On taking a break

The new term at Robert Gordon University starts on Monday but I won’t be amongst the students returning to the part-time MSc in Information and Library Studies. This term, I’ll be taking a break from studying. Don’t worry: It’s all good – it’s because I have rather EXCITING and BIG things going on at home  (alongside still working in my full-time day job for the time being)!

I’ll get back into the swing of things in the next term, which starts in February 2016. That really isn’t too far away if you think about it. And if I do get bored in the meantime, I have these babies waiting for me on the bookshelf in the study:

Stack of books

I’m of course still following all the lovely librarians on Twitter and reading my favourite blogs to stay up-to-date with the library world, so although I won’t be moaning about my MSc workload and assignments on here for a while, I do hope to continue to blog every now and then!

And if you are a student starting a  new term on Monday – best of luck!


Hamlets at the Library of Birmingham

No, no, no, it’s not a typo up there in the title, the performance I saw at the Library of Birmingham the other week really was called Hamlets with an -s. It was an adaptation of the famous play and it was also one of the best, most exhilarating theatre experiences I’ve had in a while.

Why? Firstly, it was set in the Library of Birmingham, probably the most exciting building in Birmingham. And I’m not just saying this as a library student:

Library of Birmingham

There was no fourth wall in this performance. We started in the foyer and were taken to various parts of the building as the action unfolded, sometimes with the actors literally all around us. The Library here doubled as the Hamlet archives, with boxes with archival material strewn around, and “archivists” guiding us from one location to the next.

You know how the Library of Birmingham is an amazing building? Just imagine being there after hours, with nothing than a group of actors and some fellow audience members to keep you company. It is brilliant. Just look at this view:

Library of Birmingham at night

Secondly, I loved what the director, Daniel Tyler, did with the text. In a nutshell, he took Hamlet apart and then put the pieces back together. I loved how refreshing this approach was – it might just be my perception, but I felt that this performance was much less in awe of the Bard than many others I have seen.

We all got given a visit checklist. Of course I checked off the scenes as we went along – I cannot go past a good checklist!


The actors were fantastic and really devoted themselves to their roles. There was not one, but about a dozen different Hamlets. In line with the archives theme, we had actors representing previous incarnations or archetypes of Hamlet, e.g. the female Hamlet, the Sarah Bernhardt Hamlet and the Wild West Hamlet. There also were multiple Ophelias. Here you can see Gertrude and Claudius (and some archive boxes, if you look closely):

Scene from Hamlets

Some of my favourite parts?

  • The ghost scene which took place in the Secret Garden – outside on the rooftop terrace – after nightfall. Eery!
  • The Hamlet monologues – many, many different versions happening at the same time. This included a Punjabi version, a ‘Hamlet challenge’ where audience members had to fill in the gaps in the monologue, and a silent movie version.
  • The Mousetrap. I don’t think there would have been a better way to use the Library, as both the audience and the actors (who were also the audience here) were strategically placed on two levels around the rotunda.
  • Hamlet going mad: pandemonium enfolding all around the audience over an entire floor. We were free to go anywhere on that level, and wherever you looked, something was going on.

(I saw: Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Library of Birmingham & Hôtel Teatro Theatre Company present a Young REP 18-25 Company production Hamlets.  Based on William Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’. Adapted and directed by Daniel Tyler)

Three resources for learning Dewey Decimal Classification

So I’m halfway through the classification part of my Cataloguing & Classification module. After three weeks of theory, last week we finally got stuck into Dewey. And what a week it has been! After a somewhat leisurely start to the term, the workload went up exponentially. But that’s OK, because it’s all fascinating stuff.

I should mention at this point that the module is not so much about professional training in classification. Rather, we are learning the underlying principles of classification schemes such as Dewey and UDC so that we can evaluate their suitability for organising collections. And with only one week dedicated to each of the two classification schemes in the syllabus, anything beyond this would be pretty much impossible. But even so, part of the coursework will be to classify a number of documents.

In any case, last week provided ample opportunity to practice Dewey. Our lecturer has made a workbook available, which was challenging but rewarding. I’m sure it will be no different for UDC. I really enjoy classification, so I was on the search for more opportunities to practice and to learn more about Dewey. Here are my top 3 resources:

1. Vanda Broughton’s textbook on classification

BROUGHTON, V., 2004, Essential classification. London: Facet Publishing

This textbook is quickly becoming my classification bible. Not only was it immensely helpful when you want to brush up on anything from aspect classification to vocabulary control, it also had chapters dedicated to the Library of Congress Classification, Dewey Decimal Classification, and Universal Decimal Classification. They each come with a number of exercises, and I slowly worked my way through the Dewey chapter last week. Most importantly, the answers are given at the back!

2. The Dewey Blog

025.431: The Dewey Blog (http://ddc.typepad.com/).

This blog is pretty awesome! The tagline is “Everything you always wanted to know about the Dewey Decimal Classification System but were afraid to ask…” and this describes the theme of the blog rather well. My favourites are the posts that talk you through how you would classify documents on news topics, e.g. the mission of the Rosetta spacecraft to Comet 67P Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

3. Dewey Training Courses on the OCLC website


Most of these seem to consist of PowerPoint slides and associated exercises. So far, I have only worked my way through the material and exercises on Table 1 (standard subdivisions). I liked that there are lots of examples on how you arrive at a given classmark.

