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CLSIG Business Information course (16 July 2015)

I attended a Business Information: Sources and Search Techniques course run by Karen Blakeman for CILIP’s Commercial, Legal and Scientific Information Group (CLSIG) on 16 July 2015 at CILIP’s HQ in London.  The course was advertised as key resources for business and official information.  As the law and official publications librarian, and back-up for the business librarian, the course seemed like a perfect fit for me.

Karen Blakeman is a well respected and established librarian, who specialises in teaching advanced internet and business information research skills. (A version of) the slides for the course are available to download from her website (the course materials are constantly updated).  The course was well attended, with a good mix of librarians from the academic, public and commercial sectors, including a former colleague (good to catch-up).

The course began by looking at new trends in business information, including the UK government’s open data (‘free v fee’ and ‘missing’ information); the EU’s right to be forgotten; and Google’s control over you and the internet.  We discussed some of Google’s limitations, including how it personalises your search and results, changes search algorithms, and conducts experiments on the unsuspecting public.

Advanced Google search tips

Open a ‘private’ or ‘incognito’ window in your internet browser:

  • Chrome = Ctrl+Shift+N
  • Firefox = Ctrl+Shift+P
  • Internet Explorer = Ctrl+Shift+P

Force Google to use your search terms:

Google will change or exclude some of your search terms …

  • Use the Intext prefix e.g. intext:term to force it to include a word
  • Use the Verbatim function to force a phrase search
  • In search results, Search tools > All results > Verbatim.

Use Google to search a website or domain:

  • Use the site command eg. site:gov.uk
  • Exclude a site e.g. -site:co.uk

Limit your search by date:

  • In the search results, Search tools > Anytime > Date
  • If combining with a Verbatim search, use the daterange: prefix, and use Julian date.

Consider using a different search engine:

  • Google.com (not Google.co.uk) will find EU forgotten results
  • Bing will provide alternative results
  • Try Bing It On and take the Bing v Google challenge (I was a Bing person).

Company  and Financial Information

Company information relates to ownership, directors, structure, share price, accounts and activities.  The availability of company information depends upon the type of company, size of company and the jurisdiction (country).  In the UK, small and medium sized companies only have to file abbreviated information with Companies House.

UK company information is now available free-of-charge via Companies House.  The database is currently under beta-service via the Gov.UK website.  Company Check is an alternative; and Kompany and Open Corporates offers global company information.  I had much fun stalking researching friends and relatives on the various company information databases.

We touched on subscription company information sources including Legalinx 7side, Bureux van Dijk, Dun and Bradstreet, Factiva, Perfect Information and Thomson Reuters, but we did not examine these resources in detail.  This is where I was disappointed with the course, as I had hoped to learn more about when and how to use these resources (see On Reflection).

As regards financial (stock markets, commodities and exchange rates) information, we looked at Yahoo Finance and Google Finance, both of which give up-to-date free-of-charge financial information.  However, for academic research subscription financial information sources (e.g. FT.com, Bloomberg and DataStream) are the preferred sources, and again we did not really cover these sources in the detail I was hoping for in the course.

Statistics, Industry and Market Data

Statistics are a hot topic in my workplace (I’m involved in a project to review official publications and statistics).  Karen recommended OFFSTATS – a guide to global statistics created by the University of Auckland.  In the UK, there are the Office for National Statistics and Gov.UK Statistics websites; and in the EU, Eurostat.  We also considered the open data agenda, and the making available of raw data via Data.Gov and the EU Open Data Portal.

We were introduced to Google Public Data Explorer, which is one of Google’s best kept secrets.  It can find publicly available financial and demographic data from major global organisations including Eurostat, World Bank, IMF and OECD (but not ONS).  Also, Zanran was mentioned as a search engine for statistics and data.

Karen encouraged to question statistics: to be aware the statistical correlation does not equal causation, and to ask questions about data methodologies.

As regards market data, the British Library’s Business & IP Centre produce free industry guides, and market data is available from companies like Report Linker (available through our Nexis subscription), and aggregator services like Market Research and Research and Markets, and reports can be purchased on a pay-per-view.  There was brief mention of Key Note and Mintel as subscription services.

