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Doors open on new Library social learning spaces

Library ground floor

First thing this morning, the ground floor of Goldsmiths library reopened, on schedule, after a major refurbishment.

It had been closed throughout June and July, giving us time to take on board and implement feedback from our students and staff and create a new flexible, welcoming learning environment that supports the ways different people learn specifically for social and group study.

As with any university, Goldsmiths Library is the heart of the campus. It’s open around the clock, only closing at Christmas and New Year. It’s a go to place where staff and students can access services and resources.

It was important to us that provision of these was not interrupted, so we relocated the main entrance to the side of the building for the duration of the works.  This gave us the fantastic opportunity to co-deliver services alongside our IT colleagues building on the brilliant relationship we already have from working together at weekends – Thank you IT colleagues for being amazing!

So what does our refurbished ground floor look like? We’ve gone for muted colours, plants and wood so the space feels calm and natural. Now when people arrive, they enter through new proximity reader access gates. Comfortable sofa areas have been created, where people can hold relaxed conversation and enjoy coffee breaks. There are window seats to take in the views of New Cross, which are already proving popular. And, if people prefer, they can use one of our new booth spaces with screens that provide discreet places to work together on presentations and essays.

All the feedback we’ve had from students and staff so far has been really positive about how the space looks and feels, which we’re thrilled about. But, as important as it is to create an attractive, welcoming environment, libraries have to work to support study. Alongside spaces for individual working they need to provide spaces that encourage creativity, collaboration and social learning.

The ground floor of Goldsmiths Library now has a proper events space. This will be used to increase the visibility of and access to our special collections and archives.

It will give academic staff and Post Graduate Researchers the opportunity to publicly share their work and build on the success of the popular Research Cafes. Here, students will have the opportunity for learning outside their courses and departments will be able to collaborate with the Library on events, such as International Games week. If you have ideas do get in touch with your Subject Librarian.

Flexibility and creativity are a key element of the new ground floor. We’re going to have a fantastic interactive installation that will encourage playfulness and give library users a way to engage with the space and reflect on their emotional wellbeing.

Our new maker space provides 24/7 access to a variety of equipment encouraging creativity. We currently have a sewing machine, binding machine and lots of paper based craft equipment and we’ll be developing the space with library users as we go. It’s a work in progress but more details are available at https://libguides.gold.ac.uk/makerspace

On the rest of the ground floor group study tables allow different sized groups to work together. Visitors can configure spaces to meet their own learning needs using the new flexible furniture and ceiling power units. We’ll be trying out different learning and teaching activities and we hope you will find new ways to work in groups too.

We are all delighted and excited by the Library’s new ground floor and are looking forward to seeing what you, our students and colleagues, make of it.

That work has completed on time is a tremendous relief and a great achievement. Thank you to our colleagues in Goldsmiths Estates and Facilities, IT services and to everyone who supported making this happen. We really appreciate the effort everyone went to, and I am sure students and staff will too now they are using the spaces.

Library staff carry out a variety of activities throughout the year to look at how the spaces are actually used by people and we collaborated with the Anthropology Department to observe student activity and use of the library spaces in 2017. Surveys, reports, complaints and compliments all fed into the project and our Subject Team works closely with departments on aligning library resources with the needs of the departments and their students.

Receiving and acting on user feedback has been crucial to this project. The next time you visit the Library, let us know what you think of its new entrance hall and the improved facilities we’ve provided throughout the ground floor social study area. Leave feedback at https://www.gold.ac.uk/library/contact/anonymous-feedback/

Improving the Library Social Learning Spaces

During June and July we’re going to be refurbishing the ground floor of the Library.

A number of significant improvements are planned, but making these a reality will require all of the ground floor, including the Library entrance and café, to be closed for the duration of the works.

To ensure that students and staff are able to continue to access all the Library’s facilities, a new temporary entrance will be set up at the side of the building, opposite the Amazon Lockers.

At the end of July, when work is completed, we will have a wonderful new collaborative and flexible space on the ground floor that is full of life.

Improvements will include an events space allowing departments to collaborate with the Library on events and increasing the visibility of our Special Collections. A maker space will be created to encourage student creativity. There will be booths with screens for more private work and group study spaces with flexible furniture.

 

Why are we making these improvements?

