Current Awareness SSNaP – The Sequel, 21 November 2018

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Back by popular demand, the SSNaP session on current awareness was kindly hosted again by Lorna Robertson at Shepherd and Wedderburn last week and co-hosted by Heather McIntosh from Clyde & Co. This session gave attendees a valuable insight into some of the commercial current awareness platforms being used in law firms.

The two main platforms demonstrated were Linex (due to be superseded by Vable) and Manzama. It was great to see both these systems in action without having to sign up for demos with the companies and face endless pestering sales calls. It was also useful to have unbiased feedback from librarians who have used these platforms on a day-to-day basis for a number of years.

As a non-user of current awareness aggregators (over and above Westlaw alerts), this SSNaP session let me see behind the aesthetically pleasing façade of current awareness emails produced by aggregators to all the mastery behind the scenes of RSS feeds, database alerts and website trackers. While the library professionals have had to do all the hard work in selecting the correct sources to follow for their alerts, once up and running it seems to save copious amounts of time compared to having to retrieve these materials manually. The commercial platforms also have lots of pre-set current awareness feeds which can be used, and feeds set by other users can also be utilised, meaning if you use either Linex or Manzama Lorna and Heather have done a lot of the hard work for you!

While most of the current awareness aggregator platforms offer similar basic functionality of collating news sources and publishing alerts in a professionally branded email, a few differences were highlighted which may impact on the provider you choose such as:

  • Pricing structure – the subscription costs may be based on number of users, number of alerts or size of firm.
  • Uploading own materials – LINEX allowed documents to be uploaded to the platform and linked from alerts but not all platforms do this.
  • End user control – some platforms allow end users to tailor and set up their own current awareness alerts allowing optimum flexibility (for users willing to login for themselves).
  • Integration with other subscription databases – there can be issues with some of the platforms pulling materials from behind subscription databases, especially if they don’t allow you to set up alerts to be emailed directly to the platform.
  • Social media streams – there still seems to be a lot of issues with current awareness platforms pulling feeds straight from Twitter due to the conversational nature of many Twitter accounts and this may be something some are better than others at filtering.

Other current awareness platforms mentioned included Thomson Reuters Bulletin Pro and LexisNexis Newsdesk.

If you are intrigued to find out more about what current awareness technology could offer you, then Vable have a number of interesting articles and webinars on the topic which were recommended at the SSNaP session: http://www.vable.com/white-papers-ebooks-videos-upcoming-events. And, who knows, maybe there will be a SSNaP Current Awareness Part III – Return of the Aggregator.

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NMS Library tour and Rip It Up, 13 September 2018

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As a librarian friend observed, collectively, if we info groups (CILIPS, EDINA, SLLG, SWOP) haven’t visited every library in Scotland, we’ve made a darned good attempt in our race to dwell among the untrodden alcoves.

Building on the success of last year’s trip to the Moving Image Archive in Glasgow, the SLLG Committee suggested a group outing to a very popular exhibition, Rip It Up: The Story of Scottish Pop, running 22 June to 25 November 2018 at the National Museum of Scotland (NMS). There followed the magic words, ‘Maybe they have a library we can visit.’ Why, yes they do.

Research Library

You know you’re going off the beaten track when the meeting point is the staff entrance. Ines and Morven, our hosts for the afternoon, guided us expertly through the maze that is the NMS.

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Our tour began in the basement which houses the museum archives acquired at various points in its fairly complicated history (see Wikipedia). As with many libraries, across the sectors, the NMS Research Library has been charged with a significant number of items (many from the founding Society of Antiquaries’ collection) which require surveying, describing and preserving. While time and expertise to do so are at a premium, natural museum curios are not: see signs for GIANT OCTOPUS or that well-known cutie, the BLACK RAT SNAKE, with its ‘reputation for being a bad-tempered creature’.

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This basement area also contains the rare book collection used by staff including the museum curators. We noticed several classification schemes on the go along with familiar-to-some carbon copy borrowing slips and several volumes of Acts of the Old Scottish Parliament!

The Library’s main reading room is on level 3 accessed from the Royal Museum side of the building, with study spaces, wifi, periodicals and around 10% of the total book collection on open shelves. This selection aims to assist visitors to further understand the Museum’s objects and activities, and is open to the public so I’d encourage you to seek it out.

(Scottish) life isn’t rubbish

A real gem of the Library is the Scottish Life Archive finding facility. In a world of OPACs and LMSs, this wall of binders brought real cheer to the group with its unceremonious subject headings. Under T alone you’ll find Tartan, Turnips and Turra Coos. You can read more about the Archive here.

So from ‘Popular Disturbances (See under Law etc – 117C)’ to popular music and the next stop on our magical history tour…

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Rip it up and start again

This Stopfordian has loved Scottish indie music since hearing Tigermilk as a teenager. Our visit to Rip It Up, though, demonstrated just how we have our own unique memories of gigs, bands and record stores. Our more ‘mature’ members recognised the bright red carrier bags claiming ‘I found it at Bruce’s’. Others came to life on seeing the stage outfits of Alex Harvey or Shirley Manson, or the huge mixing desk used by Chemikal Underground. We can’t keep living in the past so it was also good to see a nod to recent SAY Award winners such as Sacred Paws and Young Fathers (the latter having a connection to law libraries, I’m told).

