Sunday, 21 February 2016

Deaf in the library

I've been asked a few times about working in a library setting as someone who is deaf. So I thought I’d blog my own experiences and how I manage working in an environment that relies on excellent communication skills.

Mi Mow


I was born 13 weeks premature. The prognosis for me wasn't great. I was one of only two extremely pre-term babies born at this particular hospital in 1976 who survived. Once I’d done that bit, I wasn't expected to reach 2 years and expectations for my development continued to be low. I was monitored as part of a research project until I was 5 years old, at which point my parents pulled out of the study amid concerns about the negative impact the study (and attitude of the researchers) had on the family.

Although there were other health and developmental problems that had been identified, I wasn't diagnosed as deaf until I reached nursery school. Initial concerns that I had a learning disability turned out to be an inability to hear. Nursery workers picked up on the fact that I was unresponsive in particular situations and my speech was describes as ‘curious’. I seemed to simply skip over particular sounds. Most noticeable was my cuddly toy, Miss Mouse. Well that’s what everyone else called her. I called her ‘Mi Mow’. An investigation led to the discovery that I was missing a small bone in my ear, which meant that I was high-frequency deaf. (In my medical notes, it is written ‘Missing bone means she is quite literally an air-head’. I'm very grateful that changes to the legislation means we now have access to our medical records and Doctors are a little more thoughtful about the notes they make!) It became clearer why I appeared to ignore particular sounds and missed them out of my speech altogether. Speech therapy at both Primary and Secondary school made a positive difference. I have a palatal lisp, and there are some words that I just can’t say, but the difficulty is mostly hidden. Just don’t ask me to say the words ‘saxophonist’ or ‘physalis’!

Linking up with another research study in the early 90’s, I was the first person in the area to receive a hearing aid specifically developed for high-frequency hearing loss*, rather than volume hearing loss. The design of the moulded hearing aid meant I lost some lower frequencies as well, which were then re-amplified. It meant if I was walking down the street and a lorry passed by, I shot up a lamppost. The world suddenly started hissing like snakes at me. It was like listening to a badly tuned radio. I absolutely hated wearing aids – partly because I already wore glasses, but also because no-one really prepared me for what a fully hearing world would be like. It was too noisy. I moved down to one aid, and then abandoned them altogether, deciding I was much happier in a quieter world. At school, I received little support. I sat at the front of the class, was visited once a year by a support worker who pushed her face too close to mine and reminded me to sit at the front of the class. Generally, I learned to watch what others were doing and follow their lead. Teachers complained that I was ‘slow to respond’ and failed to associate it with my deafness, despite reminders.

Working in public libraries


I started working in public libraries when I was 23. Oddly, the first thing anyone said to me about this was 'How will you hear what people are whispering?' It didn't occur to me that it would be a barrier to working in a library.

Starting to work on the circulation desk in a busy public library, I discovered that yes, not being able to hear people whisper their queries at me was a problem. Sometimes I just couldn't lip read them (limited lip movements, hand in front of mouth, facial hair, or just plain lack of ability on my part!)  I dealt with this in two ways - firstly by letting people know that they didn't need to whisper (It wasn't a 'quiet' reference library, it was a very noisy public library), and secondly by letting people know that if it was something they wanted to discuss privately, that we could move away from the desk and have the conversation elsewhere. I could also refer them to another colleague where one was available. I spent one year working in a public-facing role, and never encountered a problem.

Academic Libraries


I moved to an academic library where I supported disabled students, administered inter-lending and worked on circulation desks. Higher Education was geared up for inclusivity. For the first time I was asked whether there were any adaptations that could be made to ensure I was able to do my job to the best of my ability. We considered whether any adaptations were required (a visual fire alarm for example), and it was the first time I noticed that I was seen as a potential risk. My biggest problem was using a phone in a noisy, open plan office where I found it difficult to hear, but I rarely had to answer a phone, so the issue was avoided.  Other than difficulty receiving phonecalls, there were no impacts on my ability to do the job. We agreed that if I couldn't hear someone on the phone, I could either ask another member of staff to take the call, or ask the person to email their query where appropriate and pick it up from there.