Goldsmiths’ Library is open 24 hours a day. Only closing for Christmas and New Year, it’s seen as a ‘go to’ space where all students and staff can access services and resources.

Ensuring the Library is an attractive, welcoming physical learning environment that supports the way people learn is a key element of university life.

It needs to be able to support a range of online and offline activities that reflect the way students want to and are asked to learn.

Students are increasingly working together on projects. One of the aims of this refurbishment is to create flexibility and blended learning spaces that allow collaboration and exploration to happen while also motivating and inspiring students and being adaptable to changing needs.

 

Acting on student and staff feedback

We continually listen to student and staff feedback and use this to respond to student behaviours and needs, and adapt our spaces and services where possible.

Some of the different sources of feedback that we’re using to feed into the project are:

  • User experience (UX) activities
    • Library staff carry out a variety of UX activities throughout the year to look at how the library spaces are actually being used by people
    • Library Services collaborated with the Anthropology Department, MA Anthropology, to observe student activity and use of the library spaces in 2017
  • Student Feedback
    • Student Library Reps (including reports from SLRs and focus groups)
    • Departmental Representative Annual Reports (Campus Space 2018 and Student Communities 2019)
    • PGT student experience survey
    • PGR student experience survey
    • NSS comments
    • Complaints, compliments and comments (received through email, LibChat and staff feedback)
  • Departmental feedback
    • Our Subject team works closely with departments on aligning library resources with the needs of the departments and their students.
    • The Library User Group (LUG) is made up of academic representatives and students from each department. It meets termly to discuss Library development in line with their needs.
  • External factors
    • Library Services commissioned an external consultant to audit and comment on the physical spaces at the Library with representatives from across the student body.
    • We have visited exemplar libraries and looked at current trends in library and learning design to inform the refurbishment.
  • Library Statistics

 

Where are we now?

Right now we’re in the middle of appointing contractors to work on the ceiling, electrics and lighting over the summer.

We have already appointed CDEC to install the different technology we need, and BOF to work with us on the furniture.

Before Easter a group of us visited furniture studios in Clerkenwell to test some of the different furniture and help us refine what we’re going to be using in the spaces.

Benefits

When work is finished at the end of July, we will have flexible, technology rich social study space designed with student needs in mind and student experience at its heart.

It will be a focal point for study, events and student life that will give people space to think, explore and collaborate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The newly refurbished space will feature:

  • An events space
    • providing an opportunity for academics and PGRs to share research publically, building on the success of our Research Cafes
    • giving students the opportunity for learning outside their course
    • giving departments the chance to collaborate with the library on events, such as the International Games week
    • increasing the visibility of and access to our special collections and archives
  • A maker space
    • providing open to all, 24/7 access to a variety of equipment
    • encouraging creativity
  • Booth spaces with screens
    • providing a discreet place to work on presentations
  • Sofa areas
    • allowing relaxed conversation and comfortable coffee breaks
  • Flexible furniture
    • enabling people to configure the spaces to meet their own learning needs
    • enabling us to trial different teaching and learning activities
  • Group study tables
    • allowing different sized groups to work together
  • An interactive installation by Random Quark
    • encouraging playfulness
    • enabling library users to engage with the space and reflect on their emotional wellbeing

Alongside the fully refurbished ground floor, improvements will be made throughout the building that will positively impact on the student experience.

These will include powered doors to our Assistive Technology Centre, proximity readers and new access gates at the front of the building, plugs in the first floor silent study rooms and the post graduate room on the second floor, a new exhibition space and improved furniture in the Prokofiev room.

The provision of Library Services is not, of course, exclusively down to the physical building, furniture and equipment. It is enhanced and created by excellent resources, workshops, events, teaching, staff support, professionalism, technical expertise and people.

We will continue to deliver and build on successful initiatives and activities that happen in the Library, such as our Academic Skills Drop in sessions, Research Cafes, Workshops, Ask a PAL sessions, Art space sessions and one to one tutorials and be open to new ideas, working with you to co-create a collaborative environment.

The next few weeks may be a little disruptive but we will have much improved facilities as a result and will be able to deliver an even better student experience

We’ll keep you posted!

Building a modern law library

We start teaching LLBs at Goldsmiths in September 2019. We’ve not done so before. How then were we to build a law library from scratch? What could we do without? What were must-haves? Are there advantages to brand new collections? Are there disadvantages?

