Visit to the National Meteorological Office Library and Archive

National Meteorological Library

CILIP SW organised the visit to the Met Office Library and Archive on 15th November 2017. Sarah Pankiewicz, Library Manager, showed us round the Met Office Library which is used by both Met Office staff and the public. The 6 library staff come from a variety of backgrounds; library and information, astrophysics, Met Office scientist, etc. Their roles include cataloguing, procurement, journal management, book scanning, branding and tailoring the public facing catalogue, helping at the Met Office Archive and answering 150 – 200 enquiries per month. The team have had to transform the way they work due to increasing efficiency and natural staff reduction but this has also led to more integration between the library and archive.

Met Office Library 4

The library has Met Office records, journals, records from organisations across the world, books, computers and displays of historical met office equipment and material from the archive. Old journals are being scanned either on site or sent out for digitising when the budget allows. This helps preserve the material and is more accessible for the public and researchers. The library has books on meteorology, physics, climate, expeditions, etc but also has begun to concentrate on eBooks over the last couple of years and these are being accessed well. Reducing physical stock, lowering shelf height, making the library more user friendly, increasing access, etc all resonate with the direction my sector, public libraries, is going.

Met Office Library 8

Next was the visit to one of the supercomputer halls. There are 5 supercomputers which rank the Met Office as the 15th largest in the world. The halls are rows and rows of IT along with 20 air conditioning units to cool them. There are dual systems, automatic backing up of data and backup diesel generators to ensure no data is lost due to power failure.

Then we visited the Operations Centre which is a 24/7 environment with staff working 12 hour shifts. I was struck by the size and amount of monitors the staff were using and the atmosphere of quiet concentration. The centre is made up of different units: forecasting, global, flood forecasting, hazard, aviation, IT, media and customer service. The centre not only monitors the weather and makes forecasts but looks at trends, probabilities and impact.

The central part of the Met Office is an internal street. It is covered in slate paving slabs, has street lamps, a stream running through it, cafes, seating areas, etc. It will be a challenge to think of ways to bring across this social space into a library. We ate in the cafeteria decorated with clouds hanging from the ceiling!

Archive material

The Met Office Archive is by appointment only and situated in Great Moor House, a few minutes’ walk from the main Met Office building. It shares the building, public search room and staff workroom with the Devon Heritage Centre, but has separate strongrooms. Catherine Ross, Archivist, took us for a tour of 2 of the 4 Met Office strongrooms. There are fire shutters, fire doors, buffer corridors and gas suppressant systems to protect the stored material. An air curtain starts up as you enter the strongroom to help keep the temperature at 15–18°C. Tabulated data (information written in numeric form) and autographic data (the original data) are kept. There are also collections of historic equipment, expedition diaries, etc. It was fascinating to hear how the Met Office evolved, see the first synoptic chart 1859, the 5th June 1944 meteorological chart relied on for planning D-Day, Admiral Beaufort’s diary with original Beaufort Scale and by the 1807 diary the revised 12 stage Beaufort Scale and much more. Digitising records is ongoing, though reliant on funding, to help preservation and to improve access for the public and researchers.

I would recommend a visit and also having a look at their online resources. I explored their website and checked out the weather on the day I was born when I got home!


CILIP Conference 2017

Dr Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress

I successfully applied for and am very grateful that I gained a place at the CILIP Conference 2017 funded by Libraries Unlimited. It was great to network and collaborate with people who work in such a range of library and information roles and to listen to inspirational speakers. The core of Librarian of Congress Dr Carla Hayden’s session was that accessibility and engagement should be the driving force behind your library whether inner city or Library of Congress. Professor Luciano Floridi, University of Oxford, stressed that information is power, that the rapidly changing digital world is changing access to information and the importance of the role of library staff in supporting digital engagement and information literacy. Neil Macinnes, Strategic Lead – Libraries, Galleries and Culture, Manchester, again stressed accessibility and engagement and that the library should be the city’s living room, a flexible space and a trusted place for people to meet, learn, share and explore. I am refining my notes and resulting ideas and devising a plan to increase accessibility, engagement and digital support at my community library.

The Arup Future of Libraries Briefing was probably the workshop that had the most impact on me. The findings of the report will definitely be part of my planning for the future. When it came to group work and choosing the trend we thought most important to discuss we all agreed to choose access and affordability, even though my group came from very different libraries including a digital only library. The ideas we came up with to improve access and affordability I will adapt and use in my library.

CILIP conference workshop

The Impact and Evaluation workshop concentrated on identifying your stakeholder priorities and delighting your stakeholders. The hints and tips from the presentation and the ideas which evolved when working in pairs or groups sessions will inform my stakeholder engagement and planning. The Health and Wellbeing seminar explained the background to the new direction of the way NHS doctors work with patients and the increasing support role libraries will have with online information and provision of the Reading Well Books on Prescription. This information I will cascade to staff and give them time to explore the different trusted websites. The Literacy and Learning seminar explored the engagement of parents/carers in increasing literacy in children including Booktrust. The copyright workshop involved lots of thought provoking scenarios to work on in groups.

