The Northern Collaboration Conference 2017: Part 2

After lunch…

I went to:
Embracing Open Access publishing for academic staff and student research’ presented by Megan Taylor and Katherine Jensen from the University of Huddersfield.

They began by talking about Huddersfield University Press, their publications and their move to publish everything Open Access. It was really interesting to hear that even though the more recent books had been published both in a physical format and online Open Access this had not damaged sales for the actual physical copies of their books. Additionally the sales of the OA titles compared to the older titles, which were not published OA, were much better.

Megan and Katherine also spoke about the Fields journal, which allows students, usually for the first time, to publish in a journal and understand what the process entails. Fields is an Open Access journal so the students’ work is available immediately and can be read and shared completely free. I have no idea if other universities do this, but I think it’s an excellent idea. I’ve never published anything and I would have no idea how it worked or where to start (I have got a bit of knowledge working in my current role, but I still don’t understand the full process from the author side.)

The digital aspect in terms of publishing Open Access as part of a University Press was linked to social media and illustrated by Melissa Terra’s blog. I had no idea who this was when she was mentioned in the session, but Melissa had looked at what happens when you blog or tweet about an OA research paper. Basically if you tell people about your research on huge ranging social media platforms people will download it. Sort of an obvious point, but when you look at Melissa’s data she’s collected from this it really is amazing.

If you want to see the slides from this presentation click here.

Next up: ‘Proving our worth: using annual reports to engage with academics’ by Karen Fisher from Leeds Beckett University.

Karen started this session by showing us the previous annual reports that the librarians would present to each department. Imagine your stereotypical black and white document/report. Academics would rarely read the reports and you wouldn’t get any feedback or comments. Karen decided to look for a way to make these reports more engaging. She began by looking at free online tech such as Piktochart. The benefits of this software was that it was bright, easy to use and could create more eye catching reports. However, there were limitations. For example, you couldn’t convert your document to a PDF, which meant it couldn’t be easily shared. And Karen didn’t expect every academic to sign up to Piktochart just to look at this report. So Karen did what I imagine any of us would do… back to PowerPoint! Easy to use. Easy to turn into PDFs. Easy to circulate.

Karen also told us a bit about what was in the report. Statistics and data from different areas of the library was included and presented as infographics in some cases. Aspects of the report were tied to the University’s strategic aims. Coming at the report from a visual angel also helped to really highlight to the academic the strengths, but also areas that might need more work. Karen explained that after these new, bright, engaging reports went out to academics they received feedback immediately. The arts courses loved the new design. I should also say Karen is one half of the two part time arts librarians at Beckett.

The last session I went to ended up not being parallel, but they managed to fill the whole 40 minutes and it was so interesting!

Next up: ‘Amazing Archives: re-packaging existing digital content for new audiences’ presented by Gillian Johnston, Kimberley Gaiger and Stephen Harding from the University of Newcastle,

This session really focused on the panel’s journey to creating online digital content sourced from their archive for young audiences. They began by asking the question ‘How do school children spend time online?’ The archive team actually got kids to play around on, I think, their website (or maybe just online generally?) and see how kids behaved online. What did they click on? What interested them? The team watched and took notes.

Archives, museums, galleries and libraries to some extent have a limited capacity for school visits and trying to reach everyone all the time is an impossible task, but again this feeling that you can reach out to more people by using the digital tech came through.

I was really impressed the lengths the archive went to to gather this important information of how kids use online websites instead of just thinking they knew what worked. The children they got involved also helped them with the language choices to use on the website. Again we can read up and imagine what a certain age group might read or words they might understand, but it’s so much better having a group in to help with that. They also decided to put lots of links on the website. Kids love exploring and clicking from link to link.

The design and development of the website was done in house. An illustrator from Bristol was hired to draw images for the website. Interestingly all the illustration work was done remotely. The illustrator never came up to Newcastle, which made it interesting for the Newcastle Uni team to describe items over email of what they would like drawn and how.

I was super surprised to hear that the whole website was made using WordPress… which is what I am using to write this very blog post on. Their WordPress skills definitely put my blog to shame haha! Using WordPress led to the team being able to make changes easily, they were constantly getting feedback and continually developing the content so it is not a static site that kids can get bored of.

I was so impressed with this talk – it was so different, so exciting, and such a great way to make archive items more accessible to so many people without worrying about how many people you can fit in to a physical session or will the items last being handled constantly.

I really thought this was a great project and a great use of digital tech.
Here’s the website so you can see for yourself and have a play around!

Amazing Archives.

Finally, the last part of the day was a closing keynote by Anne Horne the Director of Library Services at the University of Sheffield.

Anne began by talking about the digital experience a library can offer and how this can enrich our spaces and content. There was a focus on embracing new digital platforms and to see what’s trending, what can we use to our advantage.

Anne also made what I thought was a valid point that the digital is not necessarily a new thing for libraries. Libraries were the one of the first to pioneer self service and now it’s everywhere. Libraries are always transforming, always looking for new ways to be better and provide better services. It was also mentioned we need to keep on top of new developments. What should we be watching right now? Virtual reality? Wearables? Digital tech assistants? I think this is extremely important, especially in HE libraries, which continually try new software, get new tech in, grow and change digitally.

An interesting question Anne put to us towards the end was is it more important to own the platform or the underlying asset?

I feel like this almost a chicken and egg question… or the answer/question should be can we have both?

All in all I had a fantastic time at the Northern Collaboration Conference. I want to say thank you to NCC for offering me a student sponsored place (so I didn’t pay! Keep your eyes peeled for these next year students) and thank you to my employer who gave me the day off to go and paid my train fair. Without stuff like this I wouldn’t be able to go to conferences.

Thanks again NCC and hopefully I’ll see you again next year!

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