Reimagining our Collections by Reimagining our People, Sinéad Keogh, University of Limerick,

Presented at the CONUL Conference, July 2015, Athlone, Ireland by Sinéad Keogh, University of Limerick.

For many years now libraries have realised that by coming together for ventures such as shared storage and purchasing consortia even smaller libraries can deliver a top quality service to patrons. The benefits have been great, however in doing this we have created generic collections across many libraries. The items that make us truly unique and often allow us to ‘sell’ our institutions are our Special Collections and Archives. This paper looks at a project undertaken by the Glucksman Library to develop an online exhibition from one of our archives only possible through the development of our in-house skills sets.
In 2005 our Archivist began working on an archive encompassing 350 years of family history of the Armstrongs of Moyaliffe Castle, County Tipperary. The collection contains some 50,000 items, including over 13,000 photographs, many of which were taken during the first World War by Pat Armstrong as he fought in the British Army. While working on this collection, the idea to create an online exhibition commemorating the centenery of WW1 was formed.
A new department head and a resulting workflow restructuring, involving the creation of a digitsation suite meant that we had the chance to bring the WW1 digital exhibition to fruition ourselves. By using in-house training (for archival handling and html), mentoring (through a serendipitous maternity leave cover), a three day JISC course, a two week online course (perhaps controversially, just for girls), training the trainer (imaging equipment) and much peer support, the library staff embraced this challenge.
We have used, and continue to use, this project as a learning exercise for how we repackage and promote our unique collections. More importantly though, it has allowed us the opportunity to offer staff the chance to learn new skills and to get involved in new areas as they develop.
Sinéad gave up the world of Molecular Cell Biology to train as a librarian 10 years ago. Having worked as a library assistant in UCD and then QUB, she moved to the University of Limerick in 2006 as the Subject Librarian for the Business School. There have been many changes to her role since then and now, in her current role as Digital Services Librarian, she manages the UL Institutional Repository and has taken on the management of the digitisation laboratory and development of the digital library.