Monday, 28 August 2017

Engaging younger children with heritage

This post is part of my 2017 chartership revalidation reflections - I explored how libraries and other heritage institutions cater for the youngest age range.

Since having a baby in 2015 I've got very interested in how heritage "attractions" deal with their younger visitors. Taking a baby to many of them is relatively easy - slings mean you can transport them all over historic buildings easily and safely and most places have baby changes available. Babies are extremely portable and don't really mind where they are as long as they get to eat and sleep! Last year I led all the tours of the 17th century parish library I look after with my baby daughter in a sling. She initially mostly slept through the tours, but later on got rather good at rolling her eyes and theatrical yawns as I was talking.

It isn't so easy with a toddler, although I still lead the tours, now with added commentary from a small person at my feet! Many heritage destinations offer family-friendly activities, but they all seem to be aimed at school-age children, often with National Curriculum tie ins. What we have found is that visiting many of the places we'd have gone to anyway offers lots for a toddler to see and do, you just have to be prepared to do it at whirlwind speed!

In the last week I've visited Tewkesbury Abbey and Osterley Park with my family, and we had loads of fun at both. Small people can get away with doing things that the rest of us can't - such as crawling through the quire stalls exploring every nook and cranny, or lying on the floor to look at the ceiling. Maybe more of us should try these things?!
Looking up in Tewkesbury Abbey
Historic houses offer huge amounts of things to explore - the rooms are so huge compared to the rooms at home, and more decorated. Osterley had a children's tour that involved counting marigolds around the house. My daughter was too small to operate the clicker provided, but we could still look for the marigolds. There were big and little rooms to have a look round. Reins are really useful for easy grabbing when the occasion arises, but easy to tuck in so they can get on with exploring otherwise. Osterley also had sports equipment outside in the park for everyone to try, and, on the day we went, craft activities in the stables area which a wide age range were enjoying.
Heading down the Long Gallery at Osterley Park
A particularly good example was at The Collection in Lincoln, which I visited back in July with my daughter. We had gone intending to see the Battles and Dynasties exhibition, and went in at around nap time, as I was hoping she'd sleep in the pushchair in the semi-darkness whilst I went round. This didn't happen, but she spent the whole time removing her shoes and socks very slowly so I was able to see the whole exhibition. This was encouraging as it means I feel confident now about attending other exhibitions I'd like to see, having not been to any during the year I was on maternity leave. 

The exhibition is well worth seeing, by the way, with loads of lovely rare books, manuscripts and pictures on display - it's on for another week so get to Lincoln! A lot of the material is on loan from various places, including The National Archives, British Library, Lambeth Palace Library, Lincoln Cathedral and Eton College, which must have been a logistical nightmare to organise.

And, quite apart from the exhibition, was the wonderful families area we then went to explore. I don't think I've seen anything quite like it in any museum, but do leave a comment if you know of anything similar. They had a huge emphasis on play and fun, and the area was suitable for babies upwards with soft play available. The play was all themed around the periods covered by the collections held at the museum (such as magnetic medieval pot pieces to put back together). You could play that you were in a portrait, with several backdrops available, including a Roman amphitheatre.

There were lots of books on shelves, freely available for browsing, and everything from baby board books to material suited to older children, all of it on a museum and/or art theme related to the collections. They also allow you to join Lincolnshire Libraries at the museum, so you can carry on exploring books.

Bigger children could borrow themed activity backpacks to take around the museum.

And your portrait might even end up featuring on the wall!

We had a brilliant time, and there are even more fun things to do on the museum's website. Oh, and all the children's things and the main exhibition galleries (not the special exhibition) are free!

This is a fantastic place for engaging children with heritage, and learning that it's lots of fun.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Getting organised

I've always been interested in organising things (I am a librarian, after all) and I've always done a lot with my time: work, volunteering, hobbies and now being a Mum so was keen to learn more about being organised and making my life more streamlined so that I could get more done and make the most of the time I had available. In a previous job I read up on time management, and tweaked what I did a little, and a few years ago read Jo Alcock's series in CILIP Update on Getting Things Done, which I adopted. I was quite late getting a smart phone (in 2013!) and I am still only on my second phone, but have appreciated the opportunities offered by apps for helping with productivity and organisation.

Back in May I did some staff training at work called "Stress less, achieve more" run by Think Productive. I thought it was going to be more about time management, but it was more far-reaching than that, and involved not trying to stuff more things into an already over-stuffed day, but working on prioritising and working more effectively in the time I have available. Escaping from the tyranny of the to-do list, to evaluate what is on the list and why so that you free up brain space to actually do things. We also looked at dealing with interruptions, paperwork and keeping the ideas flowing. I found it a really useful day, particularly as a chunk of the afternoon was devoted to implementing what we'd learnt in the morning into our own workflows and schedules. That meant I could be quickly up and running with a new way of doing things. Since then, I've worked with the new system, making a few tweaks as I go.

Some of the key tools I'd already implemented are:

  • Inbox zero. I keep my email for incoming items only. This makes it a lot less overwhelming to look at. There is a link to Jo Alcock's advice on this above.
  • Calendar management. Make sure I add all appointments, meetings etc to my calendar and keeping an eye on upcoming events so I don't miss anything.
  • IDoneThis is grammatically awful, but a useful way of keeping track of CPD activities. I have it set to send me a daily email on the days I'm at work, to which I reply with a short summary of what I've done that day. This is really helpful when it comes to reflect on CPD, which I try and do monthly when I update my revalidation log.
  • Saying no. I've struggled with this one for years, until I heard someone say that it isn't rude to say no, but it is rude to say yes, but then have to back out of the commitment at a later date, which cast a whole new light on the matter! I still feel guilty when I have to say no to things, but at least I know now that this is the best option in the long run.
Other areas I've worked on the last year or so and made changes are:

I've had a play around with various tools over the years and am still tweaking what I work with. For a calendar, I've found that using my iPhone personal calendar with my work Outlook calendar connected to it means I can see at a glance what I'm doing when, and, because I'm part-time and occasionally change days or work different hours, it avoids any problems with an event being in one calendar and not the other. Whilst I was on maternity leave I found that having an old-fashioned diary-style organiser worked better for me outside work than an electronic calendar, and I've carried on with this since coming back to work. I still use my Outlook calendar for work commitments and this still appears in my iPhone calendar too. So, I use that heavily at work, and to check in with it easily when I'm not at work, but my outside work life now goes into a Life Book from Boxclever Press (used to be called Organised Mum, which annoyed me hugely as I'm sure other people than Mums can be organised too). I was very very tempted by Bullet Journals, as I love their appearance, and that might be something I explore more in the future. I have integrated some bullet journal things, such as habit tracking, into my Life Book, as well as the use of different colours...

To do lists
The Think Productive course advocated having one place to download all your projects from your head, whether work or home related, and then have actions relating to them. I didn't like the idea of having work and home all together like that, so having tried it for a couple of weeks, I now have a spreadsheet for work productivity, and use my Life Book for home productivity. With both methods I review each week what I've done, what needs doing and any upcoming activities, whether it's a meeting to prepare for, a big project to organise or a birthday to remember. I also do a tiny five minute review every day which keeps me on track. I've found that it's meant I arrive at work very focussed on what I need to do that day - usually five tasks chosen from my actions list (I have found that three big tasks, plus a couple of smaller ones works well) and it's also created more headspace for me outside work, which means more time to spend with my family and doing hobbies!

Email and phone
Can be really disruptive whether you're at work or at home. At work I have notifications turned off so I check my inbox when I choose to, rather than reactively, which tends to steal time away. Similarly, I keep my mobile on silent (it is set to ring only if my daughter's nursery calls) when I'm at work so that I'm not interrupted by personal calls.

Helping your future self
Can't find the minutes for that meeting, or forgotten what you need to buy at the shop? I started storing information based on when I would need to use it, rather than when I first came across it. At work I use Outlook, and at home my Life Book. This has revolutionised the way I deal with things and meant it's much less painful to get up to speed with upcoming events as I already have everything to hand. Admittedly it doesn't always work perfectly - a couple of weeks ago I found myself in Sainsburys with a shopping list but without my purse!

Please leave me a comment if there's anything you've used to help be more organised.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Conference: cathedral treasures, celebrating our historic collections

I spent a very enjoyable, if extremely hot, day in Canterbury at this conference in the library and archives. Despite the title, this was a really relevant conference for anyone looking after historic collections, whether cathedral or not.

Several speakers talked about getting funding for their projects and how they managed this. They included Mark Hosea (Canterbury Journey), the Very Rev. Philip Hesketh (Hidden Treasures, Fresh Expressions at Rochester)

The overriding impression was of the amount of work involved in getting funding - often involving large amounts of staff time over a number of years before a successful bid is won. One comment that getting funding has developed into an industry in its own right certainly seemed to resonate.

Key points were:
  • Applications must stick closely to the funding criteria (eg engagement with heritage)
  • Get management buy in eg by getting your collection management plan adopted by your senior management committee
  • You can never do enough planning
  • Avoid over-stretching and do not lose sight of the core work. Do not be over-ambitious.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected (Rochester Cathedral had their whole project delayed by the discovery of two pieces of stone of national significance just where they'd planned to install a lift into the crypt)
Declan Kelly (National Church Institutions) talked about why the Church Commissioners had decided to fund the new Lambeth Palace Library building themselves after exploring various funding approaches. They had been able to make the case for funding by demonstrating the poor conditions in the existing building, and how it was destroying the collections, along with external advice from, for example, The National Archives.

Managing exhibitions
There was some discussion around the practicalities of managing exhibitions in non-exhibition spaces. There is a need to be discerning about what is allowed, the impact on the organisational capabilities of the hosting institution and whether it adds to the institution or detracts. It is also important to draw up professional exhibition agreements eg for insurance and invigilation.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Future past: researching archives in the digital age

Last week I took part in this research symposium at the Institute of Historical Research in London. It was a great opportunity to find out what other archives are doing about digitization and born digital records, and how academic users of archives are finding their experience. It was a really interesting day, and my notes go on for pages, so I'm going to attempt to pull out some of the common themes that emerged. There were many opportunities during the day to ask questions, get feedback and talk to others, so my notes are a mixture of speakers and thoughts/ideas found from networking.

The hashtag was #digfuturepast and the symposium was recorded and should be available soon on the IHR website.

Barriers to using digital material

  • Paying for content. Digitization is expensive but academic users are used to having "free" access to collections (actually paid for by their institution). Yet, the digitization has to be paid for somehow, whether through institutions funding it themselves, grant funding or commercial companies providing a paid-for service (eg Ancestry) 
  • Making copies available. Gone are the days when a student or academic would come into an archive every day for a week or a month to do their research. Pressures of time mean they want to make the most of a single visit and be able to take copies away with them or download copies to use at home, yet it is impossible to digitize everything, and there are various reasons why copies may not be allowed at all, eg copyright, commercial sensitivity or preservation.
  • Poor documentation and/or OCR mean that researchers can't find what they're looking for. They may miss relevant items in a plethora of search results, or not get the result they need at all. A reliance on keyword searching misses the opportunity to search the collection more widely and loses the connection between archival sources.
  • Lack of a seamless user experience make it hard to use the material eg legacy systems, different systems for library/archive material, system not optimised for finding archival material.
  • Information literacy issues. We can't always assume that researchers will know how to search in our system, so we need to equip them with the tools to do this. We also need to address the common misconceptions found below.

  • Misconceptions about online access to archives

    • Any online resource is complete and comprehensive. Many only represent a tiny fraction of an archive's holdings, so how do we alert users to this and encourage them to look beyond the digital? It is impossible to digitize everything, due to copyright, staff and equipment resources, having metadata available, issues with storing electronic files etc.
    • Everything will be catalogued. No, digitizing is not the same as cataloguing. Most (all?!) archives have a cataloguing backlog, and, until the material is catalogued, there is no way to access it. This then gives rise to the question about whether it is better to spend resources digitizing some already catalogued material, or catalogue unlisted material that cannot be used at all yet.
    • Digitized version is just the same as the original. No, frequently this isn't the case and their are users who will still need to see the original. This is also one of the reasons why it is vital never to destroy the original.

    Educating researchers

    Time and again the need to educate researchers came up. It was agreed by all present that this is a vital part of training as a historian and that it should be done as early as possible in an academic career. I was pleased by this as we are already doing several of the suggested activities to encourage researchers to engage with our collections, including:

    Case studies

    • The archivist from Boots Heritage who explained how Boots had moved from an entirely internally-focussed business archive to one that was available to researchers thanks to funding from the Wellcome Trust to develop a new digital resource aimed at academic researchers. She had found that getting the right tools was essential so proper cataloguing software (CALM) had been acquired and material was catalogued to stringent standards to make it helpful and meaningful, including creating authority files to be a repository of information about buildings, brands and people. For many researchers this has turned out to be the entry point into the collections. Preservation issues affected the usability of some items and repackaging them into smaller units greatly improved this issue. Care had to be taken to protect Boots' interests, so images are watermarked and download prevented, and commercially sensitive information is not available.
    • Transport for London archives are aiming to collect the evidence that every journey matters, including the digital output of the organisation. They took the opportunity presented by needing to archive born digital material to overhaul and restructure their cataloguing. Although this was resource heavy it has created a more useable catalogue for staff and made it much more available to researchers.
    • Kathleen Chater talked about her research into black people in England in 18th century and how digitized records hadn't helped her solve research problems such as identifying where "black" didn't refer to a person, or to those instances where a black person was identified using another term. Keyword searches frequently produced unusable quantities of results. One of the more helpful things she did was spend three months going through 10000 Old Bailey records on microfilm, which also gave her the helpful context of many other cases (eg how common was it for anyone to be convicted of a particular crime). Although the Old Bailey records have now been digitized they are difficult to search because of OCR problems (the long s) and context is lost.
    • Jo Pugh, a digital development manager at The National Archives, discussed his PhD research in information journeys in archival collections. He related how the problem now isn't amassing information, but restricting what we see. His research had compared how enquiries are formulated on email, phone calls or Twitter and had looked at how the experts (archivists) worked with researchers to resolve archival queries. He had found that research guides could help to reduce uncertainty, eg by explaining how to get the best out of a search.
    • Tom Scott from Wellcome Collections explained how the context of their collections isn't just medical and so users don't know what's in the collections. Searching digitized collections meant items were isolated from their context "searchable but not understandable". They wanted to provide access by having a good reading experience, whether in person or online, so had tried to "encapsulate a librarian": a single domain model from a mix of systems for books, archives etc, extracting meaning of enquiries (eg cross references for TB/consumption/tuberculosis). He stressed that it is really important to record the metrics of what people are actually searching for.
    The symposium rounded up with a discussion of how we could futureproof our collections. My take aways from the day are:

    • Keep doing our existing work on educating researchers as early as possible, and look at how we can expand that with the resources we have.
    • "Futureproofing requires quality cataloguing" - making sure our cataloguing is up-to-scratch.
    • Assess any digitization project to ensure that high quality metadata is in place first and that it will support the needs of researchers wanting to use our collections.

    Wednesday, 3 May 2017

    Webinar: preparing to digitise your archives

    Long time no blog! I've been on maternity leave, and am planning to write some reflections on that and returning to work soon. But, in the meantime, here's my write up of a webinar I took part in last week from The National Archives. As with the previous webinar I've taken part in, on forward planning, this was a great opportunity to learn more about a topic in a free and easy format, as it only took an hour of my time at work and there was no need to even leave the building!

    It was clearly structured and covered the basics of planning a digitisation project. This is my summary of the contents:

    Scope your project
    • Spent time deciding what to include and exclude in your project. Digitisation is costly so avoid creating extra work by trying to digitise too much. Be focussed!
    • Start with a small pilot, digitise a small sample and run it through all of the digitisation processes.
    • Consider possible outputs. Tiff files are the most sensible format to capture for the master copy, with 300PPI for most paper originals and 400-600PPI for photographs. PDF is not recommended.
    In-house or outsourced?
    This decision depends on the size of the project, type, budget and internal capacities. The pros and cons are:
    Pros: Can be cheaper, technical knowledge isn't needed, less stress for staff, saves time  
    Cons: Less control over project, relocation of collection/providing access to the material, fragile or sensitive material, restrictions on rescoping the project once it is underway.
    Pros: More control, staff skill development, may save money in the long run, keeps collections in one place
    Cons: Lack of in-house skills, big investment in equipment needed, lack of suitable infrastructure, no in-house experience

    If considering outsourcing: shop around, get quotes and look at company's existing work. Visit their site and check their set up. Ask for samples early on in the project and have regular project catch ups. Make sure you have a contract.

    Document preparation
    Preservation/conservation: Assess condition of the collection and whether work by a conservator is needed in order to digitise without damaging the originals. Remove all metal pins, clips etc. Digitisation can take place through Melinex sleeves. How are you going to digitise books safely - unbind the volume, use a camera rather than a scanner etc?

    Consider capture and post-processing equipment
    There are pros and cons to using cameras and scanners.
    Document preservation: a camera provides more alternatives to capturing the image without causing damage
    Image quality: cameras tend to produce better results
    Price: bear in mind that equipment needs to be kept up-to-date (this should be factored into the cost of outsourcing). Depending on the size of the project, renting equipment may work out cheaper.
    Useability: scanners tend to be more straightforward to use with fewer settings. Cameras require colour calibration and that the lens be kept clean.
    Versatility: scanners work well with flat materials, but aren't suitable for digitising books. Cameras tend to offer more versatility.

    Post processing
    Images are usually captured in RAW format then need to be processed. RAW files are very large, so this needs to be considered when assessing file storage needs. Obviously the file format must be compatibile with the image processing and storage software being used.

    Metadata and storage
    Technical metadata is included at the capture stage, for instance camera settings, focal length, exposure. It may be embedded within the image and then shared in a spreadsheet.
    Descriptive metadata is the description of what the item is, such as names, dates and places so that the digitised image is discoverable. It can be captured by OCR (although this has severe limitations) or manually (time consuming and expensive).
    Storage ensure you have the the basics, such as a server large enough to store the files and a means of backing them up.

    What I've learnt and will take forward:
    Visit other archives/Special Collections to learn from their experiences.
    Keep it as simple as possible and only capture what is relevant. 
    Know what the outcomes of the project are before commencing image capture. 
    Never destroy the original after digitisation, unless they are acetate negatives.

    Monday, 21 September 2015

    RBSCG conference 2015: Hidden collections: revealed

    In the first week of September I attended one day of the CILIP RBSCG's conference, Hidden Collections: Revealed. The conference was split between Friends' House Library, Lambeth Palace Library and the Friday was at the British Library's conference centre.

    Where they have possibly the comfiest conference seats I have ever sat on.

    It can be a bit strange arriving towards the end of a conference, when it feels like everyone else has already been networking for a couple of days, but I think the different venues for each day made this a bit easier? The conference had been divided up into six sessions, and I was there for the final two.

