Tag Archives: CILIP South West

CILIP SW Visit to the National Meteorological Library and Archive, Part One

We are delighted to publish the first of two reports about a visit to the Met Office National Meteorological Library & Archive in Exeter on 15th November 2017. The event, organised by CILIP SW Member, Valerie Bearne, inspired two of its attendees, Chris Johns and Susan Lee, to write reports about their experience.

Chris Johns, Systems Librarian, at the Royal Cornwall Hospital describes the day:

“The tour was split into two halves, firstly to the National Meteorological Office Library and then after lunch to the National Meteorological Archive.

Intrigued by the venue and with my lack of knowledge of the functions and resources of the National Meteorological Library and Archive (NMLA) it was an easy decision to sign up to this event.  The opportunity to visit a more exotic corner of our profession with chartership in mind could not be missed.

I shall not describe the history of the Met office, nor the library or archive here. However should you wish to find more out then please visit their website at About Us.

As we met in the foyer the range of people attending from public library to healthcare and further college librarians gave an immediate opportunity to network with colleagues from across the region, each of us looking forward to a tour of this high tech modern building which was officially opened in 2004 when the service relocated from Bracknell to Exeter.

Met Office Library

We were welcomed by Sarah Pankiewicz who is the NMLA manager.

We started with a tour of the library, a brief recent history of the service and an introduction to the current staff. There are currently 6 team members based in the library who are from a range of backgrounds. Sarah is the only professional librarian on the team.

Main duties include:

  • meteorological enquiry service
  • cataloguing books and journals (print and electronic)
  • acquisitions both for library and other members of staff
  • system management and quality control of catalogue records
  • journal management both electronic and print
  • digitisation and quality control
  • sorting , quality control and cataloguing of archive records
  • item loans
  • on-site customer services including online access to e-journals and e-books, the catalogue and digital library & archive

These are all very familiar functions to many sectors, seeing the bound journals reminded me very much of the healthcare sector library I have experience of, but the type and range of some of the materials and information here  is quite specialist. Quite different from much of the information we supply to our users in the healthcare sector.

The service supports the Met Office staff of around 1700-1800 employees the majority of whom are based at the Met Office HQ.

The service is publicly funded and falls within the governance of the Met Office Public Weather Service . The archive service also has a remit under the Public Records Act 1958 to preserve and provide public acccess to the national memory of the weather. The forward plan states that a ‘key aim of the NMLA is to promote awareness of our collections and provide greater access to as wider a user community as possible’ NMLS Policies.

I wonder how many people realise this resource is publicly accessible; I didn’t.

The enquiry service deals with around 150-200 enquiries a month from e-mail, phone calls or in person. There is of course a limit to how long an enquiry should take and how much can be supplied within reasonable resource limits, however the rule is that each enquiry should take no longer than round 30 minutes to meet and should be turned around within 5 days.

Currently the service is undergoing a catalogue migration from EOS (SirsiDynix) to Soutron. EOS was designed for specialist collections. It has enabled the team to catalogue to both library and archive standards within the same system and Soutron will take this a step further enabling the archive records to be displayed in a hierarchical fashion with hyperlinks to to associated records and so providing much easier access to the collections. The new system is due to go live in March 2018.

With the increasing transition from print to online journals and a frozen budget of around £70-80k per annum comes the common issues of subscription management, budget allocation and usage statistics. Subscription management is carried out directly with the publishers, with collections and back files being supplied by Springer, Elsevier and Nature as well as many other key publishers

Online access to e-journals is negotiated on a commercial basis and so copyright restrictions apply accordingly, however due the public access policy of the collection there are personal use clauses that allow content to be supplied to members of the public. Online access may be given either on site or articles downloaded and suplied within copyright restrictions

Scanning of items for document supply to fulfil the requests of staff and the public as well as for storage in the archive has become a large feature of the service offer. Increasingly much of the information and resources are now being ‘born digital’. Though these items still have to be catalogued, managed and archived there are fewer physical resources that require digitization.

