A week under the Bolognese sun

Book with Spaghetti

            Bolognese Book by Madeleine Leisk CC BY-NC

 

One of the best parts of working at the University of Edinburgh is their focus on professional development. Staff can enhance their experience at work through online courses, workshops, training events and international experiences. I recently had the chance to undertake one of these opportunities through a University of Edinburgh Erasmus staff trip to the University of Bologna Library (La Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna or “BUB”). It was a uniquely challenging and wonderful experience that has had an immensely positive impact on my work and I would encourage all staff that can, to consider taking an Erasmus trip.

 

Applying for Erasmus

 

I first learnt about the Erasmus funding available for staff through a colleague who had received funding to travel to the Netherlands. This funding can be used for different types of staff training  including workshops, teaching (for academic staff), and staff training weeks. I knew that I would benefit most from the experience of job-shadowing at an institution that was comparable to the University of Edinburgh. The University of Bologna was at the top of my list. Established in 1088, the University has an incredible history and is often referred to as the oldest university in the (Western) world. They are also forward-thinking in their approach to the future of library and university collections with a strong emphasis on digitisation, a free online Information Literacy Tutorial and an MA in Digital Humanities and Digital Knowledge. The city of Bologna has a thriving literary culture, much like Edinburgh, and has a myriad of public and specialist libraries throughout the city. I had also been learning Italian for the past year and thought that this would be a great (albeit terrifying) way to put my language skills to the test.

 

When choosing a destination, I would suggest that you look for opportunities with institutions that you already have a working relationship with or speak with colleagues who have connections with relevant institutions. That being said, I did not have any connection to the University of Bologna but I knew that it would be an invaluable opportunity. After receiving approval from my Line Manager, I wrote a letter to one of the library coordinators outlining who I was and why I was contacting them. I approached it as I would a job application and included information about my current job, why I was interested in learning about the University of Bologna Library, a proposal for what I could do as part of an Erasmus trip, and my CV. After receiving an offer to visit from the BUB, I filled out the relevant paperwork and submitted my application to the University of Edinburgh Go Abroad Office. Throughout the process, the office was very helpful in assisting me with my application and was quick to respond to any questions that I had. Before I knew it, it was March and I was off to Bologna.

 

Bologna, here I come

 

My first day in Bologna was a nerve-wracking experience. I wanted to make the most out of my trip and enthusiastically engage with my Bolognese counterparts, but I was concerned that my efforts would be impeded by the language barrier. Although I had been working on my Italian, I knew that I would struggle to hold a conversation, particularly with technical terms. I was relieved to find that my host for the week Signor Nerozzi, scientific coordinator at the BUB, was very skilled in his English and was able to ease the difficulties of language and even cultural barriers.

 

Signor Nerozzi had prepared an exciting week of activities for me that included meetings with his colleagues, guided tours, personal research, and attending a guest lecture. It was a very busy week, but I learnt a lot, particularly about day-to-day user services, how they manage their collections (which included a robotic storage system!), and their forward-thinking approach to digitising their materials. I also attended a guest lecture by mobile type publisher Enrico Tallone as part of La Grande Festa delle Lettere. It was a fascinating exploration of the psychology behind typography and the history of some of the most popular fonts. In addition to the BUB, I also had the opportunity to visit other Bolognese libraries, including the Archiginnasio and the Salaborsa. The library system in Bologna is unique as in addition to the availability of libraries, including subject-specific libraries like the Biblioteca della Musica (The Music Library) and the Biblioteca delle Donne (The Women’s Library), they are also interconnected as civic libraries, including the BUB. The historic Salaborsa was the most interesting public library I have ever had the pleasure of visiting. It had the feel of the public libraries that I grew up frequenting and was clearly in high demand (there was even a crowd waiting for the library to open on Monday afternoon!), but it also had beautiful architecture, an interesting history (it was built on ruins from 189 BCE, that you can still visit today), arts exhibitions, and community resources like language classes. It was a vital part of the community and a great reminder of the importance of libraries and the people who staff them.

 

Overall, my week in Bologna was a wonderful whirlwind (and I didn’t even mention all of the gelato and pasta!). I learnt a great deal about library work, particularly user services, and it was a really unique experience. Everyone that I met was incredibly friendly and helpful and I cannot thank Signor Nerozzi and La Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna enough for hosting me. I also really appreciate all of the help from the Go Abroad Office in preparation for my trip. This experience has helped me to view my job in a new light and be more creative in my approach to work. It was a very eye-opening experience and I highly recommend the experience to other University of Edinburgh staff.

