Thursday, 22 March 2012

025.431 DEW

Classification is like Marmite: you either hate it or love it. I am in the latter camp. I feel as though I’m working my way through a mystery by trying to deduce the classmark hidden in Dewey’s four weighty tomes.

This week I upgraded the library’s classification system from DDC22 to DDC23. Moving to DDC23 was something I’d both looked forward to and dreaded, but in the end it was painless. In our manuals there are hand-written annotations relating to various subjects and it took an entire day to transfer these over to the new manuals, checking that each note was still relevant on the catalogue. Doing this brought back memories of when I assisted with an upgrade from Dewey 17 to DDC 20. There were various problematic differences between these editions, but by upgrading to the next published edition we should avoid any such mishaps this time. I’ve worked in three different libraries and my journey down Memory Lane led me to think of the various editions I’ve used so far:

When I worked in a secondary school we used Abridged 12. I hadn't heard of the Abridged editions before but they are aimed specifically at libraries with less than 20,000 texts. Using this meant that classification was a far simplier process but I was worried I would forget how to use Dewey in any great depth. When I started my current role last year, masses and masses of classification awaited me (I think they'd been stock-piling it for my arrival!) but I needn't have worried and was soon in the swing of it. (I really ought to have more belief in my own abilities sometimes.)

Dewey is sometimes like wading through mud, so in order to improve the usability of the system I follow it only as much as it meets my needs. There is no Dewey Police Force to throw me in prison if I use an incorrect number so - as a classifier - I am free to adjust classmarks to suit our library. I allocate classmarks where the books are most likely to be found by the learners who need them, irrespective of the book’s ‘true’ classmark. I’ve often created my own classmarks too, if there hasn’t been one I’ve felt suited my needs, and I avoid creating overly long classmarks. What good would this do? Yes, it would demonstrate my superhuman ability to implement hardcore classification, but it would also confuse and complicate matters for the learners.

Am I alone in my thinking here? Does anybody rigorously keep to the manuals in order to implement a pure DDC system? Or does anyone do as I do and assign classmarks you feel suit your particular book stock? The key to a successful classification system is ease of use for learners, and that is the mantra I stick to, regardless of what Dewey tells me.

*Added this column to the table because I like to visualise the different manuals when writing about them.

Friday, 16 March 2012


Image by Jim Linwood
This week, the college in which I work has gone through an Ofsted inspection. I’ve gone through two inspections whilst working in secondary education but this was my first in further education and I was keen to see the differences...

The word 'Ofsted' provokes panic amongst teaching staff, and although this filters through to support staff, the emphasis is not placed directly on us. Pre-inspection, portfolios of evidence were collected and submitted. The library was asked to contribute to the portfolio representing the E-Services department, and I spent three days gathering as much as I could. Stats, minutes of meetings, e-safety work, leaflets, finance information, screen shots – you name it, I submitted it. I’ve only worked at the college nine months and I found the library blog and annual report invaluable tools in looking back at the department’s activity before this time. Reflectively, doing this helped me ascertain particular areas in which we could improve (SEN provision and computer statistics). It also reminded me of the things we do well - almost all the evidence I needed to provide was there waiting for me - and even made me think CoLRiC's peer accreditation scheme.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

MyPC User Group

In the library we make use of MyPC software, primarily for booking purposes. It allows greater utilisation during busy periods and ensures all learners can access an available computer when they need one. As systems librarian, this falls within my area of responsibilities, but as my knowledge of it is fairly limited I was pleased to learn about a MyPC user group meeting.

It was held at the City of Wolverhampton College last Friday and I found it very useful – am so glad I went along! It was facilitated by three staff members from ITS, the producers of MyPC, who were very keen to ascertain product feedback. I’ve only dealt with the company once before (over a licencing issue last summer) and felt it to be a faceless conglomerate. Having attended this session and met some of the team, I no longer think this; they were friendly and approachable and even held a prize draw, which was a nice surprise.

I learnt lots about the potential uses of the software and how different colleges utilise it in different ways. I came away having written a hefty action plan of things to explore; maintaining Heritage takes up a large chunk of my working week but after attending this session I realise I need to prioritise MyPC a little more. I’d like to familiarise myself with the reports functions and manual. I’d also like to look into the possibility of using MyPC to display computer availability on a large plasma screen. We already have one in a location which would be perfect for this purpose and is currently underused.

The hosting college have integrated MyPC with Heritage, and this is something I’ll be looking to tackle during the Easter half term break. I’m quite apprehensive about it and have been putting it off since October half term. I feel much more encouraged and confident having met someone who enthuses about it. It was great to make a connection with the librarian there (@AlisonPardoe) and we are in the process of arranging visits to each other’s colleges (I am interested in seeing the integrated systems in operation and she is interested in exploring our experiences of maintaining a library blog).

This was the first user group meeting in the Midlands since 2003 and I do so hope ITS continue to run sessions – I may even offer to host one if it'd encourage them! As a brief summary, I’d go so far to say this was an invaluable day - even the buffet was top notch!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Free hugs

Image by Jesslee Cuizon
Free hugs make everyone feel better...

The Heritage User Group is commonly known as HUG. It supports libraries that operate Heritage LMS, and runs two free meetings a year. Yesterday saw one of these events held at the Friends Meeting House directly opposite Euston train station.

The morning housed a technical session from Heritage mastermind Neville Jones. His knowledge is somewhat infamous amongst the IT Techies at work, so it was nice to finally see him in the flesh (as opposed to on the Marvin advice forums). He spoke about a new product called Cirqa, which will eventually replace Heritage. I have mixed feelings about this, but am trying to soak up as much info as I can.

In the afternoon there was a quick sticks AGM (no committee changes), followed by a presentation about the advanced booking module on Heritage. The final presentation covered library considerations when two colleges merge. This was very interesting and I could identify with this having recently worked through an amalgamation of two secondary schools.

Image by Jesslee Cuizon
As I don’t manage to get to as many events as I’d like, I enjoy reading people’s tweets which help to amplify event proceedings. Yesterday I thought I’d have a bash at this myself. There was no hashtag, so I don’t presume my tweets reached the people who would be interested in them, but it was fun to try anyway.

I get so much out of these HUG meetings. I pick up tips from the presentations as well as the other Heritage users present. My confidence increases and I leave buzzing with ideas. I like HUG and I like free events. Therefore, in Cara logic, I want more free hugs – they make me smile.