Sunday, 15 November 2020

An Interview with Cathy Moore: Director of Cambridge Literary Festival

We had a first for the Cambridge Library Group on Wednesday 11th November, with founder and director of the Cambridge Literary Festival, Cathy Moore, being interviewed via Teams by Leigh Chambers, writer and broadcaster from Cambridge 105 radio. We learned how one person's inspiration and hard work can really make a difference to their community. Cathy had worked in publishing, and then part time in bookselling while raising a family, when she wondered why a city like Cambridge didn't have a literary festival. And so, in 2003, Cambridge WordFest was born, with 24 events in a small number of venues, with friends roped in as volunteer stewards. Local author Ali Smith was involved from the first, and is now one of the patrons of the festival. 

Left to right: Ali Smith and Cathy Moore (Festival Director)

Initially there was just the Spring Festival, with a Winter one added in 2008. In 2014 it became a charity, Cambridge Literary Festival. Over the years it has gone from strength to strength, with a large number of high profile speakers, including internationally famous writers, covering literature, politics, environmental issues, poetry, history, comedy and current affairs. The venues have become numerous and larger, with some events selling out even in 450+ seat auditoriums. It has attracted not just well known names, but often provided a platform to unknowns, who have gone on to become prize winning celebrities. 

The festival is still run by a very small team of dedicated staff and a large group of volunteers. 2020 has been a challenging year, to which they have risen magnificently, and in some ways stronger than ever. The Spring Festival had been arranged, tickets sold and 20,000 brochures printed when the first Covid lockdown was announced. Obviously money was lost, but the generosity of a large number of people who donated their ticket money rather than a refund, and a fund raising campaign, and grants were received from a number of sources. During the summer, two online paid events were very successful, and reached audiences from around the world, who could not have attended a purely Cambridge-based event, and further raised the significance of the festival as an event at which to appear. 

The Winter 2020 festival beings on 18th November, and will have 38 all online events, covering a very wide range of subject areas. These have been pre-recored, rather than rusk technical difficulties occurring on the night, and have carefully paired interviewers with their subjects. Tickets can be bought for single talks, or a £25 pass allows 'attendance' at all events, which will able be available as 'catch-up' so even more people will be able to enjoy them at a time that is convenient. Some of the major names appearing this year are sculptor Maggi Hambling and best-selling children's author Jacqueline Wilson. It opens with a panel discussion of the arts in the era of Covid-19.

Jacqueline Wilson

The full programme can be found here

The future of the festival for 2021 will obviously depend on global circumstances, but it is hoped that it might be able to be a hybrid event, with a mixture of virtual and live events. 

Many thanks to Cathy Moore and Leigh Chambers for taking the time to speak to the group. 

Leigh's radio show

Write up contributed by Sarah Preston, Sidney Sussex College and Treasurer of CLG.

Photos taken from

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Claire Sewell - The Pivot to Online Training

Our second event of the 2020-21 programme, was an online talk from Claire Sewell, about the Pivot to Online Training. 

Claire spoke on how she has "pivoted" her research skills training to online versions over the lockdown period and in to the new academic year. Fortunately, she had already got lots of experience using new methods and free software to engage students but this has been bolstered by incorporating knowledge from her Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching which she has recently completed. 

Claire covered: 


These recreate the lecture formate and although they can be sneered at for being "boring", students benefit from the format because it allows them to hear the academic dialogue. 

Short videos (e.g Lumen5)

Younger generations are used to getting content through videos. Using Lumen5 you can either make them funny or serious. It can act as a trailer for further content and you can signpost to more resources. The videos will catch people who would never usually sign up to a library training session. 

Visual Resources (e.g Canva)

Visual Resources grab peoples attention. Using Canva makes your work look profession and modern, plus it is very simple to use. There are lots of templates, including infographics, presentations and social media posts that are ready sized to use. Claire gave us a demo of how to use it, and showed us the images you can find, and the way it makes the simple look brilliant. 

