Today marks another birthday for Informed. The site has been rather quiet for a while, reflecting the changes in workload and circumstances that our team has experienced. We feel very proud of what we have done with Informed and of the high quality articles our volunteer authors have written for the site. We identified a gap in the blogosphere and created something to fill it.
Now we face the reality that our founders and admins are simply too busy to give the site the attention that it deserves to ensure a flow of articles coming through. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the end of Informed. It was an idea we came up with initially but we spoke to the library and information community about what they needed and wanted from it. It has always been for the information community and beyond.
So if anyone is interested in taking over the running of the site, please get in touch and we can discuss handover. If we can’t find anyone to take it over then we would begin a managed shut down of the site over the next year.
We thank you all for supporting Informed throughout the years, writing blogs for us, reading the posts, having interesting discussions in the comments sections and beyond. A big thank you to our moderators who have checked all the articles that we’ve published and to our volunteer judges who helped us to decide on the Informed Peer Recognition Award winner. It’s been such a great experience creating, launching and nurturing Informed.
Dr Jane Secker was nominated by Emily Shields. She is the winner of the Informed Peer Recognition Award 2017, recognising her significant contribution and her activities as an exceptional information professional.
The text of her nomination is below.
“I would like to nominate Jane Secker, Copyright and Digital Literacy Advisor at the London School of Economics for an award for her commitment to the promotion and development of information literacy (IL) and copyright. She has worked tirelessly to raise the profile of these vital areas of librarianship building networks and developing relationships wherever possible.
In 2004, Jane, with a like-minded colleague, set up the LILAC conference. She believed that IL practice was important to share in the library community and grew a small event at LSE into the successful annual conference now a must in librarians’ calendars. Annual feedback proves that such an event boosts IL knowledge and understanding in the community, with delegates feeding this back to their institutions and employers building IL competence and knowledge throughout organisations and communities. All from Jane’s conviction in 2004 that such a conference would be of benefit to the profession and those we engage with.
This involvement in IL advocacy didn’t stop with one conference and over the years Jane’s activism and achievements in this area have been unparalleled. Jane is one of IL’s leading promoters and her belief that being information literate is not only an important life skill but also a fundamental human right is clear in her numerous publications and conference presentations.
As well as being the Copyright Advisor for LSE, Jane has also found time to Be appointed Editor-in-Chief of the twice yearly Journal of Information Literacy; Chair the CILIP Information Literacy Group; Work on a number of projects to promote the use of Open Educational Resources, collaborating with the IL section of UNESCO ; Win an Arcadia Fellowship at Cambridge University to run a research project on IL and co-write ‘A New Curriculum for IL’ (ANCIL) a much used framework for many IL practitioners; Co-write ‘Copyright and elearning: a guide for practitioners’; Develop and champion an initiative with TeenTech, to sponsor an award for 11-16 year olds that recognises excellence in research and information literacy
Her continuing enthusiasm for IL has developed further in recent years as Jane has also focussed on a more specific area, that of copyright. Jane strives to make a traditionally dry topic of copyright fun and engaging. Because of Jane, copyright is now the subject of games and t-shirts as well as more traditional publications and conference talks. Her advocacy for the world of copyright has led to a greater interest within the profession, leading in its turn to better compliance and a better understanding within Higher Education and elsewhere. Her work with the Universities UK / Guild HE Copyright Working Group led to the Copyright Licensing Agency increasing the extent limits from 5% to 10% making life easier for students and academics.
Jane’s commitment to her profession has led to many collaborations and a furthering of understanding within the profession of both IL in general and copyright in particular. She would be a deserving winner of this award.”
Comments from the judging teams on the nomination are below.
“Clear that Jane Secker has gone well beyond her job, and started things that are of real and lasting value to the profession and society, and will continue without her input.”
“It was very difficult to decide between these excellent nominations. All three are great examples of what can be accomplished when an individual goes the extra mile. Jane Secker’s prolificacy, however, is utterly inspiring and this person would be a deserved recipient of the 2017 award in return for what is a huge contribution to the profession and beyond.“
Jane Secker is nominated for this award for her tireless commitment to the promotion of information literacy and copyright. We were extremely impressed by this nomination; in particular, what stood out for us was her willingness to share knowledge and expertise, and the wide-ranging and tangible benefits generated for the profession and for others as a result of her work. We felt unanimously that she met the criteria for the Informed Peer Recognition Award several times over.”
