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SEAL Programme, South East Action Learning

Hi everyone, I am Gloria the Library Administration Coordinator. This is my 23rd year working in the library. I was recommended by Marilyn Clarke, Director of Library Services, to apply for the 6-months, 1-day a month, SEAL programme (South East Action Learning), which I successfully gained admission to. I have chosen to share this post with you all because it’s an excellent opportunity for you, if you wish to learn more about Action Learning.

What is Action Learning

  • Action Learning is an approach to the development of people in organisations which takes the task as the vehicle for learning.
  • It is based on the principle that there is no learning without action and no clear understanding and careful decision making without learning.
  • It is also about promoting Courageous choice – helping people to take action that is meaningful for them, rather than directing people into a course of action that you think you would take in their shoes.

Coaching and action learning

  • This is a learned skill like any other – we are given the techniques and principles, but it’s up to us to apply it and practice it regularly (like learning to drive, teaching, writing, etc.).
  • It will feel awkward, uncomfortable and stressful at times, and you will not always do it perfectly, especially at first. But, the more you approach the challenge, the easier it becomes – especially under high pressure situations.

What are the benefits:

  • Learning a more ‘disciplined’ way of working.
  • Learning to network.
  • Learning to relate to, and communicate with others more effectively.
  • Gaining increased self-confidence.
  • Gaining increased awareness.

The method has three main components:

  • People who accept responsibility for taking action on a particular issue; problem, or the task that people set themselves;
  • A set of six or so colleagues who support and challenge each other to make progress on problems.
  • Action Learning implies both self-development and organisation development.


It was a wonderful opportunity and experience to meet such an inspiring, warm and diverse group of women to spend time with. What made our group of women special: communication, honesty and vulnerability, which allowed the group to trust, to grow and for bonds to strengthen.

The sessions were really interesting, hearing other members of staff’s reflections, and those from other groups. I am grateful for the positive learning environment, the SEAL programme provided. I had so much fun learning with the group, and our very patient and helpful facilitator Juliet Flynn. Thanks to all our participants.

I recommend the SEAL programme because there is a world of wealth to be gained.

For those of you in academic roles you might be interested in this recently published book: Coaching and Mentoring for Academic Development (2021), Guccione & Hutchinson, a good read for those wanting to find out more about coaching and mentoring specifically in academic contexts for people in various roles. It includes helpful coaching questions.

I have shared some slides which will enable you to understand the process of the SEAL programme.

Not just a Photocopier: Exploring CopyArt through Rita Keegan’s practice

Visit Photocopying Yourself into History, an exhibition which gives insight into the organisation, Community CopyArt, and Rita Keegan’s practice. You’ll find the exhibition in Buchi Emecheta Space at Goldsmiths Library Second Floor, 20th July – 8th October 2021.

While exploring the Women’s Art Library, particularly the Women of Colour Index Group Art Shows, I came across a folder on “Community CopyArt.” Looking through the pamphlets and posters, I learnt that Community CopyArt was founded in 1983 with a grant from the Greater London Council (GLC), as an arts collective located in Kings Cross. The organisation used photocopying or “CopyArt” as a new medium of communication which combined elements of photography, collage and graphic arts with the technology of photocopiers. This is exactly what I had been embodying in the decolonising project that I undertook at Special Collections and Archives – photocopying material from: books, zines, archives within the existing collections or from outside, which is brought together in new folders by themes. This method of duplicating, deconstructing and reconstructing through photocopying, allowed me to bring together a community-based archive by arranging material thematically which challenges the conventional way of organising and collecting.

Community Copy Art Poster, Women’s Art Library, Women of Colour Index, Group Shows, ‘Through Our Black Eyes’, 1988