I was given a line-manager who had recently been on disability awareness training. During a 1:1, she suddenly realised she was sat in front of a window. With her face in shadow, I was unable to lip-read and although I was having difficulty hearing her, I hadn’t said anything. She suddenly exclaimed, pushed her feet off the wall, her swivel chair wheeling across the room mid-sentence with me turning 180 degrees to follow her. We were both amused at how ridiculous it looked. She sent me on an assertiveness course, and reminded me I needed to be honest with people and tell them what I needed. I started being more vocal about my deafness, and found my BSL skills being called upon when supporting and directing deaf students in the library.

Workplace Libraries


My next move proved to be more challenging. I joined a workplace library that was moving online to provide a library service at a distance. During the interview, I asked to switch seats so that I wasn't facing the interview panel with a window behind them. I explained why I was doing this, and the panel were visibly surprised. The government sector wasn't known for its inclusivity but my hearing wasn’t explored as a potential issue.

As my job evolved and I accepted a promotion, I took on increasing responsibility which proved to be a challenge to my hearing abilities – but which have not yet been a challenge to either my employer or the people I support. As I've got older, added more wrinkles and the odd grey hair, my hearing levels have also decreased. The physical library also disappeared, and it meant I was much more reliant on using a phone and communicating at a distance. I also started leading and facilitating workshops, both face-to-face and online. I've learned to be honest, and to use a little humour and creativity when facing some of the challenges.

Navigating office spaces


The idea of working in a quiet back-office vanished as the organisation moved to hot-desk working environment. My treasured quiet office was lost in favour of a noisy, open-plan one. Whilst there are designated ‘quiet spaces’, use of telephones are banned in them. I do two things:

1.     Book an individual meeting room if I need to make / receive planned phone calls or present training online. Ambient noise means my hearing deteriorates, particularly when using a telephone, so working in a quiet space helps.

2.     Find a desk where I'm away from known noisy colleagues, and sat where I can see people approach (I’m well-known for my ability to leap out of my chair and hit the ceiling when someone approaches from behind and I’m totally unaware they are there). Colleagues have learned to politely let me know they are approaching and I also have a mirror on my monitor so I can see what’s going on behind me. Whilst it’s often entertaining to visibly leap in fright from my seat, it doesn’t have the air of professionalism I'm going for.

Using a phone


Our traditional desk telephones are being phased out by USB VOIP headsets. I answer enquiries via conference calls and act as front-line support for colleagues needing guidance and accessing services. I use a headset with a double-cup in an attempt to block out ambient noise and ensure I receive sound through both earphones, using an amplifier.

I’m honest and let colleagues know if I can’t hear them. This usually happens with female voices – they tend to be higher pitched and sometimes beyond my range. Asking them to use Instant Messaging or email me instead hasn’t yet been a problem, particularly if they are calling with a complex scientific query. Recently, someone rang and asked for in-depth research on "female snail penises". An unexpected phrase with no context and full of the sounds I can’t hear. Three repeats later, I gave up and asked them to email me. Luckily, they saw the funny side! Asking people to use a phonetic alphabet to spell family names often occurs in some interesting word choices if they are not familiar with the NATO alphabet!

We’re just starting to implement video phone. Bad news for those that like working from home in their pyjamas. But in terms of accessibility, it has the potential to increase my ability to make and receive calls easily.

When I know a colleague is in the same building, I always opt to go and speak to them face-to-face, rather than email in the first instance. It gets me out from behind my desk, some exercise walking up and down the stairs and improves my relationship with peers. It’s still seen as unusual though, with most people preferring to use a phone in an attempt to reduce electronic communications.