 

You can learn more about the libraries in Bologna here and the University of Edinburgh Go Abroad office and opportunities here.

 

Madeleine Leisk, UCF Library Assistant

Movers and Shakers

Movers and Shakers by Madeleine Leisk CC BY-NC

 

Summer is the time when our day-to-day service at the University Collections Facility is at its quietest. The undergraduate cohort has flown the nest and are busy celebrating their well-earned graduations, so book requests are limited to the few postgraduates and external researchers enjoying the comparative tranquility of the library. However, this doesn’t mean we sit in idleness enjoying the view of the rolling stacks, since it is also the perfect time to undertake any re-distribution of collections and re-configuring of spaces. The opening of our shiny new Unit 3 facility housing the art and musical instrument collections has emptied out areas in the other two units. Subsequently, the last few weeks has seen a surge of staff presence at the UCF as we tackle several large collections moves.

First was the shifting of the Research Support Collection from Unit 1 to Unit 2. This was the least geographically challenging of all the moves since it remained within the same building, but still involved much re-arranging and re-labeling of shelves. It also allowed the opportunity of handling one of our most diverse collections – a run of bibliographies caught my eye in particular, including catalogues of Persian Manuscripts, Greek Papyri and the collections of the Bibliotheca Vaticana. One volume, intriguingly titled A Bibliography of Unfinished Books (RSC Ref. Z 1025 Cor.) was published in 1915 and declares in its preface: “No book of importance is considered complete now-a-days unless valuable aid is given to the student by the addition of a list of books closely connected with the subject he is studying. He is thus able to pursue his course of reading by reference to these authorities.” Such is succinctly summarised the importance of the Research Support Collection!

Next up was the temporary transfer of collections from the Art and Architecture library to the UCF to allow for renovation works happening to that building, which involved the coordination of teams on both ends as books were moved between sites. This move will be mirrored before the beginning of the autumn semester as the books head back to their rightful place in readiness for the next wave of art and architecture students.

The last and largest of the moves was that of the Semple collection. Originally homed at New College, it has spent several months in external storage before arriving at the UCF last week and is primarily made up of religious texts from the school of divinity. Comprising approximately 20,000 bound volumes or 800 linear metres of books it was a huge job to move in. Many of the items were in fragile condition with friable covers and so required extremely gentle handling. Supervisors were on hand to provide a first-line check of each box of books in order to identify any immediate conservation hazards. This is now being followed up by three project collections assistants who are undertaking a more thorough survey of individual volumes and assigning each a conservation priority level. As they work through the collection they will be bestowing the accolade of ‘Find of the Week’ to their most interesting discoveries – so watch this space!

Now that this hectic burst of activity has dissipated somewhat we are returning to ‘normal’ levels of activity out here at the UCF. Each move was meticulously planned and involved members of staff from all over information services travelling out to the Gyle to chip in and do their bit. It once again firmly impressed upon me the inherently collaborative nature of collections work and the dedication of this particular library team.

Daisy Stafford, UCF Library Assistant

Journey to the Centre of the UCF

Woman in Library

Image source: https://www.themarysue.com/tardis-library-doctor-who/

As a brand new library assistant at the University Collections Facility, the biggest challenge I have faced so far has been learning to navigate this somewhat labyrinthine building. Those bewildering first few days whilst I tried to get my bearings I dwelled upon my favourite literary representations of labyrinths – those appearing in the works of Borges or Mark Z. Danielewski. The most persistent, however, was the Doctor Who episode “Journey to the Centre of the TARDIS” – a show which is a favourite topic of our morning breaks. In this episode, Clara becomes trapped in a maze of ever-changing rooms as she tries to escape the crashing machine and ends up stumbling from a steel corridor into the Doctor’s library. In this blog post, I likewise hope to take you with me on a journey to the centre of the UCF, as I work to become an intrepid navigator of its shelves.