Here’s why CopyArt has caught my deep interest – it’s the versatility of and scope of using the photocopier as a tool for anything ranging from: publications, posters, art to liberation movements. Turns out, Rita Keegan, founder of the Women of Colour Index at the Women’s Artist Slide Library (later the Women’s Art Library) was an important part of Community CopyArt. According to her, the organisation had two main aspects. One was to work with community organisations in creating their own publicity, making an affordable resource center. The other, was helping artists use the photocopier as a printmaking medium. What is more astounding is her art practice which features experimentation with lens-based media, using the photocopier and computer in both 2D and installation work. Naomi Pierce explains how Rita utilised the photocopier as an affordable and transportable tool, one that would enable her to pursue her art practice without a studio or a permanent apartment. Furthermore, her initiatives bifurcated into understanding the challenges affiliated to Black Women’s art practice and the importance of enabling visibility. In the 1985 Black Visual Arts conference she says “Black women have always been active in the arts. It’s just we have never been recorded.” So, Rita’s involvement in records and her passion for recording comes alive in her use of the photocopier, connecting these concerns to her work within organisations such as Community CopyArt. Naomi Pierce appropriately articulates Rita’s use of the machine as using a time travelling device. Through cutting, applying heat and light, she inserts herself into the past, putting an old photo with a new one, making composite connections, giving a new life to the images to make them your own, and in Rita’s words, “photocopying yourself into history.” Through our Black Eyes was a photocopy exhibition organised in 1988, which explored the theme of Black Women’s experiences of living in Britain. Exhibition workshops were held by Rita Keegan and Marlene Smith for the community.

Through Our Black Eyes, Women’s Art Library, Women of Colour Index, Group Shows, ‘Through Our Black Eyes’, 1988

Thus, long before computer programmes and design apps made digital design and manipulation a common occurrence, the photocopy machine offered varied ways to transform images. Artists started making use of innovative techniques in a genre which became known as photocopy art or Xerox art. Experimenting with montage, distortion and transformation became an attraction for many artists. This resulted in engaging visual results. Similar to the Community CopyArt workshops, artists used techniques of reducing or enlarging images, making changes to the hue and tone of the original colour and moving the original to achieve variations in visual imagery. In 1981, American artist, Louise Neaderland founded a non-profit group called the International Society of Copier Artists, intended to promote the work of Xerox artists who used the above methods to make art using photocopy. Most importantly, the ISCA advocated for the recognition of copier art as a legitimate art form. Below is an image of a Photocopy Art zine made by ‘The Rapid Publisher’ accessed from Sherwood Forest Zine Library.

Photocopy Art zine made by ‘The Rapid Publisher’ accessed from Sherwood Forest Zine Library.

The photocopier also had a high democratic potential. Changing the political landscape, the machine provided minority groups and smaller political parties a chance to be heard by the mass public. Important messages were able to be copied in thousands and distributed across regions. Community CopyArt initially provided access to four photocopying machines, an image library as well as equipment such as typewriter and badge maker. It ran workshops for activist and community groups which produced photocopied materials for events such as the 1986 Anti-Apartheid Demonstration. The organisation was committed to political and social issues while reiterating that the machines were open access, to be used as a resource and not simply a cheap alternative to a high street print shop.

As I learn more about Rita’s photocopy art practice and Community CopyArt, while embodying this method in my own archive project, I am beginning to realise the resourcefulness of the photocopier. I have been able to achieve the power of creating new archives by pulling aspects from existing collections through photocopying and create learning resources by bringing together ephemera in a theme-wise collection. This method has become a way to reinterpret and revise histories; change narratives in a certain way which favours the communities.

Adya Jalan, Decolonising Projects 2021



Women’s Art Library, WOCI, group shows.                                               

Pierce, Naomi. “Remember me?” In Mirror Reflecting Darkly: The Rita Keegan Archive. London: Goldsmiths Press, 2021. 

2021: Year of REF (and some other things), or What’s an Assessment For?



REF 2021 was completed and submitted earlier this year, in March 2021. The assessment by the REF panels is underway now, with results expected to be announced in Spring 2022.  In the following Goldsmiths Library blog post, Fred Flagg, one of 3 REF Project Officers at Goldsmiths supporting REF 2021, reflects on this colossal undertaking and on the wider picture of rankings and assessments.

For the first Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014), the named year (2014) was the year of the assessment and release of the results. The work of submission was done by the end of 2013 with the results released in December 2014 (with a submission date in late November 2013 and all of the submitted work had to be published before 2014).  For the second REF, 2021 will be both the year of submission and most of the assessment. The REF 2021 results are expected in approximately April 2022.  The deadline was postponed four months until March 31st and the Goldsmiths, University of London submission to REF 2021 was submitted on March 25th (announced and celebrated in a 9th April Goldsmiths all-staff email from David Oswell, Pro-Warden for Research, Enterprise & Knowledge Exchange and Jane Boggan, Research Excellence Manager; email summarised at (Please note that this link is to an internal Goldsmiths intranet site which is not publicly available).

