Wednesday, 22 April 2015

What do Radiohead, the comedian Steve Martin, and Big Bird all have in common?

Ilka Heale knows . . .

'Sounds' by Fe Ilya. Reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence.
Last month it was announced that 25 sound recordings have been selected for preservation and added to the US Library of Congress' National Recording Registry. Each year, the Library of Congress (LoC) chooses recordings that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant".

Amongst them was the public-nominated 'OK Computer' by Oxford's Radiohead. Released in 1997, this was the band's third album but their first to reach number one in the charts. The album's abstract lyrics, densely layered sound and wide range of influences laid the groundwork for their later, more experimental work.

Album cover photo by Mr.Smashy.  Reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence.
Since 2002, the National Recording Preservation Board (NRPB) and members of the public have nominated recordings to the National Recording Registry. The Library is currently accepting nominations for the next registry at the NRPB website.

Another recording added was an album of songs from the US children's TV series Sesame Street (remember that?). With its catchy theme song, the programme was first broadcast in 1969. Using music as an integral part of the educational development for young children, the programme's songwriters wrote songs that covered a wide range of genres such as country-and-western, jazz, opera, Latin dance tunes and even Romanian fiddle tunes! The quality of music attracted to the show a diverse mix of musicians such as B.B King, One Direction, R.E.M and Feist.

Sesame Street 10th Anniversary Album, photo by Luke GattusoReproduced under a Creative Commons Licence.
Steve Martin's 1978 album of comic songs, 'A Wild and Crazy Guy', also made the LoC list. Now a Grammy award winning musician, Martin plays the banjo and sings with the Bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers.

For the entire list of 25 sound recordings go to:

And it isn't just the US who are running a sound preservation project. On 12 January 2015, the British Library launched a new initiative called Save our Sounds. One of the main aims of this programme is to preserve as much as possible of the nation's rare and unique sound recordings - not just those in the British Library's collections but also key items from partner collections across the UK.

Sound collections at York

  • In the Library’s Fairhurst Building, we have the John Barry Audiovisual collection which includes our large collection of music CDs and DVDs. You can search for titles using the University Library catalogue YorSearch. To narrow down your search you can select the audiovisual category from the menu on the left of the screen.
  • Along with our physical collections, we also have access to a list of electronic audio resources. For a full list, please see the Music subject guide.
  • In a joint venture between the Music Department and the Borthwick Institute for Archives, the University of York Sound Archives contains sound recording collections available for teaching, research and listening.

For more information on this post . . .

  • Although we do not have any of their CDs in our collection, there are several books about Radiohead on the catalogue, including a musical score for the songs on 'OK Computer'.
  • For books by and films starring Steve Martin, search the University Library catalogue, YorSearch.

Friday, 17 April 2015

JSTOR is amazing

Academic Liaison Librarian, Ned Potter, explains how JSTOR can help you improve your research, essays and grades.

JSTOR is a massive collection of online journals and books, which you can access via the E-resources guide. It is full of literally millions of high quality academic articles (which Google can’t find!) for you to read there and then, and use in your research and cite in essays and reports. JSTOR is amazing. Not only can this resource save you time, but it can help make your grades better. You can access it from anywhere in the world that you have an internet connection, including on your mobile, and as you can see, it covers many academic disciplines:

How to find what you need on JSTOR

As well as appearing on the E-resources guide, you may also see links to JSTOR on your Department’s Subject Guide. Accessing the resource in either of these ways ensures it knows you are from York, and so gives you the access you are entitled to. (The library has paid for access to JSTOR on your behalf, so don’t go direct to or it may try and charge you for access to something you’re eligible to use for free.)

When you search JSTOR it will default to only display ‘Content I can access’. You may wish to occasionally press the ‘All content’ button below the search box to see what else is on there, but as long as you’re in the ‘Content I can access’ mode you should be able to read in full text the articles and books you find. You can read on screen, or save the PDF to view later, or print things out.

When you run a search on JSTOR it searches throughout the full text. So when you type in something like ‘20th century film’ it isn’t just searching the titles and descriptions of the articles and chapters, it’s searching within them as well. This allows you to find really specific sections to cite and reference in your work – but it also means you’ll bring back a LOT of results for most searches you do. In order to reduce the number to a more manageable amount, use the Advanced Search. (In fact, as a rule of thumb, it’s always worth using the Advanced Search with the databases the library subscribes to.)

This allows you to layer your search terms, meaning you spend less time searching and more time finding because you tell JSTOR your very specific requirements. You can also limit your search to just articles, or just publications from the time period of your choosing. For the most efficient search, keep the box to ‘Include only content I can access’ ticked, but untick the ‘Include links to external content’ box – this will guarantee you have access to the full text of everything you find.


Finally, even though you have access to JSTOR as a result of your being at the University of York, you can also set up your own (free) account within the database. This is known as MyJSTOR and can be found on the navigation bar which stays at the top of the screen as you search and browse. MyJSTOR will allow you to save your searches, email and export your references, and even receive email alerts when a new article is added which matches your criteria.  It’s well worth using, and more info on how to sign up can be found online.

