Refreshing and readjusting

2019…it has been a year!

Literally everyone

I think the above quote captures my, and that of many other people, year last year. I started 2019 knowing that my job, and that of several other members of my team, was going to be restructured. Not drastically but enough to create a whole raft of challenges. I have gone from having a very wide research support remit of “all of STEMM” which was a bit intense, to just the School of Biological Sciences which is still intense but slightly more manageable.

My first few months of the year were spent essentially treading water until my new boss was hired. Their job was brand new and my job was brand new so there wasn’t much I could be getting on with until their started. They also had to wrap their heads around the weirdness that is Cambridge. And it is very weird. And complex.

To say that this period wasn’t stressful would be lying. It was. Not because of my new boss but because of that long period of not knowing what was going to happen. Would I get on with my new boss? Would I still enjoy the work that I was about to be taking on? Lots of unknowns, many of which have thankfully resolved themselves. My new boss is great, the work is challenging but rewarding. All is (mostly) well.

What I had also realised is that during this time, and arguably the months leading up to the start of 2019, I had stopped being as engaged with my profession. I’m not quite sure how this happened and I suspect it has happened to a lot of us at different times and for different reasons. The slow withdrawal from critically engaging with what is going on around us and just trying to cope with each day as it comes. I think I can identify a few things that led to my detachment but I won’t share them here.

In a nutshell, I am working on new things and developing new skills that I want to share. I want to write about stuff because it will not only help me but also possibly help others. So I’ve done an overhaul of my old WordPress blog, turned it into something resembling a website thing and I will use it as a tool for reflecting while also highlighting some of the cool projects I’m doing. I always find it fun to see what other people are doing so I want to share that experience back with everyone else. And to be honest, I’ve achieved a lot of things but I’m not very good at tooting my own horn about it. So consider this my tootin’ post. Thanks.

How librarians support TDM in the research environment


I presented on the topic of how librarians can support text and data mining (TDM) in the research environment at the recent Text and Data Mining Symposium organised by the University of Cambridge Office of Scholarly Communication on 12th July. For anyone watching the livestream, I also gave a speech about ethics in librarianship during the panel discussion at the end so I hope people enjoyed that!

Without any further ado, here is a written up version of my talk with bonus slides for anyone who is interested.

Continue reading “How librarians support TDM in the research environment”

Top 5 things Millennials hate!

1. Sweeping generalisations of an entire age group based on poor scholarship. (see: digital natives)


2. Judgmental articles blaming Millennials for problems created by earlier generations.


3. Criticism of Millennials asking for (legal) fair pay and hours.


4. Being labelled as a selfish and apathetic generation when actually being engaged with global social issues.


5. Being called Millennials. Seriously. We hate it.


This post was inspired by a conversation with Ned Potter on Twitter about that awful article criticising Millennials for daring to have a work/life balance. As a supposed Millennial (urgh) myself, I am also aware how negative stereotypes can affect how we interact with members of this generation in our services, whether intentionally or otherwise. So I hope this post made you chuckle but also reflect. Thanks.


So I’m a big fan of sharing practice and approaches, so this is me sharing my review of 23 Research Things…with stats!

Welcome to the 23 Research Things Cambridge blog! For those of you who haven’t been here before, 23 Research Things ran for the first time in Cambridge between October and December 2016 and we had lots of lovely people taking part with their blogs, video views, comments and much more. So, we’ve taken a look […]

via Review of 2016 programme — 23 Research Things Cambridge

Halfway through 23 Research Things

So today marks the upload of Thing 12 of my 23 Research Things programme which means we’re over halfway through.

I was going to blog about the programme on a weekly basis but then life and work got in the way so hey. So far I think the programme is going pretty well. I think we have a lot of ‘lurkers’ in that there are many people out there looking at the programme blog, following the blog and watching the content even if they aren’t engaging through actively blogging about the programme. And that’s ok. I don’t really mind how people interact with the content that I’ve put online, just that they do in some way.

But of those that are actively getting involved, I have had 17 individual people message me and let me know that they’re blogging along with the programme. Of those people, some are keeping up and being really regular, some are following at their own pace and a few seem to have stopped entirely but I hope they’ll be able to pick up where they left off and keep getting something out of the programme.

