HASlibcamp – Wendy Spink

HASlibcamp (Health and Science Libcamp), City University, 23.04.2016


This event was an unconference – there were three pre-arranged papers, but all the remaining sessions were available to be filled on the day. Participants could pitch to run a session on a topic that they wanted to talk or learn about, and attendees indicated by a show of hands which sessions interested them, the rooms being allocated by size on the level of interest.
Participants were encouraged to contribute and move between concurrently- running sessions. Similarly, everyone was requested to provide food towards a buffet lunch, which proved ample and ensured variety, including home-made quiche, cakes and biscuits.

I attended four sessions:
1. Restructuring libraries, explored people’s experiences of downsizing of staff and collections and the strategic management responses required to ensure availability and access to as much material as possible within reduced capacity constraints.  A shift to information gathering and analysis, building of repositories, and supply of usage metrics for submission to management appeared to be the way forward.

Restructuring of organisations is also a threat to access to data – the Land Registry’s publicly-owned data is to be held by a private company, and every time the NHS is re-organised or organisations change name, their data is lost as the websites and their content disappear and there is no archiving policy in place. The structure of publishing is changing with a pressure to move to open access although this turns the charging structure on its head –charging authors fees rather than readers. The BMJ charges authors to publish, and readers to use, its Case Reports.

2. Diversity in collections, proposed as a discussion topic by a member of staff at a Gender Identity Clinic. Originating as a query about how suitable authoritative literature on the topic could be sourced and incorporated into the library collection.
In the light of the fact that publishing always lags behind developments in an area, no great quantity/quality of material may exist. Suggestions included encouraging support/self-help groups to produce material of their own, pointing people to social media e.g. Twitter/Facebook etc.

The fact that classification and keyword schemes such as Dewey and Library of Congress Subject Headings have inherent biases and have not been updated to include concepts such as gender identity/re-assignment and LGBTQ topics was raised. It was suggested that  additional field(s) be created in the library catalogue to cater for non-standard/approved   locally-devised classifications and/or keywords until the schemes decide on official classifications/terms.

Following from this there was a discussion about the need to incorporate inclusivity into the design of systems, and it was noted that there is often a default assumption by institutions about who a service is for e.g. “We don’t have any students with dyslexia at our college”. Longer loan periods have been introduced in one library for students who have dyslexia. Birkbeck University has a team of staff in the library trained to understand disability.

CILIP is producing a position paper on equality and diversity in libraries. The class issue in libraries was raised – senior positions go to people possessed of a certain cultural capital – i.e. white, middle class males. The discussion moved on to access to the profession, qualification inflation and recruitment policies in academic libraries. It has long been the case that Library Assistants were expected to have a subject degree and a professional library qualification; they are now expected to have a Masters Degree, which given the cost of higher education, necessarily excludes certain groups of people. It was noted that some libraries are starting to treat CILIP Chartership as equivalent to a degree, although with the recent introduction of revalidation reservations were expressed about having to pay CILIP in order to maintain the qualification.

Athena Swan http://www.ed.ac.uk/equality-diversity/innovation-development/athena-swan  – a Charter for universities and Research Institutes aimed at supporting women  in science, engineering, and in the arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law, and in professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students –  was recommended, and it was suggested that an item on all-male interview panels on Tumblr was highly amusing!

3. Wikipedia and Wikidata was presented by Andy Mabbett who occupies the position of  volunteer Wikimedia Adviser in residence with a number of organisations – GLAMS – Galleries, Libraries, Art Galleries and Museums. Wikipedia  is the 5th largest website in the world and the world’s largest volunteer activity – 290 Wikipedias exist in different languages – the Welsh one is the largest website in Welsh in the world and is relevant to libraries, health and science. Every version of every article of Wikipedia is kept and archived.

The Wikimedia Foundation https://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Home keeps it running and employs lawyers to assist with disputes. A question was raised as to whether Wikipedia had a facility similar to that of Retraction Watch http://retractionwatch.com for scientific papers to which the answer was “No – it is built into the site”.
He related how Cancer UK undertook a survey of where people diagnosed with the disease sought information. It was discovered that some articles on Wikipedia were good, but others less so. Wikipedia claims to be better than comparative encyclopaedias because it can be edited instantly, every article has a “notability requirement” in order to weed out obscure data – it must have significant coverage, multiple reputable, independent sources and citations (i.e. not written by the subject of the article), although it is recommended that the user goes to the original sources for anything to be relied upon. The German edition requires that changes to articles are approved, which is against the ethos of Wikipedia!

Cancer UK approached Wikipedia which runs a programme “Wikipedia in residence” working with management teams to explain the reasons for contributing authoritative articles to Wikipedia, the risks and pitfalls  and teaches staff how to edit Wikipedia and how to “read” a page i.e. see which amendments have been made, and by whom, to the original article, and runs public engagement events, including Editathons https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:How_to_run_an_edit-a-thon.

The newest project is Wikidata  https://www.wikidata.org/wiki/Wikidata:Main_Page which has been running since 2012, a linked data repository which is reusable through a free downloadable open access license. Datasets can be uploaded for sharing – there is guide on how to donate data. Wikidata links externally to a lot of other sites containing datasets e.g. IMDB http://www.imdb.com. A bot is employed to look for dead links.
Tools are available for querying and editing Wikidata. Every object, place , person is assigned an identifier, which is linked to the word for that item in every language, enabling everyone to search for the same thing e.g. URL Qnnn e.g. Q42 = Douglas Adams, Q2001 = Stanley Kubrick. Wikimedia provides tools to add properties to Wikidata, and enables crowdsourcing of tagging. Complex searches can be run for very specific queries using the identifiers.

The British Library had a Wikimedia person in residence. Wikimedia tagged a collection of pictures scanned from books, and the British Library then pulled the records back to complete the dataset and mounted them on their website.

4. Software in research was an exploratory session concerning Research Data Management Services and how archived datasets could be made available to researchers. Datasets are linked to different versions of software, which are required in order to make and interrogate data, so there is a case for preserving the software (and hardware) alongside the datasets which would be unreadable without it, e.g. floppy disks are unreadable without the hardware.

Scientists create their own software for particular projects – in academia, should software be open access via  Creative Commons by License https://creativecommons.org/licenses, as well as the data? There is an argument for treating software as a research output. JISC may be working in this area https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/manage-your-research-information. They are running a shared services pilot involving 12-13 universities. MIT releases a lot of software output. However, commercialisation of software may create a barrier to making it open access.

The National Museum of Computing http://www.tnmoc.org  at Bletchley Park and the British Library have old machines.  People are looking into ways to migrate software, and communities which are fans of particular systems are trying to emulate them for Iphones, Apps etc.

Github https://github.com was recommended and is widely used – code can be downloaded and developed for individual projects. Emulating environments are able simulate Windows 97.

The Software Sustainability Institute http://www.software.ac.uk encourages authors to cite which software was used in their work, and lists a number of journals which publish code: http://www.software.ac.uk/resources/guides/which-journals-should-i-publish-my-software. There needs to be a standard description relating to source code, compiled code, versions etc. A Digital Object Identifier (doi) is static, whereas software is malleable and changing all the time.

Zenodo http://zenodo.org/about, developed by CERN acts as a repository of software and scientists are referred to it to deposit their software.

DMP Online http://www.dcc.ac.uk/dmponline – data management planning tool produced by the Digital Curation Centre.

PLANETS was a four year EU-sponsored programme to address digital conservation http://www.planets-project.eu, which has been superseded by the Open Planets Foundation  http://www.planets-project.eu.


Wendy Spink
Research Officer – Resources
Age UK