The conference was a great experience that I would highly recommend. I have developed my skills and knowledge, formed lots of ideas to pursue for my own library and service, made lots of new contacts and have come away enthused by this inspiring event.

Visit to Manchester Central Library 12th July 2017

Manchester Central Library

While in Manchester for the CILIP Conference 2017 I took the opportunity to book a tour of the Manchester Central Library, the second largest public lending library in the UK. The library was closed in 2010 for refurbishment and reopened in 2014. The library was altered so that 70% was accessible to the public and 30% non-public access, a reverse of the previous only 30% publicly accessible. Its aim to change from a library used by students, academics and researchers but few residents to an inclusive space with greater appeal has seen it move into the top ten Manchester visitor attractions on Trip Advisor.

The library is a wonderful mix of old and new. It now has modern glass lifts, a new Business and Intellectual Property Centre with 3D printer and the new Archives+ Centre with interactive interpretations and viewing stations for film archives and a British Film Institute (BFI) Mediatheque where visitors can watch over 2500+ BFI National Archive film and TV for free.

Virtual Archive

The original library on this site opened in 1934. The imposing domed circular Reading Room, Shakespeare Hall with stained glass windows and ceiling decorated with heraldic shields and the Chief Librarian’s office now meeting room with false bookcase doors and 1930s furniture all give it a sense of history. The Reading Room was well used and very quiet. The Henry Watson Music Library retains its traditional look but also contains a Dj mixing desk, pianos, drum kits, guitars and ukeles for people to play. Groups of people were using the musical instruments. To give room for the new Archives+ Centre the stacks have moved into the basement, in place of a theatre, and are kept in temperature controlled strong rooms with electric rolling stacks.

Reading Room

Across library walk is the town hall extension which now houses the City Lending Library, Children’s Library, Media Lounge, Race Relations Library, Children’s Centre, Tourist Information Centre and One-Stop-Shop Council Customer Service Centre including Job Centre, Citizens Advice and Job Club. The Children’s Library is designed as a secret garden with digital interactive screens and interactive floor projections. It appeared small for such a large library but touring at 6.30pm at night didn’t allow for seeing how it is used by children.

The library has 3000 – 5000 visitors per day, 4.1 million since it opened. The staff now work in open plan offices with and open plan staff room. There are workrooms for staff, volunteers and partners to work on archive. The drive to be more inclusive still continues. Funding has been found to employ a Communities Officer and Learning Officer. The Communities Officer goes out to deprived areas to break down the barrier of the library appearing intimidating. The Learning Officer goes into schools.

The library was impressive and further photographs can be found at The incorporation of interactive digital and use of outreach staff need further investigation as they would be great to integrate into Exeter Library and Exeter Stack to increase awareness and inclusion.

Libraries Data Discovery Day 19th March 2017

Library data day

30 people from libraries, councils, university, tech companies, etc came to Exeter Library for the first Libraries Unlimited Data Discovery Day. The day was run by ODI (Open Data Institute) Devon and was part of an Arts Council England funded two-year research project being carried out by Libraries Unlimited and the University of Exeter Business School to understand the impact of libraries on local communities in Devon.

Luke Burton from Newcastle Libraries shared their journey to releasing their data for anyone to use but explained that they aren’t yet at the stage of looking at outcomes and return on investment. This was followed by group discussions about the data we have, data we want, people and organisations we want to link with, equipment and what are the major questions we want the data to answer. The discussions really widened the scope of what we could do with so many possibilities of positive collaboration to discover health, economic, etc impact.

Beverley Hawkins of the University of Exeter Business School gave a presentation on organisational data and ethical enquiry. She gave an overview of the issues but also gave the advantages of consistent ethical practice. Lots of further discussion will need to follow and an open data policy to be devised. Gemma John, Architecture Anthropologist then talked about her project ‘Designing libraries in 21st century – lessons for the UK’. She explained about the types of data she collected from libraries across 2 continents and the data she collected from the surrounding areas. She used the data to show how people interact with library services and spaces. She gave me a copy of her report which I am looking forward to looking into in more depth.

This was followed by more group discussions and trying to amalgamate information into areas to try to discover the most important themes from the day. In discussion with Luke it appears that he and his colleague Aude Charillon are the staff involved in Newcastle’s Libraries open data project so to have 15 library staff from across Devon involved in Libraries Unlimited open data project is a very positive development. He felt that staff buying into the value of data is key. Other key themes that stood out were

  • Use the resources to achieve the best value so choose 3 or 4 things from the complexity of library data
  • Start small, experiment, put it out there, see what feedback you get and develop the culture of open data
  • Important to work out how to capture anecdotal evidence and use it.

It was a very interactive and collaborative day which I left feeling excited about the early visualisation of the data sets and further involvement in the project.