Jane Secker was selected because her work has reached beyond the profession and has impacted on other areas. It has also highlighted issues to the public and has made what could be considered a “dry and boring” topic, fun and engaging whilst raising important points.”
Dr Secker’s response to her nomination is below:
“I must thank all the people who’ve inspired me over the years – Emma Coonan who I worked with on A New Curriculum for Information Literacy and Chris Morrison who is my copyright literacy co-researcher, author and games buddy. I also want to thank LSE and all my wonderful colleagues there and the Information Literacy Group Committee who work so hard. I’d also like to thank Debbi Boden-Angel who is Director of Library and IT at York St John University as she really inspired me when we worked on LILAC together. And Gwyneth Price formerly of the Institute of Education who got me into conferences in fabulous locations.”
Congratulations to Dr Jane Secker on being the first winner of the Informed Peer Recognition Award, as a result of her impressive and wide ranging achievements!
Susan Halfpenny was nominated by Stephanie Jesper. We are calling the nominations placed in second and third place “Honourable Mentions”, and her placing in second means that Ms Halfpenny is the Second Honourable Mention of the Informed Peer Recognition Award 2017. Congratulations to her on this achievement, which recognises the impressive work she does for her users.
The text of her nomination is below.
“Following a restructure of the University of York’s Relationship Management Team in 2014, Susan has been part of a brand new Teaching & Learning team which includes both Library and IT staff. Since then she has been instrumental in developing the direction of that team and its focus on digital skills support for both staff and students. She led a project collating existing training materials and aligning them to outcomes based upon the JISC 6 Elements of Digital Literacy model. This has allowed us to identify shortcomings in our training offering, and to target areas where we need to add more. This work has been in conjunction with a survey of students’ own perceived skills needs. It has led us to develop new sessions targeted at both perceived and actual need, for instance our involvement in a recently successful Writing Week where we were able to run sessions on critical reading, poster design, reference management, and using Word. The most visible outcome of this work to develop a cohesive programme of digital skills support is our new Digital Skills Guides platform – http://subjectguides.york.ac.uk/skills – which the Teaching and Learning team have created, largely from scratch, as a student-facing hub for digital and information skills. The pages include interactive content which will work in conjunction with our non-embedded training. The site is also public-facing, so the materials are available for use by all. We hope to expand our online and face-to-face training in the New Year, working closely with other skills support teams to build a taught programme of elective digital skills training. This year, Susan was seconded on a project to constructively align academic teaching in every department, and this has given her opportunities to work with academics to more effectively (and inventively) support the digital skills that are actually needed by the students on their courses; for example, by embedding teaching sessions on the specific info skills and practical digital skills for creating the academic posters and presentations the students need to make as part of their course. By incorporating digital skills within their programme design, departments can also better prepare students for life beyond academia. Susan returned to the Teaching and Learning Team this summer and is now acting up as team leader, where she has further worked to advertise digital skills and the work of our team across the university. At the same time she has used the university’s decision to create MOOCs as an opportunity to propagate digital skills beyond the walls of York, building on our team’s existing history of work with Widening Participation. She’s leading on our Becoming a Digital Citizen MOOC – https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/digital-society/ – which discusses topics of digital literacy, access, participation, and the digital divide, and aims to develop digital skills and understandings in participants. This MOOC has given our team still more opportunities to work with academics, and will hopefully further advertise our services and expertise within the university as well as out. In short, Susan has been putting in tremendous effort to develop students’ opportunities for improving their (much needed and all too often neglected) digital and information skills (there’s no such thing as a digital native, as study after study makes clear), finding new channels of engagement by working more closely with other teams (support and academic) across the university, and coming up with new and inventive approaches for blended learning. She has been amazing in transforming her team from a few Librarians and IT specialists into a cohesive group working together and with others to improve digital abilities across the university and beyond.”
Comments from the judging teams on this nomination are below.