Many other things were on our minds over 2020 and 2021, and the global SARS-COV2/COVID-19 pandemic put an exercise like the Research Excellence Framework in a harsher light than before.  How do you weigh and prioritise an exercise to measure national research during a global pandemic? There were debates within the academic community throughout 2020 (example of a case for a longer postponement at LSE Impact blog here, and against further postponement at Wonkhe here).  The delay of four months was the biggest mitigation made by Research England, but there were others, mostly allowing for delays caused by the pandemic (REF links here and here).

National assessments like the REF have been accumulating somewhat since the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) was launched as part of the Office for Students in 2015/2016.  The first Knowledge Exchange Framework was completed and published to little fanfare on 1st March 2021 (see dashboard of results here).  Reviews of both the TEF and National Student Survey have already been released this year (with the Subject component of TEF definitively removed, and the NSS largely unchanged for now.  Science minister Amanda Solloway discussed the REF in an October 2020 speech, stating that the reforms following 2016 Stern Review didn’t go far enough and that Research England and its counterparts in Northern Ireland, Scotland & Wales will be starting “a plan for reforming the REF after the current exercise is complete.”

Along with these completed (and anticipated) national reviews, it is worth reflecting on the immense local undertaking REF 2021 has been at Goldsmiths.  Colleagues across all academic departments, in the Library and across Goldsmiths have completed a large amount of difficult work, in circumstances far more difficult than usual.  In the Library Online Research Collections team, as the team that looks after the open-access institutional repository Goldsmiths Research Online, we are responsible for the primary source of data on publications by Goldsmiths researchers.  We are currently reflecting on the work behind Goldsmiths’ REF 2021 with the goal of making the next submission as smooth as possible, whenever it rolls around.

Whatever happens with the national reviews and whatever we turn up in our local reflections, the open-access component of the next REF will follow the REF 2021 open access policy for the time being: any research published in a publication with an ISSN will be required to be made open-access within three months of the date of acceptance for publication (following publisher embargo periods as required).  The REF open-access policy is linked to UKRI’s open-access policy, so it is expected to change after UKRI releases the new version (expected ca. Summer 2021).  The UKRI OA policy consultation gives Research England and UKRI a deadline of “no later than six months after the UKRI policy is announced” for the release of the new REF policy.  As the UKRI policy will include a stronger open-access mandate, and is phasing in a new requirement for open-access for books and monographs, it is expected that the new REF policy will also include books and monographs eventually, but not expanding to include them until at least 2024.  This would be consistent with the current relationship between the RCUK (now UKRI) OA policy and the REF OA policy, with more strict open-access requirements for work funded by UKRI than for work submitted to the REF.

For anyone who is curious about a different format of research assessment, the Hidden REF is an alternative inspired by the REF that has recently closed (on 14th May) that plans to release its results in June.  For another thought-provoking take on metrics and assessment, Lizzie Gadd’s recent post at the LSE Impact blog extends the challenge of re-thinking research assessments even further, to considering the value and ethics of university rankings, with some constructive ideas for change included.  National assessments and rankings are not going away, and this observer suspects they are not likely to change drastically anytime soon either.  With all of the work, resources and employment invested in assessment, accreditation processes and rankings, it is still worth asking serious questions about them.

Fred Flagg

Guidance on making the most of the library’s eBook collection.

I’ve been working in my role as Acquisitions Assistant, at Goldsmiths Library, for 2 years now. Prior to starting this role, I assumed I had a reasonable understanding of what eBooks are, and how they compare to print books and other online resources offered by an academic library.

I soon realised that eBook publishing is complex and getting the most out of the hosting websites’ features, or identifying licensing restrictions, is not always straightforward. I’ve written this blog post and an eBook License Guide to highlight some of the things I’ve discovered.

The role of the eBook has never been as fundamental, to the support of learning and research, as it has been during the pandemic. Though it would be unfair to expect online resources to resolve all the issues that arose from library closures, and limited access to physical collections, there have been significant problems with eBook provision, that ought to be rectified.

One critical issue is the cost of eBooks, which has been well documented over the past year. If you haven’t already, please read and sign the open letter asking the UK Government to investigate the practices of the academic eBook publishing industry. Some publishers have chosen to increase eBook prices during the pandemic, or only offer key texts to libraries as part of expensive subscription packages.