Presenting training online


Presenting online needs a bit of planning, but when I'm familiar with the subject, I'm confident that I can manage it. I encourage online etiquette to increase accessibility for anyone joining the call. Telephone and video conferencing have been in our organisation for over five years, but there’s still some bad practice out there. If I'm leading it, I:

  • Turn off announcements. If someone is going to be late, they can arrive quietly.
  • Ask people to mute their phones so background noise is reduced. Don’t be that person typing away in the background when you’re not on mute. Apart from telling us you’re only half-listening, the noise interference reduces accessibility.
  • If it’s a large group, I mute them myself and request they use IM or online chat interfaces to raise queries instead.
  • Ensure people introduce themselves first before asking questions so we’re clear who is speaking. It's not always easy to distinguish between unfamiliar voices.
  • If someone asks a question, I repeat it. This means I make sure I heard the question correctly, and ensures everyone else has heard it as well.


Teaching face-to-face


I'm careful to find out about room layouts in advance of arriving in a new training room. I use name-plates on desks so that I can easily identify people and ensure I have a map of where people are sat. This means I'm not relying on solely on their verbal introduction to establish their name.

Depending on the size of the group, I set some ground-rules for the session. Asking people to raise their hands means I know what direction to look in before they start talking. I often use humour when asking this as no-one likes to feel they are back in the school classroom. I’ve never yet encountered negative feedback. Some people still talk with their hand behind their mouth, but a gentle reminder and an explanation that I lip-read usually suffices.

Using white boards, flip charts and dealing with technology means I sometimes have to briefly turn my back on an audience. I let them know that if I'm not facing them, I can’t hear them. I joke that throwing a shoe will often attract my attention, and in ten years, only one person has taken their shoe off and (jokingly) threatened to throw it!

Occasionally, I'm asked a question and despite extensive practice at filling-in-the-gaps, I just can’t make out what someone is asking. Throwing the question out to the group and asking ‘would someone else like to offer a solution?’ saves me from continually saying ‘Can you repeat that?’ and provides an inclusive way of introducing active learning opportunities for all members of the group. Usually, I can then pick up on the issue and offer further feedback or confirmation if required.

Communicating with manager



My line manager is aware of my deafness, and my plans for dealing with various situations. I ensure I keep them informed and make sure that I've got backup. This is mostly for my own protection. It’s about confidence and feeling safe that in the event that a colleague complains because they feel that my deafness has had a negative impact on their training experience, I know I am supported. Mostly, this is my own fear, and I've never had that feedback.

I also make sure that any face-to-face conversations I have with my manager I follow up with email to confirm my actions. It provides clarity that I've heard and understood correctly and an opportunity for her to correct it. During catch ups, one of the most useful things she does is to provide space. I can’t listen properly and write at the same time, so when she gives an instruction and sees me making notes, she pauses until I've finished and am ready to look at her again. I scrawl the odd thing during meetings without breaking contact with the speaker, and whilst my ability to write without looking adds a wonky charm to the notes in my diary, I would rather things were neater.

How to include** me in the workplace


I don’t have to say this – it’s obvious right? But if you’re not sure how to include someone you know is deaf, ask them what they need. We also have a responsibility to tell you if we need something, but not everyone chooses to self-disclose. It will depend on their own levels of deafness, and preferences for communication. But if I could I influence your practice, my top hates – and solutions are below.

