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Welcome to the Museum Librarians and Archivists Group (MLAG) formerly the London Museum and Librarians Group (LMLAG)

Get involved! #museumweek 24-30 March 2014

“Every day of the year museums and cultural institutions across the world are using Twitter in exciting and interesting ways to tell the stories of their collections to new audiences.”

We are always looking for ways to promote our collections and our work to a wider audience, especially those who, as of yet, are oblivious to the world of Museum Libraries and Archives!

Here is your chance to break down some barriers and share an insight into our work and fantastic collections. TwitterUK is joining forces with France, Spain and Italy and encouraging museums to take over twitter for the first ever #MuseumWeek 24 – 30 March. An incredible number of museums and other places have already signed up. Has yours?

Why should we get involved?

  • You are the best placed person to promote your collections and your work
  • Tweeting under the banner of an event such as #MuseumWeek will ensure a greater number of people see what you have to say
  • It is a fun event
  • An opportunity to add something new to your CV
  • If this is going to be your first experience of using twitter to promote your collections and work, then what a great event!

What is involved?

Each day has a different theme and a different hashtag. This makes the event more manageable and will help you to focus your efforts:

March 24 Day 1 – A day in the life (#DayInTheLife)
March 25 Day 2 – Test your knowledge (#MuseumMastermind)
March 26 Day 3 – Your story (#MuseumMemories)
March 27 Day 4 – Buildings behind the art (#BehindTheArt)
March 28 Day 5 – Ask the expert (#AskTheCurator)
March 29 Day 6 – Museum selfies (#MuseumSelfies)
March 30 Day 7 – Constraint drives creativity (#GetCreative)

“But our Library/Archive doesn’t have a twitter account of its own”

Please don’t see this as a barrier but instead as the perfect opportunity to build a relationship with the person or team who runs your museum twitter account. They rely on their colleagues giving them a variety of interesting information that people will love to read and helps to promote the museum that you all work for. I’d like to hope that as they are managing your museum’s twitter account they already know all about #MuseumWeek, but if they don’t, then what a coup to be the one to tell them all about it!

“We have got so much on at the moment, especially during that week, we couldn’t possibly find the time to find material to tweet all day for 7 days.”

The beauty of this event is that you can do as little or as much as you like, but just take part. The other tip is to set up tweets in advance, that way you don’t feel the pressure to be creative every day. Even better if someone else manages the twitter account for you, then you supply the information and they handle all the rest.

How great would it be to follow the week’s events using #MuseumWeek and see museum library and archives material rubbing shoulders with the world!

Stage one: Is your museum signed up?

If not then speak to the person/team who manage your main museum twitter account and if you don’t know who that it is then here is the perfect time to find out!

Get your Museum to sign up

Stage two: Read more and get inspired!

Stage three: Tell us about what you are doing

Comment on this blog post or why not tweet us @MLAGUK

Archives and Records Association Diversity Survey

The Archives and Records Association  <http://www.archives.org.uk/>
http://www.archives.org.uk/ seeks to support all those who work in archives,
records management and conservation environments. It also seeks to ensure
that its membership and the users whom it serves reflect the diversity of
our society.

With this in mind the ARA Diversity Working Group is issuing two surveys as
part of its current initiative to build up its base of evidence and
knowledge about diversity, and specifically disability, in the sector.

We are doing this by issuing two short  surveys

1)      For any individual who works in the sector who considers themselves
to have a disability, impairment or long term health condition.  This is
available at  <https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Diversity_Individuals>
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Diversity_Individuals

2)      For employers and service managers, whether or not they have in
their service people who consider themselves to have a disability,
impairment or long term health condition.  This is available at
<https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Diversity_Employers>
https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Diversity_Employers

If you are an individual who has a health condition that affects your work,
or you are a service employer or manager please take a short time to respond
to either of these surveys.  Information about diversity in the workplace is
not readily available and your information will be very valuable.

Any personal information you supply will be held in confidence.

