I should be following as a systems librarian.

(I currently use keep.google.com to keep track of things like this, but it’s looking less and less like a neatly-ordered refernce and more and more like a jumble of post-it notes. Knowledge management takes work.)

One area of LMS implementation I’m interested in is change management. I read this thread on Twitter about change management in libraries, and why staff might resist change.

Somewhere in the thread was a link to this book: Change Management for Library Technologists: A LITA Guide by Courtney McAllister. It’s a guide to managing the changes around library technology. I want a copy. But $70 is not cheap for a book. I might see if any libraries have a copy. 😉

(LITA is the Libraries and Information Technology Association, a division of the American Libraries Association. The Australian equivalent is VALA. See? This is the sort of stuff I should know as a systems librarian.)

Anyway: uni starts next week for what will be, I hope, be the final year of my Masters.

And then I can think about what’s next.

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My placement with the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project

This is a repost of the blog entry I wrote for the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project’s Safe and Sound blog.

Glasgow is a long way from Australia.

Yet when I had to choose a library for the industry placement part of my Masters of Information Management at RMIT University in Melbourne, my heart leapt at the possibility of doing it at the National Library of Scotland.

Blame Iain Banks, Trainspotting, and Chvrches. I have a massive soft spot for Scotland.

My background is in IT, and I’m interested in how technology can help libraries make their collections more discoverable. After a lot of emails, staff at the National Library of Scotland found the perfect placement for me: the Unlocking Our Sound Heritage project.

The diagram I drew to help understand the OUSH workflow.

It’s a huge project, led by the British Library, to digitise, preserve, and put online half a million of the UK’s rare and unique sound recordings. The National Library is the project hub for Scotland, running out of their Kelvin Hall branch in Glasgow. The sheer amount of material that needs to be catalogued means that volunteers play an important part in the project, and my placement would be similar to the work the volunteers do.

I expected to learn about digitising audio tapes, cataloguing them, and clearing the copyright.

I didn’t expect to learn the difference between a Flying Scot (a type of bicycle made by David Rattray and Co.) and the Flying Scotsman (Graeme Obree, a record-setting cyclist famous for his homemade cycle Old Faithful).

I didn’t expect to learn about the hierarchy of roles a young glassmaker at Edinburgh Crystal worked through in their career, from taker-in to gatherer to ball-blower.

I didn’t expect to learn about the Craigo jute mill, or the inventor of the disposable nappy, or how to tell a Ross Records cassette from a Beechwoods Records one by their catalogue numbers.

An archive box of cassettes and minidiscs.

But you can’t describe recordings without listening to them. Some of this knowledge I picked up from the interviews themselves. Some of it I learnt by frantically Googling to try and understand what the interviewers were talking about – there’s a lot of detective work in cataloguing.

And as I’ve worked my way through these collections, I’ve developed an odd, protective love for them. Scottish fiddle music may not be my favourite type of music, but I can see the similarities between a self-released cassette of Strathspeys and reels with a hand-drawn cover and the DIY punk music that’s more my tastes.

My placement has covered the technical aspects of digitising collections that I expected. I spent an afternoon with the audio engineer, learning how much manual work goes into handling open reel tapes. I learnt the workflow that will turn Excel spreadsheets into metadata accessible via the British Library website. And I’ve sat in on head-scratching discussions on how to convert files and metadata formatted for one computer database into files and metadata that can be used by a different computer database.

Me wearing my UOSH volunteers t-shirt.

It’s been fascinating and educational. It’s knowledge that will help me in my career as a systems librarian. And I’ve met some wonderful and dedicated people.

The thing I come back to, though, is the realisation I had working my way through the boxes of oral histories and traditional music. These collections aren’t just tapes and boxes and Excel spreadsheets. These are people sharing the culture that they love.

It’s been a privilege to play a part in helping them.

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cardiParty: The Museum of Broken Relationships

(I wrote this review of last Friday’s cardiParty as part of an assignment for my Masters. I thought I might as well repost it here.)

Last Friday  I attended a tour of the Museum of Broken Relationships organised by newCardigan.