The library itself has a very modern, spacious and well lit feel to it, with high ceiling, motion sensored lighting and light coloured decoration and fixtures.

With familiar shelving and reading spaces around the library this offers a generous and welcoming atmosphere for researchers and the public to come and use the resource.

The physical collection contains the usual mix of academic journals, reference texts and reports however this collection also include the Daily Weather Reports back as far as 1860. The collection also has weather reports from many other countries and are often the single repository of many of these items. Requests are sometimes received from the country in which the Daily Weather Reports originated.

 

The physical collection contains the usual mix of academic journals, reference texts and reports however this collection also include the Daily Weather Reports back as far as 1860. The collection also has weather reports from many other countries and are often the single repository of many of these items. Requests are sometimes received from the country in which the Daily Weather Reports originated.

The ongoing digitisation programme ultimately feeds not only the digital archive but also the Met Office ‘super computer’, more on that in a bit. This digitisation supports the drive for preservation and access as well as linking to the government’s ‘transform and efficiency’ drive within the Civil Service.

The Met Office transferred a large collection of historical instruments and artefacts to the Science Museum ahead of the office relocation from Bracknell to Exeter. The library and archive do still retain a small collection of instruments many of which are on display in the library.

We were shown a Campbell-Stokes recorder  as well as the ‘sunshine cards’ that are still in use today. Some of the library team are engaged with sorting and quality controlling a huge collection of Scottish sunshine cards ahead of their transfer to the National Records of Scotand.

There is a world wide engagement in “Data Capture” activities (or for some parts of the world “ data rescue”) where original sourced meteorological records are scanned and the keyed so that the newly digitsed data can be added to exisiting databases including the Met Office observation database known as MIDAS. Increasing the digital record facilitates more accurate analysis and re-analysis of historical weather observations and provides more data for verifcation work . Ultimately this leads to improved accuracy of the forecasting and climate models that run on the Met Ofiice super computer. The archive activiely support these kinds of projects and for records they have already digitised this can help to speed the whole process up.

Sarah indicated that there will probably be a point at which the bulk of the journal print copy additions will cease but that there will still likely be a collection of reference texts, historical records and statistical reports. There is also a display of the history of the Met Office in the library which is an important part of the service’s heritage.

The decision to move from Bracknell to Exeter was made for many reasons, not least the need for a new and expanded site that could support the new ‘super computer’ and it’s power requirement. Of course staff vote favoured Exeter over other proposed locations, but also the restrictions on planning in other sites and the ability to consolidate offices from many locations into one place was another key driver.

The Street

Once the tour of the library had concluded and before lunch in the onsite staff canteen we were granted access to the staff area that members of the public are not given access to. Through a series of swipe access doors and we entered into a vast area that resembled a shopping precinct and which is known as The Street.

The vast atrium incorporated a restaurant, many meeting rooms, offices, access to the Met Office college and a small stream. We were led to a rather insignificant door. Once through that we entered a corridor and were greeted by Peter Johnson (Co-ordinating Installation Design Authority Engineer), an engineer who looks after the ‘super computer’ who took us to a rather noisy room.

This houses some of the cabinets and processors that forms the ‘super computer’ which is currently supplied by Cray . Peter listed some stunning facts about the amazing beast.

The supercomputer consists of three main systems – an identical pair of machines and a single larger system in a new purpose-built data centre nearby. The twin identical machines provide a highly resilient capability for running time-critical operational weather forecasts, whereas the third system provides research, development and collaboration capabilities,

The three new Cray XC40 supercomputers:

  • Are capable of over 14,000 trillion arithmetic operations per second – that’s more than 2 million calculation per second for every man, woman and child on the planet.
  • Contain 2 petabytes of memory enough to hold 200 trillion numbers.
  • Contain a total of 460,000 compute cores. These are faster versions of those found in a typical quad-core laptop.
  • Contain 24 petabytes of storage for saving data – enough to store over 100 years worth of HD movies

This power allows the Met Office to take in 215 billion weather observations from all over the world every day, which it then takes as a starting point for running an atmospheric model containing more than a million lines of code.

