#LibrariansUncorked reading group meeting

Join us for the second #LibrariansUncorked reading group taking place this week on Tuesday 11th September at The Wash Bar.

The group will discuss ‘Vocational awe and librarianship: the lies we tell ourselves’ written by Fobazi Ettarh for the online journal In the Library with the Leadpipe.

By considering the historical connection between religion and libraries, the article analyses the problem of characterising librarianship as a ‘calling’; rhetoric that glorifies librarians as intrinsically moral and ethical individuals rather than a valued professional group. Supposed MLIS ‘martyrdom’ is arguably creating a pattern of workplace stress, low salary expectations and expanding job roles; even leading to a lack of diversity within the profession. Yet strong professional ethics are how librarians are entrusted to make decisions on behalf of communities.

Over-awed? Then make an after-work pilgrimage to the pub for praise to freedom of speech and intellectual freedom with fellow saintly colleagues. We’ll debate the article and consider its relevance and impact to our working experiences. If the second meeting is anything like the first, then expect a broad church of opinions, passions (and possible confessions) to be represented and celebrated in a friendly, social space.
It’s free. For faithful and lapsed CPD devotees alike!

Librarians Uncorked - Sep 18


ELISA mini-quiz: Emily Prince, Scottish Poetry Library

Our first mini-quiz in a while comes from Emily Prince from the Scottish Poetry Library:

Your name:  Emily Prince AALIA (CP)
Library:  Scottish Poetry Library
Job Title:  Librarian


How did you become a librarian/what was your career path?
After completing an undergraduate degree in creative writing in Melbourne, Australia, I was looking into opportunities for further study. I’ve always loved books, and was working casually as a shelver in the university library where I had undertaken my degree. A friend from work had enrolled in a distance learning Masters in Information Studies at Charles Sturt University (also in Australia) and convinced me to give it a try – I fell in love with it almost immediately. Since graduating in 2014, I have worked in public and academic libraries in Australia, before moving to Scotland in 2016. I worked at an academic library in Scotland before going full-time at the Scottish Poetry Library (SPL).


Did you need any specialist training for your current role?
The SPL has a very unique collection, and is not governed by any larger organisation or council, so we have an unusual amount of autonomy in how we manage our collections. This also means, however, that the collections benefit from a wealth of specialist knowledge. I was very lucky when I started to be working with staff who had spent decades developing these collections, and also got a crash course in Scottish poetry while doing so. Constantly reading poetry helps with ongoing training!


What makes your library/department unique?
The focus of our collection! Poetry libraries are not common, and we are a national authority on Scottish poetry. We also have a largely physical collection, mainly due to lack of funds to support digital resources. This means I still update and maintain collections that some people might refer to as ‘old-fashioned’, like our cuttings collection which is largely comprised of actual newspaper and magazine clippings focused on Scottish poetry that we manually locate, cut out, and catalogue.


What is your favourite aspect of the job?
Working with poetry, and cataloguing. There aren’t too many libraries these days where the cataloguing is done in-house, and it is one of my favourite activities!


What has been your most complex/funny/unusual enquiry?
Where do I start? I hold lead responsibility for the enquiry service, and my favourites are the ones where people ask you to identify a fragment of poetry that they have forgotten the origin of. It’s usually a 50/50 chance that we will actually locate an answer for some of the more unusual or rare fragments, but we do our best! Other enquiries come from students doing dissertations on Scottish poets. I did some extensive work for an academic locating mentions of grandmothers in the work of Jackie Kay. There are also ‘lost’ poems that we have been asked about several times over the years that still elude us – and one of them is about the ‘cludgie [toilet] on the stair’ in a Glasgow tenement. If anyone has heard of this one, do get in touch!

Thank you so much for that Emily! Most entertaining and informative. Please contact Emily at the SPL, dear readers, if you have any information on that mysterious cludgie poem…

And, if you’d like to submit a mini-quiz of your own, you can find the details here: mini-quiz.