On Reflection

On my journey home, I was a little disappointed that the course had not covered the major subscription databases in the depth I had hoped for. On reflection, after writing this report of the course, and considering that the course covered many other things not mentioned in this report, my expectations were perhaps a little unreasonable.  I am all too familiar with the problem of having too much content and not enough time!  In her introduction to the course, Karen mentioned that she used to teach the material as a 3 day course – I rather suspect that she could still teach it as a multi-day course now.

Library Routes from the BIALL Newsletter (Sept 2013)

I am published!  I was asked to write the Library Routes feature for the BIALL Newsletter.  My professional life story: how I became a law librarian.  On reflection, it’s not a hugely exciting story, certainly not an international best seller.  As I wrote the article, I did reminisce about the good old days.  I also realised how much has changed in the last decade, personally as well as professionally.  For those who are not BIALL members, and can not read the newsletter, this is my story:-

I never held any childhood ambitions to be a librarian, but I have always been drawn to the ‘helping professions’, first wanting to be a police officer and then a social worker. 

I graduated from Keele University in 1997 intending to become a social worker.  I returned home to my family, and started to work for social services, to gain the pre-course work experience required for the (then) postgraduate diploma in social work.  However, at just 21 years old, I had doubts about my ability to work in the profession, so decided to seek an alternative career, and return to social work when I had grown up. 

I applied for a number of library assistant posts at local colleges and universities, and started work as Learning Resources Assistant at East Birmingham College (now City College Birmingham) in Autumn 1997.  East Birmingham College was a further education college, specialising in technical vocational education, with a large number of Rover and Land Rover engineering apprentices.  I found myself in a great team of people, doing a job that I really enjoyed, and I was encouraged to pursue a library qualification. 

I enrolled on the masters degree in library and information management at the University of Central England (now Birmingham City University).  I studied part-time, every Wednesday for two years, and continued to work full-time.   East Birmingham College was an Investor in People, and they sponsored my studies; although I had to make-up my time off work, which meant many late night librarian shifts.  In my second year, I took an elective module in official and legal information, under the tutelage of David Butcher, and decided that I wanted to be a law librarian. 

The College of Law (now University of Law) opened a new branch in Birmingham in 2001.  As a newly qualified librarian, I started work as Senior Library Assistant in Summer 2001, and worked alongside the Branch Librarian Lindsey Withecombe (now Fratus).  On my first day, I was given a hard-hat and overshoes, and we started work building a brand new law library.  The first law students started six weeks later, and we only just got the books on the library shelves in time.

My first year at the College of Law was a huge learning curve.  I had studied legal information, but had no experience of legal research.  Nor had I any experience of the private education sector, and the particular demands of law students.  I remember how we collapsed with exhaustion after the first practice legal research assessment!  I was one of the many who have benefitted from an introductory legal reference materials course.

Under Lindsey’s mentorship, I was encouraged to become a chartered librarian, and to become more involved in the law library profession.  I joined BIALL and the ALLICE local law library group, and attended my first BIALL conference in Cardiff.  Those early years at the College of Law were some of the happiest of my working life.  In 2004, after a reorganisation of library services, I was promoted to Information Officer at the College of Law in Birmingham.  And there I stayed for nearly 10 years …

So what tempted me to leave?  I wasn’t actively looking for another job, but after 10 years at the College of Law, I was ready for a new challenge.  When the University of Leicester advertised their law librarian post, I applied without any expectation of an interview, and was rather surprised be offered the job.  A few months later, I started work as their Information Librarian, and also began 15 months of daily commuting between Birmingham and Leicester, before eventually relocating in at Easter. 

I was originally appointed to look after law, criminology and official publications, and I thought that the diversification would be good for my career.  However, I got a little more diversity than I bargained for.  After another reorganisation of library services, I am now academic liaison librarian for 7 departments including not only law and criminology, but also archaeology, ancient history, history, history of art and film, english and museum studies!

