Monday, 30 August 2021

July event: Law Librarianship and AI


Law Librarianship and Artificial Intelligence by Jake Hearn

For the last talk of this academic year the Cambridge Library Group welcomed Jake Hearn for a presentation about law librarianship and artificial intelligence. His interest in the topic has developed from his library masters research at UCL.

Jake began by talking about his career path and identified the tasks and roles in his current job at an international London law firm:

Graphical user interface, text, application, email

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The term artificial intelligence was coined by John McCarthy in 1955 for a conference. Jake set about demystifying how artificial intelligence is being used within the legal information environment. He belives that it is necessary to ensure that the term does “not alienate the general public” through a “better understanding of the technology which it encompasses”. AI is now generally used to “refer to (sophisticated) computer software which has been programmed to automate routine tasks” and can be divided into three types:

Machine learning

Natural language processing

Knowledge Reasoning

Jake gave examples of the technologies being used such as:

  • Thomson Reuters use of natural language processing in Westlaw and the Practical Law Dynamic Tool Set.

  • software such as Kira where firms can upload contracts in batch and conduct contract analysis.

  • And the research project between Oxford University’s Law Faculty and BAILLI which provides the open access data of UK and Commonwealth judgments.

The USA seem to be more ahead of the UK with the use of AI and there are more published case studies, one example being the Case Access Project. It was a Harvard University Project which is open access, now holding over 6 million cases. The law librarians at Harvard were key players on the project which demonstrates that there is a place for us in the field. This data was also used in the Historical Trends tool. Jake showed us an example of how it works.

There are discussions about what skills do modern workers need, such as digital literacy. This chimes with many information professionals existing skills. A UK Government strategy is due to be published later this year.

During the talk and the question and answer session ethics were touched on. Privacy and data protection (if storing and recalling previous contracts and cases) has to be considered, the bias of results – AI reproduces what it knows and doesn’t aid diversity (even just in the ranking of results) - is relevant. When we employ lawyers are we not paying for the human empathy aspect as well as their expertise – is it fair to charge a large sum if decisions made by an algorithm?

Most importantly law librarians, and librarians in general, need not be apprehensive about AI as we already have the relevant skills. Law librarians know the issues with searching, natural language processing, bias - the gaps, the problems and different results that can be obtained. 

He highlighted this excellent quote from SR Ranganathan to remind us that a library is a growing organism that works alongside the organisation it serves. We are always evolving and developing and have encompassed many new technological developments in the past.

Post contributed by Kate Faulkner, Squire Law Library, Cambridge

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

June event - Gytha Lodge discussing her career as a writer and writing for computer games and currently writing her fourth novel.

 Despite being on holiday Gytha was kind enough to give us a talk on her wide ranging career and experiences. From theatre work, to writing her own books and a range of writing for video games both large and small.

As with many people we've met through the CLG you can really tell that Gytha is someone that has been really embedded into what they wanted to go. She quit her job to go and work in the theatre full time, working in various fringes and London's Leicester Square and gaining lots of experience. But bubbling underneath was always the desire to write books.

Feeling the need to focus on writing she did the UEA Creative Writing MA and that really seems to be the place that really allowed her skills to explode with the supportive teaching and continued feedback from other writers.

Especially one of the scriptwriting tutors teaching her how to pitch an idea to agents, something that had not been working up to that point.

It turns out her synopses made no sense whatsoever. As a writer she broke down the story as plot points instead of how a "normal" person would describe a story. Which sounds very sensible but we all know how what we think can seem strange to others. And it obviously worked as after that was changed she managed to get a lot of interest from agents who wanted to want work with her.

But she knew who she wanted to work with who was an agent that she had previously met in the ladies loos at Ely Cathedral! 

Your agent needs to be your mentor, friend but also the person that can say harsh things when they need to when it comes to feedback on your book. They need to be tough as they are going to be the ones going out and trying to sell it in a really intensive market.

But in Gytha's case even with the great agent no publishers were interesting  in taking her on from the first pitch.

So her agents suggested writing the second book and pitching that one instead and the first one will be easier to sell later.

Having a child and needing to actually have  money coming in she took a step back from theatre and moved into copywriting and marketing for a translation form and then slid into writing for video games.