  • If you’re sending out joining instructions for a conference or training session, provide accessibility information. Let me know what facilitates are already in place and invite me to tell you if I need something else. Don’t just provide a phone number. Include an email where I can actually get a response.
  • Yes, reserve me a seat at the front if it’s appropriate. I need to be able to see people to hear clearly and constantly having to peer round the back of someone’s head is irritating. I will always turn up early to a training event or meeting to ensure I get the best seat possible.
  • If I get in contact and ask you about the set-up, think about all the different parts of your training and how accessibility levels might change during the day. I've been to training sessions where the trainer has happily reserved a seat at the front of the room for me, only to discover on the day that the afternoon would be spent in rotating groups. Six groups, working in one room having a noisy conversation – I was excluded from that activity and politely sat nodding my head, catching only snippets of the group discussion. Give me the heads up so I can work with you to find a solution or workable compromise.
  • If you are showing audio-visual media, include captions, subtitles, or consider providing a written script/overview on request. It’s not really good enough to say ‘sorry, you won’t be able to hear this bit’. (Yes. That’s happened)
  • Don’t just introduce an exercise verbally. Have guidance written down and displayed on either a handout, flipchart or screen. Saves you repeating yourself continually.
  • Don’t give out crucial information or shout instructions whilst everyone is flapping about opening laptops, rustling paper and dragging chairs across the floor. I’m not looking at you, I can’t hear you.
  • Think like a weather presenter. You should know what’s on your presentation slide, you wrote it. Have some confidence in that, and stop turning round to look at the screen. Every time you do that, you might as well stop talking. Again, If I can’t see your face, I can’t hear you.
  • I don’t hear every word. I watch. I mentally repeat the sounds, fill in the gaps, and correct obvious misheard words. It all happens quickly, but it means there might be a pause before I respond. Lip-readers don’t generally read every word, and a lot of it is guesswork and prediction. Give me space.
  • Introducing an unfamiliar terms? Write it down or provide notes. I spent a good 30 minutes in a SharePoint training session trying to make sense of what a developer was saying about ‘Cycle Actions’. Turned out he was saying ‘Site Collections’, but I only realised that when I got the notes at the end of the section. I struggle with unfamiliar accents. I’m envious of those whose lipreading is advanced enough to be able to spot variations in regional lip-patterns. (In the same way we have regional accents; our lip-patterns vary as well. To my horror, although I thought I’d avoided a Bristolian accent, I appear to have a Bristolian lip-pattern.). Back to the point - in some cases, there are good reasons for providing notes up front and not waiting until the end of the course.
  • Asking a question in a conference session? Use the microphone. You might think your voice is loud enough, but please don’t be shy. You've got something to say, and I’m interested to hear it.
  • My eye-contact is different. Whilst I will make eye-contact, my gaze will move to your mouth to fill in the gaps. Please don’t  be shy. Uncover your mouth. When you hide behind your hand, I can’t hear you.
  • Use my name. I tend to filter out background noise so I can concentrate. If you are talking to me, get my attention first to make sure I'm looking at you. Putting my name at the start of the sentence is my cue that I need to pay attention. Otherwise you’ll discover you can have a whole conversation on your own and I won’t even be aware you’re talking to me.
  • You don’t need to slow down. It distorts the normal pattern and flow of speech. If someone is lip-reading, they’ll be happy if you are looking at them, speaking clearly and pronouncing correctly.


If you want to find out more, Action on Hearing Loss is full of resources, including a glossary of terms.

*  I’m not keen on the term ‘hearing loss’. I didn’t lose it, as I never had it to begin with. But it’s a term that’s generally accepted, although often associated with people who experience a decrease in hearing as they grow older.


** Can I admit I hate the word ‘inclusion’? Something about inclusion still being the majority /choosing/ to include minority groups. There’s got to be a better way. But I use it in the spirit of agreeing that most of us understand what we mean by ‘inclusion’ and I don’t yet have a better alternative. Inclusion of minority groups shouldn’t be a choice. That’s a rant for another blog post though.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Cilip AGM 2013 : Motion of No Confidence in Ed Vaizey


 On Saturday, 21st September, the Cilip Annual General Meeting was held at the recently opened Library of Birmingham. I spoke in support of item 9 on the agenda - the motion of no confidence in Ed Vaizey. It read:

“In view of his failures to enforce the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, this Annual General Meeting of Cilip has no confidence in Ed Vaizey, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Culture, Media, Communications and Creative Industries, and instructs Council to work with all other interested parties to protect library, information and knowledge services”

The motion was carried. 669 people voted in favour. Less that a third voted against (200) whilst 103 people abstained.

I prepared for debate. I prepared myself for some vocal objections, but was rather surprised that, other than an objection to the wording, and clarification over the spirit of the motion (Were we asking Cilip not to work with Ed Vaizey. No. That was not our intention), there were no objections raised.

I admit to being a little disappointed. The AGM hosted a passionate discussion about the potential name change. And whilst it's nice to have folk nod in agreement and vote it through, I'm aware that not everyone agreed - some disagreed quite vocally on Twitter or via other blogs. And that's OK.  But what a shame that discussion couldn't have been had at the AGM.