More information is here: https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/research/technology/supercomputer

Operations Centre

We left the highly sanitised area of the the computer halls and were taken back into The Street and up stairs to the Operation Centre. Andy Bowden (Operations Centre Manager) gave us a talk on the functions in the operations centre. The open plan office which is staffed 24/7/365 had  a massive wall of TV screens with an array of satellite images and news feeds.

This room houses the Chief Forecaster whose role it is to predict and summarise the conditions for the next 48 hours ongoing. The vast amounts of data is analysed and summarised here.

It was explained that even if a large weather event is forecast it is the potential of the impact that is a primary concern, not necessarily the scale of the conditions.

There were many areas sectioned off, each section the base for different operations teams.

These included:

Flood Forecast Centre –working with the Environment Agency to predict flood and produce warning

Natural Hazard Partnerships – liaising across organisations

Marine Centre – delivering weather and sea condition reports

Aviation Centre – highlighting and coordinating flight plans and informing air traffic control

Space Weather – long range  low probability yet high impact events

Media Centre – produce various weather summaries for TV and media forecasts

Industry and Commercial Support – include supermarkets, energy and surface transport companies

Customer Service Desk – fielding general enquiries

Met Office Archive

Catherine Ross, from the National Meteorological Archive took us on a 5 minute walk over to the building which is jointly shared with the Devon Heritage Centre across the road from the main Met Office site.

The building was developed as a joint venture due to the similarly unique requirements for storing archive records in temperature controlled strong rooms. The move of the Met Office
coincided with Devon Council needing to relocate the local archives at around the same time. The shared resource made financial and environmental sense.

As well as their remit under the Public Weather Service the archive has a statutory obligation to preserve and provide access to their collections under the Public Records Act. The collections are held on behalf of The National Archive (TNA) as a legal “place of deposit” and this status was recently ratified as part of the TNA accreditation which was awarded last year.

As Archivist Catherine’s role includes preserving and providing access to these largely unique collections. Conservation work is a different area of expertise and when materials are identified as requiring conservation work then these will be sent away or handled by the conservation team in Devon Heritage Centre.

Each strong room is temperature controlled, with the corridor leading to each room having a steady temperature. A barrier is created from the corridor temperature entering the room with an automatic air conditioning system that switches on with the opening of the door creating a buffer. This way an average temperature of between 15-18 degrees Celsius are maintained, though this is harder to achieve in the warmer months.

Gradual temperature increases are not such a concern, but any sharp jump in temperature can prove harmful to the items stored. Humidity is kept to around 55-65%. Managing the collection is made particularly difficult as much of the paper has an acid content which hinders preservation.

Photos are prone to cracking and reducing the development of mould or red rot is an ongoing challenge. Vinegar syndrome is a phenomenon that causes old film or acetates to explode, though Catherine reassured us that there were no such items in this archive collection.

A large part of the archive comprises weather observations – largely hand written from climate returns, register and ships logs. There are also numerous charts and trace recordings of observations. You will not find recordings of weather forecasts held here – partly because the copyright for these is held by the broadcasting companies but also because the archive largely focusses on the weather as observed.

We were shown the stacks of weather charts bound in monthly volumes going back as far as the 19th century and each one usually requiring 2 people to lift as they are so large.

Whilst work to digitally capture the original analogue data for transfer to MIDAS (the Met Office observation database), it is vital to preserve the original record as an important aspect of not only historic importance but also for quality control purposes. Mistakes can be made in the data interpretation process so having the original record allows for checking accuracy retrospectively.