“Susan Halfpenny has contributed significantly to teaching and learning, ensuring that models are sustainable and that delivery is effective. Developing digital skills is at the heart of what she has accomplished, with the student’s needs firmly at the forefront. She has obviously had a huge impact across the university, and not just in her substantive role, She has also fostered a culture where teamwork and cohesion are recognised as essential.”
“The work of Susan Halfpenny involves the development of a team focused on digital skills support for staff and students at the University of York. We felt that she had identified an important issue and demonstrated leadership skills and tenacity in taking on responsibility to promote this work across the university. She demonstrated a willingness to share her knowledge, and her work with the MOOC will undoubtedly have long-lasting and important benefits on several groups of people.”
“We felt that Susan Halfpenny seems to be doing some fine work in the areas of dovetailing practical skills with teaching sessions, promotion/marketing and service development. As well as evidence of strong team-working and good collaboration with other departments, which should have long-lasting consequences. Her work on widening participation, and creating resources for the general public to access is also exciting and useful, and almost swings this into another category. We were particularly impressed that all this had been done while she was acting up – it’s not even her job and she’s excelling at it!”
Mr N.Selvarajah was in the unusual position of having been nominated twice by the same people, Mr. Thambirajah Jeyabalan and Mayooran Ambalavanar. For voting purposes these nominations were consolidated into one nomination, which were considered as a single nomination. We are calling the nominations placed in second and third place “Honourable Mentions”, and his placing in third means that Mr N.Selvarajah is the First Honourable Mention of the Informed Peer Recognition Award 2017.
Congratulations to him on this achievement, which recognises the impressive work he does for his community.
The text of the nominations is below.
“Mr. Selvarajah is a retired librarian from Sri Lanka, currently living in the UK for the past 25 years. Whilst living in the UK, he has compiled 11 volumes of annotated bibliographies comprising of Sri Lankan Tamil’s published works from around the world. So far he has compiled 11000 entries and counting. This enormous project is self-financed with the sole purpose of documenting the history of the Tamil society that would have otherwise been lost through war and time. This Herculean task has not been successfully attempted by the Sri Lankan National library nor anyone else in the Tamil society.
Alongside writing these bibliographies Mr. Selvarajah also travels around London and provides a mobile book market stall. Here he offers a range of Tamil books suitable for the young and old, at a very low cost. The money of which goes to further publishing fees. His simple idea is ‘if people will not go to books, then the books shall come to them’. He is a strong believer that everyone should be given the chance to read for enjoyment and learning.
Mr. Selvarajah has also set up a non-profit charity called ETDRC: ‘European Tamil Documentation and Research Centre’. This charity aims to provide books for those who wish to research into the Tamil civilisation.
Books Abroad is a popular charity that gives a second life to books that would have been used for road surfacing. Mr. Selvarajah works closely with the charity to provide these books to schools and libraries in deprived areas of Sri Lanka. All of these books are written in the English language and play a vital part in the educational system of the country.
Mr. Selvarajah’s work, although dedicated to the Tamil society, has a wider purpose. It not only saves documentations from previous generations but also provides a door for the current and next generations to learn and grow. It allows people of all ethnicities to learn about a civilisation and preserve it from being lost in history.”
“Mr.N.Selvarajah is a Director of a charity Called ETDRC.He has written several articles and books for the benefit of Tamil community.He has done his reserch written and published 11 Volumes of Noolthettam to date and each volume consists of 1000 entries of Sri Lankan tamil writers , their work and a brief explanation of what the work consists of.
Each noolthettam publication was self financed by Mr.N Selvarajah.This is a gigantic task that should have been done by the Sri Lankan National Library or by a separate tamil literary organisation,not by a lone man.This task allows the titles to be documented in history.The affect of the civil war on tamil books also explained in his published volumes.
Alongside publications, he has organised numerous book markets in London.Here he delivers boxes of tamil books to local tamil communities and sells them at a low price.The money raised goes to ETDRC Charity.The purpose of the book stall is to allow children and adults to have a chance to read a range of books.He is a keen believer that knowledge is wealth.
