Student Research at #citylis

The summer term, from May – September, is our research period. This is when our students undertake what is regarded by many as the most exciting part of the masters course, the independent research project, or dissertation. The dissertation is regarded by employers as the definitive way in which new LIS professionals can demonstrate their individual skills and expertise; the completed project not only functions as a showcase for expertise within a given area, but demonstrates research competence, commitment, insight, creativity, determination and resilience. All of which are characteristics which underpin successful employment in today’s workplace, alongside excellence in communication.

Research Seminar 16:05:16As a precursor to the main research phase for 2016, we added an additional research workshop to the #citylis agenda. This session was designed to put students at ease, allowing everyone to be able to discuss any remaining doubts or concerns before starting their research. Those in their second year of the masters course, or those studying full time had already put together their research proposals, and this seminar provided a forum for discussion/feedback. Some first year students also joined the group, keen to get a head start on their research, and also to catch up with friends and ideas!

#citylis positions itself at the forefront of library and information science. LIS aims to organise and preserve the record of humankind, making it available to all. To do this in the 21st century, we reach beyond traditional library roles, and beyond traditional definitions of information, documents and collections. We anticipate the changes and challenges thrown up by the digital information society. We constantly examine our understanding of documentation, and strive to put forward ways in which we can interact with the information communication chain to promote our ultimate goal of information use for the purposes of understanding.

The research topics chosen by our current students reflect the broad, contemporary nature of library and information science; library services for minority groups, area studies, the impact of makerspaces, the impact of AI on information organisation and retrieval, and how computers are changing the way we think, and thus the consequences for information services.

Concepts of documents, collections and metadata are considered and challenged, alongside the impact of technology on provision of access to theological literature, music, art, videogames and materials.

As always, #citylis students are encouraged to process what they learn reflectively, by sharing their progress via social media. Posts relating to our work on Twitter are tagged #citylis.

#citylis offers a full, 10 session, core module on Research Methods to all our students, as preparation for the disseration, and in anticipation of a future career which fully embraces both the application of and contribution to research. A sample of previous dissertation titles undertaken by #citylis students supervised by me can be seen here:

If you would like to study with #citylis, come to one of our open evenings, or email me [] to arrange a time to chat.

#HASlibcamp: a health and science library & information unconference


#HASlibcamp 2016 hosted by #citylis: photo by @lynrobinson cc-by

On 23rd April 2016, #citylis was delighted to host HASlibcamp, an unconference for health and science library information professionals. The day provided a unique, informal forum where over 40 colleagues from public, academic, NHS, charity and other library and information services came together to discuss current issues and catch up with each other. I was especially pleased to see so many #citylis former and current students at the event.

I am a huge fan of unconferences. The benefit to attendees of being able to suggest issues to discuss (pitch a session), rather than being faced with a ready-made agenda is enormous, especially for new professionals, and for anyone who feels their ideas and opinions get overlooked in times of management frenzy. Even for more established professionals, there is always much to learn by listening to what is of current interest amongst colleagues. From the point of view of a course director, I felt very lucky to be treated to such up-to-date ideas, which will certainly help with our quest for innovative content at #citylis!

This is not to say that conferences with fixed agendas are a bad thing in any way, but that the unconference format offers a great compliment to more formal outlets for professional conversations. In a session led by Gary Green (@ggnewed), on how public libraries can support health and well being, participants observed that there was not currently a forum where public library practitioners could meet with NHS or other health library staff to share good practice. A possible role for @CILIPHLG?

At HASlibcamp, I think we were able to accommodate all the sessions that were pitched, and I would certainly recommend that unconference organisers allow for as many physical spaces as possible, so that everyone’s ideas can be accommodated. Sometimes, it can be daunting to suggest or pitch an idea, incase no-one is interested, but the supportive atmosphere at HASlibcamp meant that everyone’s ideas gained an audience. Overall, the approach led to a marvelously diverse range of topics, shown on the image below. This range of topics highlighted the breadth of interests held by health and science LIS professionals, and is a fantastic testimony to the value of a career in LIS.

Session board

Session Board for #HASlibcamp 2016: photo by @lynrobinson cc-by

It occurred to me that in this kind of environment, it was easy to realize that none of us are the only person to face particular concerns –the feeling of not being alone is a significant factor in raising morale, and at a time when most LIS services face negative news about cuts in funding, de-skilling of staff members and devaluing of the qualified professional, this is very important.