The Met Office was founded in 1854 by Rear Admiral Fitzroy, who had had devised a way of forecasting the potential maritime conditions.  After the Royal Charter Storm on the 26th October 1859, which took approximately 800 lives and around 133 ships, Fitzroy established the Storm Warning Service, thought to be the earliest National forecasting service in the world.  One of the artefacts in the archive is the first chart produced by Robert FitzRoy and J H Babington which illustrates the conditions of the night of the Royal Charter Storm.

Other interesting artefacts include early weather observation equipment such as antique barometers, illustrations of frost fayres, a proclamation which has survived from the reign of King Charles II asking for people to undertake a 24hr fast and prayer in an attempt to end a period of heavy rainfall and the Meteorological Office grant of arms which includes an illustration of their official coat of arms. This is topped with a weather vane. The weather vane was the original Met Office logo and was affectionately known as the ‘Chicken on a Stick’.

Copies of the weather charts for the 5th and 6th of June 1944 demonstrated just how much impact an accurate forecast could have. The decision for D-Day was taken with great consideration given to the weather and sea conditions. The weather chart for the 5th June was all important as that was when the decision was made to go ahead with the allied invasion of Europe. Conditions were marginal and the German forecasters did not have such complete data as the allied forces. As a result they had thought the weather would not be suitable for the attack and so were less prepared than they might have been had they seen the same charts as the allied commanders.

The tour ended with a viewing of some rare texts which included the earliest text in the NMA, an illuminated manuscript by Albertus Magnus covering various aspects of Natural History including an early understanding of the nature of the refraction of light, and Admiral Francis Beaufort’s hand written weather diary including the first incarnation of his scale of winds.

This was an extremely informative and interesting day out. Providing insight not only into a fascinating topic which affects us all each day, but also into the similarities and differences our profession throws up in all aspects of its application. A visit is recommended.

Take away points/highlights

It is interesting how similar services are in spite of their specialist nature. We experience many of the  same challenges of resource procurement, electronic access barriers, resource management, staffing levels, proving value through KPI’s, digitisation challenges and service funding pressures. We may learn a lot of new ways of dealing with these pressures with more knowledge sharing.

I was surprised to learn how digitised historical data is being added to the modern forecasting models in order to continuously improve their accuracy. As official data, private collections and donations are added to the collections, alongside the advancements being made in technology, we are still learning a lot from the relatively recent past.

Great collaborative projects such as the joint project between Devon County Council and the Met Office to fulfill a common need with a shared resource like the Archive building are essential. Looking for alternative solutions to problems can bring many opportunities into sight.

Ultimately, weather forecasting is not about ferocity or severity but all about impact!”

 

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Rob Challis on his Harry Galloway Prize winning dissertation

Rob Challis, winner of this year’s Harry Galloway Prize, describes his award winning dissertation.

‘I completed the MSc in Information Management at UWE on a part-time basis between autumn 2013 and spring 2016.  I had been working in Library-related roles at the University of Bristol for more than 13 years when I started the course, and – finally! – I decided to seek a professional qualification following a very rewarding experience working on two library building projects.

The seed of my dissertation topic was a suggestion from one of the UWE librarians to look at how library discovery tools are used in subjects such as Law and Business Studies, where the most important resources are commercial databases that do not interface well with them.  I was working in the Wills Memorial Library at the time (home to the University of Bristol’s Law collection), and this led me to think more widely about how Law students find their way in a digital information “ecosystem” dominated by two key databases – particularly in the later stages of their undergraduate degrees.

I approached the topic by conducting a series of “think aloud” activities, in which student participants from the University’s Law School were asked to describe their thoughts and decisions in real time, as they completed a series of information-seeking tasks.  The data from these sessions were supplemented by follow-up interviews with the participants.

I found that Library tools were used in a very limited way (primarily for finding known print items), and that the majority of “authoritative” sources were sought and obtained directly from commercial Law databases.  Equally interesting, however, was the participants’ use of non-authoritative – and sometimes avowedly “unreliable” – sources, obtained freely from the web, as a convenient way of orientating themselves within complex subjects.