He also works with a charity called ” Books Abroad” ,which sends crates of English books to impoverished communities across Sri Lanka.The books are provided for schools and local libraries and allow the children to learn the English medium.This charity and the books have played an important part in helping with education and in some areas they are the only books available to a child. Mr.N Selvarajah established the ETDRC charity,which is a non profit making organisation aimed at providing books and documentation for any researchers and students free of charge.The ultimate goal of this charity is to form an establishment for such research and documentation to take place.”
Comments from the judging teams on this nomination are below.
“Without dedicated nominees like Mr N.Selvarajah the preservation and effective curation of ‘marginal’ collections would be impossible. Addressing issues of deprivation and the need to ensure cultural identity isn’t eroded or lost is what makes his nomination stand out. He is a role model for young professionals and highlights the importance of being truly collegial.” “We felt that of all the nominations, Mr N.Selvarajah ‘s activities had a greater and wider impact on communities. Not only within the immediate area in which they operate, but also overseas by providing materials for deprived groups in Sri Lanka.”
Mr N. Selvarajah’s response to his nomination is below:
“I am humbled and eternally grateful to be nominated for such a prestigious award. As you rightly pointed out, the preservation and curation of these works would be impossible without the cooperation of various writers, who have tasked me with the role of documenting and cataloguing their works. You do not start a task such as this with an end date in mind, and therefore it is important for this sort of recognition, as it brings to light my work to a greater audience. I must also take this opportunity to thank the numerous writers/publishers and librarians who have assisted me in the past and most crucially during the first 1000 entries. Before the ‘Nool Thettam’ brand had spread in the collective consciousness of the Sri Lankan Tamil writers, the first writers who trusted me enough to pass me their details and compile the first volume, that allowed me to leap ahead and compile the subsequent volumes. The task is not yet complete, nor will it ever be – and that is the burden of this role that I have started upon 17 years ago, but it is recognition such as this that propels me forward for the next 17 years. Thank you.”
Listed below are the nominations which did not progress to the second round of voting. Congratulations to all here on having been nominated, and we hope that being nominated has shown how important they are to those they work with and for.
Ms Burgess was nominated for the first Informed Peer Recognition Award by Kathryn Gray.
“Bev is our LRC Manager and has done an outstanding job of improving the service of the LRC within the Isle of Wight College. We have many learners who benefit from Bev’s library experience and tireless promotion of literacy, for example she takes time out of her schedule to listen to students read. It is very important to Bev that she takes time to get feedback from learners to improve the service in the LRC and constantly works to promote a positive learning experience.”
Ms Tilley was nominated for the first Informed Peer Recognition Award by Bethany Sherwood.
“I’d like to nominate our excellent librarian, Libby Tilley, for the Informed Peer Recognition Award 2016. I’ve had the good fortune of seeing Libby’s work to improve library services for students in Cambridge, from both sides of the issue desk, both as an undergraduate student and as a library assistant. Libby’s name is well-known across the English faculty, amongst both students and academics. For students under intense pressure Libby’s leadership of the English Library provides a service that’s known for being approachable, and a lot of this stems from Libby herself. As a student I knew Libby as a friendly face, always happy to be interrupted by questions about referencing or dissertation topics. My own experience as a library user was significantly improved by the reassuring knowledge that Libby and her team were my first place to go to when I needed help. Libby’s enthusiasm for building relationships with library users, getting to know them, and learning how the library impacts their lives, finding out what they want (and actually need) from it, is fundamental to how she manages the library service. Libby has set a precedent for taking the time to talk to students face-to-face, often over a cup of tea at weekly Tea@Three (where students come for a work-break, slice of cake and, frequently, to share worries about work and life). Despite managing a large group of Arts & Humanities Libraries Libby remains a friendly and familiar presence in the English library, always willing to stop to chat with students or academics and to find out how the library service can be better for them. It’s clear that Libby’s work is underpinned by a commitment to those who use the library as people, rather than solely as library users or numbers in headcount statistics. A second reason for nominating Libby is for the way she leads by example in thinking creatively and innovatively about the library service. Libby’s work on boutique, user-focused libraries and using stories for teaching is visibly worked out in her practice and leadership. She’s always willing to hear ideas for improving the service, from all levels of the library team, and consistently encourages her staff in implementing and seeing through their ideas. Libby leads the way in consistently reflecting on how the various strands of the library service actually affects the lives of those who use it. From championing collaboration in the Cambridge library community, through chairing the Librarians in Training committee, to undertaking the development of an IT training room that has provided academics, postgraduates and librarians a much needed space for training and teaching, Libby goes above and beyond to make a positive difference to the library service and manages to do all this with a warmth and humour that often doesn’t give away the hard work behind it. We’d love for Libby to be recognised for the immense effort she puts in and the value of the work she does, and for her to know how admired and appreciated she is by those who work with her. “
Ms Chavez was nominated for the first Informed Peer Recognition Award by Phyllis O’Grady.
