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Together23: The University of Manchester Library staff conference

Thursday, 15 June 2023




Registration opens and coffee The Drum
09.30 Registration closes The Drum
09.45 Welcome by Patrick Hackett, Registrar, Secretary and Chief Operating Officer Theatre A
10.00 3 x Lightning Talks Theatre A
10.15 Question and answer session Theatre A
10.30 3 x Lightning Talks Theatre A
10.45 Question and answer session Theatre A
11.00 Break and refreshments The Drum

Lightning Talks

1. An introduction to the LGBTQ+ special collections guide

Mark-Taylor Hutchinson (Reader Services Assistant)

Creating accessible entry points into our vast Special Collections is a very important part of our work - especially inclusive guides such as this, which aren’t just tailored around the needs of an academic course but around the needs of our contemporary city and world. Guides such as this open our collections out to a broader audience and create an awareness that we are a library who centres the lives and works of all people, especially marginalised groups such as queer people.

The LGBTQ+ Special Collections Guide is the starting point of a wider project to queer our Special Collections: leading to forthcoming interviews, articles and acquisitions.

The guide is a non-exhaustive, living document; growing as new discoveries are made.

2. Embedding special collections in student assessments

Dr Janette Martin, Research and Learning Manager (Special Collections)

Special Collections offer great potential for supporting new and original interpretations of the past and have a quality of immediacy not found in secondary sources. In an increasingly digital world, students encountering manuscripts, objects, letters, photographs and maps for the first time are a joy to watch. Our collections transform University of Manchester students into researchers, enhancing the learning experience and providing employability skills. 

This lightning talk will look at two case studies on innovative collection-based assessments: Dr Andrew Fearnley’s second year American Studies students and Prof Michael Sander’s English Literature MA students. Both modules offer our graduates new skills that have enduring value beyond university and into the workplace.

3. This isn’t just metadata, this is Manchester Metadata

Kathryn Sullivan, Metadata and Discovery Manager

This lightening talk will provide a high-level overview to challenge the traditional idea of cataloguing and metadata work, communicate the diversity of what we manage, and advocate for quality which constitutes Manchester Metadata.

Metadata is a key library asset representing years of investment; it is an enabler for current operations, future developments, collection analysis, and management.

Our Library creates, acquires, and manages metadata that enables materials to be discoverable and usable for research, as well as teaching and learning. Effective management of metadata is a responsibility for everyone involved in its procurement, creation, or dissemination.

As one of the largest UK academic libraries, with strong links to local Manchester community we aim to ensure UoM Library obtains the best value from its collection metadata investment.

4. The digital edition of the Heinrich Simon Papers: a metadata perspective

Ourania Karapasia, Digital Metadata Specialist, Collection Strategies Directorate

On the 23rd of May 2023, we celebrated the launch of a new collection in Manchester Digital Collections (MDC), The Digital Edition of the Heinrich Simon Papers, which has been the culmination of a three year project supported by the Leverhulme Trust.

This Digital Edition is the outcome of a collaboration between researchers and the Library. Leading on the creation of metadata, I will be talking on how high quality and well managed metadata (standards, formats, enrichment) play a key role in achieving the FAIRification of scholarly research data (making them Findable, Accessible, Interoperable and Reusable).

5. The future of volunteering in special collections

Aya Van Renterghem, Teaching and Learning Coordinator (Special Collections)

Although there have always been volunteering opportunities at Special Collections, it was never considered an integral part of our teaching and learning offer. In the academic year 2022-2023, however, we ran a pilot scheme with a small number of volunteers to see if it would be possible to have a volunteering programme at Special Collections.

This talk will discuss our pilot, what we have learned from it, and how we are going to approach setting up a volunteering programme with a systematic approach which considers the impact of volunteering in terms of employability and social responsibility in the academic year 2023-2024.

6. Rylands esoterica; magic, monsters and macabre at John Rylands Research Institute and Library

Jamie Robinson, Senior Photographer, John Rylands Research Institute and Library

This lightning talk will delve into the esoteric items that the John Rylands Research Institute and Library holds, being brought together in the Magic Monsters and Macabre MDC collection. The collection currently has 40 items, from alchemical texts to confessions and executions of prisoners, certificates of pagan sacrifice to experimental early photography.

Earlier this year I started to look at expanding the collection, and have begun my own research into what else is hidden away on the shelves and in boxes, and have uncovered some fantastic items that will be added. I have also begun an Instagram page; @Rylands_Esoterica sharing content with a wide audience and engaging with social media from a more personal approach as a staff member.



Keynote by Neil MacInnes: 'Library Renewal - The Mancunian Way'

Theatre A

Breakout sessions begin

Breakout rooms

  • Neil MacInnes

    About Neil MacInnes

    Neil MacInnes has over 30 years’ experience in public libraries. He worked, in a range of roles with Glasgow City Council and is now the Strategic Lead for Libraries, Galleries, Culture and Youth Services with Manchester City Council. He works with the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and is responsible for 22 libraries in the city of Manchester, including the Central Library, HMP Manchester’s prison library, and the County Record Office and City Archives.