Any questions about how this resource works, let us know in the comments or get in touch with your Academic Liaison Librarian.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Civil servants and faithful hounds

Tom Grady gets a bit lost in the Library catalogue. 

I was doing some research recently, trying to find pictures of greyhounds in the Library’s Art Gallery Gift Collection. It turns out they’re difficult animals to track down (in more ways than one). We have a few books devoted to ‘sporting and animal prints’ but most of the ones I found depicted only stilted hunting scenes, improbably high-stepping horses, and barrel-shaped pigs.

A fairly typical 19th century depiction of a pig. "Gloucester Old Spot by John Miles 1834" by John Miles.
 Photograph of original. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
And then I came across this book and - as is often the case - I got a bit sidetracked: The German drawings in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle by Edmund Schilling [London ; New York : Phaidon, 1971].

It has an innocuous-enough sounding sub-title: “Supplements to the catalogues of Italian and French drawings, with a history of the Royal Collection of Drawings, by Anthony Blunt” but the name caught my eye.

Anthony Blunt. The wartime Russian spy.

The scandal of a Soviet spy-ring at the heart of the 1940’s British establishment tends to be the main thing everyone remembers about Blunt (and Burgess and Philby). Clearly I’m as guilty as anyone of that but, among many other achievements Blunt was responsible for the Queen’s collection of pictures, and was the director of the Courtauld Institute of Art for 27 years. He also published respected works on Nicolas Poussin, William Blake and Picasso. We have a few of his books in the Library.

According to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (which you can access with your campus login):
In almost every sense he was a superb [Courtauld] director. He had a natural authority, an infectious enthusiasm for his subject, and a winning way with students and younger colleagues. Teaching more by example than by precept, he inspired those around him to give of their best. Under him the Courtauld became the principal centre for training art historians in Britain, with a worldwide reputation for excellence.
One of those younger colleagues was Brian Sewell, who went on to become the London Evening Standard’s art critic for decades. You may not know that as well as being a famously-acerbic critic of poor taste in art (“The public doesn't know good from bad” Guardian, 31 Aug 2009) Sewell is a passionate dog owner. He not only wrote a biography of all the dogs he’s owned and rescued (about 17 in total), but he has also commissioned and built an ostentatious tomb where he plans to be buried alongside the carefully-preserved bones of them all.

In a roundabout way, Brian Sewell’s canine mausoleum brings me back to where I began. Why did a book with a foreword by a former Russian spy catch my eye when I was actually looking for an illustration of a greyhound? Well, because this is on the front cover:

Detail from the cover of The German drawings in the collection of Her Majesty the Queen at Windsor Castle
by Edmund Schilling [London ; New York : Phaidon, 1971]
It's a funny-looking one and it's a bit hairier than most, but it's a greyhound nonetheless.

Further reading

If you’re interested in learning more about Anthony Blunt you can find Anthony Blunt : his lives by Carter, Miranda [London : Macmillan, 2001] in the Library; or for a fictionalised account of the days leading up to his fall from grace there’s Alan Bennett’s tremendous play “A Question of Attribution” which can be found in the Library along with its companion-piece “An Englishman Abroad”. They both appear in Single spies : a double bill or Plays: two and are both on the shelves at MA 192.9 BEN.

You could also try the book that precipitated Blunt’s fall from grace: Climate of Treason : Five Who Spied For Russia by Boyle, Andrew [Hutchinson & Co. Ltd ; London, 1979].

And if you’d like to know more about greyhounds, there are some fantastic groups around the country who rescue them from poor treatment at the hands of the racing industry. Here are two:

There's an organised walk by the river in York on 21 June if you'd like to see some up close and maybe get a chance to walk a greyhound yourself. It's part of The Great British Greyhound Walk - an annual national event:

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Taking your Library home

It's probably not escaped your attention that this is a busy time of year. Across the three buildings of the Library, we have over 1,200 study spaces - we know there are times when you'd like to see more, but safety requirements don't allow us to add any extra seats.

We have a system that shows you occupancy levels in various areas of the Library - it's updated hourly during term time, so you can see where you're most likely to find a space. You can check  the screen in the Library foyer or use the web page:
During the exam period, we've booked out rooms in the Fairhurst (LFA/144) and Burton (LBU/003) buildings to be used as additional study space. We're also encouraging everyone to find out about alternative study spaces on campus.

Working elsewhere in the University

  • Have a look at the study spaces available elsewhere in the University - if you don't need immediate access to the physical resources in the Library they might be ideal for you, and they include group study areas that you can book out:
  • If you need a PC, remember there are IT rooms all over campus - use the IT Services web page to check which IT rooms are booked, and which have free PCs:

But what do you do when you can't find a seat, or when you'd rather work at home?

You take the Library home...

Photo of books on floor
Photo: Books by Katey. Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence
No, not literally...

Instead, think about how you can make other study areas more like the Library, and make sure you know how to access the various electronic resources, no matter where you are.

Working at home

Pick up one of our 'brilliant minds at work' door hangers at the Library desk if you want to remind your housemates not to disturb you while you revise.

