Francesca Ezzelino, Newsam Library and Archives, UCL Institute of Education is a member of SWOP and uses the network to ensure a comprehensive coverage of publications for Digital Education Resource Archive (DERA), their repository of Official Publications in the areas of education, training, children and families.
The UCL Institute of Education is home to an extensive print collection of Official Publications, beginning with the origins of state education in the United Kingdom in the 19th century to the present day. The breadth of the collection brings together key legislation, reports produced by select committees and government departments, circulars and memoranda. It also includes documents published by quasi-governmental bodies such as Ofsted, the Schools Council and the Higher Education Funding Council for England, as well as local authorities, political parties and trade unions.
This is an open collection, therefore new items are added on a regular basis. As we purchase recently published material, for example Department for Education reports or relevant Bills and Acts, I’m responsible for managing the budget and ensuring that we spend it wisely. This involves checking the balance every month and being aware of any upcoming relevant legislation that is not covered by our existing standing orders. In some cases I may approach the publisher/author directly for a publication, for example in the case of manifestos produced by political parties before a General Election.
The resources that we add to the collection are often the result of donations, for example from scholars or former civil servants re-organising their personal collections, a library weeding its resources or sometimes even an organisation being closed down and looking to re-house its library.
The size of these donations can vary considerably too: in some cases it may take me just an hour to check for duplicates, decide whether something is relevant for our collection or not and pass it to the Cataloguers, while in others I may be working on the same donation for months, often in collaboration with colleagues. For example, at the end of last year our library received a donation of almost 400 archive boxes. We developed a project plan, whereby all the items were checked for duplicates, organised by publishing organisation and listed in a spreadsheet in preparation for cataloguing. Given the breadth of the donation, the work so far has been incredibly interesting and we’re planning to blog about some of the gems we’ve found among the donated items.
Curiosity, surprise and even wonder are feelings I experience on a regular basis in this role. It’s not only the realisation that a very interesting (perhaps niche) item that has landed on my desk will fill a gap in our collection that could be crucial for a user’s research, but also the constant reminder of how outstanding our existing collection is. Since starting in this role at the beginning of January 2017, I have actively sought opportunities to get to know it, but I find that the best way to learn about the resources we have is by answering users’ queries. Due to the IOE’s reputation in the academic community and the fact that our print collection is very much alive and growing, scholars from across the country and sometimes from abroad often contact us in the hope we will have useful material for their research. My role in this case involves searching the catalogue for specific items, but also relying on our Official Publications schedule to highlight areas of the collection that may contain relevant material. Several trips to the shelves may become necessary at this point in order to verify the information found online, while also keeping in touch with the users to better understand their queries.
Sometimes, during these ‘explorations’ in the stores (where the collection is housed) I may spot items that require intervention, maybe because they’re in a fragile state and should be placed in a folder or their binding has become very weak. Preservation and conservation of these resources are integral parts of my role and I liaise with both our processing team and, when required, external professionals to ensure that our collection remains usable for current and future scholars.
Looking after the print collection is only one part of my role. The other key one is the management of the Digital Education Resource Archive (DERA), our repository of Official Publications in the areas of education, training, children and families. At a time when most government documents are published in digital format and more and more appear only as HTML pages, DERA provides perpetual access to these publications, which are saved in PDF format and given stable links.
The repository is completely open access, allowing anyone to perform a search and download items. More than one hundred organisations are included in DERA, and this list covers government departments, independent bodies and think tanks, all operating in the field of education.
My role covers a variety of tasks, starting with the daily selection and upload of new documents to DERA, often on the same day in which they are published. In order to maintain current awareness, I rely on email alerts, RSS feeds and various newsletters, but I also follow the news and read the Times Higher Education and the Times Educational Supplement every week.
A good knowledge of intellectual property rights is key for my role. Most of the DERA documents are Crown copyright and covered by the Open Government Licence, which gives us almost unlimited freedom when it comes to re-using them, however I also deal with publications whose copyright lies with individual organisations, and in this case I must verify that said body has given us permission to add its outputs to DERA.
A challenge I face on a regular basis is represented by documents that contain images, as often these have a different copyright holder, which means that the rights statement at the end of the publication may not apply to them. As I prefer to be cautious in the absence of clear information on what may or may not be allowed, I redact the images if possible, although in some cases I’m unable to upload the document to DERA.
Establishing contact with new organisations to ask permission to add their outputs to our repository is a very enjoyable part of my job. DERA currently includes over one hundred publishing bodies, but I’m keen for this number to grow and for the range of resources we collect to become even more diverse than it is already. I can’t help feeling proud every time a new organisation agrees to let us store its publications, especially if it’s an influential one like The Sutton Trust, our newest recruit.
Finally, I co-chair the DERA Management Group meetings, which are held twice a year and represent an opportunity for all staff members involved with the repository to share information, discuss changes and make long-term plans. It is my responsibility to look at the analytics and interpret them before the meeting, so that they can inform any decisions.
As if Official Publications didn’t already keep me very busy, I’m also a member of the Information Literacy team and I provide regular customer service at the library desks. In summary, my role is very dynamic, no two days are the same and I love it!