And as a bonus…

Question: How many librarians does it take to change a lightbulb?
Answer: 645.5 *

(via INALJ)

* 645.5: Lighting fixtures (Dewey Decimal Classification)

Noteworthy #2

A few Library-related and MSc-related things that I have come across on the Internet recently…

What do librarians do all day?

I have to admit that I had not heard of instructional design librarians until I read Lindsay McNeill’s post on “The Making of an Instructional Design Librarian” on the ARCLog. And indeed she writes that there are  not many librarians with this title or responsibilities. Her description of her role sounds fascinating though – a blend of academic librarian and instructional designer.

Take me to the library

If you want to know where Harvard Library stores most of its collection, you can read about the Harvard Depository here and then watch Jeffrey Schnapp and Cristoforo Magliozzi’s documentary Cold Storage here. 9 million items in a concrete, off-site, high-density storage facility!

(via Library Stuff)

Can I copyright this?

Did you ever think copyright is boring? Think again. This blog post explains how Jon Stewart, (about to step down) Daily Show host and brilliant comedian, used fair use to re-broadcasts clips of politicians and news commentators on his show.

(via Digitization 101)

And in the world of higher education…

UCAS, the central admissions service for UK undergraduate degree programmes, were in the news earlier this week because of their plans to extend their system to continental European universities. What does this mean for British university applicants? It should become easier to apply to continental universities, as you can do it via the same website as you would for British universities. Read about it here and here.

A whole new world… of classification vocabulary

I’m now well into the cataloguing and classification module, which I have been looking forward to ever since I enrolled on the MSc. So far, I have not been disappointed.

We’re in week 3, and already have learnt a lot about the basics of bibliographic classification, with examples from a range of classification schemes. From next week onwards, we’ll have a closer look at two particular classification schemes – Dewey Decimal and UDC.

It is fair to say that there have been many new terms since the module started:

word cloud of classification vocabulary

Here are some of terms explained, mainly for my own benefit:

citation order: this refers to the subject heading or classmark, more specifically to the order in which the different concepts that make up a subject are combined in the classmark. We’re mainly talking about faceted classification schemes here.

compound subject: a subject which consists of more than one concept. The concepts cannot be separated without changing the meaning of the subject. Examples: financial management; electrical engineering.

semantic relationships: they are “hierarchical relationships proper” (Broughton, 2004, p. 25) – relationships between concepts based on hierarchy and independent of context. For example, a bonobo will always be a great ape or Hominidae (well, unless biologists decide to change the scientific classification, but you know what I mean), and a finger will always be part of a hand. Want to know more? The “bonobo – great ape” relationship is an example of a thing-kind relationship (“a bonobo is a kind of great ape”) and the “finger – hand relationship” is an example of a whole-part relationship (“a finger is part of the hand”). Thirdly, we can also have instance relationships, e.g. the Thames is an instance of a river.

The following terms all tell you something about a given classification scheme:

literary warrant: how well does the classification scheme take into account and match the published literature in a field? For example, if the bulk of textbooks published on, say, learning Hebrew as a foreign language falls into the four areas grammar, vocabulary, listening, and reading, can we find these four concepts in the classification scheme?

user warrant: how well does the classification scheme take into account the expectations of users?

exhaustivity: in terms of indexing, how well does the classification scheme allow the indexer to represent all the different elements of a subject in the subject heading or classmark? Coming from a slightly different angle, Rowley and Hartley (2008, p. 131f.) describe this concept very well in relation to different information retrieval systems: at the basic level we have summarisation (e.g. a subject heading), then the most significant subjects (e.g. chapter headings), then detailed subject specification (e.g. a back-of-book index), and finally the full text – “the ultimate level of exhaustivity”.

specificity: how well does the classification scheme allow you to classify a document at the right level? For example, if you want to classify a monograph on the Reformation in Germany, and your schedule for German History goes like the (very quick and dirty) one below, you will end up having to classify the monograph under Modern History, which is not very specific!

AA History of Germany
      AAA Prehistoric
      AAB Germanic
      AAC Medieval
      AAD Modern

You would be better of if the schedule was more like this (also very quick and dirty):

AA History of Germany
      AAA Prehistoric
      AAB Roman
      AAC Medieval
      AAD Early Modern
            AADA Renaissance
            AADB Reformation
      AAE Modern

flexibility: how much choice does the classification scheme offer to the classifier, e.g. can you change the citation order, or are there alternative locations for a subject? If so, once you have made up your mind as to what to do, stick with that decision.

hospitality: how well is the classification scheme able to accommodate new subjects (e.g. Web 2.0). For example, are there gaps in the notation where you could slot in new subjects?


BROUGHTON, V., 2004. Essential Classification. London: Facet Publishing.

ROWLEY, J. and HARTLEY, R., 2008. Organizing Knowledge. An Introduction to Managing Acess to Information. 4th ed. Farnham: Ashgate.