Medical Information Resources

I have a longstanding interest in health and medical information, and I pitched a session on the ‘future’ of medical information resources. My focus was on ‘human documents’ or the quantified self. What does the proliferation of apps collating human data mean for LIS professionals? My wonderful colleague Ka-Ming Pang (@AgentK23) had the brilliant idea of talking about App Swap (#Appswap) – where libraries encourage sharing and exchange of ideas on health and medical related apps. We decided to combine our sessions, which resulted in a lively debate on how to stay up-to-date with new apps, understanding and promoting privacy, evaluating apps and the issues of who should recommend apps. Apps are used by many people, including students, and the library is rarely included in the choice of apps, or their evaluation. There is clearly a need for at least a framework of the issues this involves. Medical and healthcare apps collect personal information, and users need to be aware of not only what interpretation of the data means, but also of what happens to the information and who might benefit – insurance companies for example, might be very interested in blood glucose levels, fitness or sexual health indicators. Network security is rarely considered and many app users may be unaware of the amount of personal data that is being ‘leaked’ to third parties. A suggestion of using CASP like indicators to evaluate apps fed into a later session during the day.

[The idea of App Swap originated from the University of Brighton, which uses the same hashtage. Review of apps can be found on the St George’s University of London Library’s Guide to Mobile Resources.]

Sessions were allocated an hour for discussion, and it was a good sign that several sessions overran due to exuberant engagement and interest . Many more aspects could have been discussed and I think that HASlibcamp could have been extended to the whole weekend with no loss of interest. With regard to medical information resources, other topics which could easily have pervaded the whole day included genetic information, big data, neurological data, virtual reality and psychology. A huge field waiting to be explored. I am biased, I know :).

Other Pitches

There were many other topics of interest including diversity (@tashasuri), information literacy, the importance of software as a research output and the issues of adding approprite metadata (@biostew), current awareness, design of library induction session (Pirates!), preservation and access of games, and user needs. Those of you who need more should have joined us (!), but you can check out other blog postings and @HASlibcamp on Twitter.


A short but significant mention should go to the amazing food sharing – the input from all attendees who brought food to share cannot be overstated. The food created a party atmosphere – it was great to see so many talented chefs strut their stuff. More. Food is a good thing! The need for a warm and positive atmosphere in the workplace is overlooked these days – this is a bad thing.

photo credit Andy Mabbett @pigsonthewing

Photo by Andy Mabbett @pigsonthewing


I would like to conclude with a massive thank you to the organizing team who made all this possible – events look like they emerge into the forest like mushrooms – they don’t. This event was down to:

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 21.50.46

And finally – the value of HASlibcamp:

Screen Shot 2016-04-25 at 16.49.17

Last year #citylis hosted #citymash; you can read about it from Ludi Price (@ludiprice) and Kathryn Drumm (@dourgirl).

Here are more accounts of #HASlibcamp:

Lyn Robinson’s Storify

Emma Illingworth


Suzanna Bridge

HASlibcamp site list of write-ups and summaries

On Background Reading for Library and Information Science

There is never less to read – only more. I sometimes use those historical quotes in my lectures which show how famous people throughout time also felt they lived with too much information, and that our concerns about there just being too many books are hardly new. I offer the usual advice of the need to be selective, and emphasise that the ability to choose reading materials is a fundamental skill for the information worker. I would go further, and argue that it is a fundamental skill for all – but already I am veering off into the waters of information literacy, when all I want to do is to say something brief and informative about background reading for library and information science.

This post is for those of you who are joining one of our LIS masters courses this September, or those who are interested in learning a bit more about library and information science as a subject. I don’t mind if you are going to study LIS at a different institution – these personal recommendations should still work.

The most important book
Obviously our own “Introduction to Information Science”. I am a shamelessselfpromoter, and will often wear sequins to get attention. But, the book has emerged from around 60 (combined!) years of thinking and writing about information science; what it is, how it relates to library science (and other related subjects), its main components, protagonists, its past, present and future, and how it can be presented within the context of an academic masters course.