It is clear that most academic libraries prefer to purchase permanent (aka perpetual) licenses for specific eBooks, rather than paying for packages, which may have a few key texts bundled in with less popular or relevant titles. Another inescapable problem is that many titles, particularly those published before the 21st century, have never been available as eBooks, and certain subject areas, such as art and design, offer limited availability for recent publications.

There is still a tremendous amount of content out there, and it is always worth checking the selection of open access eBooks, available free of charge, including the UCL Press collection. Goldsmiths’ students and staff also have access to eBooks via Senate House Library.

The Goldsmiths Library catalogue acts as a gateway to the available eBook collections, but the websites that host eBook content vary greatly in terms of layout, functionality and access restrictions. Some eBooks are laid out like print books, while others are viewed online as a continuous body of text.

You may have more experience of reading eBooks on an eReader, but academic eBooks are not always compatible with these devices. It may be necessary to download specific software and even then access to full eBook downloads are often time limited. More information on using the websites of the library’s main eBook providers, Proquest Ebook Central and VLeBooks can be found on the eBooks Libguide.

The eBooks available via these 2 providers, alongside EBSCO eBooks, will typically have some Digital Rights Management (DRM) restrictions, that may limit the number of users that can access a book at the same time, limit the loan length of a full download, or the percentage of the book that can be printed or copied.

Other websites, particularly those hosting content from university press publishers, offer fewer restrictions, and it is often possible to download the full eBook, in PDF format, to keep permanently. An excellent example of this is the Duke University Press collection, for which Goldsmiths Library offers access to all titles.

For reading list materials, it is always worth planning ahead as some eBooks, like their print siblings, will have limited availability at the times when they are most needed by other students on your course. Digitised versions of essential chapters may be available to download via the module’s online reading list. If your reading list specifies a chapter or section to read, it is also advisable to check if that part of the eBook can be downloaded, as a PDF, using the copy or print features on the hosting website.

For guidance on identifying the type of eBook license the library provides, and the restrictions of use, an eBook License Guide is now available on the library webpages. It can be a confusing and at times frustrating topic, so if you have any questions, or specific accessibility requirements, please get in touch with the library for additional support.

Nick Leigh






Curating LGBTQ+ Lives Online for the UK Web Archive

I joined Goldsmiths University earlier this year as the Library Service Systems Assistant Technician. Alongside this, I also volunteer at the British Library (focused on games events and web archiving), and am also on the Committee for the CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) LGBTQ+ Network. Both British Library and CILIP volunteer roles now overlap through the LGBTQ+ Lives Online web archiving project, as I’m one of two co-lead curators on that project. As well as sharing the project here, I’ll also be presenting it in a Library all-staff meeting in June. And as June is Pride month, it’s an appropriate time to do that.

When the internet first rose to prominence in the late 1990s, one of the primary modes of communicating with others was through internet chat rooms and forums. Suddenly, isolated people all over the world with a personal computer and internet access could communicate with others ‘like them’. It is perhaps partly for the need to feel more connected with other people ‘like them’ that LGBTQ+ people adapted to online community-building quickly. Now, as we have been living online for over 25 years, it seems pertinent to consider what traces of early digital lives survive, and how we can begin to make sense of it. What survives of digital campaigns to legalise the age of consent for all sexualities in the UK (2001), gain recognition and protections of members of the trans community (Gender Recognition Act 2004) or the battle for marriage equality in the UK (England and Wales, 2013, Scotland 2014, Northern Ireland 2019)? As well as historical content such as this, we must also ensure we are ready and able to curate current and future online discussions and websites surrounding LGBTQ+ lives as well.

UK websites have been archived on a permissions basis since 2005 via the Shine interface. This changed with the implementation of Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations. As a result, since April 2013, through the UK Web Archive, the British Library along with the other five UK Legal Deposit Libraries (National Library of Scotland, National Library of Wales, Bodleian Libraries, Cambridge University Library and Trinity College Dublin Library), has run an annual domain crawl of the UK web. Following on from this, in 2020, the British Library and Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP) LGBTQ+ Network began a collaborative project to develop the LGBTQ+ Lives Online. This project tags and subject categorises relevant LGBTQ+ websites already in the UK Web Archive, and is expanding the scope of LGBTQ+ websites we collect for future generations.

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels.