“As a small sixth form college serving the post-16 students of two high schools, we were excited to appoint Rachel since she was coming to us from a London college serving 10,000 students and we were confident that she would have much to teach us.
Our confidence proved well placed as Rachel has quietly exceeded our best expectations. She immediately set about updating our antiquated system which she judged inadequate for the needs of independent 21st century learners preparing for university. This was accompanied by finding cost effective ways of providing up-to-date resources which included a much greater focus on print journals and online resources. As these resources become available Rachel e-mails both students and staff to list new articles which may be of interest to them. This is aided by her having familiarised herself with the specifications being covered and the topics and texts that students in the college are studying.
Alongside improving quality and availability of resources Rachel has had a huge impact on students’ confidence and ability to access and use them effectively. She has now become a regular part of our student induction programme as well as running sessions on our Study Skills days and making herself available for one-to-one sessions teaching both research and referencing skills.
Staff whose subjects include coursework elements and the 6th form tutor team, who supervise students’ Extended Project Qualification, have noticed a marked difference in the quality of these aspects which can often mean the difference of a grade: ‘The standard of my students’ research skills and their use of sources in both their Year 1 and Year 2 coursework components has improved markedly. I thought this was down to me (!) but on discussion with the students they confirmed that the library’s accessibility and Rachel’s organisation and clarity of message has been behind this transformation. … She has made the Library’s resources simpler to access and more professional in content and so the students are using them.’ (Peter Elphick – A Level Media Studies teacher).
Students too feel more confident about tackling coursework and their EPQs as well as feeling delight at having thoroughly mastered these skills a full year before starting university: ‘Booking a one-to-one session was incredibly helpful to my studies, particularly for the research I undertook doing my EPQ. Being able to be shown all of the resources that we have access to was so useful, and also being given help with how to reference was something I found really valuable.’ (Nesta James – current student).
Rachel consciously seeks out the views of students and staff in order to ensure that the learning resource centre is fully meeting their needs, implementing an annual Library Questionnaire to measure the impact of developments and initiate still more. And of course, Rachel also presides over an excellent library facility where students are guaranteed a silent, focused atmosphere where they can get on with their studies secure in the knowledge that expert support and guidance is on hand should they need it. “
Once again, congratulations on having been nominated: we hope that being nominated has shown you how important you are to those you work with and for.
Ms Morris was nominated for the first Informed Peer Recognition Award by Associate Professor Alison Baverstock.
“Wendy Morris has been an outstanding colleague working to represent and integrate the role and capabilities of our university library service within The Kingston University Big Read – a pre-arrival shared reading project that has had a big impact within our university community. Wendy volunteered to represent the library but has gone much further than management could ever have envisaged. She has been consistently enthusiastic, energetic, proactive – and thoughtful. In the process of working to engage not only her own library community, but also the wider institution, she has made all aware of the central role the library has within higher education; functioning as a capillary network beneath the surface, and reaching every part of the institution – a capability of which academics are often unaware. In whatever direction we have developed the project – reading groups in libraries; collaboration with our local county council library service; work with the homeless – Wendy has been there, providing encouragement – and often cake. For example: having reduced the initial suggested titles down to a shortlist, she ensured that stock was secretly bought, catalogued and shipped out to each of the five campuses in time for the VC’s announcement; she was tireless in encouraging her colleagues to take part, even buying an edition of our chosen book in French to meet one individual’s preferred summer reading challenge; when I arranged a training session to talk to the volunteers at a local shelter for the homeless she did not hesitate to come along too. Finally she has totally absorbed the analytical nature of the project, and with us sought to explore and reflect on our outcomes. She has so far published associated papers in two library journals. Starting any project from scratch is a challenge. What one needs are proactive people who see the point of what is being attempted, are willing to work across the organisation – and hare both the enthusiasm and the effort. Wendy has been a wonderful support to the project, and a great enthusiast to work with. Her LRC colleagues, wider university and The KU Big Read are very lucky to have her.“
We are pleased to announce that the voting process has completed successfully, and the positions of the final three nominees have been agreed.