Podcasts (e.g Anchor)

These can be used for a different audience - people who like to multi-task and therefore cannot watch a screen. The audio can be extracted from a webinar and turned into a podcast too, but usually best to rescript and re-record!

Online Courses (e.g Sway)

Sway can be used to pull in all the above content that you've created and embed them into a sequence, with some text to become an online course. It allows the student to have a resource they can come back to and a good part of your asynchronous content. It is more engaging than one long video on a single topic. 

Claire then allowed us to vote on Menti to determine which product we wanted to see. We voted for Canva and Sway and she gave us live demos. 

Claire concluded with the points: 

  • Don't try and use too many snazzy features in one presentation.
  • Planning your students learning outcomes is still worthwhile.
  • You will need to adapt. 
One benefit of the Pivot to Online that Claire emphasised is that for each product you have to reassess and re-evaluate the content and your delivery - if we return to "normality" our presentations will forever be more inspired. 

Further information is available at her popular blog

Thank you to Kate Faulkner, Squire Law Library for contributing this blog post. 

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Sarah Elsegood - Library Anxiety

We kicked off the 2020-21 programme with a talk on Library Anxiety. Sarah Elsegood manages Learning and Development at ARU. The talk consisted of discussing what Library Anxiety is and what we can do to help students avoid or overcome it. 

Sarah started the talk by having us think about what might make us feel anxious, a visit to the doctors, an interview, or something similar. We did not have to discuss this in detail but it was useful to think these things over and have a chance to reflect on this as individuals.

Prior to the talk Sarah had us read an article by Mellon, Contance (1986), "Library Anxiety: A grounded theory and it's development". This study covered 6000 English Composition undergraduates, and analysed students' writing over a 2 year period. They had a final year project where they wrote an essay about experiences of using the library, how they felt about using the library, and then how they felt about using it now. 

It was a really interesting talk which made us all consider the ways that students may feel when they are using our libraries, and the types of things we could do to ensure these spaces. Sarah had just chatting in the chat function of Microsoft Teams about the types of things we have done in our libraries, or the things we think 

Washington State University have put together their own Libguide on Library Anxiety. Here you can see what they have done to try and put their students at ease when coming into their libraries.

Thank you to Sarah for kicking off our 2020-21 programme. 

Post contributed by Katherine Burchell, CLG Social Media Editor

Monday, 7 September 2020

CLG Membership Renewal 2020-21

Join us for the new Academic Year 2020-21

Dear Members,

Now is the time to join or renew your membership to the Cambridge Library Group for 2020-21. 

We hope that some of you have been able to join us on our Zoom meetings during Lockdown when we have all been at home.  The committee have worked very hard to ensure that even though scheduled events and visits have had to be postponed, we were able to still have a monthly event during these past months.  Although we don’t yet have a definite programme for the whole year, we can assure you that there will still be some exciting events on the horizon!  Please see our provisional programme of online events for the next six months below.

To Join or Renew:
Please fill in the Google form linked below and select your preferred method of payment.  

Membership fees remain the same:

Employed members £10.00 per year
Retired/not working members £8.00
per year

We are offering special group rates if your college/department/line manager pays for CLG group membership.  Some colleges already do this, by enrolling all their library staff, and it is a great way to invest in staff development.  This year we are offering discounts - the more staff you enrol, the cheaper it gets – see Group membership form (link below) for details.

CLG Personal Membership Form:

CLG Group Membership Form:

CLG Programme:

If you can pay by bank transfer that would be great, as it is secure and safe during these COVID times.  Alternatively you can pay by cheque, as detailed on the form.  Please send cheques (via UMS or post) to:

Helen Snelling
CLG Membership Secretary
Pendlebury Library of Music
11 West Road


Monday, 31 August 2020

Cambridge University Library’s Map Department in Lockdown


George Braun and Frans Hogenberg’s 1575 map of Cambridge

Cambridge University Library’s Map Department in Lockdown


Anne Taylor


As I am writing we have exceeded 120 days in Lockdown and so over 4 months (from 23 March) of Working From Home. I’ve sorted the best cushion arrangement for the various chairs I’ve been sitting on, got used to the lack of interruptions and worked out a routine for sharing the single computer at home that is linked to the Internet. It has, nevertheless, been difficult being away from the collection and doing nothing but screen-based work (though having had lots of annual leave to use up I have been able to have regular breaks). However, Cambridge University Library is now slowly coming back to life and I may even be able to go in, on an occasional basis, from mid-August. It will be great to see people and work with the collections once more, and I look forward to my three mile walk to work.