The collection currently contains over 400 sites and web pages in the main collection, with more of these being added to sub-collections every week. Many of the sites were already in the UKWA before the collaboration began, but were not linked to sub-collections. We are still at the stage where we are developing the structure of sub-collections, but our initial indexes cover:

  • Activism/Pride
  • Arts, Literature, Music & Culture
  • Business/Commerce
  • Education
  • History
  • Health and Community
  • Policy and Legislative Change
  • Religion
  • Social Organisations
  • Sport

LGBTQ+ content was already part of the UK Web Archive before the collaboration began, with many sites in other UK Web Archive collections overlapping LGBTQ+ themes. For example, Black and Asian Britain (, Gender Equality (Beyond the Binary), Sport (Graces Cricket Club). And some sites cut across many collections, highlighting the intersectional nature of the UK Web Archive. For example, Gal-Dem features in the News Sites; Zines and Fanzines; Black and Asian Britain; Gender Equality; Women’s Issues; Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights collections, as well as LGBTQ+ Lives Online. LGBTQ+ Lives Online, much like the lived experience of the LGBTQ+ community does not sit in isolation, disconnected from other aspects of UK offline and online life. LGBTQ+ people play a part in all aspects of the UK community, and are not solely defined by their gender or sexual orientation.

Since the launch of this collaborative project, we have been focused on a few areas to both develop the project and to preserve sites within the collection. This includes:

  • Identifying sites already in the UK Web Archive to be added to the LGBTQ+ Lives Online sub-collections.
  • Identifying new sites not already in the UKWA to be included in the collection.
  • Spreading the word about the project as widely as possible via blog posts and articles such as this; social media; emails targeting specific LGBTQ+, library, and broader diversity organisations and networks.

We would especially like to see more nominations that reflect the multicultural nature of UK LGBTQ+ communities, including UK sites written in languages other than English.

Under the Non-Print Legal Deposit Regulations 2013, the UKWA can archive UK published websites, but are only able to make the archived version available to people outside the Legal Deposit Libraries Reading Rooms, if the website owner has given permission. You can browse through the collection here, and nominate a UK published site or webpage with a focus on LGBTQ+ lives to be included in the collection via: .

You can read more about the LGBTQ+ Lives Online project at:


Ash Green (Goldsmiths Library, Systems Assistant Technician)

Steven Dryden (British Library)

UK Web Archive Lead Curators for LGBTQ+ Lives Online

Content in this post originally appeared on the British Library UK Web Archive blog, and has been adapted under a Creative Commons license.

Are we doing your headings in yet?

This is the time to be asking. At Goldsmiths, we are getting serious about subject headings. How does the way we describe the books and e-resources you use affect YOU? Are we representing the people who produce and access our collections fairly? Could we do better?  

Students and staff at universities across the UK are criticising and debating library terminology, as part of a move to decolonise and diversify curricula and academic culture. This follows historic and revolutionary stirrings in college communities across the Atlantic, where real change and liberation from conventional-but-oppressive practices has already begun. 

As she departs, Cataloguing Assistant Karen Smith leaves us this short audio-visual presentation on alternative subject headings, and why we should all care about them.

How One Librarian Determined to Keep Purposeful and Productive During Lockdown

2020 was a tough year for us all, COVID blind-sided so many of us. If like me you lost a loved one- both parents in my case- during the year, after the initial shock my next step was how to manifest something positive out of the legacies of loved ones. Luckily for me it was education and the love of books and learning. I was in the right profession. I decided to work towards bringing to fruition a dream I had held for 5yrs. The focus was to pay it forward and sow the seeds of the love of learning to the next emergent generations of amazing adults.

The result was near 200 books (more to go) sent to Arthurville Primary School in Wakenaam Guyana, South America the land of my foremothers and forefathers on one side of the family. Friends and family donated including librarians from Goldsmiths Library who willingly donated withdrawn books of children’s literature, storybooks, science and more. Well done Librarians we did it again! The children are beyond excited to read the range of material which includes wallcharts and learning toys and tools. Although COVID proved to be a formidable challenge for the Guyanese, these donations which arrived in April 2021 has added to the motivation of many to keep keeping on with vision and hope-me included!