For a start, our collection, like our LLB itself, is very forward-thinking. It wouldn’t have been right if we tried to duplicate old law libraries with shelf after shelf of collections of law reports, legislation and paper journals, all gathering dust through lack of use. Buying all the physical sets needed for such a collection would have been very difficult to justify, especially in a time when, for environmental reasons amongst others, we don’t want a hugely paper-based collection. In addition, space at Goldsmiths, like in most solicitors’ firms and barristers’ chambers, is at a premium.

Going digital

Law has always been ahead of the game when it comes to digital resources and so for many years libraries in law firms have been getting larger digitally, while getting smaller physically. Our collection very much mirrors that model. As a result, we have a very real-world collection, with a strong emphasis on digital resources.

Like most academic libraries we have subscriptions to Westlaw, Lexis Library, HeinOnline and Nexis. But unlike most academic libraries we have also gone for a subscription to Practical Law – a service which is heavily used in law firms. And now that Practical Law and Westlaw are partner databases, they integrate seamlessly.

We have also gone for large collections of eJournals and eBooks from major law publishers, eg over 1,500 OUP titles, over 3,000 CUP titles and all the newly published Hart eBooks. We are also one of the first universities to buy access to Sweet & Maxwell’s set of student eTextbooks (all of which are fully integrated into Westlaw, with hyperlinks from the text directly into relevant cases and legislation).

Fully available collection

We have made sure that all the modules on the LLB have core student textbooks available digitally, so that there will be no waiting to access these textbooks and you can access them from anywhere in the world. But don’t worry if you do prefer paper copies, we do have them too for these core student textbooks.

We do also have one set of law reports, a very key set – the All England law reports – in paper, so that students can get a feel for a physical set. But, as with most solicitors and barristers, our students will mostly use digital versions of law reports and legislation from our various databases.

Preparation for the workplace

Sometimes digital collections can take a bit of know-how to be able to use them fully. Students will be given as much help and training as they need from Greg Bennett, the law librarian, who has worked at magic circle firm, Slaughter and May and the Institute of Advanced Legal studies, amongst other places. So by the end of their time at Goldsmiths, students will be fully prepared to use the kind of legal libraries that they will have in their careers ahead.

The main advantages of our new collection at Goldsmiths are that it is fully bespoke to the needs of the students; it will teach them how to use the actual resources that they are likely to encounter in their careers; and it is friendly to the environment. You might consider that there is a disadvantage in that it doesn’t “look” like a traditional law library. But then, we at Goldsmiths, like to do things differently 🙂

 

Spotlight on the Women’s Art Library

Spotlight on the Women’s Art Library

The Women’s Art Library collection was established in the 1970s to enhance public knowledge of the practice, impact and achievement of women artists. Gifted to Goldsmiths in 2003, it has become the principal collection relating to visual arts in Special Collections.

Dr Althea Greenan, Special Collections & Archives Curator, tells us more about the collection and her work here.

What is the history of the Women’s Art Library (WAL)?

“It was set up by a collective of women artists as the Women Artists’ Slide Library to raise the visibility of women’s art practice. Self-identified artists sent in their slides while artists and scholars documented exhibitions and the presence of women artists in historical collections such as the Imperial War Museum.

“The organization became an educational charity in 1983 and received arts funding over the next 18 years, developing the slide library into a research collection and publishing a newsletter that evolved into the internationally distributed Make, the magazine of women’s art.”

What’s in the collection?

“In addition to the 35mm slides, there are photographs, posters, videotapes, audiotapes, press cuttings, periodicals, ephemera and books and catalogues which you can find in the Library catalogue.

“There are different forms of artists’ archives – from the artistic work journals of Helen Ganly to the performance scripts of Clare Gasson’s ‘The River’. Nina Hoechtl’s artistic research is represented by a gold lamé costume, while the box marked ‘Food Art’ includes Paula Roush’s SOS biscuit, still uneaten, made with former employees at Bermondsey’s Peek Freen biscuit factory in 2004.

“One of the most critically important sections of the collection is the Women of Colour Index, built up by the artist, activist archivist Rita Keegan from the mid-1980s. It captures the emergence of UK black women artists at the time as curators and artists. The Women’s International Art Club archive is the oldest sub-collection and dates from 1900-1974. There is much more.”