Find out what you can access online using our E-resources guide. Our policy, when we buy a book, is also to buy the e-book if one is available, so we may have more e-resources than you think.
  • Organise books & other resources so it’s easy to find what you need - arrange them on your shelves by classmark or subject.
    Light caffeine boost
    Light caffeine boost by Steve.
    Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence.
  • Make a big flask of coffee at the start of each session so you don’t have to stop and put the kettle on.
  • Stock up on easy snacks to keep hunger at bay and feed your brain - nuts, seeds and fruit are all recommended:
  • If walking to the Library in the morning gives you space to think out your day’s work, have a walk around the block after breakfast before you settle down to study.
  • Don't forget about breaks - arrange to meet your housemates in the kitchen for lunch or coffee breaks, so you get the social interaction you’d have in the Library cafe.
  • Check out some of the many revision and writing tips available online (just don't spend all your time reading them!):

And finally don't forget the support available to you on campus if you have any concerns during this busy time:
(If all else fails and you just can't concentrate on your work no matter what you do, perhaps it's time to change things up a bit and re-arrange your sock drawer for five minutes. Here's how to do it properly:

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Where does the feedback go?

Kirstyn Radford, Research Support Librarian, explains how your feedback is helping us to improve the Library catalogue. 

Regular users of YorSearch, our Library catalogue, can't fail to have noticed an insistent purple tab nudging their results.
YorSearch feedback button

This new feature was launched at the start of 2014/15 to make it easy for Library users to tell us about any difficulties they experience when searching the catalogue, and any noteworthy successes! You’re welcome to share a screenshot with us as a record of your experience.

Results from recent Library surveys have given us pause for thought: not everyone finds the catalogue interface straightforward. Exciting new additions to our collections might languish unnoticed on the shelves if they're not prominent in search results. Equally frustratingly, people who know our collections well occasionally report difficulty locating material they know we've got. Sometimes students (and staff) come to the Library Help Desk to ask for assistance; while we’re always happy to help, we'd ideally like to provide systems that are intuitive.

Fortunately, we're not stuck with our catalogue "straight out of the box". Several UK universities have purchased the same system, including Oxford, Bath and Sheffield: a quick glance at these widely dissimilar interfaces shows how much scope we have for local customisation. UK-wide user groups share expertise between technical teams, and a European consortium of university libraries drives forward new developments which will benefit all customers. Yet none of this external support would be sufficient without input from our users here at York, helping us to understand their scholarly needs in order to refine our catalogue's design and operability.

Your feedback is reviewed daily by the 'Digital Discovery' project team, including staff from the Help Desk and Academic Liaison as well as techies. Any glitches that can be resolved quickly are dealt with at the first opportunity and, if the person leaving the comment has provided an email address, we will keep them informed of progress. More general comments about the catalogue's look and feel, or issues which will take longer to resolve, are logged and categorised to help us plan the project's next steps.

There's a lot of literature out there about how to run a successful user experience project, and almost all writers recommend testing ideas with a user group before making changes to the live system. We are putting together a squad of students at different levels of study, from a range of departments, and this group will also be encouraged to canvass the opinions of friends and colleagues. To help focus our thinking, the project team is creating some personas, representing users in specific scenarios: do people who search the catalogue on their tablet or phone have a different experience from people sitting at a PC or standing at a terminal? What about the people who find and access Library e-resources without ever searching the catalogue? What can we learn from Google Scholar about how to design an intuitive interface?

New location maps tell you the floor and the zone for each item.
We've already launched several new features this year, including predictive text in the Search box, and an improved location map for each item in your search results.

Keep following this blog for further news about streamlined screen layouts and more flexible searching for YorSearch, developed on the basis of your feedback and evidence.

Kirstyn Radford

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

100 Books every Blues fan should own

Bringing the Deep South to Yorkshire, Stephen Town discusses the latest donation in his My Nightshelf series.

Komara, E., Johnson, G., 100 Books every Blues fan should own, in the University Library at LM 4.756 KOM

W.C Handy's Saint Louis Blues
by ├śklands Publications reproduced
under a Creative Commons licence
Time for a book on music, and a book by a Librarian, and a book about books. This donation fits all three criteria. The attraction of the blues to the white English middle class has been in question since the blues rediscoveries in the early 1960s. I was captured at about the age of five listening to my grandmother’s radiogram and hearing for the first time this extraordinary sound. I guess you either have it or you don’t.

Edward Komara is the splendidly-titled Crane Librarian of Music at the State University of New York at Potsdam, but was previously a blues archivist at the University of Mississippi. One can hardly imagine a more perfect role and location for a blues enthusiast.

We already have Komara’s encyclopedia in the Library, which provides a valuable reference resource for all aspects of this unique genre of American music. But the work I'm donating today conveniently brings together the most important writings on blues, with descriptions that are full enough to encapsulate the chosen works, and reveal the depth of Komara and Johnson’s knowledge of the field, as well as their technical appreciation of the genre. More a reference work than a narrative read, but I found it absorbing enough to read most of the entries straight off.