Breakout sessions

1. Improving the discoverability of open access books: metadata challenges and opportunities (ROOM 2.220)

Emma Booth, Metadata Manager for Content Management

Research funders and academic institutions are increasingly adopting Open Research policies in order to develop a richer, more diverse and accessible world of scholarly communication. As academic institutions start actively encouraging or mandating that long-form research outputs, such as scholarly books, be made available open access, they also need to be confident that this content can be embedded into academic library collections in the same way as gated or paywalled content.

This breakout session will examine how OA Books can struggle to find their way through established library acquisitions and metadata supply chains, and what can be done to face this challenge and ultimately improve the discoverability of Open Access Books.

2. More than just a number: the changing face of bibliometrics at UML (ROOM 2.218)

John Hynes, Research Services Co-ordinator

Bibliometrics have advanced beyond simple citation counts and questionable indicators: we must find ways to leverage publication information that advances research practices.

We’ll demonstrate how recent contributions to strategic University projects have driven significant developments in our use of data: providing indicators of future research directions and potential collaborations rather than static number counts.

Metrics are only useful if they’re accessible, relevant and meaningful. Generative AI tools like ChatGPT have introduced new opportunities for embedding complex interrogation of data and advanced visualisations into our service offer. We’ll share our initial experiences using AI tools, how these have influenced our ways of working, and exciting possibilities for providing a truly bespoke and responsive research intelligence service to the University.

3. The Rylands125 Mix’n’match Game (ROOM 1.219)

Elizabeth Gow, Curator (Manuscripts)

As momentum grows in preparations for the 125th Anniversary of the John Rylands Research Institute and Library in 2024/5, we offer colleagues across the Library a chance to shape the stories we tell and how we tell them. This session will make Elizabeth Gow’s new research about Enriqueta Rylands accessible in a fun and engaging way through a mix-and-match detective game. The game will reveal new perspectives on the Library’s early history through its books, objects, building, manuscripts, archives and visual collections.

The game-masters will be the Exhibition and Public Engagement with Research team based at the Rylands. They will refine the gameplay through preparatory workshops in May. Collaboration across Curatorial Practices will ensure we present the most important and interesting things in the most engaging and accessible way. The Rylands125 game will bring colleagues together in discussion, teamwork and discovery.

4. Manchester Library Digital Scholarship showcase (ROOM 1.218)

Phil Reed, Teaching and Learning Librarian (Data Specialist)

We saw ‘Manchester Library Digital Scholarship’ appear in the second annual report of Imagine2030 as a major new piece of work. In this session, we seek your input on how the Library can offer support for digital scholarship using its amazing collections, expertise and ethical values.

Try some digital scholarship tools and experience Manchester Digital Collections, Manchester Digital Exhibitions, advanced imaging and a selection of our innovative subscribed content. Contribute to our panel discussion about the intersection between digital scholarship, inclusivity, sustainability, artificial intelligence and ethics. Be inspired to think about how digital scholarship affects your area of work and contribute to a vision for a uniquely Manchester Library digital scholarship.

5. Library Planning App – meeting your business intelligence needs (ROOM 2.219)

Michael Douglas, Business Intelligence Analyst

This session will be a demonstration of the Library Planning App, a Power BI application created by the Projects and Business Analysis Team to help with the Library’s ongoing Business Intelligence and Data gathering requirements.

Michael Douglas and Dana Barringham will show different sections of the app and its visualisations & features in Power BI, explain how all Library Staff can use it to do their own information gathering for any work and projects they’re working on, as well as some behind-the-scenes information on automation and process.

There will also be time for questions, we look forward to seeing you.

13.15 Lunch

The Market Place

14.15 Breakout sessions begin

Breakout rooms

Breakout sessions

1. Open access in 2023: challenges, contradictions and conflicts (ROOM 2.218)

Lucy May and Scott Taylor, Researcher Services

The Open Access movement began over twenty years ago, but we’re far from achieving a fully open and equitable publishing system. Worse, some of the mechanisms we hoped would be transformational could potentially increase inequalities, whilst requiring ever more work from libraries to manage. 

There are exciting developments, innovations, and evidence of increased appetite for change, but it’s hard to change the rules of the game when you’re so used to playing it, and when so much depends on winning. 

In this session, we’ll:

  • Look back at the origins of our modern academic publishing system to understand today’s challenges
  • Explore the conflicts that arise from problematic incentive structures in established research culture
  • … and share our hopes for the future.