NewCardigan describe themselves as “a social and professional group for people who work in galleries, libraries, archives and museums – and for those who like hanging around with GLAM types.”

One of the events they organise are monthly cardiParties, which are a tour of a library, gallery or museum, followed by drinks, dinner and socialising at a nearby pub. I’ve been to several cardiParties in the past, including tours of PBS FM’s music library, Incendium Radical Library in Footscray, and the Australian Lesbian and Gay Archives in St. Kilda.

This month’s cardiParty was a tour of the Museum of Broken Relationships exhibition at No Vacancy gallery. I noticed quite a few RMIT students were there.

Me being me, I livetweeted the tour. (Me being me, I left my glasses at work and so it’s full of typos.)

The Museum collects items and stories that mark the end of relationships.  It started as an art installation by an ex-couple, but now it’s a physical building in Croatia, with exhibitions that tour the world. The items are mostly pretty humble: a jar of buttons, a dress, a handful of lollies. The stories range from the funny to the heart-rending.

The No Vacancy gallery manager gave a talk that covered the history of the gallery, her career, and the story of the Museum of Broken Relationships. We had some time to explore the exhibition. Then the newCardgian committee raced through their Annual General Meeting, including announcing their new President. 

Business concluded, we all decamped to the Moat for food and drink. 

Which is an important part of cardiParties. Seeing different institutions and hearing about the philosophies behind them is fascinating. But sharing a drink and chat with fellow GLAMers is what builds a community.

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The Dangers of Donations

Interesting article from the University of Melbourne’s Pursuit magazine about how China and Russia are using museums and galleries as a way to expand their soft power in diplomatic relationships:

TREADING SOFTLY IN POWER DIPLOMACY

(This white paper defines soft power as ‘the ability to influence the behaviour or thinking of others through the power of attraction and ideas’ )

The soft power article made me think about this Guardian article about Harvey Weinstien and how ‘ostentatious, targeted philanthropy’ was one of the ways he tried to repair his reputation.

Are international art exchanges neutral? 

Or is there an ethical dimension to participating in these programs? 

China jails democracy activists. The Russian government is accused of killing journalists. Is collaborating with K11 or the Hermitage also whitewashing the crimes of these regimes, in the way Weinstein tried to whitewash his crimes?

From the Guardian:

 ‘In Weinstein’s case, intended beneficiaries were, effectively, cast as accomplices in Bloom’s Rose [McGowan]-persecution schedule. But at other times they might be helping purge historical links with, say, Vladimir Putin, with fascist organisations or with discreditable financial practices. You sometimes get the impression that, usefully for donors and their advisers, complacency on this point, and carelessness about complicity, is most likely in organisations whose motives are unassailably pure and high-minded.’

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A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies

I read this short story about libraries, and reading, and escape last year. It came across my Twitter feed again, so I reread it.

“He reached towards the book and the book reached back towards him, because books need to be read quite as much as we need to read them…”

A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies by Alix E. Harrow.

(I love this story, but there are a few elements in it that make me cringe. The comment from A bad librarian articulates them. Read that too.)

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His Dark Materials trailer

The BBC have released a trailer for their adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series.

Allow me to summarise my reaction: Lyra! Lyra! Lyra!

I hope this is good.

Actually, I’m quite pleased that there’s now a TV version as well as a movie version, because it emphasises these are versions Lyra Belacqua, rather than the real one who lives in my head.

Lyra is oddly precious to me.

It’s some combination of wanting to be her, in her bravery and fierceness, wanting to protect her, wishing perhaps that I had a daughter like her, and simply wanting to admire her.

Bonnie Mary Liston’s excellent essay ‘The wildness of girlhood’ starts with quotes from Emily Bronte and Catherynne Valente, but it made me think of Ms. Belacqua.

“Every four years or so, the young girls of Athens between ages of five and ten would go into the woods to make sacrifices to Artemis, run races, dance and live like bears. Literally. They were called arktoi, which means ‘little bears’, and they were supposed to run around pretending to be bears, wearing special bear skins…”

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