The last week at work before Lockdown was, of course, one of great uncertainty and urgency. I was on leave for two days and every time I looked at my work emails the sand seemed to have shifted a little bit more. Being away from work did, however, give me some quiet time to think about what Map Department staff might do at home, and what I might need to enable me to work at home. At the time, my laptop was old (bought in a panic 12 years previously after I’d broken my ankle and found myself at home for two months with no internet connection) and was very, very, very slow. Buying a replacement – also in a panic with stock levels decreasing online before my eyes! - was one of my best moves and I really don’t think I could have done very much work without it. As a bonus, the old laptop could be used for off-line word processing and database projects. The reliance of home working on staff having their own Internet connection and suitable devices (you can’t really catalogue on a small screen or with slow connection, and keeping in touch is much easier via the Internet) is a significant consideration.


So what have Map Department staff been up to during Lockdown (highlights only!)?


Wish you were here!

Although we were not able to take most categories of collection material home, it was decided that my Map Department colleagues - Ian Pittock, Michael Taylor, Karen Amies and Anna Reynolds – could work on boxes of unprocessed postcards. The Map Department collection includes thousands of postcards, mostly acquired through donation. Most are topographic views but there is also a sub-collection of postcards with maps on them. We write the country and place name on the back of each card. When we are able to return to work in the Library they will be filed away in order of country and place within that country. Unfortunately, we do not have time to assign a publication date to the cards so they are not filed in strict chronological order. Processing the backlog of cards is not normally priority work, but Lockdown has provided an ideal opportunity to assess them and make them accessible – people always love looking at them (front and back, many have writing on the reverse) - and thus clear some shelf space. My colleague Ian Pittock has been tweeting images of postcards at @theULSpecColl and has written Blogpost about this work.

Ian’s blog post about Lockdown work on the postcard collection

Nothing like a Good Database

I rather like working with databases and I was able to get engrossed in two major projects. The first was updating and slightly restructuring the Map Department’s Finding List. This is maintained in an MS Access database and is a surprisingly complicated (and long, 54 pages when printed) document due to the many types of classmark we have, because we are unable to store all items in strict order of classmark, and because we have storage space scattered throughout the University Library (and beyond). The second big database project involved the editing and checking of Map Department data in preparation for its migration from the old archive catalogue (Janus) to the new Archives Management System (ArchivesSpace) which will go live later this year (see ArchiveSearch for a preview of the public search interface). My old, antiquated laptop was invaluable for this since Janus depends on data being entered into an old version of MS Access which will not work on, for example, a Windows 10 machine. I was able to spend many fruitful days editing the data and ‘cleaning’ it ready for migration. Days that I would not have been able to commit to this under normal circumstances

A plan of Wolverhampton railway station from Maps.RLY.aa.366-370, one of the items listed in the ArchiveSearch as part of our wonderful collection of railway maps.


The first MS Word project I undertook was to revise various shelf and bay labels, at the same time comparing them to the Finding List. This is one of those many jobs which had been on my to-do list for ages, but since the printed labels and manuscript annotations did the job, it was not a priority. Everything will now be much clearer, and look smarter. I’ve also been working on another long-standing project, the enhancement of our finding aids for certain Ordnance Survey maps. Having uninterrupted time to work on this has been a complete boon.