Clearly, a huge amount of work went into researching the history and sourcing material, both for the exhibition and the accompanying BBC series which comprised archive footage and stills, and contemporary interviews, not to mention music! So engrossing were the exhibits, our group has to be ushered out as closing time fast approached.

Hip ship

After a tipple at Greyfriars Bobby, we made our way to Checkpoint which, according to the Times, is one of the ‘25 coolest restaurants in Britain’ which proved fairly accurate – we were seated in a shipping container. I ate a whole roast cauliflower followed by avocado dessert (both delicious). Now there’s an entry for the Scottish Life Archive.

SLLG at the Hidden, 15th August 2018

One wet Wednesday evening 8 intrepid SLLG-ers braved The Hidden at Edinburgh’s Central Library, putting our well-honed librarian skills and information spidey-senses to the test.

Being honest souls we declared from the outset that we were not mere lay participants, but did have a level of library knowledge. This was met with much enthusiasm from the team at Visible Fictions, who were running the event. We on the other hand realised we should perhaps have kept that under our hats in case we somehow failed to solve the mystery and let the profession down…

Once the remaining participants had arrived we were taken down into the library for a short talk from one of the librarians. She began her presentation on the history of the library, discussing the influence of Andrew Carnegie and taking us through some PowerPoint slides. There was then an issue with the computer and when she went off in search of IT, things took a bit of a strange turn…

It was revealed to us that one of the librarians, Daisy Sinclair, had disappeared, missing for a number of days following some mysterious behaviour as she researched a secret of seemingly monumental and dangerous importance. Before we knew it we had agreed to investigate, as the librarian showed us the first clue. Working in groups we set about cracking the code, and before long it we were moving round the library on the trail of Daisy and her Secret.

The general public were still in the library which added a certain something to proceedings, and it was certainly an atmospheric and more authentic setting than other escape room challenges. The allotted hour passed quickly, and my team certainly found ourselves frantically trying to decipher clues as we moved around the main room of the library. Without giving too much away clues were hidden in books; written on old index cards and scribbled on photographs tucked within the pages.

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Returning to base after an anxious search of the library, each team reported back its findings as we tried to work out what was going on and what had happened to Daisy. With a few prompts from the librarian we were able to work as a group to solve the mystery. Whether we could trust her, or her requests to upload our findings to the mysterious computer was another matter!

This was a fun way to spend the evening, and a good opportunity for this particular SLLG member to reacquaint herself with the collections held in the Central Library. The team from Visible Fictions ensured a slickly run event.

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Visible Fictions are keen to roll this out to school groups and I can definitely see it appealing to older teenagers. There are no smartphones, tablets or web searches involved so tech savvy teenagers will have to rely on their wits and some old school code cracking with pen and paper to solve the mystery.

Underneath the fun escape room style adventure, there is a serious message about the power of media, the reach of the internet and trust. Perfect for the Fake News era.

Emma McLarty

HiddenExLibris

Downie Allison Downie book repair course

SLLG member, Kirstie Hustler of the Advocates Library, reviews one of Downie Allison Downie’s bookbinding courses which are taught on Saturdays throughout the year at their workshop in Glasgow.

This was the second course I had attended at DAD Bookbinders and I was really looking forward to it. I had given my dad a place on the course as a birthday present so it turned out to be a very enjoyable “Daddy Daughter Day” as well as a day for learning new library related skills.

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Take this hammer: book repair in action

The workshop was easy to find and close to the station. There was a cup of coffee and introductions on arrival and then we got stuck in. On this particular day there were four students and two teachers (Karen and Gemma) which ensured everyone had help when they required it. The atmosphere was friendly and supportive and we were even provided with lunch.

Each person had brought some books which were candidates for repair and we discussed them with the tutors and made our selection. My books weren’t very old (well no older than me) but were definitely well-used and well-loved.

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Before…

First of all we had to mend any pages which were torn. This involved cutting paper to match the torn edge and attaching it using heat sensitive tape. I couldn’t believe I was ironing and actually enjoying it.

Using the techniques learned in the beginners class we created new covers for our old books. Some people peeled away the old spines and reattached them to the new bindings.

Another part of the process I really enjoyed was hammering the edges of the pages into a curve and rolling the new cover across a metal bar to create a curved spine. One of my books was an old paperback which was shedding its pages. I made a hard cover for this and it looks great. My other book was a big book of children’s stories and I had brought wrapping paper to use as a facing for the inside covers. I was very happy with the finished effect.

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…and after

Finally we used a machine to stamp the book titles onto their new covers. At the end of the day we had breathed new life into old books and I really felt I had elevated old favourites into new treasures. I would really recommend you have a look through the scruffier parts of your library and sign up for this course.


Kirstie attended the Book Repair course, held on 28 April 2018 from 10am until 4pm, priced £75.00 including materials and lunch. Details of future bookbinding courses can be found on the DAD website.