I'm not the first to have a strong opinion on Vaizey. I certainly won't be the last. Others have expressed their disappointment much more elegantly that I ever could. (This one, from Gary Green is a particular favourite).


For what it's worth, the text of my speech is below, which was mostly read as written. I've removed identifying information.


"My name is [redacted]. I work for the [Government Agency] in a team called ‘Evidence’ which is a service responsible for creating, finding, managing and sharing data and information. I've previously worked in both public libraries and academic libraries in front-line roles and joined the Library Association shortly before it evolved into Cilip.

I want to start off with a quote from Ed Vaizey, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries. He’s talking here as shadow secretary about plans for 15 libraries to be closed in Wirral back in 2009. Vaizey said:

“Andy Burnham's refusal to take action in the Wirral effectively renders the 1964 Public Libraries Act meaningless. While it is local authorities' responsibility to provide libraries, the Act very clearly lays responsibility for ensuring a good service at the culture secretary's door. If Andy Burnham is not prepared to intervene when library provision is slashed in a local authority such as the Wirral, it is clear that he is ignoring his responsibilities as secretary of state, which in the process renders any sense of libraries being a statutory requirement for local authorities meaningless” [Bookseller]

If you were to swap a few names around, change the name of the library authority under threat then this could easily be the current shadow secretary, talking about Ed Vaizey. In this speech, Vaizey himself makes the point of his own ineffectiveness clearly.

When in opposition, Vaizey, described proposals to close public libraries in areas of deprivation in Wirral as "cost-driven vandalism". You only have to read headlines in Bookseller or take a quick glance at Public Libraries news to see how starkly that contrasts with his words and lack of action as current secretary.

He seems to have little sympathy or time for the libraries that are closing, libraries that are being removed from council responsibility through privatisation or outsourcing, or libraries that are being forced into community hands to run themselves, else live with the guilt that they somehow contributed to the loss of their local library services. That’s before we’ve even stopped to consider the libraries that are clinging on, hollowed out with little left in terms of staff, opening hours or resources.

Vaizey claims he is delighted that libraries continue to thrive, and at the recent select committee enquiry into library closures, he queried the crisis.

Crisis?  What crisis?

All this against a backdrop of closures in Somerset, Gloucester, Lincolnshire, Sheffield, Sunderland, Moray, Herefordshire, Isle of White... It’s not the Secretary of State intervening in these closures. It is the local library campaigners.

According to Public Libraries News, compiled by Ian Anstice, since April 2013, 364 libraries, including mobile services have been closed or transferred out of Local Authority control or are under threat. That’s just in six months. The Library Campaign recently estimated that by 2016 we will have lost almost 1000 libraries.

Vaizey is quick to point to the successes of shiny new libraries, like the very library we are stood in today. But his silences on the closures that loom over the few that have opened, stand in dark contrast. [See: Ed Vaizey’s statements on public libraries]

During the passionate debates around what our professional body should call itself, the one message I heard time and again was: ‘It’s not what the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals is called that matters. It is what it does’.
Cilip is perceived by campaigners to have very little to say about large-scale changes that are happening in our public libraries. We need to change that.

Few people working in public libraries are able to speak out in confidence about what is happening to their service – to their jobs. I read a letter recently from someone in my own local area, where the very library that inspired me to become a librarian is now under threat as plans to turn 1/3 of its space into classrooms for a local school dismiss it’s collections as ‘book storage’.

The passion and despair in that letter moved me to tears. A library worker’s whose voice is silenced because speaking out against changes means speaking out against her employer and all the risks associated with that.

A vote of no confidence in Vaizey, from Cilip members sends a powerful message to government and to those that are working in and campaigning to protect public libraries from further loss. This vote gives Cilip members the chance to drive the agenda. It says we value our public libraries and support our colleagues who work in them. I believe that no matter what our background, or in what kind of library or information service we use our skills, we have a professional obligation to stand together and express a vote of no confidence in Ed Vaizey."