Although my dissertation focused very much on information-seeking behaviours, an optional MSc unit on Designing the User Experience had a significant influence on my approach.  UX principles informed both the design and performance of my research activities, as well as the interpretation of the resulting data.  I continue to use these principles in my current role, implementing reading list software at the University of Bristol.

I‘m delighted to follow in the footsteps of my classmate Sophia Richards (2014 winner) in winning the Harry Galloway prize.  Undertaking the dissertation has been one of the highlights of my professional career so far, and it’s really pleasing to have it recognised in this way’.

Harry Galloway award winner 2016

CILIP SW are delighted to present this year’s Harry Galloway Prize to Robert Challis of the University of Bristol.

Presentation of certificate

Christina Carson (Candidate Support Officer for Devon and Cornwall) presenting Harry Galloway award to Robert Challis (picture: Valerie Bearne).

This year’s award was presented at the CILIP SW Network’s Annual General Meeting, held at the University of Bristol on 21st April 2017. Nick Poole, Chief Executive of CILIP, was also present to congratulate Robert on his award.

Chief Executive of CILIP chats with Harry Galloway award winner showing certificate.

Nick Poole congratulating Robert following the presentation of the Harry Galloway Prize (picture: Valerie Bearne).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Retired or About to Retire? Don’t Lose Touch!

CILIP SW Committee member Valerie Bearne is the group’s Liaison Representative. In particular Valerie’s role is to recruit and inform retired members. Valerie has put a call out to members who are about to retire to stay in touch with the profession. ‘There is a lot of knowledge, experience and contacts that retired members can still share’, says Valerie. This is an excellent means to draw upon the experience of retired members who can share the benefit of their knowledge with younger professionals.

As Liaison Rep, Valerie writes: ‘If you can host a group visit yourself, or offer training or mentorship to younger members of the profession, we would love to have your contributions and work with you to help and support people across the SW’.

Retired library and information professionals can also take part in occasional group visits and social events such as the visit to the Britannia Royal Naval College, previously reported in the CILIPSW Blog by Anne Howard.

Valerie is currently organising a return visit to the Britannia Royal Naval College, scheduled for Wednesday 5th April 2017. Contact Valerie.bearne[@]tesco.net for further details.

britannia-royal-naval-college-library

Britannia Royal Naval College, Devon

Profile of Morag Evans, Student Representative on the CILIP SW members’ committee

We like to introduce you to your committee members and find out what they do. In this posting we meet Morag Evan, CILIP SW Student Representative. We look forward to hearing about Morag’s adventure in Berlin at a future date!

Morag Evans

Hi, my name is Morag and I am a student representative for the CILIP South West Members’ Network. The first thing I would like to do is say ‘thank you’ for the warm welcome I received at the first committee meeting I attended a fortnight ago.

I am currently studying for a Distance Learning Masters in Information and Library Studies at Aberystwyth University. I am passionate about libraries and the information profession but came late to the party after a first career in teaching and then raising a small family. I live in Weymouth, which is lovely in the summer months, but like any seaside town, the winter is rather depressing! But we do have lovely countryside nearby and of course the Jurassic Coast not far away! My husband is a postman and we have two daughters, Beth (11) and Millie (8) who keep us busy with their demanding social lives (busier than ours). We also have a hamster, Sally, and two guinea pigs, Hermione and Ginnie (yes, we’re Harry Potter fans!).

I work as a trainee librarian at Dorset County Hospital Library where I started as a library assistant almost three years ago. I absolutely love my job; the things I like to do the most are: acquisitions, cataloguing, collection development and marketing & promotion. I also enjoy hosting a book group in the Library.

Our Library is part of the South West Information Management System (SWIMS), the healthcare library network in the South West. The network is very supportive and it is lovely to belong to a large family of libraries. Our users are often blown away by the speed at which we can source Inter Library Loans and Document Supply; well, this is down to our colleagues in SWIMS! I’m a member of the SWIMS Inter Library and Document Supply Group and we meet regularly to keep policies and procedures up to date.