ELISA Superhero Roadshow at HWU

We are hosting a joint ELISA / Heriot-Watt event on Tuesday April 17th for Librarians and other Information Professionals in Edinburgh.  The event will be held at Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh campus between 12:00 – 5:00pm.

It is a training workshop called the Superhero Roadshow which is aimed at increasing professional pride and getting library staff involved in writing more journal articles, or presenting at conferences etc.
This lively and interactive workshop will cover how to write a conference abstract, how to choose an appropriate journal for publication (peer-reviewed or otherwise) and how to start with small scale in-house research projects. Future superhero librarians will also be encouraged to reflect on the scale of pride they feel in their profession and will be given practical tips on how to engage more fully with the professional opportunities offered by social media. The impact of previous Roadshows has been zero to hero. A growing list of pieces published, blogs uploaded and papers delivered, not to mention new converts to Twitter.

The event will be delivered by
Leo Appleton – Goldsmiths University of London and Wendy Morris – Kingston University
“Whilst we refer to it as the ‘superhero roadshow’ it actually has a serious side. We use superheroes as metaphor to talk about professional engagement for librarians with a particular focus on ‘selling yourself’ and contributing to scholarship through publication and conference presentations. We have found it to be quite a motivational session, and those that want to engage really do take a lot from it”

The event is a free event and is aimed at professional level staff although staff in para-professional roles can also participate and part of the workshop is about instilling professional pride in staff and allowing people to talk about this.
More details can be found in an article at

Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Tickets are available on Eventbrite  


image source: thedaringlibrarian.com

ELISA mini-quiz: Lorna Mitchell, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh


Your name:  Lorna Mitchell
Library:  Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Job Title:  Head of Library, Archives & Publications

How did you become a librarian/what was your career path?
I originally studied Biological Sciences at Napier University and, by the end of the course, it was clear that I wasn’t cut out to be a scientist; what I was cut out for was less obvious! I spent some time in the Careers Office and found a leaflet on the Postgraduate Diploma in Librarianship at Robert Gordon University; that sounded interesting and so I applied and, to my amazement, they said yes.

On leaving RGU I was lucky enough to get a job as an Assistant Librarian in the Library at the Natural History Museum in London. From there I moved to Queen Mary, University of London to be their Natural Sciences Librarian and then to Brunel University as Assistant Director for Academic Support.

In January 2013 I took up my current post which seemed to offer the opportunity to bring all of my previous experience together. It also offered the chance to come home to Scotland after more than 20 years in the Big Smoke!

Did you need any specialist training for your current role?
My time at the Natural History Museum gave me a good grounding in managing special collections and so I didn’t need any specific training for the library side of my role although getting to grips with another new area of literature brought the usual challenges (I’m still trying to get my head around botanical nomenclature!)

What makes your library/department unique?
The Library at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE) is Scotland’s national collection for botanical and horticultural resources. In addition to the 70,000 (ish!) books, the earliest of which dates back to the 15th century, the collection includes many unique items including original works of art, manuscripts (letters, diaries, etc) and some very unusual objects, e.g. bits of a Spitfire that crashed in the Garden during the 2nd World War.

The Library is also unique in terms of the relationship between our collections, the RBGE Herbarium and the Living Collection (i.e. the gardens at Edinburgh, Benmore, Dawyck and Logan). The connections between these collections and the staff that manage them create a unique resource for researchers from a wide range of disciplines.

What is your favourite aspect of the job?
My favourite bit of the job is probably working with the RBGE staff – their enthusiasm for what they do is infectious and their creativity is inspiring. One example of this was a “small” exhibition that we put together for International Women’s Day in March 2017 – so many people came forwards with fascinating stories of current and past women at the RBGE that the exhibition had to be expanded and a much larger exhibition is now planned for 2018.

I’m also very lucky to work with our special collections, in particular the RBGE Illustrations Collection which includes works by some of the most famous botanical artists, e.g. Lilian Snelling, as well as by up and coming new artists. Looking out works to include in an exhibition or to show people coming for a visit is always a real treat!