My thanks go to Tom Roper, who encouraged me to get involved, and who was the driver behind much of the work to make it happen. Please do read his blog post on the outcomes of the motion.

Thank you also to everyone who tweeted their support or engaged in debate (whether in agreement or otherwise) and gave me the confidence to stand up and speak. When it's the quiet one's that speak out at AGM, you know there's a problem in Library Land.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Forum for Interlending, Cardiff 2013 :: Day Two :: Tour of Cardiff Library


Day two of the Forum for Inter-lending started with a quick Annual General Meeting, before launching in to a visit to Cardiff Library, which was a short walk from the Maldron Hotel.

The library is instantly impressive, forming part of the St. David's redevelopment in central Cardiff. Opened in 2009 by the Manic Street Preachers, the building won a RIBA award in 2010.



It's hard not to love this library. Six stories of glass and light and colour, it's a purpose built library designed to accommodate the variety of different users. Lots of detail gave this library personality: Bright orange signs clearly indicating a route round the library - along with orange chairs to identify members of staff; a clean, uncluttered look that included dedicated wall space to keep displays to a minimum to increase impact; low level shelving with lots of display features, allowing readers to see across the whole of the library.

Cardiff Library || baby grand piano
The readers were at the heart of this library. Dedicated IT suite, where an Ancestry training session was in progress as we passed; a dedicated space tucked away under the stairs for teen collection, listening pods, individual desks, combined with large study desks, giant chairs dotted around the floors to curl up in and read a book. My personal favourite was the baby grand piano - complete with headphones to allow for individual practice without disturbing other library users. I loved the idea of someone having a 'silent disco' style boogie-woogie on the piano.

The children's library was hidden away on it's own mezzanine floor, visible from the main escalators, but only accessible via it's own staircase. Although smaller than they would have liked, it was a space created to be explored by little hands. Cubby-holes contained hidden collections which were rotated on a regular basis, a curtain created a magical enclosed space for story-time and there were dedicated computer desks that couldn't be used if you were over the age of 16.

What personally struck me whilst I was walking around were the number of staff. We were given the tour by the Children's Librarian who outlined the structure of the staff and the number of specialist staff providing support to readers. Whilst there were self-issue machines, there were no queues to use them, and no staff hanging round to provide support - a very different picture to the self-service set up in Bristol where readers are still acclimatising to the change. Talking to the Children's Librarian, she emphasised that although readers needed support to begin with, most were now happy to use self-service, and it freed staff to do more outreach work in the community. Having worked on a self-issue implementation project at a University over 10 years ago - and remember the trauma of having to empty the book return bin - I admit looking on at the self-return system with a little envy. A complex conveyer-belt system that assigned book to the right floor before being manually transferred to the shelves by staff. I still have some concerns about a library service that forces users to use self-issue in a public library but used in the right way, self-service provides the opportunities to open up access to collections. I'm much more comfortable with the use of self-service in an academic environment where it has more potential when combined with 24 hour access. But that's another issue...

If you're interested in the full set of pictures from the day, along with descriptions, they can be found on Flickr.

I won't be blogging the rest of day two... partly because Jenny Foster has already done a much better job of reflecting on the sessions and collecting tweets from the day... but also because I want to focus on the changes I've made since attending. I'll do that in a separate post shortly.


Saturday, 29 June 2013

Forum for Interlending, Cardiff 2013 :: Day One :: Copyright, BLDSS, Scan & Deliver, Bookmark Your Library


I've always had a soft spot for inter-library lending and document supply. Back in 2002, my first full time job in a large university was sole responsibility for ILLs in a campus library. I'd sought the role after starting off in an acquisitions post, so inter-lending felt like I was dealing with another side of the same coin - providing access to an ever-increasing pool of information. At it's peak, I was ordering between 900 and 1500 items a month. I had a good relationship with other ILL folk both in my own institution and across other libraries. A tight-knit community that was willing to share resources and ideas. My proudest moment was being given a copy of a student's thesis. At the front, he'd thanked me for helping him to obtain the materials he's needed for his history Phd. And only I knew the written thanks were partially because I'd quietly allowed him to go over his limit of 100 items per year. Just a little.

