I recently traveled to the United Kingdom to deliver a talk to and visit with Institute of Physics staff and leadership. While there, I attended an SLA Europe, BIALL*, and CLSIG CILIP^ event: Open day for new professionals, as well as made several site visits. My entire week was full of conversations with thoughtful and passionate members and professionals. I learned a great deal, and came home with fresh ideas, new and strengthened connections, and excitement for potential future engagement.
First up in my site visits was the Business & IP Centre at the British Library. Neil Infield and Seema Rampersad greeted a group of us from the chapter, and Seema provided an overview of the Centre and its services. Staff hold workshops and clinics for entrepreneurs, providing group and individual guidance. Amongst workshop topics are pitching your product and lean planning — great content for today’s information manager, as well! Industry guides and an e-newsletter are available online, and a wealth of databases and content is available for those visiting the library. In terms of outreach, the Centre has partnerships in South Africa and with the New York Public Library
A short Tube-ride brought me to the School of Oriental and Asian Studies, SOAS, University of London. SOAS specializes in studies of Asia, Africa, and the Near and Middle East. Simon Barron, Analyst Programmer, met me in the Library, and gave me a tour of the public space, technology projects, and staffing areas. The Library has deep foreign language collections, including endangered languages. The million volumes are organized by geography, and a large media collection resides on the ground floor. Foreign film buffs would be happy in this media collection for a very long time!
Simon and his team had just completed a migration of the catalog back-end to an open source system, OLE from the Kuali Foundation. This system offers SOAS a great deal of control over their own data and systems environment. VuFind out of Villanova provides the front-end user interface. Primo is available as a cross-database search tool, and Simon will be integrating Primo into their catalog. If this all sounds like a complex system, it is! See the photo below for the project map staff created. Whew!
Simon and his team needed a range of skills and competencies to implement the catalog project. Most of the skills were self-taught, and new processes and workflows were created. Can some of these skills be shared? Perhaps! As an editor of the Journal of Radical Librarianship, Simon has a great platform for his ideas and thoughts.
I spent a day traveling to Cambridge, where I met Niamh Tumelty, Director of the Engineering Library. Niamh provided a tour of her library, and Georgina Cronin joined us for tea and a conversation about SLA, engineering libraries, and the profession in general. Attending SLA’s Annual Conference is a financial challenge for many, and especially non-North American members. Technology tools continue to emerge. Can SLA once again evaluate options for bringing the conference to remote attendees?
Leaving the engineering library, Niamh pointed out some of the Cambridge colleges and departments on our way out to the Schlumberger site and its library, where we were met by Clare Aitken. Clare’s library is directly connected to the cafeteria, and also hosts the local coffee and tea service. There is a small physical collection with deep virtual collections. Niamh, Clare and myself shared lunch and thoughts of international engagement for SLA. Much of this conversation was summarized in my most recent candidate blog post, question 3 on SLA as an international organization.
Many thanks to all of the European Chapter members who helped coordinate my visit and who hosted my tours. I greatly enjoyed imagining SLA’s potential, and look forward to creating our future association together.
- *British and Irish Association of Law Librarians
- ^Commercial, Legal & Scientific Information Group of Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals