Wales Higher Education Libraries Forum

Posted in WHELF

WHELF Open Research Café – South Wales Event

Post by Nick Roberts (USW) and Mark Lester (CMU)

What was this?

We held an event on the afternoon of Tuesday 26th June at Cardiff Met – attended by 19 colleagues from across South and West Wales (as well as a representative from University of Wales Press). The aim was to bring together people to talk about open research using a roundtable discussion format/statement card format based on an initiative from LIBER and Foster Open Science ( Fortunately, this was held on one of June’s nicest days weather-wise so what better way to spend it then talking about how libraries can support open research… The venue for the afternoon was the Hospitality Suite in Cardiff School of Management building on the Landaff Campus of Cardiff Met.

The event was deliberately tagged as ‘open research’ as opposed to ‘science’ to attract the widest set of participants from across institutions. A key aim was to road test the format for WHELF colleagues to then take back to their own institutions.

The afternoon started with a welcome and outline of the event from Mark Lester (Cardiff Met) and Nick Roberts (USW). Participants were assigned tables to ensure a good mix of colleagues from different institutions and a pack of prepared statements (see below) were given to each grouping – these packs were subsequently swapped after 30 minutes (or so) of discussions. Each table had a note-taker/facilitator present to ensure the discussion moved on and to make sure we collected the brilliant ideas/frustrations/discussions that were being shared. Thanks to Louise Harrington, Mariann Hilliar and Cath Borwick for acting as note-takers and table facilitators on the day.

Photo of screen with "Open" slide and Mark Lester speaking

Mark Lester and Nick Roberts introducing the Open Research Cafe

Many thanks to all of the colleagues who attended and engaged with the café format.

The statements

The statements used on the day were focused on areas such as open access, research data management, perception of research and publishing – thanks to Beth Hall (Bangor) and Nick Roberts for putting the statements together. They were deliberately provocative to ignite the discussions and get everyone thinking – some examples:

  • Researchers don’t need assistance to make their research open access
  • Resistance to Open Data and Open Access is natural
  • Very little research data is ever re-used
  • The REF overwhelms everything
  • The success we’ve had with connecting with researchers was based on buy-in from senior staff

The discussions

Below is a brief flavour of the discussions (a future post will give a more detailed ‘deep dive’ on discussions):

REF and Open Access

  • Compliance is important as it means open access has a ‘foot in the door’ and is at least being discussed within Universities (embrace the stick/use the REF hammer)
  • Can be difficult to use REF compliance hammer only with some researchers i.e. they already spend a lot of time complying with departmental targets etc. so can ignore this.

 Collaboration in research support

  • Need to increase sharing of expertise/experts between WHELF institutions including reuse of materials.
  • Institutions with similar missions could collaborate more closely (i.e. similar research bases or disciplines) rather than everyone sharing everything that may not be relevant.

 Good Research Data Management (RDM) principles

  • Focus on engaging with early career researchers in the first instance – can’t force anyone to see it as relevant…has to have a point/be disciplined focused to an extent.
  • Do researchers notice funder policies on research data management/sharing? What about anyone that does not receive much external funding – is it important for them to have good RDM skills?


  • Too much use of colours when it comes to open access i.e. is this a little bit open access or a lot. Potential to lose the audience before you’ve started.
  • What replaces jargon? – is it a necessary evil for the moment?

 Institutional Repositories (IRs)

  • Shared repository like e.g. White Rose may be better in the long run for all WHELF institutions i.e. instances for each place on a shared platform.
  • Concern that IRs may not be able to be preserved due to lack of funding/buy in from institutions.

The brilliant idea(s)

  • Launch a WHELF wide (jargon free) research support statement.
  • Connect similar mission oriented institutions to focus research support activity that is beneficial and low cost i.e. community of practice model.
  • Promote resources generated by WHELF as ‘open’ by utilising creative commons licenses.
  • Shared repository platform for all research outputs and collections within WHELF i.e. White Rose (Max).

Next Steps

All the discussions and ideas collected on the day will be written up in more detail to ensure we have a clearer evidence base to keep the momentum going in all our efforts to enhance research support across all WHELF institutions.

Participants expressed an interest in more research support related events – the proposals will go back to the WHELF research group. Some views were expressed that elements could/should be delivered via some webinars to cut down costs and to ensure knowledge sharing and actions from this happens more regularly.

Posted in Research group blog

WHELF Research Group “Open Research Cafe” events

The WHELF Research Group is running two “Open Research Cafe” events: “an ideas exchange for different stakeholders on the topic of OA publishing, Open Data, Access to Information”. These events are an excellent opportunity for HE library staff who wish to learn more about the global “Open Research” movement and how this is changing the face of academic publishing (and therefore libraries!).

The Bangor event is on Wed 23rd May, 11-12.30pm:

The Cardiff event is on Tue 26th June, 1-4pm:

Events are free to attend and refreshments will be provided: booking is essential!

Posted in events, Research group blog, research support

WHELF Copyright Roadshow report

WHELF sponsored a Welsh Copyright Roadshow event in Swansea on 18th April, run by the joint chairs of the WHELF Copyright Group, Marie Lancaster and Scott Pryor. You can read a summary of the day on the UK Copyright literacy site:

Report on the Welsh Copyright Roadshow

Posted in Copyright

Aber LibTeachMeet 2018 – How can we make the library more inclusive?

Guest post by Anna Udalowska

Photo of delegates sitting in a classroom

Aberystwyth University is well known for providing one of the best student experiences in the UK and a large part of that is down to the strong sense of belonging that we foster, not only with students and staff but with the wider community too.

This year’s Aber LibTeachMeet focusing on inclusivity was a great opportunity to examine what it is we are currently doing so well but also to explore what else we can do both as individuals and as an institution to more actively meet the diverse needs of our users and to make the library as inclusive as possible to everyone.

We prepared ten presentations exploring various elements of inclusivity – accommodating the needs of international or bilingual students, supporting those with sight impairments or those who stammer or building inclusivity by encouraging students to read.

The event itself reflected the topic discussed. Speakers came from four different institutions – Aberystwyth University, University of Leicester, Sheffield Hallam University and Swansea University. Also, three different departments from within Aberystwyth University were represented – the International Student Centre, Student Support, and Information Services. The atmosphere was informal and kind, we openly discussed ideas, asked questions and expressed appreciation for shared experiences.

The day started with a subject librarian, Lloyd Roderick, who gave a presentation on his experience of teaching information literacy bilingually. He shared a few useful resources such as Esboniadur and Gwerddon for helping to support students studying in the Welsh language.

Photo of delegates sitting in a classroom

Lloyd’s talk was followed by Yvonne Rinkart from the International Student Centre who presented the findings of a short study exploring international foundation students’ library usage. One of the points raised by Yvonne was that international students are more susceptible to ‘library anxiety’ – the feeling of being confused and overwhelmed that libraries can sometimes induce.

The next presentation given by John Harrington and Diane Jones, speakers from the Student Support Centre, gave us a good overview of the disability services they provide along with statistics for Aberystwyth University, and explained what inclusion really means.

Photo of delegates sitting in a classroom

We had the opportunity to look at inclusivity from the student perspective too. A recent AU graduate, Cerys Davies, talked about her experience of using library services as a student with sight impairments. The talk inspired a wave of positive comments and questions. Among many other valuable points, Cerys talked about the difficulty she faced in obtaining accessible reading materials.

Our first external speakers of the day were Harinder Matharu and Adam Smith who had joined us from the University of Leicester. They gave us an overview of the two initiatives contributing to their inclusive university environment – Read at Leicester and Unearthing Histories. Deepening the sense of belonging of minority groups by exploring their history in university’s archives was a truly inspiring idea.

One of the IT Helpdesk crew members – Alice Farnworth talked about the benefits of embedding DSA software training within our library service. She presented us with a variety of assistive tools, of which some such as Read&Write or Inspiration are available on public computers at Aber.

Next up, Philippa Price, who has been shortlisted for the Welsh Librarian of the year Award, told us about the Inclusive Services Group set up at Swansea University. Philippa talked about a broad range of initiatives the Group is organizing and promoting, such as creating recommended reading lists for the LGBT community or putting together dignity packs for homeless women.

Hannah Dee, a lecturer from the Computer Science Department talked us through the idea of improving students’ writing and the ability to read by setting up a science-fiction book club for students and staff from her department. Hannah also introduced us to some interesting books, for which we are very grateful.

Photo of delegates sitting in a classroom

Another visiting speaker, Paul Conway from Sheffield Hallam University, discussed accessible templates for presentations and hand-outs and other tips on being inclusive in the classroom. Kate Wright from the Aberystwyth University E-Learning Group delivered a short presentation on supporting users with a stammer. Kate raised a few interesting points including stammering not being perceived as disability, although it is classified as one. She also discussed the stereotypes surrounding stammering.

As with our last three LibTeachMeets this was a fantastic forum for not only reflecting on current practice but for generating the new ideas necessary for us to continue to build on our reputation for inclusivity in a diverse and fast-changing environment. We received positive feedback from speakers and attendees who described the programme as interesting, varied, informative and thought-provoking. We greatly appreciate all who joined in and we hope it will generate some great ideas that will assist in our aim of increasing the awareness and accessibility of both the library facilities and the services on offer here.

Posted in TeachMeet

Second Year Success: a library teachmeet at Swansea University

Photo of the beach at Swansea University Bay Campus

The beach at Swansea University Bay Campus

This is a guest post by Philippa Price, Subject Librarian at Swansea University

Last month, Swansea University hosted a library teachmeet at its Bay Campus. The topic was ‘Second Year Success’, inspired by research which suggests that students experience a dip in performance in their second year of university (sometimes called the ‘sophomore slump’). The event was a chance for university librarians to gather informally to share concerns, ideas and experiences of supporting second year students.

We had around 20 higher education librarians taking part on the day, including one further education librarian who supports HE. The feedback so far suggests it was a productive event. By the end of the teachmeet, attendees had:

  • identified key areas of concern
  • identified areas of current good practice
  • generated ideas of how to better engage with second year students

The programme included guest speakers from Swansea University – Janet Collins and Amy Genders, Student Experience Officers from the School of Management, and Rosella D’Alesio, Academic Success Programme Manager from the Centre for Academic Success – but the emphasis was on group discussion.

The format was inspired by a recent CPD event on student-generated induction. We used small group discussions to generate responses to the areas identified above and then used electronic polling to let attendees vote individually on which was the most important to them in each area. We found the following:

  • What is your main concern about your current support for/engagement with second year students? = Doing something different (progression) (47%)
  • What is an example of current best practice to engage second year students? = Stress specific benefits to students (40%)
  • Next steps – what are you going to do to engage with second year students? = Develop support for things second years ‘should’ already know (50%)

Full results and other data from the day is available in our interaction report. Presentations and handouts are available on our Padlet page. Tweets from the day have the hashtag #SwanseaLTM18.

The format worked well and made for a lively and constructive day. The ‘call to action’ at the end when attendees were asked to identify and vote on the next steps they will take seemed particularly motivating. It’s a strategy I’ll use again when planning training and support sessions as it seems a good way to translate reflection into action.

Posted in events, TeachMeet

MarcEdit & OpenRefine Training Day

Photo of the front of the National Library of Wales Aberystwyth

This is a guest post by Jane Daniels, Bibliographic Librarian at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

On 15th March 2018 cataloguers and systems officers gathered at the National Library of Wales for an introduction to the MarcEdit and OpenRefine  packages.

Being able to use these open source packages to clean up our legacy data and enrich records received from publishers and vendors was identified as a training requirement by the WHELF Cataloguers’ Group in 2017, as was the need to provide CPD for our workforce to ensure that cataloguers and systems colleagues can work together to identify, prioritise and complete metadata improvement projects. The need to provide the training received added support recently following the agreement between Jisc & WHELF to contribute WHELF records to the National Bibliographical Knowledgebase.

The NBK provides us with a fantastic opportunity to share and enrich records as part of a collaborative UK-wide service but, like other contributing libraries, we know that we have metadata issues to address if we are to realise the full potential of the NBK i.e. cleaner data = less matching & merging queries = greater discoverability for our collections = an improved end-user experience.

Another incentive for us, as Ex Libris customers, was the release of the Alma MarcEdit API and the possibility of further workflow efficiencies.

The trainiPhoto of Owen Stephens in action ng day was free to attend (thank you WHELF Staff Development Fund!) and in a central  location (thank you National Library of Wales for the fantastic venue and exemplary event management service provided by Elen Rees and her team) which meant that we had good representation from across our Consortium with 16 colleagues making it on the day.

Our trainer, Owen Stephens, provided a good mix of demonstrations and hands-on tasks. It was clear that what we learned sparked many ideas about possible data wrangling scenarios which Owen was happy to address during breaks, over lunch and at the end of the day! So what did we learn?

MarcEdit logoMarcEdit is primarily used to edit and manipulate Marc records.

It can be used to:

  • Automate aspects of the cataloguing workflow. It’s possible to edit single records or batches e.g. add, delete or edit tags and subfields from our own databases or those received from external sources
  • Create Task Lists specifying edits and the order in which they are to be performed
  • Analyse and report out errors or issues with Marc records & fix them
  • Create Marc records from .csv or spreadsheets by mapping data to Marc tags and subfields

We also had an introduction to Regular Expressions which is the syntax used to find and deal with metadata problems, or omissions, in MarcEdit. This topic had added value for us as Alma users as we can use this same syntax to create and edit Normalisation Rules in Alma.

Open Refine LogoOpenRefine is a true data wrangling tool allowing analysis & manipulation of any data.

It can be used to:

  • Transform metadata from one format to another & is particularly useful when working with tabulated data in .CSV or spreadsheet format
  • Create, save & export Projects i.e. the data plus all the information about any cleansing or transformation that you have carried out
  • Analyse data in a Project using Facets and Filters to identify inconsistencies in terminology & character sets; ambiguous terms; cells containing unintended merging of data elements; and missing data
  • Apply Clusters to find groups of data elements that might actually be referring to the same concept of person e.g. a set of records could contain established and non-established forms of an author’s name
  • Transform cell values using Regular Expressions
  • Enhance local data by matching and combining data from other local files or external sources e.g. a website

We can use these 2 packages individually or in tandem to improve our records e.g. analyse and transform data originating in spreadsheet format in OpenRefine and then export the data to MarcEdit for validation and conversion to MARC.

I think that everyone of us will have thought of at least one metadata problem on the day that we now feel confident to tackle using the combination of Owen’s training & the marvellous functionality of the software packages.

The next stage will be to practice using the packages and to share our experiences and techniques across our Consortium for the benefit of all.

Jane Daniels, Bibliographical Librarian, Cardiff Metropolitan University

Posted in events Tagged with:

How can we make the library more inclusive? Aber LibTeachMeet 2018

On Wednesday, 25th April 2018 from 11:00 to 15:00 we will be hosting this year’s Aber LibTeachMeet – a fun and informal mini-conference for sharing ideas through short presentations.

This year’s theme is: How can we make the library more inclusive?

The aim of this year’s program is to explore what we can do both as individuals and as an institution to more actively meet the diverse needs of our users, and to make the library as inclusive as possible to everyone.

The event is open to all students and staff.

Please contact or visit the EventBrite page if you would like to know more about the event or to confirm your attendance. We still welcome proposals for short presentations. If you would like to share ideas or experience of inclusive practice please also get in touch.


Posted in events, TeachMeet

New article: collaboration in challenging times

A new article has been published open access on UKSG Insights by Janet Peters, Director of Library Services and University Librarian at Cardiff University. “Shrinking horizons – or pushing boundaries?” gives “an overview of the current benefits from collaborative working within Wales, at a regional and a UK level and globally”. She suggests:

“those libraries who are willing to to trust each other and to work together may yet have the best chance of survival, provided that they.. push the boundaries of their thinking and.. actions”

Emma Adamson, Chair of WHELF, described the paper as “an excellent, thought provoking article from A must read, especially for members”.

Access the article here:

Posted in collaboration, WHELF

Second Year Success: a library teachmeet


The WHELF Learning & Teaching group are running a teachmeet at Swansea University on Wed 21st March:

There is some research to suggest that students experience a dip in performance in their second year of university (sometimes called the ‘sophomore slump’). This event is a chance for university librarians to gather informally to share concerns, ideas and experiences of supporting second year students.

More information and booking here:

The hashtag for the event is #SwanseaLTM18

Posted in events

Artists’ books cataloguing day

Many thanks to Karen F. Pierce (@Darklecat) for writing this post on our recent WHELF event:

On Monday 12th February a group of WHELF cataloguers and special collections staff gathered together in Cardiff to learn all about artists’ books – what they are and how to catalogue them.

So, how does one define an artists’ book?  Anne Evenhaugen on the Smithsonian Libraries blog suggests that:

An artist’s book is a medium of artistic expression that uses the form or function of “book” as inspiration. It is the artistic initiative seen in the illustration, choice of materials, creation process, layout and design that makes it an art object.

Sarah Bodman

Sarah Bodman

We began the day with a talk from Sarah Bodman (@SarahBodman), Senior Research Fellow at UWE, Bristol.  Sarah brought a suitcase full of examples of artist’s books for everyone to handle and look at, to get a feel for the different kinds of expression these items can take.  She talked us through different printing mediums and different styles of showcasing ideas, and included a brief history of artists’ books from ideas that were formulated by Stéphane Mallarmé’s Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard, 1897 (published 1914) which was a seminal influence on artists’ books and concrete poetry, and also Matisse’s Jazz (1947).  Many key works inspire or spawn other works, such as Ed Ruscha’s Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963), which has had many homages such as Tom Sowden’s Fortynine Coach Seats (2003) amongst others.

Some artists want to engender participation from observers/readers – so, Tom Mosely has created books that he invites people to tear the paper in; and Ann Tyler included images of knives and tools which readers had to lift to read the text of Billy Rabbit: An American Adaptation (2007), thus becoming symbolically complicit in the story.