Can it be viewed online?

“The WAL is catalogued like an archive in the Library’s Archive and Textiles Catalogue, and some collections, like the Mail Art box, have been photographed and can be viewed online, item by item. But there is no digitized version of the WAL that I consider a surrogate for the real thing.

“However, there is a gem of a pilot digital project that introduces seven artists represented in the WAL called the WAL App, downloadable from the Apple store. It was developed by alumna Dr Ana-Maria Herman as a platform for women artists to become more visible to each other and make the WAL archive travel. Ana is working on taking this project further to combine technology with advocacy for parity for women artists.”

What does your work involve?

“Facilitating researchers’ interaction with the materials includes teaching and listening, and a constant exploration of the WAL collection.

“I develop the collection by working with artists creating new work and oversee low budget publications like postcards and posters that will give a project an afterlife that becomes part of the WAL story.

“I oversee an exhibition programme that has connected the Kingsway Corridor space with Special Collections. It’s seen wonderful exhibitions by women artists in photography, print, installation and film as individuals or in small collectives.

“I work to make the WAL and Special Collections available to local art collectives needing support, and recently facilitated a podcasting day for the group Desperate Artwives.

“Items from the WAL are often out on loan as critical exhibitions looking at feminist art histories flourish around the country and there are items from the WAL’s Fanny Adams collection currently on show at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill.

“The WAL contributed to the excellent Alexis Hunter show here at Goldsmiths CCA. I was delighted to contribute to the show’s catalogue, adding to other articles and chapters that I have written that introduce the WAL collection to scholarly discourse.

“I’m also asked to talk in many different settings, from self-storage units to Somerset House, and see this as an important aspect of my work of advocating for the WAL and Special Collections. I’ll be speaking on feminist archives and how cultural institutions represent women’s art practice at the Royal Academy next.”

What upcoming exhibitions will the WAL be hosting?

Narratives of Protest will be in Special Collections during the month of March, featuring textile work by Connie Flynn commemorating the Suffragettes, a slide show of the activist Thalia Campbell’s protest banners, and selections from the Goldsmiths Textile Collection that include Catherine Walton’s triptych, ‘The Demo’.

“The exhibition will be an interesting backdrop to the screening on March 15 that is part of Advancing Women Artists around the Globe.

“The WAL is also featuring in an exhibition ‘Dark Energy: Feminist Organizing, Working Collectively’ at the Fine Art Academy in Vienna (29 Mar – 25 May) at the invitation of Dr Nina Hoechtl, a Goldsmiths alumna.

“There will be two installations: one featuring the project Empowered Printwork by the collaborative Sisters in Print (Ego Ahaiwe Sowinski and Aida Wilde) who worked with the WAL poster collection as part of the Goldsmiths project Radical New Cross.

“The second installation will feature a collection of films, screen-recording, art writing and prints titled Slidewalking into the Disoeuvre, which is a long-term collaborative project between myself and the artist-educator Dr Felicity Allen. The installation looks at how the WAL epitomises the idea of the archive as a dark energy that questions whose ‘knowledge can be practiced, produced, and disseminated when, where, and how?’”

How can staff keep up-to-date with what’s happening at the WAL?

“We put all our college exhibitions and events on the Goldsmiths calendar. I also have an email list to update on the wider range of activities. Just email me at a.greenan@gold.ac.uk or people can sign up to a Special Collections mailing list. Scroll down to the bottom of the page of https://www.gold.ac.uk/library/special-collections/

Special Collections is open Monday – Friday, 10am-6pm.”

LGBTQIA+ Month in the Library

Flag-LGBTQ

 

As part of LGBTQIA+ Month we are celebrating the contribution LGBTQIA+ communities have made to society through a series of events and initiatives.

12th February 4pm -7pm LGBTQIA+ Art Film Lounge

In Special Collections & Archives Reading Room watch a selection of short films from Women’s Art Library on VHS! Current suggestions…

Michelle Naismith, ‘Rock my Prehistory’, 2000; Sadie Benning, ‘Me and Rubyfruit Program’, 1989-92; Vanda Carter, ‘Moth Fight’, 1985; and Charles Atlas, ‘It’s a Jackie Thing’, 1999, ‘Dyke TV’: ‘Dyke blend / Lesbian bed death / Disgraceful Conduct / Child of Mine / Shades of Desire’; and ‘Body of a Poet: A Tribute to Audre Lorde’

https://www.gold.ac.uk/calendar/?id=12275

13th February 1-2pm LGBTQIA Research Café

In Library Social Space we have 3 Goldsmiths researchers giving 10-15 minute talks on LGBTQIA+ informed research.

  • Anna Carlile (Education) – Balancing equalities: LGBT+ education in schools serving faith communities
  • Benno Gammerl (History) – How same-sex love changed
  • Luke McGuire (Psychology) – Understanding and challenging sexual orientation and gender identity-based prejudice in childhood and adolescence

https://www.gold.ac.uk/calendar/?id=12246

13th February 6-8pm Film Night – Watermelon Woman

Screening in Library Social Space of Cheryl Dunye’s 1996 film Watermelon Woman. Cheryl Dunye plays a version of herself in this witty, nimble landmark of New Queer Cinema. A video store clerk and fledgling filmmaker, Cheryl becomes obsessed with the “most beautiful mammy,” a character she sees in a 1930s movie. Determined to find out who the actress she knows only as the “Watermelon Woman” was and make her the subject of a documentary, she starts researching and is bowled over to discover that not only was Fae Richards (Lisa Marie Bronson) a fellow Philadelphian but also a lesbian.

Liberate All Through February (and beyond) – Music, Books, Films

Music:

A Spotify playlist of music by, about and for LGBTQIA+ is here https://open.spotify.com/playlist/49LfoLSwh5jKLsjf3JNF5I

Books:

Book display at the front of the Library and we have put together a LGBTQIA+ Reading List https://rl.talis.com/3/gold/lists/01D4C337-0E93-98BE-6B78-A54B6C001A55.html

We welcome futher suggestions for the Reading List and if we don’t have the book you can suggest we purchase it as part of the Liberate Our Library initiative https://www.gold.ac.uk/library/using/finding-resources/suggestions-for-purchase/item-request-form/

Films:

Kanopy Film list, if you miss any of the screenings we have or just want to see more you we have put together a list of films you can stream

https://rl.talis.com/3/gold/lists/BD6BED68-FA59-DFA6-D48F-5D2C1D5A4A4C.html

 

 

 

 

Welcome to the new gold.ac.uk/library

Since the summer of 2018 we’ve been working on redesigning, reorganising and rewriting the Library section of the Goldsmiths website to make it easier to find information about the Library.

New design

The Library landing pages are in our new design for services and information on gold.ac.uk that are being rollout out this academic year (they are also on gold.ac.uk/it and gold.ac.uk/careers).  These have been designed and tested, with the help of Library users, to highlight regularly used sections and bring forward useful information.

New page structure

Using the experience Library staff have of what students, staff and visitors want to know, and checking with our group of Library test users, we’ve reordered the pages.  Much of the main information has been updated and rewritten to make it clearer.

Library Search

We know many people go from Google to the Library landing page and then into Library Search.  You can now use Library Search straight from gold.ac.uk/library.

Opening Hours and Live Chat

Even through the Library is normally open 24/7 most of our Library test users said they wanted to know the opening hours.  We now have them on the landing page, along with the green ‘Live Chat’ button so you can chat with Library staff during Help Desk opening hours.

Using the Library

This section has been expanded to cover everything you need to know about using the Goldsmiths Library, whether you a student, staff, alumni or a visitor.

It also has information on how to order items from other libraries, make suggestions for purchase, or the other libraries you can visit.

Subject Support

Goldsmiths has seven Subject Librarians who provide specialist advice across the academic subjects studied here. The Library landing page now has direct links into their Subject Guides.  They are also on the new Subject Support section, along with who the Librarians are and further support and advice.

Special Collections

Goldsmiths Special Collections are unique and valuable resources.  You can now access information on them from the navigation at the top of gold.ac.uk/library.  We are going to be improving the pages for them, adding more information and details.

Were these changes helpful?

Most pages on gold.ac.uk/library now have a ‘Was this page helpful?’ box on the bottom right. Use this to send us feedback to help us to continue to improve the Library pages.  If there is a problem please take the time to tell us, so we can look into fixing it.