As a reminder of how we came to this point, this process has been ongoing since September, when we announced our plan for running an award and asked for individuals to volunteer to take part as judges.
Once those volunteers were recruited, teams of 3 were formed, with 1 Informed moderator working with 2 volunteers to go through the judging process.
The judges were given a range of practice nominations to work on, which helped them to determine how their particular team would work best together during the active judging process.
Simultaneously, the public nominations period was open, allowing people to nominate individuals whose work they believed deserved public recognition.
Once the nominations period closed, the judges were allocated anonymised (with names replaced by initials) nominations to judge. If any judge recognised a nominee allocated to their team, that nomination was removed from their team and swapped with another.
The teams went through a judging period, where they reviewed and ranked their allocated nominations.
Once all teams had completed this group judging period, the top three nominations across the teams were identified.
These top three were then judged again, by all individual judges rather than in teams, and the result of this process has given us our top three nominations.
We are calling the nominations placed in second and third place “Honourable Mentions”. What would be third place is the First Honourable Mention of the Informed Peer Recognition Award 2017. What would be second place is the Second Honourable Mention of the Informed Peer Recognition Award 2017.
On Tuesday the text of the nominations who did not progress to the final shortlist will be published here, then on Wednesday the First Honourable Mention, on Thursday the Second Honourable Mention, and on Friday we will be announcing the first winner of the Informed Peer Recognition Award.
Below are some of the comments from the judges about the nominations they’re viewed.
“Well done to all those submitted for an award, the high quality of applications is testimony to the amazing work done by people working with libraries and information.”
“A strong field of nominees, all of whom have contributed significantly to librarianship in their respective areas. They should each be commended for their conviction and commitment.”
“I have been so impressed by the candidates and the nominators. Thanks for letting me be a part of the judging panel!”
The Informed team would like to say a public thank you to the amazing judges involved in this process. They’ve given up their free time to closely study, discuss and judge these nominations. They’ve all worked entirely remotely and online, in a flexible way, to ensure that the judging process progressed effectively. They are the reason this award was possible, and we’re indebted to them for their help.
As you may have noticed, our original timescale for the Informed Peer Recognition Award has slipped a bit! Our plan of being able to progress during a busy time of year for everyone may have been a bit overambitious, and my workload means that I wasn’t able to keep on top of things as well as I’d hoped.
So, we’re now a bit behind the date when we had hoped to announce a winner, but we’re very close! We have contacted nominees to inform them of their nomination, completed the team judging stages, and are now completing our individual votes. We hope to have that stage finished this week, and will be able to announce the nominees and the winners next week (week beginning 6th March). Apologies for the slippage in the timings: we’re working hard to get everything finalised and announced as soon as we can now!
We’re excited to announce that the Informed Peer Recognition Award is now open for nominations! The form is available HERE.
The aim of the award is to recognise the work of those in the information profession who might otherwise go unnoticed, those people who may not be singlehandedly changing the world, but who really go above and beyond to make a positive difference to their services, users, and society. Although there will be one final award winner, we want the process of nominating someone to be a positive one regardless of the outcome of the nomination.
Often when people are nominated for an award, if they don’t win, they will never even know they were being considered for it, and they won’t see the thoughtful text of their nomination which explains exactly why others regard them as being exceptional. The text of the nomination for an award itself is important: it’s something that allows others to highlight how special an individual is, and explain clearly why this is so. Being able to see why others feel an individual is deserving of recognition from the text of a nomination can be as satisfying as winning the award, which is why it’s a core point of this award that all nominations texts will be made public. In this way, both the nominee and the wider profession can see how their work is valued and appreciated.