I joined CILIP as a student last year and I am a member of another group, the newly named CILIP Professional Development Group and I have been involved in the organisation of a study tour in Berlin in October with them. Here’s a cheeky plug! It will be an amazing tour, Berlin is a vibrant and interesting city and its libraries and museums reflect this. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about it.

As a student representative, I think my role will be to inform other students about the events we organise, but also to canvas their opinions…what the group can do for them and how we can best support them in their chosen profession. I have a particular interest in supporting those who are distance learning as this can sometimes be an isolating and lonely experience. I meet regularly with other students from Aberystwyth and am hoping to organise an event in Dorset soon, namely a Library Safari…with a difference!

Also, I am really excited that I have the opportunity to attend the CILIP Conference in Brighton this year and I hope to bump into some of you there!

If you are an ILS student and would like to be put in touch with others, please e-mail me morag.evans[@]dchft.nhs.uk

Morag Evans

 

Report from the CILIPSW Members’ Day. Matt Ramirez: ‘The benefit of using Augmented Reality to enhance the student experience’.

In short, Matt Ramirez gave us a tour of the future! As JISC’s Senior Innovation Developer for Digital Futures, his presentation provided a wealth of examples of the implementation of Augmented Reality (AR) in education. He finds that, while Augmented Reality has been around as a new technology since 2010, it is reaching a trigger stage in terms of its cultural visibility. Consequently, there is likely to be an explosion of interest and an exponential growth in the AR user community this year.

My existing knowledge of AR and its potential was decidedly sketchy and two-dimensional, not lucid and three-dimensional as befitting augmented reality. However, while the technology is still a kind of scientific magic in my mind, I moved several notches forward in terms of my understanding during the members’ day! For a definition of AR I am taking an explanation from an earlier blog post by Matt on the subject:

‘Put simply, augmented reality is a technology that overlays computer generated visuals over the real world through a device camera – bringing your surroundings to life and interacting with sensors such as location and heart rate to provide additional information’.

Matt 1

Matt Ramirez giving a glimpse into the future at the CILIPSW Members’ Day.

(Photograph by Stephen Hunt)

The take up of AR in research, education and museums, Matt argues, is particularly popular because it bridges the gap between theory and practice. There are some striking examples of this. Scientists from different parts of the world have been able to simultaneously view three-dimensional images from Mars in real time, to build collaboratively on their understanding. Post-graduates working in the Geology Department at the University of Manchester have applied their lecture theory in real world contexts in a novel way. They have used an app to see fossils in the living environment when studying markers of fossil faces and oil reserves during their field studies. Museums have used AR enhancements anchored in exhibits to bring exhibits to life, thus successfully encouraging deeper and ongoing interaction, reflected in an increase in families returning for repeat visits.

The take-up and successful implementation of AR in education and research depends upon adopting best practice and identifying a genuine pedagogic need. The initial ‘wow’ factor will inevitably diminish if it cannot be demonstrated that AR is adding value to the user experience and is able to help deliver actual measurable learning outcomes. For Matt it ‘must have a unique selling point rather than just being impressive technology’. To this end it is also important to consult users throughout the process and to continually reappraise the application of AR based on their feedback.

In this respect AR has already started to prove its pedagogic value some practical projects. The University of Manchester Medical School encourages informal collaborative learning by exploiting AR to complement face-to-face and independent learning. In the 24-hour resource centre at Leeds College of Learning, AR has been used to reinforce situated learning when academic and support staff are not present. AR has also proven its worth at the John Rylands Library where it has been used to foster a mixed team approach to research, enabling technical experts, curators and subject specialists to collaborate effectively on project work.