I always felt the job gave me a grounding in searching bibliographic databases, understanding sources of information, designing user-friendly processes and deciphering academics scrawly handwritten request forms. I was part of a group that tested and implemented a self-service scheme for academics, enabling them direct access to materials from the British Library via British Library Direct. The service was trialled and then scrapped, but at the time it felt innovative and slightly dangerous. What if the academics went on a wild spending spree?

Ten years later, I'm now in a government library that works very differently from most libraries. Eight years ago, our National Library and Information Service was dismantled in favour of a central library service. The Information Services Unit was born. Serving an internal working population of 13000, we delivered books from our Document Delivery Centre through the post, and provided access to journals, technical reports and legislation, online. Whilst we still purchased books, our focus changed from purchasing items 'just in case' to 'just in time' with customer-led acquisition policies.

Following a Government Review of our department, we found the library service under review, and our staff numbers reduced from 16 down to four. Our print library was digitised. We no longer purchased books. Customers have a choice between purchasing items from our bookshop, or requesting a short-term loan which we arrange via the British Library.

After spending 5 years as a Knowledge Manager and Information Specialist, I found myself returning to a role that included inter-lending. My role was to revamp our inter-lending processes, implementing BLDSS and move towards making our inter-lending self-service. I've almost come full-circle.

Like many others, I've been waiting a while for BLDSS to come online. I attended the BLDSS roadshow, back in October 2011 at the British Library, anticipating it would come online in February 2012. It finally launched over a year later. So having someone from BLDSS was my main motivation for attending Interlend, along with needing to catch up on developments in Copyright.

I found I got a lot more out of it that that. Talking to people about their own processes gave me a sense of relief in some ways - we weren't the only one's with outdated processes that needed a kick up the backside to land with a thud in the 21st Century! It gave me the head space to think about what we did, how we did it - and how we could make improvements. So I've left inspired and feeling brave enough to make a few radical changes.

Professor Charles Oppenheim - Developments in Copyright Law

Day one kicked off with a key-note speech from the ever-entertaining Professor Charles Oppenheim. Who deserves an award for making something that could be really dry so darn entertaining. He announced it was his last conference speech, as he is now retiring. And although librarians across the land will mourn, I wonder if Cliff Richard will breath a sigh of relief?

Prof Oppenheim gave an overview of the Hargreaves Review and what this would mean for libraries. In a week where we've seen a lot of activity around intellectual property legislation, there were lots of notes for me to make. But the welcome news was that there might finally be an end to forcing library users to fill out paper copies of Copyright Declaration Forms, as the UK government finally catches up with the reality of electronic signatures and accepts an on-line form or email.

Kate Ebdom & Joanne Cox - British Library Document Supply

Kate provided an overview of inter-lending over the past few years, highlighting the need for change at the British Library as lending has declined from 4 million requests at it's peak in 2000 down to just 1 million in 2012. I found this decline in use surprising as I thought more libraries were moving to a 'just in time' philosophy of supplying materials to their readers. But a Jisc report published in May 2013 outlined the impact of changes in reader behaviour: Readers favour items that are available for immediate download. Document Delivery comes low on the list of options for items they do not have access to. 

RLUK UK Survey of Academics 2012
For digital libraries like mine, hidden on an intranet, attempting to make the library visible via Google or Wikipedia using innovative techniques (as outlined by Aaron Tay) isn't really an option. But perhaps if we gave our researchers direct access to the British Library, we might be able to have a greater impact? This is what the new British Library Document Supply Service offers.