 

Sitting at my computer desk, an online request arrives. It’s for a medical journal, “Neurology”. I double check its shelf-mark, print off the request slip and off we go. Out of the office and down a set of stairs, past the hard-working cataloguers and into the lower portion of Unit 2. This is not my final destination but is worth a linger. I stride down the central aisle, past the Vet library and books from the Edinburgh College of Art, turning right at a large blue painting and through a door into Unit 1. This is where most people’s stereotypical vision of a library store will be satisfyingly fulfilled. Vast rolling stacks tower above me and I am reminded of a fight scene in the recent Captain Marvel movie, where Nick Fury took on a miscellaneous alien in amongst an archive (I remained tense through the whole thing – mind the collections!) Thankfully, the UCF is more peaceful than that, and I walk towards the stacks at the top of the room, scanning the periodicals for the correct shelf-mark. I spy my target, a run of journals neatly bound in post-box red with “Neurology” stamped in black on the spine. But, alas, they are on the highest shelf and several metres out of arms reach. Never-mind, I manoeuvre a large blue ladder into place and climb its steps to retrieve my item. Then it’s back down the ladder, along the row, into Unit 2, through the corridor, up the stairs and into the office. This book will now be packaged up and sent to its destination across the city. The rest of its journey from here to reader I cannot follow, but I’m glad to have helped it along its way and, in doing so, added another pathway to the detailed map of the UCF building in my head.

Daisy Stafford, UCF Library Assistant

Board Games at Break

                                                  Playful Engagement by Madeleine Leisk CC BY-NC

The UCF is always a fun place to work, but this past month, we have had the opportunity to add even more fun, excitement and teamwork to the UCF with the help of the Playful Engagement box. The box, a treasure trove of games, colouring books and creative materials, was created as part of the ISG commitment to Playful Engagement and the Innovation Fund project. We had the honour of being the first site location to receive the travelling box, while another box is located at Argyle House. These activities have been carefully curated so that they can be used during a short break, as part of a team building exercise, or as a way to relax individually. Some of our favourite objects in the box were: Hanabi, Perudo, One Night Werewolf, and an animal colouring book.

We dove right in with a game of One Night Werewolf, a quick game whereby players are randomly assigned characters and must discover which player is the werewolf. We were also able to practice our poker-faces with the dice game, Perudo, and made some goofy cartoons for our lunch room.

This month, we have also welcomed two new Library Assistants to the UCF and a game of Hanabi was a great introduction to the team. The game required teamwork to build the best fireworks display from a set of cards. It was simple enough to complete a game during our tea break but it was also challenging as it required players to rely on each other to provide clues to reach the communal goal of building a vibrant fireworks display.

These activities have been a great way to continue our development as a team and to add some more fun to our work. The individual activities, like the Animal Kingdom colouring book and the art supplies, have also been a good way to relax individually during our lunch breaks.

We will be sad to see the Playful Engagement box leave, but we hope that whatever team receives the box next enjoys it as much as we did (and does not mind the completed colouring pages). I would also recommend that you visit the Playful Engagement website, https://thinking.is.ed.ac.uk/playful-engagement/ and play some of the metadata games at https://librarylabs.ed.ac.uk/games/.

Madeleine Leisk, UCF Library Assistant

Unexpected delights at the UCF

There is a large area of grass growing at the side of the University Collections Facility (née Library Annexe) which is usually just grass and moss with the odd daisy daring to poke its head above the grassy parapets. However, a lunchtime stroll resulted in a delightful find of a Common Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsii) growing amongst the buttercups (Ranunculus acris) and grasses at South Gyle.

Brown honey bees looked conspicuous busily collecting nectar from the white clover (Trifolium repens) which is in full flower. The tiny purple flowers of selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) looked especially lovely as a complementary colour to the shining yellow buttercups. A daisy (Bellis perennis) or two is also flowering. A few thistles (Cirsium vulgare) are nearly flowering and small sheep sorrel plants (Rumex acetosella) are appearing. The type of grassland here (neutral to alkaline) is typical of one which has not had chemicals or artificial fertilisers put on it and is typical of how grassland looked before ploughing and fertilising became common practices.

Sandi Phillips, Collections Management Assistant

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Compliments of the Season

All the Season's blessings

All the Season’s blessings

Did you know that the Christmas card is an English invention? John Calcott Horsley, painter and illustrator designed the very first card for the commission of Sir Henry Cole, the first director of the Victoria and Albert Museum.

It seems that we got both the Christmas tree and the Christmas card from the Victorians!

 

The Library Annexe Team wishes everyone a Happy Christmas!

 

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you

Wishing you a Bright and Happy Christmas

Wishing you a Bright and Happy Christmas

I

Images from “Compliments of the Season” by L. D. Ettlinger and R. G. Holloway

Available at Library Annexe (shelf mark .74168 Ett.)