Arthurville Primary School in Wakenaam Guyana

Arthurville Primary School in Wakenaam Guyana


The school library

The school library


A small class sat gathered around the books

A small class sat gathered around the books


A selection of the donated books/word search game from the UK

A selection of the donated books/word search game from the UK


Mr Andries (my cousin) standing next to the barrel and the headmistress Mrs Dudnath-Ramotar

Mr Andries (my cousin) standing with the Headmistress Mrs Dudnath-Ramotar next to the barrel which carried the books from London to Georgetown Guyana.

Dr. Elizabeth Williams- Academic Support Manager

Conference Call for Papers & Panel Moderators
Ain’t I a Woman? : The “Black Woman” in Historical and Contemporary Context
27th & 28th October, 2-6pm GMT

This online conference aims to spotlight academic research and publications which enhance our understanding and provide fresh insight into the lives of phenomenal Black Women through the ages. Celebrated inspirational keynote and headline speakers will enrich this event. The Black woman has too often been ignored and rendered invisible from public discourse even when issues directly impact their lives. Organised by three Black female historians Dr Angelina Osborne, Dr Juanita Cox, Dr Elizabeth Williams, this event will shine a bright light, acknowledge, critically assess, and elevate the varied contribution of Black women to the lived experience of humanity.

Keynote speakers: Prof Olivette Otele Professor of the History of Slavery-Bristol University , Colleen Amos OBE, CEO-Amos Bursary, Stella Dadzie, Feminist and Intellectual

Headline interviews: Margaret Busby OBE (Editor, Writer, Broadcaster, Publisher), Sisonke Msimang (Author, Intellectual ‘The Resurrection of Winnie Mandela’ 2018), Pascale Lamche (Producer, Director, Film ‘Winnie’ 2017)

The organisers invite proposals for the conference focusing on the Black woman and her relationship to health and well-being, Black women fighting for social justice, campaigners, and activists in challenge to the established order, Black women as entrepreneurs, educators, creatives, prophetesses, engagement in the politics of gender and sexuality. However, proposals covering Black Women in all fields of endeavour will be welcomed.

Proposals for papers are due by 31st May 2021. Proposals should be submitted via email to  

Accepted proposals will be confirmed by 18th July 2021. Post-conference peer-review consideration will be given to conference papers and selected to extend to chapter format for publication.  

Individual proposals should include an abstract of up to 250 words max and a one-page CV. Please include the author’s full name, email address and institutional affiliation (if applicable).  Please also include the title of the presentation. (conference will be online so please include equipment needs.)

We are looking for research students to act as panel moderators. If you would like to take part as a moderator, please contact Dr E. Williams.  

For all further inquiries, please contact

Image credits:

1 Olive Morris, ‘STREET ART OF OLIVE MORRIS by BREEZE YOKO,’ by StockCarPete used under CC BY 2.0 / original image changed to: red, yellow and black.

2 Audre Lorde by Elsa Dorfman, used under CC BY-SA 3.0  / original image changed to: red, yellow and black.

3 Professor Wangari Maathai by Oregon State University used under CC BY-SA 2.0 / original image changed to: red, yellow and black.

4 Dido Elizabeth Belle by howard_morland used under CC BY 2.0 / original image changed to: red, yellow and black.

5 Diane Abbott by Chris McAndrew used under CC BY 3.0 / original image changed to: red, yellow and black.

6 Sojourner Truth by js used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 / original image cropped and changed to: red, yellow and black.

7 Maya Angelou by York College ISLP used under CC BY 2.0 / original image changed to: red, yellow and black.

8 Miriam Makeba, ‘MIRIAM MAKEBA PATA PATA 12” LP VINYL’ by vinylmeister used under CC BY-NC 2.0 / text removed, original image changed to: red, yellow and black.

9 Queen Nanny of the Windward Maroons by David Drissel used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 / original image cropped and changed to: red, yellow and black.

10 Bernardine Evaristo by Acthom123 used under CC BY-SA 4.0 / original image cropped and changed to: red, yellow and black.

11 Harriet Tubman by National Park Service used under CC BY-NC 2.0 / original image cropped and changed to: red, yellow and black.

12 Jackie Kay, ‘Paisley Book Festival – Jackie Kay 02’ by byronv2 used under CC BY-NC 2.0 / original image cropped and changed to: red, yellow and black.