    Session five was uncovering your collections - promotion
    The first speaker was Adrian Edwards, Head of Printed Heritage Collections at the British Library, who spoke about the work they had done with the BL's comic collections to bring them to a much wider audience. The initial problem was having a large collection of comics, but not all of them catalogued, many of them poorly catalogued (wrong end dates, missing issues, hardly anything before the 1930s referenced) and stored in three different locations, all of which made it very hard for all but the most determined researcher to use them.  When the library at Colindale closed and two comics experts approached the library wanting to celebrate British comics, the decision was taken to put on an exhibition. Now, any exhibition is a huge amount of work, and this one was no exception, as the objectives included getting all that cataloguing done and supporting a wider range of researchers in using the collection. The eventual exhibition, Comics unmasked: art and anarchy in British Comics was successful, containing 217 unique exhibits and attracting a lot of new users into the building. Achievements included:
    • Many comics catalogued for the first time
    • All comics available on one site for the first time
    • The material is now used more, including two doctoral students working on it.
    • Staff expertise in the subject has increased enormously
    • Selected rare material has been moved to a higher level of secure storage
    Adrian concluded by saying that the exhibition had been a good way of highlighting hidden collections, and a good way of getting management support to get the essential cataloguing and collection moves completed. It is important to seize opportunities such as this.

    Lara Haggerty from Innerpeffray Library then spoke about the difficulties in dealing with people's perception that it's just a load of old books. Her library is physically difficult to access, being five miles from the nearest town with only one bus a week. It is highly significant though, as it is the first public lending library in Scotland. The library had effectively become a museum but was doing very little promotion before she was appointed as a result of a business based forward plan. The key to success has been concentrating on the visitor experience and making it unique. They are too small to attract big tour groups on their own, but by working with other local organisations, have been able to increase the numbers.

    Katie Sambrook, Head of Special Collections at King's College London then spoke about the Foreign and Commonwealth Office library, which was transferred to KCL after two years of negotiations. The collection had been rather hidden at the FCO as their primary remit wasn't to run a library. The transfer to an academic institution meant it would be more accessible, but the initial problem was how to reveal and promote this collection? Initially there was no catalogue in a useable form, so the first task was to catalogue the books (this took eight years with 2 or 3 project cataloguers working at a time. About 30% of the collection is now catalogued) as having the items on the catalogue is the most important form of promotion you can do. The cataloguers became expert in the subject matter so were able to assist readers and answer enquiries, whilst student assistants were employed to do basic collection processing and download catalogue records for non-special collections material. The collections were then promoted via real and virtual exhibitions, and visitors have come from all over the world. Promotional activities have included:
    • Have a poster on the library gates, as many visitors spot it when walking past
    • Produce leaflets and guides on certain aspects/themes of collections
    • Bear in mind that many exhibition visitors will never make the transition to reader but will help to spread the word.
    • Foster teaching and research for academic users by developing teaching seminars using special collections material and introducing students to the material. Getting use of collections incorporated into teaching assessments is key.
    Katie also stated that she had found it easier to engage English academics with Special Collections, than History academics, which certainly echoes my own experience.

    Session six covered Beyond the library and first to speak was Katharine Hogg, Librarian at the Foundling Museum. This is a research library of c.10,000 items, and the first priority when the collection first arrived there was to create an online catalogue. Paintings and prints have been catalogued and digitized, and making sure items appear on external websites has been key for promotion, such as Your Paintings, Concert programmes database and the English Short Title catalogue.  Collaboration has worked well for conservation projects with West Dean College and Camberwell College of Arts.

    A PhD student, Hannah Manktelow, then spoke about discovering provincial Shakespeare with the British Library playbill collection. This collection had never been used for research as many of the playbills had been closed to public access. The key here was a digitization project which also captured a lot of metadata, including dates, keywords from bills and an indication of what would attract audiences. It was a really exciting project to work on as there is very little work on provincial theatre of this period, and the collection includes c. 75000 playbills. Her PhD has focussed in on case studies based on five provincial towns, although a major obstacle is that playbills of many performances won't have made it into collections.

    Finally, a rare books collector, Mark  Byford, talked about his collection focussed on Tudor and Jacobean books. He has c. 1000 books, and has no catalogue whatsoever, but welcomes people to come and see his collection, or takes them out himself to events. He also loans books to academics.