These surveys are hosted on Survey Monkey. If you are aware of someone for
whom this online survey format is not appropriate but who is interested in
responding, please contact me at  <mailto:caroline@cmwilliams.org.uk>
caroline@cmwilliams.org.uk.

Many thanks for taking part.  The survey is open until 31 July and a general
report of findings will be available in early September.

Best wishes

Caroline Williams

Social Media and MLAG

Right now MLAG has never been so important. Budgets are tight, Library & Archives staff are stretched and time is at a premium. But we still all have the same needs; to promote our collections, to connect people with them, to care for them and to learn about what we have. We still have skilled staff who havea need to develop and learn. Our organisations are on the whole just as busy as ever and on many occasions even busier.

I firmly believe that at this time, more than ever MLAG is a fundamental tool for helping Librarians and Archivists in the Museum sector communicate, learn from eachother, network, gain confidence and gain inspiration from others. We always have the opportunity to spark each other off, from within our own organisations but also externally.

I met a Museum Librarian recently who would love to attend MLAG meetings but because of staffing cuts and the extra pressures on her already busy world, she could not take part. But she also knew all about MLAG and appreciated how it could be useful to her. 

A week ago I went along to a London Museum’s Group (LMG) event exploring how Museum Professionals can use social media to engage with the public, develop interactive participation and evaluate them. It was a free event so I was hopeful the boss would allow me to go! As well as the afternoon being extremely practical, full of information and lots of tips and enthusiasm, it struck me how much MLAG was similar to what I was learning about London Museum’s Group. I came out thinking could MLAG not learn from them?

To give a little background when I worked at the NMM my then boss Jill Terrell was a co-founder of MLAG and Chair. I then joined the NHM where my boss Chris Mills was also co-founder and then Chair. So MLAG has been part of my professional life in one way or another!

I would hate to see such a useful group such as MLAG become stagnant, but I am also very aware that keeping a voluntary group going is not an easy thing to do, more than ever.

But the LMG event really got me thinking. Social Media could be a really important way for MLAG to help connect and engage those in our sector. Don’t get me wrong I am no expert in the IT world, but I have encouraged myself and been encouraged to have a go and as a result I can now see how it can help all of us big and small to learn, connect and engage. MLAG members current and potential are dotted far and wide, and social media can help us to bridge those divides. Of course it is only one way that MLAG can help, but it is quite a large way.

I was thinking about how in all our Libraries and Archives and our parent organisations, we have staff will skills and knowledge which lend themselves to being disseminated via social media to help others to learn and discuss. So instead of just relying on having a big enough theme or topic to have a ½ day seminar on, MLAG could use tools such as Twitter or blogs etc to have online conversations and discussions. We already do it a little but not enough of us have taken it up.

If you take my job I benefit from being in a large organisation, I work with volunteers, students, colleagues doing their professional qualification alongside their job, those dealing with Intellectual Property Rights, or the social media Museum accounts, to name but a few. All these people are far too busy to attend a seminar to talk but could I encourage them to write something on a blog as part of the wider MLAG community and then from that could others learn, be inspired or raise discussions? I don’t know because I have never tried or considered it.

I propose that MLAG form a Twitter account with a small group running it.  This could helpraise the profile of MLAG members and bring people together by simply following, retweeting, promoting and commenting.  I have learnt from using Twitter myself that there are a lot of new professionals who would be interested in MLAG who aren’t ‘main stream’ members. Students, those retired, those in the wider Library, Archive or Museum worlds, those in other sectors with connected with our areas and the list goes on. Twitter can be a quicker, more open way to gain interest, comment and input, than say email. It alongside other tools such as Facebook is one big marketing route.  Also with twitter you can have prearranged online professional discussions, using common hash tags and put all the comments into a blogafterwards  to sum up what was discussed or said. I haven’t taken part in one yet myself, but just another way of making MLAG relevant and useful.#UKLibchat is an example. Also I know that there are twitter group accounts as well.  Once you explore and talk to people you find that Librarians, Archivists and Museum staff are very keen Twitter users, MLAG needs to tap into this.  At the LMG seminar one of the speakers was the editor of Guardian Culture Professionals Network, she talked about how big the social media world was in the field of Museums.

