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Showing posts from September, 2014

Pillowcases and air freshener - the unexpected world of classic computers

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On the day of his retirement, Pete Turnbull introduces us to his museum of computing.
If you walked along the ground floor corridor of the Fairhurst Building last summer, you would have seen a display cabinet reflecting five decades of computing artefacts. The contents came from my collection of 'classic computers'.

My collection is quite small, comprising perhaps 65 machines, whereas my friend Jim has over 600. My smallest and probably cheapest computer is a single-board microcomputer only about 10cm square. The largest and most expensive is a Silicon Graphics Origin 2000, a 'supercomputer' once used by the Dutch weather bureau. It's almost identical to (though half the capacity of) a $1,000,000 system owned by Computer Science in the late 1990s. Luckily I only had to pay for beer when mine was donated. If that makes the CompSci outlay seem a little OTT, understand that the two acquisitions were six years apart.

Why do people collect these things? Well, they aren…

CILIP MmIT 2014

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On 11 - 12 September Ben Catt from our Serials & E-Resources team attended the CILIP MmIT 2014 Conference in Sheffield. Here’s his round-up of the event.

MmIT (Multimedia Information and Technology) is a special interest group of CILIP (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) which aims to unite forward-thinking members in exploring the role of new technology in information services. The group hosts an annual conference in which a key topic is explored by speakers and delegates from a range of library and information sectors. This year the two-day event was held at The Edge, University of Sheffield, and the topic was Sound & Vision in Librarianship: Going Beyond Words and Pictures. Here are a few highlights of some of the sessions attended: Penny Andrews presented the LibraryBox, a modified wireless router which can be used as a portable, inexpensive and secure digital distribution tool. Penny demonstrated how LibraryBox, funded through a successful Ki…

It’s 'Banned Books Week' in the USA!

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Each year, the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom documents hundreds of attempts by individuals and groups to have books removed from libraries and classrooms. September 21–27 is the official week when these books are celebrated in the United States.

According to a recent article in TIME magazine, part of the reason why book banning remains so prevalent in the U.S. is that “the challenges to books happen mostly on a local level. The federal government stays out of it, but individual schools and libraries are ... eager to protect everybody from hazards like ugly words, sedition, blasphemy, unwelcome ideas and, perhaps worst of all, reality.”

The ALA publishes a list of all the complaints they receive and if you can name an author, chances are they're on it: from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Philip Pullman and children's author Judy Blume, to JK Rowling (several times), John Steinbeck and Stephen King.
Here are a few of the most well-known titles on their ‘c…

Happy 20th birthday to YorkWeb!

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Mike Brudenell looks back to the birth of the University website...

It's 11:55am on Monday, 19 September 1994. Several members of the Computing Service are gathered in our D/104 high performance workstation room in Derwent College, anxiously looking at our watches. Radio York said they'd be here for noon but there's still no sign…
We're about to launch the University's first ever website: the culmination of an accidental discovery and a year of hard work.


I joined the Systems Group within the Computing Service (now IT Services) in July 1988. The following year, our group were lucky enough to receive money from our departmental Innovation Fund to buy a computer, write some software, and create our Information Server. Recognising how useful it would be for people to see information and reference material online, we’d put in a bid to devise something to meet this need.


Over the next five years the Information Server was expanded as more and more departments started puttin…

Behind every great woman...is herself

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Rummaging through the York Art Gallery collection again, we found a clutch of artists sometimes better-known not for their art, but for the men in their lives. Ilka Heale puts them back in the spotlight.Hilda Anne Carline (1889–1950) was a British painter and (coincidentally) first wife of the artist Stanley Spencer. Born into a family of painters - her father was George Carline and her brothers Richard and Sydney - she studied at the Slade School of Art.
In 1919 she first met Stanley Spencer at a family dinner; they married a few years later in 1925 and had two daughters. The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography notes that "the years preceding her marriage were particularly productive: she benefited from the intellectual stimulus and challenge provided by ... the gatherings at the Carlines' home ... and like her brothers she exhibited regularly with the London Group."

In 1932, Spencer started a relationship with Patricia Preece which would lead to Hilda and Stanley …

Northern Collaboration Conference 2014

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A delegation from the Information Directorate attended this year’s Northern Collaboration Conference, hosted by Teesside University on Friday 5 September.
So what is the Northern Collaboration? In theory it’s “a group of 26 academic libraries in the north of England [which] aims to provide a framework within which libraries can work together to improve the quality of services, to be more efficient, and to explore new business models.” 
And in practice that’s exactly what happens - Friday’s conference was on the theme of ‘Engagement and Audiences’ and it was full of ideas worth pinching! On a blazing hot day in Teesside we heard from lots of speakers, all sharing innovations implemented at their institution. Here are just a few of the sessions we attended:
Derfel Owen of the University of Exeter gave the keynote address on ‘Working in Partnership with Students’. He explained that students are becoming increasingly fundamental to supporting change in HE, and that institutions are workin…

Celebrating Roald Dahl Day!

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Saturday was Roald Dahl Day. In a guest blog from the Department of Education,Dr Victoria Elliott discusses the author's impact - personal and professional. It won’t be a huge surprise to anyone that as an English in Education lecturer, Matilda is my favourite Roald Dahl book. In fact when Matilda came out in 1988 I was offered a choice of birthday present (I was 8). I could either have Matilda as a hardback (now!) or I could have some new clothes (which I really needed) and Matilda when it came out in paperback. I still have the hardback.

Matilda is a tribute to the power of reading in people’s lives, and particularly their education. Through reading, we step into other people's shoes and live lives we could never dream of. We can learn to empathise with others, and we can gather the 'cultural literacy' to interact with our society and heritage. Reading for pleasure is immensely important for young people’s educational success.

For an English educationalist Matilda is …

If you go down to the woods today…

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There's something which links Cockatoo Island in Sydney, a quiet spot near Janet's Foss in the Yorkshire Dales, the University of Stirling, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the Chelsea Physic Garden, and the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale in Kent.

Literate bees.

Between 2012 and 2014 the artist and poet Alec Finlay selected and read a number of bee-themed books after which he took each text and transformed it into a home for solitary or wild bees. The numbers of these little garden juggernauts are in slow decline so the creation of the nests was both practical-minded and creative. A collection of poems inspired by a close-reading of the books also resulted from the project.

With the arrival of July came the annual Information Directorate staff development festival. Day Two focused on teamwork. This year, after a morning of presentations, members of the Content Department - that’s the people who buy, catalogue, and manage everything which goes in the library - had the opport…