The World of the Web

Lockdown is providing the ideal opportunity to update Map Department web and intranet pages. Ian Pittock is playing a key role in checking links. I’m also webmaster for the Map Curators’ Group of the British Cartographic Society (BCS) and have updated the Map Curators’ Toolbox on the BCS website.

New Tools and Skills

We have all had to adapt to virtual meetings and learn to use MSTeams and Zoom, all of which now feels completely normal. In addition, Ian Pittock and myself have been getting to grips with Leganto online reading lists. Because the Map Department collections are relevant to many University courses and we do not have a close relationship/affinity with any particular department, we have been helping other Libraries add their reading lists to the system. It has been a great opportunity to learn something new whilst helping out and cooperating with other libraries. I have also been able to use Lockdown to work on a Cartographic Resources LibGuide. I must admit that this is taking much longer than I anticipated and is not quite ready to go public, but check the LibGuide site in a few weeks.


Ask a Map Librarian

We are, of course, still receiving enquiries. I answer these as best I can, though it is easy to forget – just for a moment – that you cannot go and physically check that vital detail. I thought it might be interesting to share some of the key online resources I have been using:

National Library of Scotland’s map images web site. Our colleagues there have scanned a hugely impressive number of maps. Their priority was maps of Scotland but they have also scanned thousands of Ordnance Survey maps of England and Wales. The easiest way to find them is via the Marker Pin facility (click the map to move the pin to your area of interest and maps of various dates that cover this area will appear on the right hand side ; the more you zoom in, the more detailed these maps will become). If you use the Georeferenced Maps option you can search for names on Ordnance Survey six-inch maps from around 1900. Just use the 'Search OS six-inch 1888-1913 names' search box on the left hand side (it is in a slighter darker purple/grey box), a great resource for family history research, amongst other things.

Cambridge on the National Library of Scotland’s ‘Marker Pen’ map search facility

Another excellent resource is the David Rumsey Map Collection, an impressive online collection       of map images. The maps cover all parts of the world and I find it easiest to find things using the        MapRank Search


·        The Old Maps Online website is also great (search for a place in the box at the top, move the map around and zoom in and out and thumbnails of maps covering the area shown display on the right hand side) as is the A Vision of Britain Through Time site which provides access to historical maps as well as many textual resources.


·        The University of Chicago’s History of Cartography Project is a mammoth ongoing research project the main result of which is a series of volumes on, well, the history of cartography! Additionally wonderful is that these volumes are available freely online. Subject matter ranges from Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, through to the Cartography in the Traditional African, American, Arctic, Australian, and Pacific Societies, Traditional Islamic and South Asian Societies and Traditional East and Southeast Asian Societies to Cartography in the Twentieth Century


If YOU have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me on


Keep safe and see you soon!


Anne Taylor

Wednesday, 26 August 2020

Lockdown Meanders

Meanders in Isolation 

The dictionary defines ‘meander’ as to follow a winding course or to wander aimlessly. Or as the Scots say to stravaig–– to wander without sure purpose, glad of the possibilities of moving freely on foot and of being––even temporarily––unconstrained. Walking is the art as Rebecca Solnit suggest of recognising the role of the unforeseen, of keeping your balance amid surprises, of collaborating with chance.[1] Solnit deeply resonates with me and my daily meanders have made me more conscious of the beauty in the ordinary and of overlooked and unconsidered. It has taught me to look, to really look. The feeling of isolation I’m sure we have all felt during this time of separation, of being walled off or being confined, and at the same time feeling a terrible sense of exposure.[2] This tension between separation and exposure – the rows of windows where life is going on behind the net curtains and the smiling china cats which you can look in on, but you cannot reach. We feel the loss of intimacy and social interaction greatly, on one hand, and on the other the feeling of self-consciousness of the harshness of the stranger’s gaze, and the anxiety induced by the supermarket queue and the one - way system. Do I apologise for not being near you when we talk in the street? is that delivery man too close?

The words are not all my own, but the pictures are, and they record Newmarket and Cambridge from 31st March to 25th June 2020. They flow, meander, and are not constrained by any chronological ordering. Pictures pre-dominate as Berger says seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.[3]

[1] Rebecca Solnit A Field Guide To Getting Lost.