What has been your most complex/funny/unusual enquiry?
There isn’t really such a thing as a “normal” enquiry for the RBGE Library. The nature of our collections and the people that use them tends to mean that we’re often the library of last resort and so all of the easy questions tend to have been answered before they get to us!

The Special Collections can always be relied upon to raise some interesting bibliographic challenges, particularly in relation to tracing the provenance of items in the collection. The inscription in one volume led us on a virtual trail from Leiden to Japan via Indonesia, Berlin and Wageningen!

One of my most embarrassing moments in the Library happened on a day when we were slightly short staffed with the result that I found myself working at the Service Desk. All was well until a visiting researcher asked about getting access to a document on microfiche …

Having located the relevant microfiche (a challenge in itself!) I confidently approached the microfiche reader and then spent the next 10 minutes crawling around it trying to work out how to switch it on. Having finally located the appropriate switch, I loaded up the fiche and turned triumphantly to the researcher who then asked the terrifying question “Can I print from this machine?” I can but hope that the visitor never worked out that the bumbling idiot that she spoke to was actually the Head of the Library!

Thanks so much to Lorna for that very interesting read. If you’d like to take the mini-quiz, or to contribute something else to the site please contact me, the Webmaster

Julie Johnstone

ELISA would like to wish all the very best to our colleague Julie Johnstone, formerly of the Scottish Poetry Library, as she embarks on new and exciting projects.

Best of luck for the future Julie!

The Informed Peer Recognition Award

theinformed.org.uk launched their new award scheme today:

informed award banner

The Informed team are excited to be announcing the launch of a new award, the Informed Peer Recognition Award. We thought it would be a useful addition to the range of awards currently available for information professionals in the UK.

Background to the development of the award

Elly O’Brien, Mobeena Khan and Jennie Findlay spent a significant amount of time drafting a nomination for a professional colleague for an award back in autumn 2014. The process of writing the nomination was particularly time consuming and demanding, taking the three of us many hours of our time. Once the nomination was submitted, there was no further contact from the organisers. We had no information or progress updates on the process of the award judging, or timescales for the outcome, and there was no communication with nominators about the final outcome of the process. To see whether our nominee had been recognised we had to guess the possible announcement date, and monitor the website daily for a month. Our nominee received no contact from the organisers at any point, and in the end, we decided to send them a copy of the nomination material we’d drafted, as the purpose of us nominating them was to demonstrate to them how valued their work was. In the end the only way we could do this was to give them that information directly. Overall, taking part in that awards process as a nominator was incredibly frustrating.

The Informed team response

We began to think more deeply about the difficulties of the nomination process we’d been through, and how it had been both a frustrating and impersonal experience. We wondered if there was a way that the Informed group of volunteers could create and run an award which would try and avoid these frustrations, and ensure that all those nominated would be able to see what work or activity they were being recognised for.

Elly, Mobeena and Jennie discussed and began to develop the initial idea about creating an award. We decided at an early stage that it could not be run by any of the various professional bodies, because we wanted it to be inclusive, and usually these groups are only able to offer awards to their own members. Due to other professional commitments, Elly had to step back from active involvement, and Laura Ennis took her place. Together we’ve endeavoured to create an award structure that we hope will work in a way that keeps nominators and nominees informed, and is flexible enough to allow for the efforts of a range of information sector workers who may be excluded from nomination for other awards to be recognised .


For easy reference, this is what we hope to achieve with this awards process:

  • Create an award that all UK information workers of all levels are eligible for.
  • Be as informative as possible for nominators submitting nominations – be open about the awards schedule, how quick a response the team will be able to give when contacted, and give nominators an idea of the timescales for each stage of the process.
  • Contact nominees to notify them that they have been nominated for an award, and tell them when the result is expected to be announced.
  • Ensure that judges are aware of the process and timescales involved when they volunteer to take part, to allow them to determine if the schedule will work with their personal commitments.
  • Publish the full content of all nominations on the Informed website, to enable the public recognition of nominees work that the nominators intend.