This was working on games that had been moved over from Japan and China and they needed someone that could write good scenes in English and that did lead into actually pitching games.

This ranged from big MMO games to smaller mobile games including one of her favourite games from when she was younger, Heroes of Might and Magic where she got to make up new stories for the characters she loved. Which must be very filling both personally and financially!

But she still needed to finish her book so took a holiday and finished it off.

And 5 years after being signed with her agent she got a contract offer on her book.

But unfortunately the amount offered would not allow her to leave her job and allow her to fulfill the dream of being a full-time writer. But the value of a good agent came out again and as Gytha was now in demand she could prod other publishers to see if anyone else would be interested.

Penguin came with an offer. That was 10 times the size of the first offer. And even then her agent thought they should be paying more for the world rights. And they did.

After 21 years of wanting a publishing contract it didn't feel real but Gytha could now write full time.

Such an amazing journey and story that was amazing to hear.

Unsurprisingly there were a lot of questions from members. People wanting to know more about how to get into writing for video games, how to get an agent (some answers being to summarise your novel in one line, get other people you trust to be honest to read your first three chapters as it's amazing what you might miss). There does seem to be a lot of people in the CLG who have something just waiting to burst out and our talks bring out the opportunity to quiz those who have made it to help them on their way.

We also found out how her main character, their background and the whole detective team came about (clue: it was a suggestion from her agent) and how she has not written the titles of any book. Yet that is!

The online events we have been having have been packed full of great information and wonderful stories. We are very lucky to have people like Gytha happy to talk to us :)

Kevin Symonds

Research Governance and Information Manager - MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences

Friday, 20 August 2021

May Event: Sara Rawlinson: Illuminating Cambridge Libraries: a 3 year photographic project on Cambridge Libraries


We all know certain Libraries around Cambridge. Maybe from working there, visiting colleagues or indeed attending CLG meetings in various locations. But when we can see into them in such amazing detail through Sara's work it really does open them up to us in so many ways.

I must say that personally I had presumed that the whole project was actually a commission from the University because of course these great photographs are both wonderful art pieces but also great adverts for various elements of Cambridge's college libraries and the University as a whole. But no. Totally based on Sara's desires to explore her skills and to really get to know Cambridge better it is a wonderful representation of the college libraries. And the views and angles of aspects of the libraries that Sara chose to give us an insight into. And that it took 3 years which shows the great dedication she has put into this.

Following the Who, What, Where, When, Why and How of the project Sara took us through her route through a variety of issues. From choices made for old or new libraries, which people she worked with or indeed around and what permissions needed to be gained. And how she could actually get the work done in all the different locations and varied equipment she had at her disposal over time.

College Libraries are a wonderful mixture of old and new (sometimes  library buildings of both types in the same college) that represent the changing times and requirements in the colleges and by extension the University itself. It also shows the real diversity of what Cambridge has to offer it's students. Some people might only see their own college Library whilst a student and they are missing out. Sara's book gives us all a great view of some of what we are missing.


I was hoping that someone would have bought me a copy of the book for my birthday but guess I will have to do it myself!

Oh I just have from Sara's Amazon page :)

When things are back to normal I will look forward to Sara's next exhibition she puts on as her work is certainly well worth seeing. More details will be on her website:

Kevin Symonds - Committee Secretary/Research Governance and Information Manager MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit


Sunday, 23 May 2021

April event: Ask a Trainee

 Ask a Trainee Event

On Wednesday 28th April 2021, the Cambridge Library Trainees from St John’s, Trinity, Queens’, Pembroke, and Newnham Colleges were excited to speak to the CLG about their experiences over the course of this year. It was a great evening to be a part of, and all of us thoroughly enjoyed sharing what we have been up to in our libraries. Below is a summary of what we discussed.

What is a Library Trainee?

The graduate library traineeship is a year-long appointment which aims to give a recent graduate student (paid!) experience of working in a library before they undertake a professional qualification in librarianship; this extended experience being a prerequisite for many Master’s courses. Although most trainees do proceed to the Master’s, there is no expectation that they will do so: the focus is on introducing the trainee to a working library environment and allowing them to decide whether the career is right for them. 

Although all trainees present at the talk worked at constituent colleges of the University of Cambridge, there are trainees in all varieties of libraries across the UK – including school, law, and specialist libraries. 

The daily routines of trainees vary between colleges, but can include activities such as reshelving; classifying, cataloguing, processing, and withdrawing books; creating displays, and managing social media. Training and workshops form a key part of the traineeship, which are given both within and outside the college, on topics such as cataloguing, creating exhibitions, and decolonising through critical librarianship. Usually trips to other libraries would be a key part of this training; however, since this has not been possible this year, we have had other insights such as virtual tours and group discussions. 

The trainees have been involved in several collaborative projects together, which can be found here: 

Twitter: @LibraryTrainees 

Website: (with information about traineeships, excellent for anyone applying) 

Recent collaborative blog post on Decolonising through critical librarianship: 

Covid-19 Adaptations

A central part of this year's traineeships has been helping to adapt library services to COVID restrictions. While COVID has obviously been a disruption to the trainees experiencing normal library services, it has meant that there are certain aspects of librarianship that they have been able to experience more of.

A large part of all the trainees' jobs has been helping with services that enable students to use resources which COVID restrictions are preventing them from accessing. These services include: Click and Collect, Scan and Deliver and posting books to students who are not in Cambridge. Alongside these services, they have been helping point students towards the right form for book acquisitions, both e-books and physical books, and helping organise inter-college loans. As well as helping provide access to academic resources, the libraries have been acquiring resources for students’ enjoyment when they have been stuck in their rooms over lockdown. All the trainees’ libraries have been expanding their collections of light reading books/General interest books, DVDs, welfare-related books, and a couple of the libraries have been loaning puzzles (which has meant counting all the pieces to make sure that they are there on return!). These welfare adaptations have been a great chance to see that libraries contribute to more than just the academic side of users’ lives. 

Not having students in the library has meant the trainees have not been able to interact with them as they usually would. This has meant getting more creative with the ways in which the library and students interact, such as posting a ‘Resource of the Day’ on Facebook, Pinterest book browsing displays, organising virtual study spaces, and virtual study skills sessions. These uses of virtual spaces to continue to provide services to students when they are unable to access the physical space of the library has shown the trainees that libraries are much more than just the physical space, and physical collections.

While this year's traineeships have not been what the trainees originally expected there are many ways that this has been a beneficial experience. Stepping into these roles during COVID has encouraged the trainees to think about libraries beyond just the physical collections. Seeing the variety of other ways libraries are important to users' lives will be great knowledge to take forward into a career in libraries.


For his part of the presentation, Harry spoke about our cataloguing training, using his experience of rare book cataloguing in the Queens’ Old Library as a focus point. He did have some experience working in a library with a large 19th-century collection before starting his traineeship, and so was drawn to the work with even older books that he would experience at Queens'. Although the breakout of the pandemic and the following lockdown meant that he could not start work in the library at the time originally planned, he shared with the CLG how he still received great remote training and how he could still participate in the Old Library cataloguing project without even stepping foot in Cambridge. Colleagues sent him books to read about book history, and he went through a remote crash-course of rare book cataloguing with the Rare Books Curator. Using various online resources, he was still able to contribute to the project, and the lockdown actually helped to divide his training into stages, as he could wait a few months before learning about putting binding and provenance information into his records. This experience was great preparation for the cataloguing training sessions all the trainees attended, where we learned RDA cataloguing for new acquisitions.

Collection Management

For all of us starting in 2020, having so few readers about last summer really allowed us to get to know our libraries before term started in October. More than previous trainees, we had the time to get to know our collections and really think about how we could make the library serve college members best. A lot of housekeeping could be done, and a lot of thought could go into how we arrange and classify our material. A lot of our librarians seem to have had the same idea, and several of us have been involved in reclassification projects and book moves. Jimmy (Pembroke) has probably had the biggest task here, helping to change his library’s classification system from numeric to alpha-numeric, and reclassifying books into more suitable sections in the process.