Additionally, many people who work outside the public sector can feel that they will never qualify for any sort of award, as their work is less visible. This award is an opportunity to allow recognition of those individuals who are quietly working to improve their service in a sustainable way, or developing resources that have a big impact on their own specific user group.
So, if you work with, or know of someone who you regard as being an exceptional information professional in any role or sector, please nominate them for the Informed Peer Recognition Award. #InformedPRA
Nominations can fall under one of the following three categories;
For those who have demonstrated a commitment to, or substantial involvement in activities which will contribute to the development of services and/or resources that will provide a benefit to the public.
For those who have worked to deliver improvements to a service (be it private, public, or voluntary) for the benefit of users and provide them with a better experience when interacting with the service.
For those who have worked across the profession to improve an aspect of it for the benefit of others.
Nominations should consist of a 500 word summary outlining why the nominator feels that the nominee would be a worthy recipient of the award, and be supported by a second nominator.
Please provide as much detail/evidence as possible within your nomination – the judges can only make decisions on the merits of each nominee based on the information the nominators present to them.
This year’s Best Picture Oscar went to the film Spotlight, about an investigative journalist team uncovering a scandal in the Boston Catholic church in the 1990s. Among the techniques which helped them make connections, find evidence and uncover new aspects, were searches through press cuttings archives and cross referencing library directories. Vaguely seen in the film are news librarians, retrieving microfilm and hard copy press cuttings files. Unsurprisingly, the heroes of the film were the journalists themselves, the librarians silent service personnel. Here, Katharine Schopflin shares her experience of working as a news librarian.
As a news librarian myself in the early 2000s, I can tell you that librarians did a lot more than just fetching and carrying. For a start, the press cuttings files themselves were compiled by librarians marking articles with relevant classification terms so they could be found again. To do so took expert news knowledge, the ability to analyse and disambiguate at high speed and an understanding of how future questions would be asked. Secondly, news libraries kept back copies of directories precisely so that they could be mined for information. The journalists in Spotlight descend to a basement storeroom and found them on the shelves, in order, where they expected to. Their life had they been kept in the newsroom would have been somewhat shorter.
And news librarians actually did research themselves. The late 1990s was the great era of the information professional as news researcher. Paula Hane’s Super searchers in the news (Information Today, 2000) interviewed ten librarians based in US news organisations. They discussed the questions they get asked, the stories they had researched, the skills they used and the resources they relied on. All indicated a close working relationships with journalists, investigative or otherwise, who clearly valued their skills and knowledge of resources. In some cases the librarian worked in the newsroom itself, in a role recognised as quasi-journalistic. This wasn’t a US phenomenon either. Sarah Adair’s edited collection Information sources in the press and broadcast media (Bowker Saur, 1999) demonstrated that specialist information searching skills were increasingly valued at a time when many journalists felt mistrustful or overwhelmed by the world wide web. News librarians understood where to look, how to evaluate and when to go to trusted sources such as hard copy reference or online databases which charged a hefty per-use tariff.
In the first decade of the twentieth century, a combination of panic and opportunity meant that library after library closed across the UK and US. Panic was caused by a succession of events: the dot.com crash, particularly affecting publications which had been taken over by tech companies (AOL Time Warner, which announced the closure of the Time Life editorial research library in June 2001 was a noted example), recession, the after-effects of the September 2001 World Trade Center attacks (which affected advertising revenue), and the decline in paper circulation as online news took over the eyes and interest of readers. In response, news organisations sought cuts wherever they could. As research resources became increasingly available via web interfaces directly accessed by journalists themselves, the opportunity to make savings by closing the library seemed obvious. In 2010, the professional association representing news librarians in the UK, the Association of UK Media, was wound up because so few of its members now worked in the sector.