My favourite Thing so far has been Thing 10 where I recorded a podcast with Ryan Cronin about communicating complex ideas to non-expert audiences. It was a really interesting discussion and even more pertinent given the state of affairs in our political and social worlds at the moment, especially when it comes to misinformation and distrust of experts. Check out the podcast if you haven’t already.

In addition to the online programme, I have been running new teaching sessions at the Moore Library which have been fairly well attended so far with a mix of students and researchers coming in from different STEM disciplines. It will take time to build on these initial few sessions but all in all I think they’ve gone well so far and I’ve been able to follow up on things with participants after the sessions themselves.

Looking ahead

So far the programme has been fairly easy to maintain and that’s mostly because I did a ton of work throughout the summer to preload as much content as possible so everything posts automatically and I can spend my time checking in on participants’ blogs and promoting each Thing when it launches. This all takes time and planning of course but it is doable alongside my other responsibilities.

I hope that as many of the current participants as possible complete the programme as it would be nice to see them finish and enjoy getting to the end. If some don’t but they still enjoyed what they did, then that is fine too. Nothing is wasted. I also hope that people are inspired by the programme to do similar things in their institutions. I’m getting a lot of traffic from around the world so people are obviously interested in what I’m doing which is quite nice. If you are one of those people and have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch!

There’s some fun stuff coming up in the programme and in the Real World, some of the Things that I have covered have sparked conversations with researchers and have opened doors to running new teaching sessions and getting guest speakers in to build on interests sparked in my immediate communities which is ace.

So, here’s to the next few Things!


Creating a 23 Research Things programme

Today is the launch of the 23 Research Things programme that I have been working on and developing for the past few months. A lot of work has gone into it and over the next few weeks I will blog about the various Things as and when they are released. But I also wanted to write about why I developed this programme. So read on!

When I started my sort-of-not-really-anymore new job as a Research Support Librarian, an immediate challenge struck me. There is only one of me. Let me unpack this seemingly obvious observation. I work for a library that used to cover just maths, a complex subject area in itself. But since the closure of the main science library in Cambridge which was then merged with aforementioned maths library, we suddenly found ourselves responsible for supporting the vast majority of STEM across the whole of the University of Cambridge.

Now for those of you that aren’t familiar with the *interesting* and *unique* library system at Cambridge, we don’t have one almighty library to rule them all. Oh no. Well we have the main University Library but that’s a bit of a red herring. We have generally speaking over 120 individual libraries. A good chunk of those are college libraries which are libraries based within colleges which are, in the Cambridge world, students’ homes. A student gets allocated a college which often has nothing to do with their subject. They THEN get access to their department library, whichever that might be and those department libraries make up the rest of the rather confusing array of library options open to students.

Don’t get me wrong, all those libraries are amazing and offer lots of great opportunities for students and staff alike. But it’s still a confusing system in comparison to most typical universities.

Continue reading “Creating a 23 Research Things programme”

Where do we go from here?

It’s the Monday after the Friday before and I have gone back to the office in a country that feels quite different to the one that I was in this time last week. All that I can keep thinking of as we watch the uncertainty of politicians grappling with a referendum vote is what on earth do we do next?

As a disclaimer, I voted Remain. I feel strongly about being part of something bigger than ourselves and while the EU certainly isn’t perfect, we are far poorer being out of it. However, this is just a disclaimer and not an invitation to shout and tell me why I’m wrong.

I don’t tend to get particularly political on this blog but the EU Referendum result seems too important, too wide-reaching to not say something. It isn’t a lot but it is something that I hope helps. While I can’t pretend to even know what it all means yet, heck no-one does really, I know what we must do as a profession. STICK. TOGETHER.

I had the bittersweet experience of being at UXLibs II on the Friday that we will never forget. I had a much needed breakfast with a very wonderful Swedish colleague who I was able to talk to about the immediate rawness of what the result meant to me and to her. I was also incredibly grateful to be surrounded by so many European colleagues at the conference who kept saying how sorry they were and offering hugs as I and my many British friends and colleagues welled up with tears. It was a powerful day and I will never forget how much I appreciated not being made to feel awful by other people who could have easily have been cross with us for the decision our country made. But they weren’t and we worked together in harmony for the rest of the day.