Goldsmiths #CritLib Reading Group

1. Anti-neutrality

August 15th marked the inaugural meeting of Goldsmiths Library’s Critical Librarianship (#CritLib) Reading Group. We kicked things off with a discussion of Melissa Adler’s ‘Classification Along the Color Line: Excavating Racism in the Stacks

Libraries tend to think of themselves as neutral and their classification systems as ahistorical but Adler contextualises the creation of the most common classification systems within America during Postbellum (Post Civil War for the non-history graduates) historical period when they were written.

In the 1860s Americans fought a Civil War over slavery, in the 1870s librarians in the same country began to create what they saw as rational and objective classifications. However, Adler points out that any classification schemes reflects its creator’s subjective point of view. These classification systems supported the establishment of the cis, straight white man as the default subject and ‘othered’ those outside the dominant group.

Adler draws clear parallels between the creation of racist classificatory systems in libraries and the systemic racism woven into the fabric of American society. In the UK, most librarians are familiar with American systems like Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress classifications, but not their British contemporaries. It would be interesting to know more about them and how the reflected the Victorian, colonial mind-set.

However, the article isn’t just a damning document, it is a call to arms, appealing to librarians as a profession to provide what Adler calls ‘local reparative taxonomies’ rather than accepting the status quo.

At Goldsmith’s we took up that call, discussing ways we could call out problem areas in our own library, boost Library Search to give prominence to non-Western publications and work with our students to raise awareness and transform the library.

Technology exists which allows us to make our collections usable without a rigid structure. At Sitterwerk Art Library, the collection is organised using a dynamic order structure allowing items to be reshelved anywhere. RFID tags are used to regularly update the library catalogue with the most recent location for all of the books. It’s a small collection, and the system might not yet be practical at a larger university library. That said, it is an excellent example of how technology allows us to disrupt traditional power structures.

Part of the reason American classification systems have become an international standard is the ease with which other libraries were able to adopt them. Technology can give libraries and our users the tools we need to dismantle yet another system which privileges the ‘universal’ white, cis, middle class man.

Libraries often claim we are neutral spaces, but if racism and inequality are an inherent part of our underlying structure, aren’t we exclusionary by default? Instead of claiming a default, passive neutrality, our library is determined to become an actively inclusive service working to promote self-improvement across our profession.

Bad Dewey

Maria O’Hara (Reading List Services Support Co-Ordinator) outlines why we need to question the existing structures of the Library, namely our classification system -Dewey Decimal – a system used in thousands of libraries across the globe.  

Dewey

1. Melvil Dewey. From The Review of Reviews (1891)

The way information is organised can have a profound and often invisible effect on how we think about, and assign value to, information. Both library users and librarians can assume that, because we have a system, our collections are organised in an impartial, logical way. In fact, classification systems, like the Dewey Decimal System we use here at Goldsmiths, are the creation of flawed individuals. Libraries actually arrange themselves around the dated and often offensive worldviews of old, white Victorian men, and are far from impartial.

To understand how our library is organised, we all need to know a bit more about the man who created the system we use, Melvil Dewey 1. A more famous librarian than Giles from Buffy, Dewey co-founded the American Library association and published the Dewey Decimal Classification System in 1876. In 1884 he founded the first institute for the instruction of librarians and insisted that women be admitted. This all seems very positive until you realise that, he also insisted that female applicants supply photos because ‘you can’t polish a pumpkin’ 2.

By 1905 he had been asked to step down from the American Library Association, amid criticism of his refusal to admit Jewish people to a private members’ club he owned and accusations that he had made unwanted advances on 3 female colleagues during a trip to Alaska 3.

So what system did this anti-Semitic, serial harasser bequeath us? A good place to get to grips with some of Dewey Decimals inherent problems is in the 305s – groups of people 4. First let’s look at some ‘good’ Dewey – age groups.

blog1

At the top level of ‘Age Groups’ you have books that cover multiple generations, and then you have sub-fields for young people, adults and older adults. Sensible, right?