How to Liberate the Library Catalogue (without waking the cat)

I joined the Goldsmiths Library team in January as a Cataloguing Assistant. Immediately I launched – like a leaking ship – into the bewildering new world of pandemic-induced working practices and a screen-shaped sea of colleagues’ miniature (and very lovely) faces. I’ve not set foot on the campus yet (as an employee; I was a shy but adoring English student at the start of the century) but I’m already impressed and excited by the Liberate our Library project, and this remote initiation has allowed me time to research the subject of Critical Librarianship #critlib (those trolleys bursting with uncatalogued books will have to wait, sorry).

Take a break, take a #critcat

In the name of professional development (and in order not to disturb the softly snoring cat on my lap), I took this free Decolonising Education Course on Future Learn, created by the University of Bristol. Through videos, articles and interviews it covered the history, theory and contemporary impact of colonialism in academia, but what I took away as a librarian was the message that decolonisation of the university is an ongoing and evolving process, which needs to be a rooted in the wider community. Even more importantly, it should be a collaborative effort, with input from staff, students and groups outside the university setting. The key message seems to be ‘thinking otherwise: outside of the categories, hierarchies and binaries of coloniality’ in favour of a more relational approach.

Who made the handy-but-boring-and-faintly-perplexing library record for the latest ebook / research paper / thesis / journal article you need anyway? Yes, I know they look like they are the lightly fevered dreams of machines (in many ways, they are) but they’re actually created by nerdy, book-loving, professionally-trained robots like me. And we’re always thinking about you, the reader, and how we can better unite you with the “best” information. The trouble is, we often need your input on what “best” looks like. And of course we need to think about how we can better enrich life in a broader ‘social justice’ sense too.

Results of a keyword search for ‘illegal aliens’ on Library Search

It’s too easy for ‘insiders’ not to notice how biased the system is. The 2019 documentary Changing the Subject highlighted the embedded racism and ‘othering’ in Library of Congress Subject Headings (many libraries around the world use these, including Goldsmiths). Students at Dartmouth College, with the support of their librarians, took their objections to ‘anti-immigrant’ language in their catalogue (specifically, the term ‘illegal aliens’) to the US policymakers and were met with a mixture of political assent and resistance.

But the appetite for progressive change only increases. And in libraries, everyday aspects of our work are falling under an ethical spotlight, including our cataloguing practices, for which there’s a new ‘code’. Through a critical approach to librarianship, we can consider how we can better represent a broader range of communities in the library’s collections, underpin the diversification of knowledge production at the university – sorry, pluriversity – and how far we might be able to achieve decolonisation of our library catalogue. One way we’re beginning to do this at Goldsmiths is with our Liberate! Zines collection.

But to really succeed in our project of liberation and decolonisation, we need your help. Current students or staff might like to join one of our Resistance Researching workshops to incorporate this critical approach into your own research, or suggest material for our LiberateMyDegree collection. And of course, if any person (non-robot) should notice anything offensive on our catalogue, while you’re looking for that book, please email us. Your library needs you!

So yes, there are already benefits arising from this time of great uncertainty and change. Time to reflect on how what we could do better is always valuable, but it feels like librarians and library users at are at an important crossroads together right now; one that dovetails with the burgeoning academic (and wider social) movement towards decolonisation. Ever heard of Critical Cataloguing #critcat before? Didn’t think so. But perhaps it’s not as irrelevant as you think, after all.

Written by Karen Smith, Cataloguing Assistant


Useful legal guidance for all at Goldsmiths

Goldsmiths started teaching Law in 2019. This means that our library is now stocked with a whole array of resources that could also be of interest to non-law students and staff.

One of those is Practical Law which is a tool that is used by lawyers when drafting legal documents etc. It contains guidance and templates for a whole raft of things that you might find useful for your own interests.

Often we only need legal advice in challenging times, but before you entrust your situation to a lawyer, you might like to read some of the guidance on Practical Law.

For example, there is a large section on Family Law, which includes, amongst other things, guidance on the law of divorce and the law relating to surrogacy and adoption leave. But many other aspects of Family Law are covered too.

In addition there are standard documents, which are guided templates, showing you things like how to write a will.

There is also guidance on things like inheritance tax and on your legal responsibilities after a death of a loved one, and creating lasting powers of attorney.

Law can be quite hard to navigate around, but Practical Law can be a really useful tool to help you navigate these issues. There is even help for the workplace, e.g. guidance on copyright in an education setting and a whole section on employment law.

You can find links to Practical Law and all our other legal databases on the Law subject guide.

Greg Bennett, Subject Librarian for Law