Sarah’s presentation was a great introduction to the day, and helped to show people how diverse artist’s books can be.

The next presentation was from Doreen Barnaville, Cardiff Metropolitan University, talking about the collection of artists’ books they have, how it came about and was built up, and how they engage their students with the books.  Their collection is a working collection and students are encouraged to handle the books, and take part in workshops.  Some of the books in their collection they have had for years and used to be housed in the main library collection before anyone really realised what they were, and how special they were.  They now have an active collecting policy, and add to their collection each year.  Those doing the buying try to get as much information from the artists themselves where possible, which can be added to the catalogue record.

Image of artists book by Ron King

Figure II: ‘Hick Hack Hock’ by Ron King, Circle Press

Alison Harvey (@AlisonHarvey_), Cardiff University, then spoke about Ron King and the Circle Press collection housed in CU.  The collection was gained due to collaborative work between CU and Cardiff Met, as Ron King was very particular about where he wanted his works to be housed.  One of the first projects to take place was an exhibition held in CU Special Collections that was curated and set up by art students from Cardiff Met.


Following on from this was a presentation about Shirley Jones and the Red Hen Press.  Shirley Jones is a Welsh artist and several institutions in Wales house her work.  Kristine Chapman (National Museum Wales) spoke about their collection that has been built up over the years since about 1999, and the relationship they have engendered with her; In contrast, Lisa Tallis (Cardiff University) then spoke about the complete set of work that Shirley had donated to CU as an alumni, including proof copies of some of her books.  These proofs were brought out for attendees to peruse, and to be able to see the various stages that Shirley goes through when creating her art.

Attendees at the event looking at examples of artists books

Attendees looking at books and enjoying the day

After lunch we reconvened to get ‘technical’.  Maria White (co-author of “Artists’ books: a cataloguers manual” ARLIS guide) spent the afternoon giving us guidance on how to actually catalogue artists’ books.  After having spent the morning hearing about these items, and seeing physical examples, we had a good idea of how difficult cataloguing them might be!  Maria talked us through all the relevant MARC 21 fields, and gave some suggestions of where to find further information that we might need, for example from exhibition catalogues, and artist’s and publisher’s websites.  Key problems that might be encountered were – not knowing the name of the artist, not having a title for the work, and having the work in a form difficult to describe.  If you are very lucky there might be an ISBN but this is unlikely if the artist has published it themselves.  Maria did say that most artists would be very happy if you contacted them to get more information about the work.  For a start you would be informing them that their work was held in your library, and they might find that information valuable and informative.  It is also important for the person buying the work (which probably wouldn’t be the cataloguer), to get as much information as they can at the point of purchase, this is most easy if the purchase is at a book fair where you are likely to be buying directly from the artist themselves, rather than through a specialist book shop.  Picking up associated ephemera, to include with the book, and even taking notes from a conversation with the artist can be extremely helpful to the cataloguing process.

Maria had also brought along a load of examples, and after her initial presentation we were all given a couple of these examples to have a go at cataloguing (using paper templates).  As we were sat in small groups around tables we were able to discuss the items in our groups which helped us as we put together our catalogue records.  Maria said she found it very interesting listening to all the discussions, and hearing the issues and thoughts that were being generated.  There were a whole range of different books to work on, and some were swapped between groups.  Some were easier than others, and some needed a bit of input from Maria.  After we had all completed several records (or at least discussed several items), the discussion and feedback was opened up to the whole group and we were given the ‘answer’ sheet – i.e. MARC records of all the examples, that Maria had created.  The groups took turns at discussing individual items, highlighting any problems they had, or anything they found interesting.  It was extremely valuable being able to see what the record for a book could look like after having a go oneself.  By not using computers we had mostly not been able to check on websites for further information, although a couple of people had used personal devices to do so.   It was evident that sometimes you really have to go outside the item to get basic details, such as the title –which is a very different approach to when cataloguing mainstream textbooks.

Book with a green knitted cover and sausage-shaped Wuthering Heights

Unusual examples from Sarah Bodman’s collection

The whole day proved to be very interesting, informative, and even challenging at times, but it was wonderful to be able to handle the books that both Sarah and Maria brought with them, and which brought the session to life.  Colleagues from different WHELF Institutions were able to share information about their collections and how they are working with them.  As there were some spare places we were joined by library staff from Bristol, Canterbury and Cork which also widened our discussions.

Many thanks to WHELF (@WHELFed) for sponsoring this event, and for Cardiff University Special Collections (@CUSpecialColls) for hosting it.


Posted in events