Let’s compare that to ‘People by Gender’. At the top level you have interdisciplinary works on all genders and gender identity. You might expect the subcategories to be men, women and intersex – but no. Instead you have men, more about men and employment of men.

blog2

So where have all the non-men gone? Well it turns out women are just too darn special to classify under ‘People by Gender’. Instead, we’ve got a section all to ourselves just below it. And intersexuality? Intersexuality apparently doesn’t come under gender, its classed with LGBT+ headings completely outside the ‘Groups of People’ section.

blog3

Let’s take a brief foray outside the 305s to look at LGBT+ rights and their journey through Dewey 5. LGBT groups of people first made it into the system in 1932 under the straight up offensive ‘abnormal psychology’. By 1989 they had been moved to the differently offensive section for ‘social problems’. So where are they now? The good news is the sections themselves use modern, acceptable terms and they’re found in the section ‘306.7 – Sexual orientation, transgenderism, intersexuality’. The bad news is that 306.7 sandwiches LGBT+ people between prostitution and child trafficking on one side and fetishes and BDSM on the other.

Rather than classifying the LGBT+ community in an area dedicated to sex and surrounded by a whiff of deviancy, I would argue that LGBT+ people should be classed in the 305s as a group of people, because that is what they are.

That brings us to one of Deweys most egregious failings – its marginalisation of most of the world and its legacy of racism6. Entire books have been written about this and I will only be scratching the surface. Melvil Dewey published his classification system in the period immediately after the post-civil war reconstruction in America ended. This context undoubtedly shaped his treatment of African Americans, whom he referred to as “negroes”. They appeared in only two sections – under Biology and Slavery – in a reflection of the United States’ (and indeed the world’s) continuing preoccupation with white supremacy.

blog4

 

No traces of those offensive and problematic sections remain today, but people are still subdivided into groups by race and nationality. You will likely be unsurprised to head that most of these groupings are either European or descended from Europeans. Most of the world is slotted into the final subcategory, which covers entire continents like Africa and Asia. It also includes groups Melvil Dewey probably saw as “others” who were not part of Western Civilisation. These include (but are not limited to) African Americans, Indigenous Peoples and, in a relic that can seem particularly bizarre to modern commentators, the Irish.

The Dewey Decimal System has evolved and improved significantly since its original publication in 1876. While it is a useful tool for efficiently organising libraries, it is also an invisible tool reinforcing social inequalities that place greater value on knowledge produced by, for and about straight white men. Next time you go to find a book, think about where you’re looking, and who created the path to that information.

Kendall J. Melvil Dewey, Compulsive Innovator: The decimal obsessions of an information organizer. American Libraries Magazine [Internet]. 2014; Available from: https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2014/03/24/melvil-dewey-compulsive-innovator/

3 Ford A. Bringing Harassment Out of the History Books: Addressing the troubling aspects of Melvil Dewey’s legacy. American Libraries Magazine [Internet]. 2018; Available from: https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2018/06/01/melvil-dewey-bringing-harassment-out-of-the-history-books/

4 OCLC. 300 [Internet]. Available from: https://www.oclc.org/content/dam/oclc/webdewey/help/300.pdf

5 Sullivan D. A brief history of homophobia in Dewey decimal classification. Overland literary journal [Internet]. 2015; Available from: https://overland.org.au/2015/07/a-brief-history-of-homophobia-in-dewey-decimal-classification/

6 Adler M. Classification Along the Color Line: Excavating Racism in the Stacks. Journal of Critical Library and Information Studies [Internet]. 2017 Jan 29;1(1). Available from: http://libraryjuicepress.com/journals/index.php/jclis/article/view/17/10

– Maria O’Hara (Reading List Services Support Co-Ordinator)

comeback mother: Buchi Emecheta

My father told me very, very early in my life that why my third Ibo name is Nnenna –father’s mother, was because I am his comeback mother. It was said that when my father’s mother was dying, she had promised my father that she would come again, this time as his daughter.

-Buchi Emecheta, date unknown, from archive document

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Comeback mother: Buchi Emecheta was an archive show in fragments that unfolded in parts throughout its durational install, running from 5th – 19th April, 2018. The show centred on Buchi Emecheta’s personal archive: books, manuscripts, plays, personal letters, publishers letters, notebooks, ephemera, essays, newspapers and unpublished material. Elements were shown in both the Kingsway exhibition space and the Library at Goldsmiths.

Buchi Emecheta was a powerful and complex Nigerian British writer, teacher, mother, library worker and feminist. She wrote prolifically and defied easy categorization. She is loved by many: Womanists read her fierce motherhood and solidarity. Feminists, her bold representation of the personal political. Queer readers have picked up on her strong community making. She is proudly held up as a writer of both Nigerian and Black British identity and has inspired many contemporary postcolonial writers. She spent her life demonstrating how she is many things. The tensions, refusals and stands shoot through her novels, plays and critical writing.