Matt’s own work in the implementation of AR through JISC (Joint Information Systems Committee) has been in his foundational role in the development of the Special Collections Augmented Reality to Enhance Learning and Teaching project (SCARLET). This shaped his thinking about the need to implement AR carefully in order to demonstrate its worth, ensuring its future take-up and development. A central application was to make rare and fragile objects and artefacts accessible in a new way to those who do not necessarily have a technical background. In this way that they can visualise what is not usually on show, whether a fossil or a brittle literary manuscript. ‘I knew, said Matt, ‘if we were to embed and have longevity within educational learning space I knew there had to be something behind it beyond replicating pretty pictures’. An example of the potential of AR was SCARLET’s experiment in the presentation of Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Code Bug

Attendees at the Members’ Day in Exeter experimented with Aurasma Augmented Reality Software, tiny Raspberry Pi computers and code bugs, like this little fellow

(Photograph by Stephen Hunt)

The recent transformation in digital technology was the impact of mobile technology during the first decade of the century. Matt predicts that the ‘next paradigm shift will be about consuming information through wearables’ during the next ten years. Pioneer products such as Google Glass explorer glasses are already available, although, as to be expected, there are teething problems. In his initial trials Matt found his head overheating and that the sensor devices were extremely battery hungry! Nevertheless, Virtual Reality visits to the world’s leading museums and art,  may not be far into the future.

So the future is likely to be one in which the application of AR places the user at the centre of the learning experience. The significance for our profession is that students will have to engage with these learning technologies across all subjects and will need to develop skills in this area for future jobs.

Matt’s work with AR can be followed on Twitter at @Jisc_AR

 

Steve Hunt

Harry Galloway Prize winner for 2015 – Louise Cowan

The annual Harry Galloway award (see earlier posting here) is presented to mark outstanding achievements on the part of students on the MSc in Information and Library Management at the University of the West of England. The current award was presented to Louise Cowan at the CILIPSW Annual General Meeting and Members’ Day at Exeter Central Library on 14th March 2016. We are delighted to congratulate Louise. Here Louise gives us the background to her winning work.

 

I studied for my MSc at UWE part-time from 2012 to 2015. The course provided a good theoretical grounding in library management, often focusing on the knowledge and skills highlighted in CILIP’s PKSB. What I learned in the taught part of the course is continuing to prove invaluable as I now move on to Chartership.

The subject of my dissertation was ‘Social Media and Academic Libraries’; my interest in the topic had grown from my experience volunteering at Sunderland University Library in 2011 and seeing first-hand the great work their marketing team was doing to promote the services the library offered to students. I also managed the social media accounts at St Hugh’s College Library in Oxford, where I worked as a Senior Library Assistant while completing my MSc.

Louise Cowan taken by Kay Ecclestone 14 Mar 2016

Emma Wellard (left), Chair of CILIP SWMN, presents this year’s award to Louise Cowan at Exeter Library (photograph by Kay Ecclestone) 

A lot of literature is highly critical of the way libraries use social media to engage their students so I wanted to understand how users were currently interacting with academic libraries on social media, in order to highlight ways further engagement could be generated and maintained. Focusing on three academic libraries, I analysed the content of posts from their Facebook and Twitter pages that had generated user engagement. I found that, while users were much more active on library social media platforms than previously suggested in literature, more could be done to encourage meaningful conversations with students. Engagement was highest when social media content had a specific value to users; thematically, these posts revolved around Community, Feedback, Education and Enjoyment. While each library’s users prioritised different themes; strategically, libraries could look to promote posts that endeavour to build a community with users through shared interests, regularly engage with feedback to improve services, provide educational support and encourage a little fun!

The understanding of social media I gained from my dissertation helped me to prepare for my current role. Although I am primarily a liaison librarian, my work also involves supporting the management of social media for Reading University’s Special Collections Library and Archive.

I was thrilled when I received the news that I had won the Harry Galloway Memorial Prize – it has made the achievement of my MSc even more meaningful and memorable.

Louise Cowan