    I had a really interesting time at the conference. Not only did I find that others' experience echoed my own (for instance, that it is much easier to engage English depts. in Special Collections than History depts.), but it also emphasised the importance of cataloguing first and foremost in promoting collections. Repeatedly it was made clear that you can't choose what items to put on display without them being catalogued first. You can't plan outreach activities if you don't know what you have. No one will be able to find the item for their research, or do their PhD on your collection if it isn't catalogued.

    My thanks to the RBSCG for an interesting and enjoyable conference.

    Saturday, 5 September 2015

    CLAA conference 2015

    The theme for the 2015 Cathedral Libraries and Archives Association Conference was 'Placing the library and archive at the heart of the cathedral', which doesn't immediately appear to be connected to my current job! However, the theme could be applied to any institution and proved to be highly relevant to many working situations.

    Westminster Abbey
    The conference was held in the beautiful historic surroundings of Cheyneygates at Westminster Abbey. The first speaker was Ellie Jones, the Archivist from Exeter Cathedral Library & Archives, who spoke about the cathedral's highly successful HLF funded project to share their treasures more, which eventually also led to them becoming one of the first institutions to earn Archives Accreditation.  She outlined the improvements they had been able to make to their facilities, and how their increased outreach had made it possible for more people to experience their collections. This included a year 8 teacher who had seen one of their blog posts, leading to a project about Shakespeare. They have had a big push to make material more accessible online, partly via having an EOSweb catalogue, although there is currently no archive finding aid available online. Working with colleagues in the cathedral was very important, so they encouraged directors to bring their families in to visit to support more engagement with the collections.

    Emily Naish, from Salisbury Cathedral Library and Archives, then gave a talk on the dangers of encouraging collections to be for scholarly use only, as had happened at Salisbury from 1983 until recently. This had resulted in the library becoming invisible within the cathedral and attaining an almost mythical status, with the only catalogue one printed in 1880 and available in a few Oxbridge libraries. The big change in recent years had led to the creation of a number of policies covering access and collections. Collections have been consolidated, spotlight talks now take place in the cathedral, with improved information available on the website. They are also working with the Education Officer to encourage school groups to visit. Volunteers and cathedral staff now have dedicated drop in sessions twice a week, which has encouraged guides to know more about the library. It is important that the library is relevant to the cathedral rather than an historical curiosity - it has to be useful to staff and volunteers, and has to be useful to the fundraising department.

    General Synod chamber
    After a trip round the corner to Church House to see the Cathedral and Church Buildings Library, Synod chamber, an extremely good lunch and the CLAA AGM, we returned to Cheyneygates for the afternoon's speakers. First was Lisa di Tommaso, from Durham Cathedral, on the renewal of their collections. Durham had already supported scholarship and learning for 1000 years and are working to make their collections more accessible now. Lisa gave a brief overview of the history of the collections and the team working there, before explaining the "Open treasure" project, designed to bring the collections into the heart of Durham Cathedral's visitor experience. The project encompasses an exhibition space and a new specialist search room, along with outreach programmes. This includes developing reading groups with people who historically have had less contact with the cathedral, and 11 - 15 year olds will be able to have a go at curating an exhibition. Key activities have included taking a replica of the Lindisfarne Gospels to visit people who couldn't visit the physical exhibition and raising awareness of the collections by making exhibition loans.

    Finally Vicky Harrison, Collections Manager at York Minister, spoke about unlocking their collections. She gave an outline of York's successful HLF bid for "York Minster revealed". Communication with the rest of the cathedral, particularly Chapter, was key, and reports were structured into four sections as per the Accreditation standard, which helped to show that they were working to the future rather than concentrating on the past. The future will involve working together rather than as three separate disciplines (library, archive, collections). The key is to plan what you're doing, and to communicate this. And always have three top messages you want to get across at the forefront of your mind.