Effective Networking MOOC (Massive Open Online Course)


I am studying the Open University MOOC Effective Networking. I joined the MOOC because networking is an important part of my work but I feel awkward networking at events. The course is not just about lots of useful networking tips and how to prepare your elevator pitch, the course encourages you to evaluate yourself. Self-awareness – knowing your own emotions and Self-regulation – managing your own emotions have made me step back and think. I already know that I am going to be anxious and feel awkward therefore I just need to manage those emotions. Making the encounter about the other person, who are they and how can I help them, instead of about me is going to improve my networking.

The course continues on from face-to-face networking to look at online networking, particularly LinkedIn and blogging. All the preparation on the elevator pitch I found useful to improve my LinkedIn profile. Looking at my blog I see that I wrote 23 blogs in the 1st 2 years, around 1 blog a month. However this then rapidly dwindled, partly due to taking the time to complete 8 MOOCs. I am learning so much of use to me for my work but I need also to spend more time on reflecting on my learning. I chose the photo of Spring flowers as the course has energized me to look afresh at face-to-face networking, LinkedIn and blogging. I unequivocally recommend this course.

Exeter Start Up Weekend 20th – 22nd November 2015

Exeter Start Up Weekend is an exciting, informative and daunting challenge to set up a business in 54 hours. It is very well organised with links to information and videos about pitching, business planning, weekend schedule, etc sent beforehand. I with Sophie, another Business Champion at Exeter Library, wrote and practiced our pitch. We took advantage of a 1:1 pitch practice session with Matt Morley of Tickbox. Lots of helpful tips and a recording of our pitch sent to us!

Exeter Library business pitch

The Book Chooser start up idea one minute pitch

7 teams were chosen from the 30 pitches. Our pitch got lots of votes but unfortunately there weren’t enough tech attendees and as our idea was more technically difficult than others the Exeter Start Up Team could not pick us to go through. Still we came to learn so joined different teams where our interests and expertise could be of best use. I chose an accessible events platform as I have many years experience of teaching children with additional needs and supporting people to access library resources.

After team introductions it was all about the website to match accessible performances with people who have additional needs.  What was the value proposition? What did the website need to be able to do so that the amazing Tycho from Koncept could do the tech work on the website (while also doing the tech work for another team at the same time)? We booked mentor slots for the next morning so what questions did we want to ask them? 11pm and the Exeter University Innovation Centre closes.

Innovation Centre

Team Canvas, Value Proposition & Business Model Canvas templates

8.30am back at the innovation centre. Mentor support great so we now have a name and tag line: Cushion – making events more comfortable. Michael and Louise out and about doing face to face customer validation while Toby and myself on our laptops. I make my first Survey Monkey survey and reach out to my contacts in support organisations to disseminate it to their users. I use the local theatre and cinema websites to find out what accessible performances they are putting on for the website. I collect data from Exeter City and Devon County Councils about the number of people with additional needs to get statistics to back up our customer validation. We pull everything together and its 10pm and the innovation centre closes.

Michael making himself comfortable

My Social Media photo: Cushion – making events more comfortable

8.30am Sunday and it’s all about the pitch. The 5 minute pitch must be structured: MVP, validation, execution, business model and growth. The slide presentation will now have to show screen shots, not a working model of the website, as Tycho has flown off to Spain early this morning (he does have company offices there). Matt Pocock, the voice coach who won the previous Exeter Start Up Weekend, gave us some really helpful advice about our pitch. We alter the wording of the pitch and reduce the words on the slides for more impact.

Cushion Team

Toby, Louise, Me and Michael = the Cushion Team

It’s time to go up in front of the 5 judges. The pitch goes smoothly and we answer all the judges’ questions expanding on the information we had left out of the pitch. We are the people’s choice winners of the attendees and we achieve 2nd place from the judges.

I learnt so much and had so much fun. Different caterers set up outside for meals and snacks. The table tennis competition was hotly contested. The weekend was exciting and exhausting at the same time. Thank goodness I had booked Monday off!




I am trying out Goodreads.  I have rated 20 books and written a review of the latest book I have read.  There is a section that says copy and paste your review into your blog.  Therefore below is my review of 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.  I now need to explore Goodreads further.”

My rating: “” 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this delightful book and read it in one go. The difference in the styles of the American and British letters at the start of the book is intriguing. The reserved British would not have added a postscript of “I hope “madam” doesn’t mean over there what it does over here’ on a second book order letter” or “Well, the hell with it” after her rant in the third letter. I found the developing relationship between the Helene and the shop workers over 20 years fascinating. Her kindness in sending food parcels to the shop during the austerity of rationing, while being a writer with only fluctuating income herself, was a turning point in the relationship. I also liked the imagery she conjures up in her letters of these old precious “soft vellum and heavy cream-colored pages” books in her “orange-crate bookshelves”. I think the book I was reading made the story more special as my copy I borrowed from Exeter Library Stack of older books and had yellowed pages. A book I will definitely re-read.” View all my reviews