At the ‘mid-way reception’ we invited author, Irenosen Okojie to read from her collection ‘Speak Gigantular’. Angelique Golding (MA Black British Writing) read from Buchi Emecheta’s ‘Head Above Water’ and we were very pleased to have Sylvester Onwordi with us to say a few words about the Buchi Emecheta archive. Sylvester’s photographs of the reception are featured on the Buchi Emecheta Foundation website.

We have many of Buchi Emecheta’s books in the library. If you’ve not read her yet, ‘Joys of Motherhood’ is an excellent place to begin. I’d also recommend ‘Head above Water’ and ‘In the Ditch’. Many of her titles will be re-published with Omenala Press. To support the exhibition we curated a reading list and book display at the front of the library. One of the important things looking at Buchi Emecheta’s work was to acknowledge contemporary writing and storytelling that has come before, around and after her.

You are welcome to access our reading list.

come back mother: Buchi Emecheta was co-organised by Halima Haruna and Jessa Mockridge in collaboration with Buchi Emecheta Foundation, Goldsmiths Library and supported by Goldsmiths Alumni & Friends Fund. With a very big thanks for all kinds of shaping, support and care from Sylvester Onwordi, Nadine Plummer, Angelique Golding, Althea Greenan and Laura Elliott.

– Jessa Mockridge

What’s it like to work at Goldsmiths Library? 

Ellen Haggar, who is currently studying for an MA in Library and Information Studies at UCL, spent two weeks with us at the end of April to gain work experience in an academic library. This is Ellen’s account of her time here: 

“What kind of library do you want to work in?” This is always the question other librarians ask me upon learning that I study Library and Information Studies. To be honest, I still don’t have a clear answer. I usually reply with, “Oh, I’m open to anything!” Uninspiring, but true. Some people on my course know exactly what they want to do after they finish – work in a special collection or a law library. I’ve only ever worked in a public library, and so I wanted to use my two week placement to try out something new.

I’ve always had the idea in the back of my mind that it would be interesting to be a subject librarian – to combine my BA in English and Creative Writing with my library qualification, and help students studying English Literature. So when UCL placed me at Goldsmiths, I was excited to see the day to day working life of a subject librarian.

The first day was like the first day of any new job, crammed with introductions, tours, health and safety and shadowing various people. I was instantly struck by the impressive facilities, and the bustling yet relaxed atmosphere of the ground floor, which is a social study space. Everyone I met was interested in my course and happy to help. The first day provided me with an overview of the library and the Reader Services team, who are responsible for the help desk, stock circulation and user experience. As part of the Reception Team in my previous job, being on the help desk is something I really enjoy and have experience of, and definitely something I miss. The rest of my placement would be full of new experiences with the subject librarian team.

Goldsmiths currently have a team of four subject librarians, each responsible for a number of subjects. I think my favourite part of the placement was seeing how the librarians engage with students. A significant chunk of their time is dedicated to leading workshops on academic skills such as referencing, a subject that could be very dry, but is critical to success at university, and so the librarian’s knowledge and genuine desire to help shines through, leaving the students feeling more confident in their abilities. Something else that struck me about Goldsmiths Library was the enthusiasm for getting students involved. Each year the library runs a Library Student Rep Programme, which gives students practical experience working in a library, as well as the opportunity to purchase books for their course. I attended the debrief meeting in which the students gave their feedback – they all seemed to really enjoy and value the experience. I thought it was a brilliant idea and definitely something I would have done back at university – I was quite jealous!

Another aspect I found really valuable was looking at budgets and usage statistics. As someone who endured secondary school maths with a constant headache, I never thought I would admit that statistics and budgets would be interesting. But it is definitely something I need to get my head around for the future. I was given a mini-project looking at the usage and value for money of an e-resource – it was really valuable experience and helped me to think more about library budgets and getting the best out of resources. Tip – learn to love spreadsheets and graphs!

So, what kind of library do I want to work in? Certainly, subject librarianship still calls to me, and I am so glad I’ve had the opportunity to see a subject librarian team at work. But any role where I can help the library user, and feel like I’ve made a difference, surrounded by lovely colleagues is the perfect role for me.