Vicky (Trinity) spoke about what she has learnt from other libraries and training workshops when classifying material. For example, the library at Trinity has acquired a lot of Hebrew and Arabic novels that are on a reading list for the English tripos, either in translation or originally written in English. Our workshop on decolonising library spaces (see link to our blog post above) flagged up the importance of classification systems in establishing hierarchies of information and making value judgements about different contributions to a field. One of the examples used in this workshop was the English faculty library, where a lot of the postcolonial literature has now been integrated into the main class scheme, so that it is recognised as an important aspect of English literature rather than just a marginal offshoot. Vicky had to think through these same questions when figuring out where new Hebrew and Arabic novels fit within Trinity’s own library scheme, in a way that doesn’t marginalise them within the English section, but also doesn’t relegate them all to Asian and Middle Eastern Studies either. It’s been a challenge to balance the need to classify information in a way that’s accurate and doesn’t marginalise underrepresented voices and perspectives with the need to cater to our users when they come with their reading lists that might compartmentalise things differently.

Getting to know our college libraries’ classification schemes was made easier by the peace and quiet brought about by COVID, but the pandemic has made it a lot harder to figure out how our circulation systems work. Our libraries have had to be much more flexible with our loan rules, either because users were unable to return to college or felt uncomfortable with coming into the library regularly. The main challenge has been to do with posting books out to students during Lent Term, when most of them were studying remotely. Where Trinity hasn’t already had a copy, Vicky and her colleagues have been posting out books directly from the suppliers to the students without processing them in the library first, so that students could get hold of these books well in advance of essay deadlines. Each book was given a temporary item record and classmark. As students are slowly returning, these books are starting to trickle back in, so the librarians can check them in manually and process them properly, making sure all the right records are attached to each other or deleted where appropriate. As trainees we can hardly claim credit for masterminding these changes to our circulation systems, but we have definitely benefitted from having to think more about why our normal workflows for processing and circulating books are the way they are, and how they can be adapted to meet users’ needs. 

College Heritage

Working on projects which are linked to the heritage of the College is one of the less prominent aspects of a trainee’s role, but is nonetheless one that features in all the Cambridge traineeships as it provides an important opportunity for training and development. As with almost every other aspect of our roles, each trainee’s individual approach to this theme is completely dependent on the particular college they are at. This year all five of us have had a variety of different projects to work on, which have been thoroughly enjoyable.  

Katie (St John’s) has worked closely with the Biographical Librarian at St John’s, helping to deal with enquiries from the general public which has included undertaking research using the College resources. She has also helped to input data and update the files of John’s alumni following degree ceremonies, as well as doing quick information checks for the Biographical Librarian using resources which are physically in the Library. In addition to this, Katie has also been working on a more long-term cataloguing project for the Special Collections in the Old Library, following the donation of several boxes of personal papers of a prominent early 20th-century geologist. This has been a slow-moving project as a result of the pandemic, however it has been an invaluable experience in learning how to sort and catalogue collections like this from scratch.  

Jimmy (Pembroke) and Katherine (Newnham) have also had the chance to work on similar projects in their respective libraries. Following the death of a Fellow, Jimmy accompanied the Pembroke Archivist to the Fellow’s house to help look through the substantial rare books collection that had been bequeathed to the College. This was a great experience in getting to see how decisions about what to keep are made by libraries, as unfortunately college libraries (as with all libraries!) only have limited space, and cannot keep absolutely everything. Katherine has also been working her way through the personal library of a prominent Newnham alum. This project has involved listing the items contained in the collection, and determining what should be kept and what should be sold on.

The final two trainees, Vicky (Trinity) and Harry (Queens’) have had a very different, but equally as interesting, type of involvement with College heritage. Vicky has overseen the signing of the Matriculation book in the Wren Library, which is an important annual tradition at Trinity. She has also written several blog posts on recent acquisitions, as well as short articles for the alumni magazine on highlights from the collections, in order to help showcase the exciting things the College holds in addition to their beautiful manuscripts. Harry has been busy creating a bibliography of books published by Queens’ members in the 18th century with an aim of helping research within the College, and has also participated in the College’s slavery investigation. He also plays a crucial role in the library by helping students to find and access resources to facilitate their research.  

Our College Heritage projects this year have potentially been somewhat overshadowed by Covid-19, however we have still all managed to gain important experience in this area. It is perhaps something which is unique to the Cambridge traineeships, since it is something which is unique to the Cambridge colleges. It has been a pleasure to be involved in these projects, and all of us are looking forward to further developing the skills we have learned.