Viktoria Varga, Library Annexe Assistant

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Sheep Showcase

Have you ever met Jordan, the Library Cat? What if there was another furry animal in the Library, maybe not as alive, but nonetheless as interesting?

The Main Library’s newest Fringe Festival exhibition opens on Friday 31st July 2015, featuring Dolly, the sheep!

Showcasing not only Dolly herself (on loan courtesy of National Museums Scotland), but also rare books, archive documents, pictures, sound and film clips from the University of Edinburgh’s Special Collections, presenting all the research that eventually led to the creation of Dolly, the first animal in the world to be cloned from an adult cell.

Towards Dolly books

A sample of the University collections on display

The Fly Room

The Fly Room – from the Towards Dolly exhibition

The Curator, Clare Button’s words about the exhibition:

Dolly is the most famous chapter in Edinburgh’s long genetics history. This exhibition tells the wider story of the many pioneering discoveries which have taken place here, taking our visitors ‘towards Dolly’ and beyond.

We, here at the Library Annexe, are happy to be able to contribute with a few books from our collections. These are:

If you become interested in the subject, and would like to have a look at these books, they will be requestable again after the end of the exhibition, through DiscoverEd.

Further links:

University of Edinburgh Exhibitions: Towards Dolly

News and Events: Dolly stars in genetics exhibition

Towards Dolly

‘Towards Dolly: A Century of Animal Genetics in Edinburgh’

The exhibition is free and open to the public from 31 July to 31 October 2015, Monday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm.

Exhibition Gallery, Main Library, George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9LJ

Viktoria Varga, Library Annexe Assistant

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Do it like they do on the DiscoverEd channel

DiscoverEd is the Library's discovery service and principal search tool

DiscoverED, the University of Edinburgh’s new one step information, discovery and delivery service, is now on-line and fully operational. You can request Library Annexe items using the new service; all you have to do is sign in and find the items using the search bar. As well as books, DiscoverEd will search ebooks, ejournal articles and more.

The first request for a Library Annexe item was placed by non-other than our staff member Dominic Tate. Congrats Dominic, we know how important this is to you. [You will receive your diploma in the mail shortly.]

You can read all about DiscoverED at the links below.

About DiscoverEd

Search for Library Annexe items and more

Marko Mlakar, Library Annexe Assistant

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Thomas Nelson Exhibition: Covers in Colour

The new exhibition in the CRC showcases a number of items from the Thomas Nelson Archive, which has been written about on this blog more than once in the past. It really is an interesting collection and it’s great to see some of the books making it into the public eye.

Fiona Mowat and Beth Dumas, who began organising and cataloguing the collection of over 10,000 books, have worked with Emma Smith to make this exhibition possible. In it you can see a range of books from throughout the 20th century including stylish art deco designs and pulpy dust-jackets from the ‘40s and ‘50s. There is plenty of sci-fi and and romance present for genre fans!

The exhibition can be seen at the Binks Trust Display Wall at the Centre for Research Collections on the 6th floor of the Main Library from 3 March until 21 May 2015.

More information can be found here:

http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/information-services/library-museum-gallery/crc/events-exhibitions

Read more about the Thomas Nelson Archive at the Library Annexe here:

[Blog] Fiona an Beth blog about their work on the Thomas Nelson collection

[Blog] The AnneXe Factor: Full Nelson Archive

Carl Jones, Library Annexe Supervisor

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Recycling at the Annexe (It’s easy bein’ green)

We’re happy to report that the Library Annexe has joined University’s (recycling) efforts to make our planet a wee bit more sustainable. Every little step in the right direction helps, so next time when at the Library Annexe please recycle your litter.

“No dogma taught by the present civilization seems to form so insuperable an obstacle in the way of a right understanding of the relations which culture sustains to wildness, as that which declares that the world was made especially for the uses of men. Every animal, plant, and crystal controverts it in the plainest terms. Yet it is taught from century to century as something ever new and precious, and in the resulting darkness the enormous conceit is allowed to go unchallenged.”

John Muir

John Muir was a Scottish-American advocate of preservation of wilderness, born in Dunbar, East Lothian. If you want to know more about John Muir the University Library has a small collection of his works or you can visit his birthplace in Dunbar.

 Find “John Muir : apostle of nature” on the library catalogue

Recycling bins at the Library Annexe

Recycling bins at the Library Annexe

The University of Edinburgh’s Waste & Recycling department

John Muir on Wikipedia

Visit John Muir’s Birthplace

Information on the John Muir Way

Marko Mlakar, Library Annexe Assistant

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