2. Big brother is watching you! The Soviet map of Manchester and an introduction to special collections (ROOM 2.220)

Donna Sherman (Curator; Maps) and Imogen Durant (Reader Services Co-ordinator)

This breakout session will replicate a teaching session delivered to first year Geography Undergraduate students at the beginning of the academic year. The aim of the session was to introduce over 150 new students to our Special Collections and to encourage engagement with primary sources.

You will receive a brief presentation which is delivered to all students who attend our Special Collections teaching sessions and then take part in an interactive exercise using our infamous Soviet map of Manchester.  Come and join us to discover more about our Special Collections and a top-secret mapping project.

3. Library Spaces: (digital) brains and bodies? (ROOM 2.219)

Bonnie McGill and Nicola Tomlinson, Learning Developers

In this session we will introduce the concept of embodied learning and the psychologisation of digital learning. This debate will then be opened to participants to discuss how these practices raise questions of approaches to teaching, learning and the student experience in the Library. Questions which could be worked through are: Do our bodies play a part in the ways that we construct knowledge? How can a confrontation with the digital ask us to re-think how and where learning occurs?

This interactive breakout session hopes to provoke debate around the creation of educational spaces within the Library and work through assumptions and frameworks as to learners and their practices within these spaces.

4. Digital Library Manchester – do androids dream of electronic resources? (ROOM 1.219)

Ciaran Talbot, Head of Digital Services

Digital Library Manchester will deliver a transformative long-term roadmap for the development of our Digital Library. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a role in that roadmap and all the other priority areas you are involved with from Imagine 2030.

With large language model based generative AI chatbots such as OpenAI's ChatGPT hitting the consumer market, every area from Higher Education to health to hieroglyphics is grappling with "so, what does this mean?"

And that is the conversation this breakout session aims to start. Whether generative AI is now augmenting most of your life, or you have only skimmed a Metro headline; you may have started to think about what this apparent rise of AI could bring? From excitement to concern, the possibilities and challenges, the pros and cons.

This breakout session will be part primer, and part workshopping out your thoughts. How could AI transform what we do with collections, research, teaching and learning? How might it change our ways-of-working and what does it mean for sustainability and ED&I? Output from this session will contribute to shaping our Digital Library Manchester roadmap and begin our collective journey further developing the role of Artificial Intelligence in academic research libraries.

5. Overcoming barriers by creating safe spaces: belonging in Manchester's Library Student Team (ROOM 1.218)

Sammie Barker - Teaching, Learning and Students Intern

The Library's Student Team intend to use their unique position as staff and students of varying courses to create a safe space where they, and attendees, can think about and feel a sense of belonging. This session will enhance the voices of our students who will consider the barriers to feeling like they belong at university. This will encourage reflection from attendees who may unknowingly contribute to students’ feelings of isolation and create a space to listen to the student experience shared by students themselves.


15.05 Break and refreshments

The Drum

15.25 2 x Lightning Talks

Theatre A

15.35 Question and answer session

Theatre A 

Lightning Talks

7. Stock on the move - our year in statistics

Laura Briggs (Stock Operations Team Leader) and Natasha Viner (Stock Manager)

This lightening talk will be a whistlestop tour of the collections the Collection Development and Management team transported, squeezed, measured, weeded, scanned, packed, shelved, stamped, retrieved, and wrapped over the last 12 months. We’ll take in our projects, big and small, alongside our daily tasks to crunch the numbers and examine how we’ve moved and managed collections across campus and Greater Manchester.

We’ll also show how we’ve used green transport methods in our stock operations (the e-van and e-cargo bike and trailer) alongside our indispensable fleet of trolleys and crates to achieve these moves.

8. New disaster recovery app

Elisabeth Carr (Collection Care Manager JRRIL), Nilani Ganeshwaran (Senior Software Developer: Management) and Leo Messen (Research Software Engineer intern)

When collections are affected by fire, floods, or even humidity, they need to be attended to as quickly as possible to prevent further damage. After the Main Library flood in October 2021, Collection Care identified that a quicker and clear response of what to do, for everyone involved, would save time in the recovery. Digital Development and Collection Care have designed a new disaster recovery mobile application to address the first steps for incidents/disasters that involve the Library collections.

It sends a message with the incident information to everyone that needs to be involved. This includes what and where the disaster is, the severity, what action to take (depending on your role), locations of the disaster kits, useful phone numbers, codes, and capacity to include images from the camera roll.

This application will be a clear aid and make the disaster recovery response much more efficient and effective.


15.40 Ria Sunga - Spirit of Manchester

Theatre A

16.00 Lorraine Beard - Imagine2030 Ideas Accelerator

Theatre A

16.10 Question and answer session

Theatre A

16.20 'The Rylands' presented by Professor Nalin Thakkar, Vice-President for Social Responsibility

Theatre A 

16.55 Closing Remarks by Professor Christopher Pressler

Theatre A

17.00 Refreshments served at Crawford House Library Staff Hub

Crawford House