HubbuB: March 2012

New collections on the Hub

A special mention for the University of Worcester Research Collections – they have now been added to the Hub as collection level descriptions, thanks largely to their HLF ‘Skills for the Future’ trainee, Sarah.

We are delighted to have the Royal College of Psychiatrists as a new contributor, adding to a number of distinguished Royal Colleges already on the Hub.

Feature for March

This month we step into the world of augmented reality with a feature about the SCARLET project:

The feature tells us that “The SCARLET ‘app’ now enables students to study early editions of Dante’s Divine Comedy, for example, while simultaneous viewing catalogue data, digital images, webpages and online learning resources on their tablet devices and phones.” It all sounds very exciting, and something that archives can really play a very active part in.

EAD Editor

We’ve been busy testing the new instance of the EAD Editor, which will be released soon. We’ll be able to tell you more about that shortly.

We now have a page giving you information about the ‘right click’ menu that helps you with things like paragraphs, lists and links:


APIs are becoming increasingly important with the open data agenda. We have provided APIs for some years now. Recently we have updated the information on these to help developers who would like to use them to access Hub descriptions: and

The SRU interface is used to provide data to Genesis, the portal for Women’s Studies: It means that the data is only held in one place, but a different interface provides access to select descriptions – in this case, descriptions relating to women.

APIs may not mean a great deal to you, as they are primarily something developers use to create new interfaces, mash-ups and cross-data explorations, but do pass this on if you know of developers interested in working with our data. We want to ensure that archives are at the heart of innovations in opening up and exploring data connections.

Page about identifiers

Some of you may have read my recent blog post about issues with identifiers for archives and for archive descriptions. We now have a page on the Hub to help explain what a persistent unique identifier is and how you create it:

As ever, please ask us if you have any questions about this.

Former Reference

The Archives Hub now displays former reference with the label of ‘alternative ref’. This is because for some contributors the former reference is, in fact, the main reference, so we felt this was the best compromise. For example: (see lower level entries).

The new EAD Editor will allow for descriptions with a former reference to be uploaded, edited and removed, but it will not provide the facility to create them from scratch.

Case Studies Wanted!

Finally, we have a case studies section – We’d love to hear from any researchers willing to provide us with a case study. It is a really useful way for us to convey the importance of the Hub to our funders.

Voices for the Library

Voices for the Library is a place for anyone who loves and values libraries to share their experiences and stories about what libraries mean to them.  Also known as VftL, or simply ‘Voices’, the campaign was set up in September 2010 by a group of information professionals who were concerned about the negative and inaccurate coverage of libraries in the media.

The group felt that public libraries were being misrepresented in the media, for instance by their insistence on using footfall as the only measure of library use, ignoring all online services and interactions.  Voices started out as a way to combat this, to provide accurate information, and to share stories of what libraries mean to people.   Much of our content comes from library users, who want to share their stories about how libraries have affected their lives.

And of, course, there are stories from librarians as well.  Some are examples of the kind of work they do, to show the range and depth of what trained library staff do, and to illustrate that it’s not all stamping books and shushing!  And some are more theoretical debates, about the philosophy of public libraries.

Recently, we’ve started to look into the impact these closure might have on archives and special collections.  This was prompted by a blog post from Alison Cullingford, and campaigners are starting to look at what might happen to archive services in their region, as VftL member Lauren has done for Doncaster.

As more closures and cutbacks are threatened, the VftL team have been working overtime.  We’re all volunteers, and do Voices work on top of our day jobs, other professional involvement, continuing education – oh, and real lives!  We’re also scattered across the country, from Brighton to Harrogate, and all points between.  This means that the entire campaign so far has been co-ordinated virtually, using email and various other social media tools.  Most of the team had never even met each other.

Until Wednesday 26 Jan, that is!  Thanks to sponsorship from Credo Reference we were able to get most of the team down to London for a proper face-to-face board meeting, which I chaired.  I’ve never chaired a real meeting before, and I have to thank the Voices team for making it incredibly easy!  We only ran an hour over time, and managed to discuss and make decisions on several key points.   I think it definitely ranks as the best all-day meeting I’ve ever attended.

One of the things that hasn’t changed is that we’re always on the lookout for stories about the value of public library services, and why they are so important to people.  If you’d like to share your story, or tell us more about what’s going on in your area, you can contact us at

Is the reading room an echo chamber?

I attended the CILIP Yorkshire and Humberside branch & CDG members day at Leeds Met last week.  It was a great day overall, but one of the highlights – and one of the main reasons I’d wanted to attend – was Laura and Ned’s presentation on Escaping the Echo Chamber.

I’d really recommend watching the presentation – it’s a great example of a well-done Prezi, and although it obviously can’t capture everything from the presentation, it stands alone very well.

The basic premise is this:  librarians talk a lot about the state of libraries and information management and literacy and society and all sorts of other highly interesting and exciting stuff. But they only talk about it to other librarians.  They (we!) only talk about it in library blogs read by other librarians.  And I think it really is only other librarians – I can’t do my usual device here of saying ‘librarians/info profs’, because I’m not sure if librarians even talk to other information professionals about these issues.  Well, I’m here to make a tiny start – I’m going to break out of the librarian echo chamber and extend the conversation to archivists. And record-managers.  And knowledge-managers.  And anyone else who reads this blog!

The problem is: how do we get this information, these discussions to people outside our immediate professional neighbourhood?  This seems to be especially urgent now, with funding under threat – to demonstrate the value of what we do to people outside our professions.  Ideally, to our users and stakeholders – or to create new users and stakeholders by fuelling their understanding of what we do and what we stand for.

I don’t think this problem is unique to the information professions.  All professions suffer from a skewed public perception of their work.  The trouble is, for most professions this perception is formed from the exciting side of their job:  police catch criminals; doctors cure sick people; firefighters rush heroically into burning buildings.  For information professionals, it’s formed from the most boring and routine part of their job: stamping books, putting documents into boxes, making lists.  Why? Police, doctors and firefighters all do paperwork too, they all have the boring and mundane side to their jobs.  Yet no-one (and I really hope that this is still true by the time this post is published, with how the Big Society is shaping up) is suggesting that volunteers can police our streets, remove our appendices, or extinguish our blazes.

Is this because the routine work for most other professions is done in back rooms, behind closed doors?  For information professionals it’s often the exact opposite – we do our most interesting and exciting work away from the public view.  What people often see us doing are those rote jobs that could be (and increasingly are) done by machines.

So how can we address this? How do we get people to understand the value of what we really do?  It’s far from an easy task. Too often we rely on the same sources that have perpetuated the ‘boring’ stereotypes to bring them down – I’m sure that  ‘Who do you think you are?‘ has helped to change the public perception of archives and archivists.  But we can’t rely on the media deciding to use our professions as a prop for their next hit.  So how can we get out there ourselves?

Please do comment!  There’s a lively debate going on about this over on Twitter – check out #echolib to see what’s been said so far.