[2] I would point you to the work of Olivia Lang The Lonely City: Adventures In The Art Of Being Alone who explores the feeling of isolation and loneliness and is a superb.

[3] John Berger Ways of Seeing.

Walking I have found during these lockdown months has offered purpose and solace in difficult times. But also to leave your front door in the early hours of a weekday morning was to be confronted by a familiar landscape of shops and streets and workplaces that had been transformed by these strange times into an alien unpeopled place where the clocks had stopped and the common place has taken on an almost sinister aspect. When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.[4]

[4] John Wyndham The Day of the Triffids.

                                               George looks around
                                               He sees the park
                                               It is depressing
                                               George looks ahead
                                               George sees the dark
                                               George feels afraid
                                               Where are the people
                                              Out strolling on Sunday?[5]

[5] Stephen Sondheim, Lesson 8, from Sunday in the Park with George.

There is beauty to be found in everything, you only have to search for it.[6]

[6] Algernon Newton 1880–1968 b. Hampstead, ‘Canaletto of the canals’.

Newmarket Shop Signs

With Angels frolick in a purer air,
                         Then shall our soul now choked with fenny care,
              This low Nadir of darkness must it shend
             Till it aloft to th’ radiant Zenith wend.

[7] Thomas Walkington, The Optick Glasse of Humors, 1607.

Post contributed by Shaun Fry, Squire Law Library

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Lockdown Libraries: stories from the Home Office

We were very lucky to be joined by four speakers from the Cambridge University Libraries network to tell us all about what they have been doing whilst working from home and about the different changes they have had to put in place to their working practices. 

First up we heard from Kate Faulkner from the Squire Law Library, who talked us through the different ways that she has been supporting the Law students. Kate has spent much of her time tracking down scans for the students. She told us about how we are very spoilt in Cambridge in terms of the resources that are available to us, so having to find alternatives was interesting. 

Kate told us how a lot of the readings they had were available on Moodle, so she spent a lot of time making a definitive list of what was available. The Squire also co-operated with academics and other libraries and made use of the Copyright Licensing Agency's Digital Content Store. Many texts also became available on the ebook packages that were temporarily opened up by publishers so navigating through those became a new skill.

The old and new "normal" - Kate Faulkner

Next we heard from Helen Snelling, from the Pendlebery Library of Music. Helen talked us through the work that she has been doing on Leganto (reading list software used by Cambridge Libraries). She told us how she first of all had to find out how to use Leganto, which meant having to find the right information and a Yammer group set up for Librarians in Cambridge helped to do so, you could get answers from others who were already using Leganto. However, there were times where they had to have music specific instructions for adding audio recordings. 

Helen also told us how they were very fortunate to have two other members of staff from Cambridge Libraries help but this also meant that Reading Lists had to be copied to word documents as getting access to Moodle was not possible. 

We also found out that Helen has been judging the BBC's 500 Words competition for Children and has been doing so for the last 9 years and told us how this years topic was "Coronavirus" so it was very interesting to hear all the children's stories. There is also a new 500 words: Black Lives Matter competition. 

500 Words - Helen Snelling

Finally we heard from Eleanor Barker and Veronica Phillips from the Medical Library. They told us about how they have both had to leap into online training very quickly since the shift to working from home. They both already do a lot of teaching and training in their roles, so this element was not new to them, but having to shift this to move online meant having to make some changes to the way they worked. 

They told us how they are now delivering sessions via Zoom or Google Meet, where attendees book in advance and get sent a joining link. They then use online software such as Padlet or Mentimeter for quizzes and polling, to emulate the same level of interactions you would get in face to face training. 

Top tips and reflections - Eleanor Barker and Veronica Phillips 

We were very fortunate for our speakers to take time to talk to us all about what they have been up to and there was certainly a lot to takeaway and think about. 

Write up by Katherine Burchell, Social Media Editor