We really enjoyed participating in this event, and would like to thank the CLG for inviting us to speak and for asking us some great questions during the Q&A – who says you have to be quiet to work in a Library!

Contributed by the 2020-21 Graduate Trainees 

Wednesday, 5 May 2021

CLG March Talk: Copyright, Plagiarism and all that Jazz – Margaret Jones

Our March online talk for the Cambridge Library Group was given by Margaret Jones, Music Collections Supervisor, Cambridge University Library, who impressed all of us with her amazing grasp of the intricacies of music copyright. All the examples were based on real life enquiries received by the Music Department of the UL, and if you thought copyright for books was complicated enough…read on!

She explained a Performing Rights Return (PRR) – showing an example of a scruffy piece of paper which was the Return for The Swiss Family Robinson – a Walt Disney film made in the 1950s. This shows the film cues during which the music was played, details of the composer or arranger (or both), the company responsible for production, how many seconds of music was used for each section of the film, and the percentage of rights money that the composer will accrue. Although now this is all done electronically, the PRR remains the way the film company work out who they owe the money to, and the way that Rights organisations distribute payments for the composer’s work.

In the UK, the PRS (Performing Rights Society) and the MCPS (Mechanical Copyright Protection Society) collect money on behalf of the composer and performers for everything from adverts and variety shows to major blockbuster films or BBC costume dramas. This is one of the vital links between copyright and composers earnings.

In the UK, Fair Use (an exception to use copyright material for education purposes) being generally accepted that users can copy up to 5% of a volume, is not applied to music in the same way. Every musical work is copyrighted separately, so an anthology of Beatles songs for example or a hymnal, each song has its own copyright and so cannot be copied.

Margaret’s talk then expanded to give examples from West Side Story, Purcell’s Rondeau and Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, and investigated the links between a Clementi sonata, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders and A Groovy Kind of Love, which was fascinating in its detail.

The talk concluded with a look at the Higher Education Music Licence which is being trialled this year by the University of Cambridge, and allows enhanced copying for students registered on performance-based music courses.

Post contributed by Helen Snelling, CLG Membership Secretary and Pendlebury Librarian.

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Being a School Librarian - post contributed by Denise Lawrence

Being a School Librarian – What is it like? A presentation by Janet Syme MA MCLIP

by Librarian, Simon Balle All-through School

A Cambridge Library Group Zoom Event held on Wednesday 10th February 2021

I have only recently joined the Cambridge Library Group, so I was delighted to attend the recent Zoom presentation which Janet Syme recently gave to CLG members. Janet and I have been friends and fellow school Librarians for many years, and I have visited her Library on several occasions, so I was very much looking forward to her presentation.

Janet began by taking us through her career in Libraries, starting with her work as a SCONUL Trainee at the Bodleian Library Oxford, then on to UCL where she achieved her MA, after which she became a Rare Book Cataloguer at Founder’s Library at the Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge. From there, Janet became Assistant Librarian at the Department of Trade and Industry, being seconded to the Department of National Heritage (now DCMS). All of this varied experience of the world of Librarianship would have been excellent preparation for the challenges and changes of becoming a School Librarian at Simon Balle All-through School in Hertford, where Janet has been Librarian for the past 18 years.

Janet has seen and been involved in many changes over the years at Simon Balle. From a secondary school, Simon Balle developed into an all-through school, welcoming the first intake of 60 Reception pupils in September 2015. Previously the Library was extensively re-modelled in 2010, and the primary phase Larch Library was opened in the new primary building a few years ago. Janet was now in charge of two libraries in two different buildings on the same site. As more primary classes are welcomed each year, by September 2021 there will be two Libraries serving the needs of 420 primary pupils, 1150 secondary students from Reception to 6th Form and a staff of 200.

So what does this entail? As Librarian, Janet works 28 hours per week and is assisted by Mr Kevin Belsey when his duties as Cover Supervisor allow. She is supported by parent helpers, 10 Year 5 Larch Librarians in primary and a team of Student Librarians and Sixth Form Library Supervisors in the secondary Library. Janet runs Library sessions including storytime for Reception children and Library lessons for six Year 7 classes each week. The school uses the Accelerated Reader programme where students take online tests to determine their reading age and take an online quiz after finishing each book to assess their reading comprehension. The AR programme is designed to improve literacy and produces detailed statistical reports which please Ofsted! Janet also supports Sixth Formers undertaking the EPQ so must ensure that the Libraries support the curriculum and leisure reading needs of children from Reception to young adults in Sixth Form as well as staff.

