Monday, 23 April 2012

New Opportunities....

I know silence for a month and then 2 posts in a matter of days but I’ve had quite a busy and exciting week so I thought I’d share...

  • Monday – Buying Visit to Peters Children’s Stock Suppliers
  • Tuesday – Normal day in Chippenham
  • Wednesday - Day off, SWRLS visit to BBC Bristol Library
  • Thursday – Morning catching up in Calne, afternoon visit to Erlestoke Prison Library
  • Friday – Six Steps prep meeting and afternoon in Corsham
  • Saturday – Day in Calne as senior cover and tying up loose ends before off for a week

This week was a lot of firsts for me and there was a lot of preparation that went into making this week a success. I had been looking forward to Monday’s visit to Peters as I had a heard a lot about stock selection days and this is the first time I had been to a supplier showroom in a professional capacity. During the days before budgets had to be finalised and I had to break these down with a percentage for different sections (non-fiction, fiction, teen, board books, picture books etc) which sounds quite easy but is a lot harder at half past 4 on a Friday afternoon! Anyway with my rough idea of budgets for 4 different libraries a group of 4 Wiltshire Librarians we went off to Birmingham and I entered Heaven!
From the outside Peters is just a normal office building on a back street in Birmingham, but wind your way up a flight of stairs and a set of double doors and you enter a room that is full of ceiling to floor book cases with every kind of children’s book you could ever want or imagine. Peters are also a large supplier for school libraries and it was interesting to look at resource packs and other items they supply which work within a school environment. The staff there are efficient and helpful supplying refreshments and running totals throughout the day which helped the process be as smooth as possible. Although unheard of I actually came back with money... the day flew by and if I’m totally honest I didn’t really want to leave! I was glad I’d had the opportunity to go and would definitely want to go again (hint, hint)!

During my days in branches I was organising promotional assemblies for the upcoming Summer reading Challenge (SRC), Storylab 2012, this involved liaising with contacts in schools and colleagues in different branch libraries. We have also embarked on the annual search for volunteers and so begins my third Summer reading Challenge preparations. I look forward to this time of year.. Summer in libraries is like Christmas in retail and it is always a joy to see the library being used and enjoyed by children over the Summer holidays.

Thursday afternoon I had the opportunity to visit another of Wiltshire’s libraries; HMP Erlestoke Library. This was a chance to see the challenges of providing a public service in a regulated and restricted prison environment. After spending some time there it is easy to forget that this is not just another public library, there is very little noted difference when you walk into Erlestoke from walking into any small town or village library but what you do realise is the lack of technology, it is like walking into a library ten years ago. The management system used is an older version of Galaxy that we have in our public branches, there are no RFID machines but that is not to say there are no computers because there are but the prisoners have no access to the internet. Therefore the staff spend a lot of their time on general inquiries, finding information for users. 
Whilst speaking to the staff it was interesting to note that although for the most part the service is run as it would be in any public library there are very subtle differences, it is more important to keep an eye on users, to keep an eye on times as movements around the facility are strictly regulated. After each movement there is a roll call and if this is out by just one the prison shuts down completely until it has been resolved. The staff liaise as much as possible with the education department where they are based and their stock reflects this to a point and in some cases the only book Wiltshire holds on a subject can frequently be found in Erlestoke. 
What did surprise me is that prisoners are only allowed thirty minutes of library time a week, this can increase with different classes and employment but like a school library users come in when they should be elsewhere and other activities can be affected by one prisoner out of place. The library staff work closely with users and prisoners are employed in the library as orderlies as well as having library representatives on each of the wings. This visit opened my eyes to modern prison libraries and I was surprised by how little difference there was... I didn’t know what to expect before I went in but would be happy to go back and work there for a day or half day to learn more about the different routine the prison library staff follow.

Friday brought another preparation meeting for our Make a Noise in Libraries Fortnight event which I have blogged about previously. I don’t want to give too much away but our Sight Support Day on 13th June in Devizes Library is coming together very well and I am enjoying being part of this project working closely with colleagues who I have not worked with before. Watch this space for more updates....

Thursday, 19 April 2012

BBC Bristol Archives

Yesterday I attended a visit to BBC Bristol Library organised by SWRLS. This was a unique opportunity to explore a service that is for all intents and purposes virtual with the exception of a small reference stock. The majority of material held is footage from regional programming such as Flog It and Bargain Hunt and BBC Bristol is also the home of the BBC’s Natural History Unit. Staff from the BBC took us through the different tools they use to provide a comprehensive catalogue and service for productions commissioned on the Bristol site. They also shared their views on the challenges they are facing in the current climate.

We were lucky to be shown different tools such as Telstar, BBC Gateway, the BBC motion gallery and a database of pronunciation which are all used on a daily basis in the Information and Archives Service. There was also discussion regarding new software called Fabric which would add to the efficiency of cataloguing and searching the databases of the BBC. The roles of the Media Managers are very much computer based, from cataloguing rushes to sharing information, checking rights and answering customer enquiries. A lot of time is focused on the metadata behind material, providing taxonomies so the material is as accessible as possible. Unfortunately because I'm not as technically savvy as I probably should be a lot of discussion went over my head but that which I understood was very interesting... would be interesting to find out more about different operating systems and the databases that are vital in different sectors.

We also got the opportunity to enter the news rooms of Points West to speak to the Media Manager for the news that work to strict deadlines and are vital support for broadcasters helping them find shots and captions that are needed for news stories both throughout the day but also for breaking news. We were given the example of cataloguing shots such as Bristol Water which need to be catalogued using key words so they are as easy to find as possible and can be used at short notice. The news is archived the same day it is broadcast and it is vital that it is catalogued correctly for future reference especially with ongoing news stories.

The largest challenge they’re against at the moment is storage of the material they archive. For each programme that is transmitted there is a vast amount of rushes that need to be held. These are weeded in the way that you or I may go through a collection but there are many things to consider including the viability of re-use and a commercial aspect. There is also the matter of evolving technology, moving from reels to tape to digital files. The storage devices have also changed over the last decade and the longevity of these devices are called into question as they are being used on a regular basis. It is then quite interesting that the BBC are planning to sell buildings that hold the BBC’s significant Natural History Unit archive (items such as Blue Planet, Frozen Planet and a beautiful short film that tickled me – “Wild Wensleydale”), whilst also trying to find a new home for the archives being brought down from Birmingham over the Summer.

It was interesting to note that although the sectors and materials dealt with could not be any different, the staff at the BBC are finding themselves up against the same problems as the public sector. Some of these include issues of staffing and restructuring, the storage of data/material and the need to keep up with ever evolving technologies and software in order to provide efficient customer service.

Thank you for SWRLS and the staff of the BBC for giving up their time to organise such an interesting visit.