I still consider myself first and foremost a law librarian, and I’m still actively involved in BIALL and the EMLIP local law library group.  I have become Chair of BIALL’s professional development committee, and now find myself organising legal reference materials course for new recruits to our profession.  I am now also studying for a postgraduate certificate in higher education, because in my new role, teaching qualifications are more highly valued than library qualifications and chartership.


History, Learning Resources and the National Student Survey (NSS) (31 July 2013)

From my alternate life as a history librarian …

UoL Library Blog

I was invited to attend a roundtable discussion at De Montfort University – also in attendance were librarians from universities of Loughborough, Nottingham, Northampton and Warwick. The invitation was timely, because our National Student Survey score for learning resources in history fell considerably in 2012.  In the last academic year, I have been working with the School of History to improve library resources and student satisfaction. 

The Higher Education Authority (Carrigan 2010) found that history students were dissatisfied with Learning Resources (NSS questions 16 (library) and 17 (IT)).  This was an experience shared by all (but one) of the librarians at the roundtable.  It was heartening (but also saddening), to find that I am not alone, and that our experience is ‘normal’. 

The roundtable started with presentations from Chris Powis (Head of Library and Learning Services at the University of Northampton), and Neil Skinner (Assistant Librarian and History PhD Student…

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BIALL Committee Chair

I became Chair of BIALL’s Professional Development Committee in June. I took possession of the Committee Chair Badge at the BIALL conference in Glasgow.  Did Mark (outgoing Chair) throw the badge at me and run away? 


I’ve been a member of the committee for a couple of years: I’m familiar with our quarterly committee meetings, and I’ve organised a few training courses.  But I’m now beginning to appreciate the extra responsibility and workload of the Chair: I’ve written my first BIALL newsletter item, sent my first report for BIALL council, sent my apologies for not attending the BIALL council meeting, scheduled my first committee meeting (agenda to follow), and I’m planning three training courses! 

I’m keen to take our courses to the regions – to organise events in ‘The North’, Scotland, Ireland and Wales – and to make our courses available online.  Ironically, I’m most nervous about organising our London based social events – quiz night and spring social.  As a non-Londoner, I’ve not even attended these events before, let alone organised them!  I’m definitely going to have to do BIALL committee work in my own time, and make better use of our committee members, and BIALL council members in London. 

Will I be a good Committee Chair? Ask me again this time next year … 

Digimap Training (19 June 2013)

In my ‘other life’ as academic liaison librarian for archaeology and history …

UoL Library Blog

I attended a 1 day Digimap Collections training course run by EDINA and hosted by Birmingham City University at their Millennium Point campus in Birmingham.  I resisted the urge to spend a day in the Think Tank (Birmingham Science Museum), and headed on inside learn about Digimap with a section of geography and built environment librarians and academics. 

Our Digimap subscription includes the Ordnance Survey, Historic and Geology collections.  As liaison librarian for archaeology and history, I deal mostly in Historic Digimap enquiries.  EDINA is launching an Environment Digimap, which will be free to current subscribers, although we have to apply to JISC to activate. 

Ordnance Survey is the current (up-to-date) map collection.  It includes maps from very small scale road atlas size (metropolitan view), through small scale Landranger (city view), medium scale Explorer (street view), and large scale Mastermap (plan view).  It is easy to search by place name…

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1st Teaching Observation

I’ve just completed my first teaching observation as part of my Pg Cert course. Funny that I was nervous beforehand – I have presented in front of my observer many times before.

I was teaching dissertation research skills to distance learning LLM Employment Law students.  Generally the class went well: I covered all of the planned material, finished on time, the students were engaged throughout, and gave positive feedback after the class.

Following feedback from our Microteach session, I made powerpoint slides available to students beforehand, and they were able to take notes during the class. I also gave them the workbook and answers – so they are able to revisit the practical activities after class.

One of the databases (JustCite) was down, and I had to adapt one of the planned activities accordingly.  In days gone by, when IT failure was more commonplace, I used to keep screenshots of my demonstrations as a back-up. Perhaps something to reconsider – particularly for weekend teaching.

I will meet with my observer next week to receive formal feedback …