Neither DB nor myself imagine our book to be the last word in information science. It is not the first either! Rather we set out a contemporary landscape, and signpost many other resources and references. Since we signed off on the text, vowing ‘never again etc.’, we have thought of far more to add – there may be a second edition – but at least for the forthcoming academic year this will do for starters. The chapters do not correspond exactly with modules offered on the City courses – there are more modules than topics we cover. The content (listed below) does however, reflect what we believe to be the current core of Library and Information Science, and it should therefore be of interest to anyone who, for whatever reason, finds themselves concerned with LIS:

1: What is information science? Disciplines and professions
2: History of information: the story of documents
3: Philosophies and paradigms of information science
4: Basic concepts of information science
5: Domain analysis
6: Information organisation
7: Information technologies: creation, dissemination and retrieval
8: Informetrics
9: Information behaviour
10: Communicating information: changing contexts
11: Information society
12: Information management and policy
13: Digital literacy
14: Information science research: what and how?
15: The future of the information sciences

I should add that we are privileged to have a collection of forewords to the book, all written by internationally famous LIS professionals, and obviously friends of ours.

Other background reading
I am often asked to recommend background reading, or ‘summer reading’. I love making these suggestions as it gives me a chance to enthuse about things I have read in the past, or just come across recently. I enthused about James Gleick’s “ The Information” for about a year before it was published.

My short-list of four for this summer is shown below – although I am always changing my mind according to what comes to my attention. Ours is not a dull subject, nor one that is short of lovely new volumes. I have a lot of books. I think one of the key attractions of LIS for me is that information communication spans each and every subject, so there is usually something tempting, even if you are into cult fanfiction and rarely step away from  Archive of Our Own. The task here is to be brief yet inclusive – although anyone else will give you a different selection. And you are completely free to undertake your own voyage around the catalogues and byways to fit your own intellectual preferences once you get started.

I haven’t included journals, conferences, great bloggers or folks to stalk on twitter – wait until you get the course reading lists for those.

  • Briggs A and Burke P (2009). A Social History of the Media: from Gutenberg to the Internet. 3rd Edition. Polity: Cambridge.

This will get you thinking about how information communication works in society, and its tenacious relationship with publishing.

  • Chowdhury G G et al. (2008). Librarianship: an introduction. Facet: London.

This is the book to start with if you would like to compare our view of LIS with another one. Gobinda Chowdhury is an excellent writer of textbooks and you can add anything of his to your bookshelf with confidence.

  • Floridi L (2010). Information: a very short introduction. OUP: Oxford.

The philosophy of information informs our decisions and work with the field of library and information science. This book is the best introduction to the concept that I have read.

The ‘very short introduction’ series from OUP is addictive and it is likely that you will come away with a small collection. Here is another:

  • Ince D (2011). The Computer: a very short introduction. OUP: Oxford.

If you are nervous about having to understand how a computer works – this will reassure you – and this is more than enough for now. Remember, computers are pervasive. There is nowhere to hide from technology, especially in LIS.

Do you want more? My collection on LibraryThing
There is always more.  If you are joining us in just over a month then you can simply wait for your reading lists and lecture notes, but if you are impatient and greedy for books then you may wish to take a look at my LIS collection on LibraryThing. and

LibraryThing is an application which allows you to create a catalogue for your own personal use, or perhaps for a small business, library or information unit. It is also ‘social’, in that it allows you to connect with like minded souls in a variety of ways; you can share your catalogue with others, you can in turn share theirs, and find out for example, more about a particular work, who has also added it to their collection, how to order a copy, swap a copy, discuss a copy etc. There is plenty of information on the LibraryThing website, so I won’t reproduce it all here, and indeed, although I would never want to live without my personal catalogue, I have to say I probably don’t use as many features as I could.

The link to my profile on LibraryThing above, takes you to a page explaining the background to my collection – i.e. that it contains the LIS books I am familiar with and use. I tag those which I use in class, so if you are in the right frame of mind, you can search for a course code to see what’s coming up … I list the course codes in my profile.

(Limit course-code searches to the comments field if you understand field limiting)

When using the search function, remember to enter terms into the lower box, to search my catalogue, rather than the upper box, which searches the whole LibraryThing universe.

Try also searching for “library-science” or “information-science” (limit to the tag field if you know what this means). This will bring up some relevant books to fill in your free time.

The catalogue is again a personal view of LIS – other documentalists will have a different selection – but many of the books will be found in any good LIS collection.

I started out with the intention of creating a LIS catalogue to accompany the modules which I teach – but then the addiction took hold and I began to add all the other books in my house. This is an ongoing pursuit. If you like book-stalking, you can browse through all my other stuff – but there is no need to if all you want is a masters in library science.