What the responses at UXLibs II to the whole mess of this referendum made me re-appreciate is that the library profession is and will be so incredibly important in the weeks, months and years to come. It doesn’t matter how people voted (well it does, but that’s another discussion) but it matters more how we move forward together and deal with the fallout from this extremely close decision.

As a profession, I feel strongly that we need to do the following:

  1. Stick together.

    I’ve already said this but I’ll say it again. We have a long history of working with our many colleagues around the world even if our countries are at war or just political loggerheads. That should never change.

  2. Help our users.

    There are going to be a lot of confused and scared people out there and we can do what we do best by providing knowledge and information, no matter how small, from reliable sources without judgement or filtering. Misinformation is partly what created this whole mess in the first place.

  3. Offer safe spaces.

    As we have  already seen, the most rotten parts of our society are surfacing in the wake of the referendum result with many people experiencing overt racism and persecution due to the colour of their skin, their EU nationality, their religion, or simply because they appear as ‘other’. This is completely against the British values that I stand for and we should offer refuge for those who are suffering whether they be users, colleagues, friends, or complete strangers.

  4. Use our professional bodies to campaign.

    Many of us have been completely screwed over by government cuts and the continued decimation of our library systems. While many groups have done amazing work to campaign for libraries and their value, some of this work has been disjointed. We cannot allow this disjointedness to seep into campaigning for what happens next with our EU membership. Regardless of how you voted, the nation should have the best deal possible and we all need to shout about that as individuals and as professional organisations.

  5. Hold organisations accountable.

    One thing I have been immediately concerned about when it comes to the professional impact of this vote is how it will affect my many STEM colleagues who I support and work with on a daily basis. Open Access, funding, publishing pressures…so many of these issues will be affected by whatever relationship we will eventually have with the EU and we cannot allow unscrupulous companies to take advantage of potential opportunities/absence of direction to weasel out of promises and agreements that we have fought so hard to achieve. I won’t spell this out but you will know what I mean from your own experiences. I can’t even begin to process how this will affect the wider university and research landscapes.

  6. Stay angry.

    Regardless of how you voted, a lot of us are angry. While we are still in such an early stage that that anger is still raw and leading to tears and pits of despair, it is also fuel. So when you’ve cried out all your rage and feelings of betrayal, pick yourself up and pour that anger into pushing, campaigning, and fighting to keep this country together with its incredibly rich variety of people, nationalities, cultures, viewpoints, and experiences.

In the words of a superb individual who paid the ultimate price for this whole mess, MP Jo Cox:

We are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.

Stay safe everyone.


Am I ready for the researcher of the future?

Well…am I? To answer this question I went along to an all-day seminar run by ALPSP whose name kept on being mentioned as if they were also a well known mountain range which was very confusing.

I normally don’t like the whole ‘future’ emphasis/descriptors that many training events use. I get that we need to plan ahead but all too often these sorts of things look beyond the present and the people that we’re trying to work with and support RIGHT. NOW. However, once I saw what was on the agenda, I was a little bit more reassured that this wouldn’t be too much of the blue skies thinking but more about real experiences and how we can tackle issues that come up in the research process. Which was nice. The whole day was primarily aimed at those working in publishing even though anyone who works with researchers was welcome. As a result of this perhaps, I was one of only two librarians (if you don’t count speakers) who attended which was actually quite refreshing because it meant we weren’t going to be in yet another librarian echo chamber. Always good to get out of those from time to time I find.

The day was roughly themed into two parts with the morning looking at the researcher experience and the afternoon looking at tools and services to help with the research process. While I got a lot of useful information on new tools that I was either familiar already but hadn’t used that much or ones that I had never heard of before and really should explore, I found the morning session with a panel of early career researchers to be the most valuable. Fair warning though, a lot was said…I wrote lots of notes…I won’t say who said what, mostly because I can’t remember and also because I don’t want to quote anyone in a way that they’re not happy with. So, summary it is!

Continue reading “Am I ready for the researcher of the future?”

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