With the English Department Janet facilitates the Lower School Book Club, the Carnegie Book Club and the school is also a testing centre for the Federation of Children’s Book Group’s annual Children’s Book Award. The Library hosts special events eg Staff Coffee and Cakes, Easter Book Reviewing, Quizzes and Speakers Corner. Janet also organizes the annual Book Festival with lots of visiting authors which is always a highly successful event in the school calendar.

Covid 19 and Lockdowns have presented many challenges to schools and Librarians. During the 1st and current 3rd Lockdown Janet worked from home, providing an e-Library using the Accessit library management system, e-Books and free resources, setting up a Click & Collect service when school returned. The new e-newsletter Off The Shelf is also proving very popular.

A very interesting event, well-presented, informative and enjoyable. Thank you, Janet!

Account by

Denise Lawrence MCLIP

Librarian Ridgeway Academy

School Librarianship with Janet Syme

CLG Talk 10th February 2021

CLG were fortunate enough on Wednesday 10th February to receive a talk from Janet Syme, the school librarian of Simon Balle all-through school in Hertfordshire.

Janet spoke about her diverse career which led to her becoming a school librarian, starting within academic librarianship and pivoting to school librarianship, initially as part of a jobshare before proceeding to a full-time role. Janet’s 17-year tenure at Simon Balle had seen many changes and challenges in the school infrastructure, including a major remodelling of the library, the introduction of a primary-age library, and of course the response to the COVID pandemic.

Image from Janet Syme of the Library.

As an all-through school which encompasses both primary and secondary age children, Simon Balle presents unique challenges and opportunities. Janet talked us through various initiatives which the school librarian was involved in across age groups, which included:

  • Reading with early years groups – while children used to come over to the secondary school building for ‘reading time’, there had been a transition to a weekly after-school group in which children and parents chose books – this had proved popular.
  • A reader’s programme for transition between Years 6 and 7, now starting earlier at Year 5 – this transitionary programme was facilitated by the unique all-through nature of the school.
  • The opportunity for sixth formers to become student library helpers, providing CV experience.
  • Involvement with the EPQ – a 5,000 word project and presentation for sixth formers; the school librarian assists with accessing resources.

Janet spoke about the importance of the library to the school community, providing a safe haven for many students, particularly those who find unstructured time in the school day quite difficult to deal with. The fiction section in particular was said to be extremely well used, and up to 100 students could be in the library at a break or lunchtime.

An online reading programme was described in some detail which provides 130 levels of reading, with books assigned to each level. There were some surprises – the Mr Men books are ranked about a level 5 difficulty, while Harry Potter is a 5.5, and classics tend to be level 6 and up. Although some claimed the programme can be too prescriptive, it does well in providing interactive opportunities – including an online comprehension quiz – and useful statistics to assess student attainment. The school held a competition based around this online reading programme – with diverse categories including most improved reader – and with prizes including having afternoon tea with the headteacher!

Events in the library were said to be plentiful and productive – the library had had particular success with a ‘Speaker’s Corner’ event, in which students and staff spoke for 10 minutes about a topic of their choosing and participated in a Q&A afterwards. A ‘Book Fiesta’ was also part of the school calendar, in which authors and illustrators attended the school and spoke to year groups. The aim was for every student to hear one of these talks – no small task in a school of over 1500 pupils!

Children's Library

Finally, Janet spoke about the library’s response to the pandemic. This involved a robust elibrary, a Click and Collect service, staggered lunch times, and the extended use of student librarians in lieu of parent helpers – including children helping with some straightforward shelving.

It was a pleasure to listen to Janet and hear her evident and infectious enthusiasm for the job – and multiple members expressed an interest in visiting the school and its exciting libraries once circumstances allowed. As a current academic library trainee whose traditional scheduled library visits have been put on hold due to current restrictions, I found the talk incredibly valuable in demonstrating a very different kind of librarianship, and one which might be considered in the future. Thank you to Janet for her talk.

Post contributed by Katherine Knight, Graduate Trainee, Newnham College, Cambrdge