Today, the news librarian is a rare creature indeed. There are some pockets of information professional work in news organisations in areas such as rights, licensing, media cataloguing and management and even research (see Katy Stoddard’s account of her work at the Guardian). But on the whole, the notion that an information professional has special skills essential to publication of unbiased, well-informed, original and accurate journalism has disappeared. Either organisations feel ‘it’s all on the web’ or a library was a luxury or something simply not relevant. Librarians are not the only casualty of a very real crisis in the modern media: increasingly fewer journalists work for newspapers and, as Nick Davies depicts in his excellent Flat Earth News (Chatto and Windus, 2008), much of the content produced by our news outlets rehashes the contents of press releases. Far less of the type of investigative journalism depicted in Spotlight takes place.
Nobody is arguing that librarians should be employed to classify hard-copy press cuttings when the most-heavily used content is available online, powerful and evocative as a hard copy press cuttings file is. And the day-to-day life of the news librarian was unglamorous and could be unrewarding. Yet the loss of an entire sector of a profession is no small matter. As I write, public librarians are active in protest to try and ensure that there will be professional jobs for them to take on in the future. Professions ensure standards, encourage training, provide best practice and support each other with knowledge, advice and shared resources.
News librarians were the people in their organisation who excelled at finding information, identifying sources and, as information increasingly became available in chaotic and unmediated formats via the web, establish the authority and reliability of a source. Many journalists cared about these things, but only the librarians took on the responsibility to be the filter which stopped short-cuts and lazy research. Perhaps this is the real tragedy of the loss of the news librarian, what it says about the journalism available to us. Nobody working in the field can afford to apply the types of professionalism a news librarian could bring to the job. This is unlikely to change as news organisations attempt to solve the conundrum of how to make their readers pay for professionally-written content.
The demise of the news librarian is not, therefore, simply a historical event, equivalent to the loss of paper-based accounts ledgers or a closed coal mine. It points to two depressing conclusions about the media we read, watch and listen to. First, the very connection of information skills with journalism has been lost. Those people who train and practice to connect people with high-quality information are no longer of interest to those who make the news. Secondly, information skills have become redundant in the media because few media outlets care about professional standards. It’s not just librarians who aren’t carrying out in-depth research, evaluating sources and finding the unfindable: nobody is.
I recently attended a Media Society event at which senior journalists discussed the future of news content. They agreed that, if journalism is to prove itself as important in society, more high-quality investigative journalism of the sort depicted in Spotlight should take place. I would like to think that, if it happens, the support and skills of information professionals would be recognised as offering value to the process. However, I fear the link between our profession and the news has probably been severed irrevocably.
First published in CILIP Update (magazine of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, www.cilip.org.uk), June 2016, pp. 28-30, and reproduced by kind permission.
The end of 2015 was a hectic one for all of us. We had our annual review in which the whole team gets together to review the year that has just passed and look ahead to the coming year. As a result of that discussion, we decided to revert to our old structure of having Administrators (who oversee the running of the site, commissioning content etc) and Moderators (who check submissions against our guidelines). As we are a team of volunteers, the time we can dedicate to Informed fluctuates depending on how busy we are at work, our other voluntary commitments and life! Reinstating these two roles allowed two of our (now) Moderators – Kevin and Helen – who had taken on a lot of other commitments in the year, to continue working with us.
One of our Admins, Stuart Lawson, stepped down from his role in Informed. Anyone who even vaguely knows Stuart knows how many projects he is involved in and how much of his time he dedicates to our profession, from helping to set up and edit the Journal of Radical Librarianship, to extensive work for the Open Access movement. Stuart was involved in the initial discussions that helped to shape what Informed would become – when it was a kernel of an idea in the heads of our founders, Elly, Ian and Jennie – and was our first Moderator to come on board. We are grateful to Stuart for all of the hard work he has put into Informed and for helping us to realise its creation and launch. We wish Stuart the best of luck in his many on-going projects!
In other personnel news, we have a new Moderator amongst us – Mobeena Khan. As with Stuart, Mobeena was involved with the early conversations and has been a great supporter and advocate for the site. We are delighted to have Mobeena as part of the team!
We have lots of exciting stuff planned for 2016. As ever we appreciate all of you who read, share and get involved with our content. We want you to continue to do so by offering ideas for content, volunteering to write posts, connecting us with relevant stories, etc. So please, get in touch if you want to discuss anything with the team.