I've already embraced BLDSS as an online ordering system. We were previously ordering Explore. Even after 8 years, I still can't remember the password for our account. So for me, I found BLDSS easy to access, simple to order from, ammend and track. I'm still waiting for Get It For Me and Find It For Me to come online, (Although, can anyone remember which service is which?) and hoping that the few glitches we've noticed can be ironed out. My next step is to start rolling this out as a way for our researchers to access the materials they need. There's one big flaw in the plan : Copyright Declaration Forms. The need to obtain a signed, paper copy of a form in an environment where we are based online, with no physical access to a library, serving a working population of 12000 people across England is a huge problem, and seriously slows down our turnaround time from request through to delivery. 

Kate and Jo's presentation gave me a few things to think about in terms of what I want to see from BLDSS in the future (Ability to manage requests to the British Library independently of any other tracking systems), and a few more improvements to look forward to, including a DRM wrapper for Secure Electronic Delivery that doesn't need to be installed separately.

Carol Giles - University of Exeter: a fully integrated service

With a choice of two sessions after lunch, I chose to attend this one over Helen Bader's session on music inter-lending as it seemed more relevant to my interests. I admit, I was expecting something a little more revolutionary than what was offered. But the session highlighted the complex political and logistical issues that are still faced by University's attempting to implement a seamless library document delivery service for their readers. Certainly, Carol's presentation highlighted the ongoing issues library workers have with being able to have direct access to IT support that understands their needs.

James Shaw - Scan and Deliver: a new service from Bodleian libraries

And now for some Adam and the Ants. In Lego. Well I had this little earworm in my head for the rest of the day, so I thought I'd pass it on... and lets face it. It beats Cliff Richard EVERY TIME.


So James sneaked in something that isn't technically inter-library lending, but there were so many applications to inter-lending that we forgave him. Bodleian Libraries developed the Scan & Deliver service as a solution to the problem of off-site storage being some 40 miles away from the Library in Swindon. The service is an electronic document delivery service that provides copies of book chapters or articles held in the off-site storage facility, an alternative way of accessing the collection and having to wait for the item to be physically delivered to their home library. The service looked like it was seamlessly integrated in to the library catalogue, making it popular with the students. James outlined the results from a focus group about expectations for the service: They wanted it to be free; They wanted whole copies of books to be delivered; They wanted a fast turnaround. So the University had to work hard to manage expectations of the service and to ensure that it complied with legislative provisions around supplying copies. 

Currently, the service is only offered to Bodleian Libraries card holders, and specifically only for items held off-site. But it was easy to wonder what impact this model might have if it were extended to supply documents to other libraries? Could this be a viable rival to the British Library Document Supply Service?

Elisabeth Robinson - Collaboration and Cooperation: an OCLC update

Elisabeth kicked off the session two Cliff Richard quotes shoehorned in along with a Torchwood reference. But with a focus on raising awareness of FAB libraries, it was surely a missed opportunity for a Thunderbirds reference? With a quick trot through the history of inter-lending and a look at some seriously retro methods of obtaining catalogue information, Elisabeth outlined her background in public libraries and inter-lending before looking at how OCLC continued to connect libraries and their resources world-wide.

For library users in the UK, how easy was it for them to find their local library? Wales offered Library Wales, Scotland offered their own regional version, as did Ireland. But there was a gap, with no collaborative library portal for England.

Bookmark Your Library aimed to fill that gap. Aimed at people who might not necessarily think of using libraries as their first port of call, it launched in March 2013 with a piece of research that caused controversy among library campaigners as it hit the headlines with a 'Use them or lose them' statement. Continuing with the publicity, Elisabeth landed in The Sun a few days later with another survey on the most common books owned. Through local radio interviews alone, she reached over 4 million people talking about books and libraries. A pretty impressive feat that any library campaigner would be proud of.

WorldCat will be well-known to most library workers involved in Inter-Library Loans. A tool to enable libraries to locate the nearest available location for a sought-after resource, it's a key resource in most ILL practitioners tool-kit, but with a heavy emphasis on US libraries. Set to change shape to become WorldShare with a new interface that recognises that ILL staff like pretty pictures of book covers too.

Day one of the conference ended with a plenary and question-answer sessions aimed at British Library and Charles Oppenheim. I left with a notebook full of things to think about and ways to improve my own service.

Day two will be blogged in a separate post. Phew!