All that I have learnt I have done so by having a go and talking to other people, including the person incharge of the NHM twitter. I have pushed myself to learn about it and get over those things I’m normally scared about!

From what I learnt in one afternoon the London Museum’s Group uses that website to blog itself but also to spot light and link to other blogs written by other members. They have someone signing volunteers up in advance to commit to writing a blog, nothing massive but something from theirjob that they know very well so it shouldn’t be a massive burden on their time. They offer support to that volunteer to post up the blog for people who would happily write something but are put off by the IT. Surely within the current MLAG membership there could be enough to do this sort of thing? I know you have a blog, but I also realise it is difficult to get people to take part.

The same old problems are always there with any voluntary group, time, effort, finding people with the right skills to help etc. But I know that having talked with Hannah, that when 2 people in the same organisation can get enthusiastic about MLAG and feel they could plug into their colleagues, then MLAG could prosper if each member organisation did the same.

I know that there are lots of discussion topics which need to have the input of those in higher management roles, but MLAG needs to be about all those involved being able to take part, give their comments and experiences, rather than only those go can attend a meeting.

I consider myself not to be very good at ‘blue sky’ thinking, but just thinking about examples of topics small and large that could lend themselves to sharing experiences and tips between us all using twitter or blogs in addition to more formal talks and get togethers:

  • Working with exhibitions staff (in-house & external) – couriering procedures, formal document templates, the practicalities of travel, conservation techniques, writing labels etc
  • Do you run internal staff training courses that could be turned into external training for which you could charge for, whilst the rest of us learn from you eg. NHM runs a book handling course
  • Relationship between objects/specimens and Library/Archives material – any good examples of promoting this connection, rather than L&A collections just being seen as ‘support’ material.
  • How do we collect and regain staff subject knowledge
  • Apps – examples of app’s that have been designed by Museums, Archives or Libraries. The good and bad
  • Ipad’s/tablets – useful tools for Library/Archive staff?
  • Upgrading your Library management system – tips and guidance of how to go about it.
  • Managing e-collections – the practical issues of keeping up to date with faulty/broken links, getting staff to use them etc
  • Marketing your service and collections within your own organisation
  • Getting your collection published – good examples of books that have featured Library/Archive collections partially or entirely – eg. ‘Treasures of the NHM – there is a Library section, NHM L&A staff write a book each year to tie in with the Images of Nature Gallery. Tips from staff about how you go about narrowing down what you want to include, working with in-house/external publishing teams
  • Books scanners – practical uses and tales of caution. Good for access, bad for collections?
  • How can you keep learning new things if there is no budget for travel and conferences? Practical examples of how staff training eachother and learn from one another, can the MLAG community benefit?
  • What free online tools do people use in in their work that are worth sharing? eg Dropbox

Sometimes it is hard enough communicating knowledge, ideas and enthusiasm within your own team, let alone in the wider MLAG community.

I’ve clearly ‘just been on a course’ and am all enthusiastic, but it has reminded me that the idea behind MLAG is a very important one. This still involves energy and time and a committed central MLAG group to steer things but if this isn’t MLAG’s moment then I don’t know what is!!

What do others think?

Is anyone else willing to discuss ideas or use their twitter/blog skills to get things moving?

 Hellen Sharman

Natural History Museum Library

The Future of MLAG

MLAG has been through some significant changes in recent years and there are some challenging questions to be addressed about our future direction.  As a member-led organisation it is vital that you attend our meeting on Friday 17 May, 14.00, at the Museum of London, if at all possible, as  we need as many of your viewpoints as possible to enable us to arrive at a consensus on our future.

Hope to see you there,

Martin

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