Knitting in the Library

I wrote a guest blog post recently for my LYS This Is Knit about a feature I noticed on Ravelry. If you’re browsing knitting books on Ravelry you can now search WorldCat, a library catalogue aggregator, to see if any libraries need you have the book. In case you didn’t know I qualified as a librarian about a year ago. So this link was very intriguing to me.

Knitting in the Library


I’m not sure how many Irish public libraries have signed up to WorldCat, but Irish library users can search, and in some cases use inter-library loans to get a book sent from another library to their local library.

This is exactly why libraries exist – to give everyone equal access to information and education (and knitting patterns). […] If you are not a member of your local library then why not? You can find a full list on the Ask About Ireland website. Think of all the money you can save on knitting books that you can then spend on more yarn. See? Genius.

Now, off you go to read my original post on This Is Knit’s blog, then come back and let me know what you think.

A Digital Library Exhibit

Cables and LaceIn my previous post, I discussed the creation of my digital library, the development of a Collection and Content Policy and the issues I encountered when creating metadata for the collection. The final part of this assignment for our Digital Libraries (IS40560) class was to create a poster or exhibit about the collection, either as an online presentation in Omeka or as a paper-based poster. I created an exhibit called Cables and Lace. Below is the essay I submitted detailing the visual choices made as well as challenges and issues related to information presentation.

For my exhibition I decided to focus on two different knitting techniques that serve a similar function but in very different ways. I hope that my exhibition will inspire users to consider different knitting techniques and how that can enhance the overall knitted items well as motivating users to consider how these techniques can be used in non-traditional ways. The exhibition also serves as a marketing tool to draw in new users to the library by using strong visual elements. Items in the exhibition are taken from a range of collections within the digital library to encourage users to further explore the digital library as a whole rather than focusing on individual collections.

Exhibition inspiration

Cables and Lace, as explained in the introduction to the exhibition, are two means of adding texture and visual interest to a knitted item in very different ways. Cables use crossed stitches to add density to the knitted fabric while lace techniques open up the fabric by using various increase and decrease stitches.

The exhibition also aspires to inspiring users to consider non-traditional ways of using these techniques. For example, within the Cables section of the exhibition the example is given of a knitted necklace designed to give the illusion of a cable. Similarly, the girl’s dress in the lace section of the exhibition shows how use of lace techniques can add interesting detail to garments. A blanket is also featured in both sections of the exhibition, showing how lace and cables can be used together with interesting effect.

The exhibition also serves as a marketing tool for users who may still consider knitting as something their Granny does. I hope to dispel the myth that knitting is only for older ladies who knit Aran jumpers for their families. The examples used within the exhibition show that knitting can produce beautiful, modern and versatile pieces.

Exhibition Design

The design of the exhibition uses the same theme as the whole digital library. This should give impression that it fits seamlessly into the library, rather than feeling like a separate website. It is designed to give context to the wider collections and as such function as part of the library.

Adding two distinct sections – cables and lace – to the exhibition allows the user to compare and contrast the two techniques while the addition of the blanket to both sections serves as a link between them. Within each section I chose a highly visual layout that highlighted the images of the items. I hope that this is not only aesthetically pleasing to me but I hope this would also appeal to my users.


Similar to challenges faced with Omeka, my main frustration was the limitation in control over how things display. For example Omkea asks the digital librarian to create an exhibition, then to create sections within that exhibition and finally to create pages within each section. While I can see the logic of this within a larger exhibition, for a smaller exhibition such as Cables and Lace this adds a lot of redundancy for the end user. I would have preferred the option to simply add my content directly to the different sections rather than having to create additional pages within each section.

From an aesthetic point of view I would have preferred the option to add a logo or selected images within the collection to the front page of the exhibition, however this is not possible. We live in a society with a limited attention span and the addition of visual interest to the front page of the exhibition would give the opportunity to entice users through our virtual doors.

Creating a Digital Library

Omeka screenshotFor our Digital Libraries (IS40560) class we were asked to create create a small digital library using Omeka, a web-publishing platform that allows anyone to create a website to display collections and build digital exhibitions.

I created the Repository of Knitted Items to preserve and exhibit examples of hand knitted objects in a digital environment. As this was a student assignment it contains only examples of my own knitted items. The first part of the assignment required us to develop a collection and content policy. Then we had to populate our digital library, creating metadata, collections and generally play with Omeka to see what it could do. Below is the essay I wrote about my digital library creation experience.

Creating my Digital Library

Kucsma et al (2010) compare Omeka to WordPress in terms of its design, ease of use and high level of functionality. I consider myself to be very computer literate with a high level of technical skills. I have also previously used WordPress and so I expected creating a digital library in Omeka to be a relatively easy exercise. And it was, but it was not without its frustrations either.

For me, overall, I found Omeka to be too restrictive, with very little customisation options. I found it clunky to navigate compared to WordPress and was frustrated, for example, by the lack of a link on the public site to the dashboard when logged in. Even within the dashboard I didn’t find the navigation terribly intuitive. For example, to edit some of the visual settings the user must click on ‘settings’, ‘themes’ and the ‘configure’, rather than having some of these options part of the main settings.

I appreciate, however, that for a less techie person, this might be an ideal platform. I also appreciate that I was using the basic package and that upgrading to a paid-for package would give me greater design freedom. I took advantage of the plugins that are available on the basic package. These included Exhibit builder, Simple Pages and Library of Congress Suggest.

Populating my Digital Library

I used Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) for the Subject element within Dublin Core metadata using the Library of Congress Suggest plugin. I tried to be as comprehensive as possible when adding metadata to my objects; however was again frustrated that the subject terms are not clickable within each item, as you might expect from a library catalogue.

In terms of Dublin Core itself, I found this quite restrictive too as there was no way to add qualifiers to elements, for example I wanted to add qualifiers to the date to explain what it referred to – in this case the date the knitted item was finished. Kucsma et al (2010) also refer to the ability to qualify Dublin Core elements, however I believe these options are only available with a paid-for account. I wanted to record the needle size, yarn and colour of the knitted item but had to resort to including these details in the free-text Description field, standardising within my digital library the way in which I coded this information. I also added the information to the tags for each item in the library to aid searching.

Gill et al. (2008) caution that quality metadata creation is essential and advocate “establishing and enforcing processes and procedures” within an institution. I also found this to be true. For a larger project it would certainly be necessary to spend more time considering the metadata elements in terms of the objects I was trying to catalogue. For example, I had to keep reminding myself that I was recording metadata about the object in the image, not the image itself as my digital library collects digital images of knitted items, rather than the physical items themselves.

The CSV Import plugin would help with importing metadata, allowing the librarian to catalogue large numbers of objects in a spreadsheet before upload this to Omeka. This would be particularly useful as there is no way to batch edit objects in Omeka, should you change your mind about how your objects should be described, as I did on a few occasions. It would have been much easier to make changes in a spreadsheet than it was to edit each item individually, and I only have 15 items. Palmer and Knutson (2004) also found that ‘the basic work of creating, reconciling, and updating item metadata is a huge undertaking even for resource-rich institutions’.

Items in my digital library are licenced under a Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license (Creative Commons (n.d.)). This allows users to share, copy, distribute and transmit the objects and images as long as the work is attributed to the digital library and is for non-commercial use. Derivatives of the work are not permitted under the licence. Omeka allows the digital librarian to add this information and display the licence information on the homepage. Dublin Core also allows this information to be recorded for each item, which would be very useful if different objects could be licenced under different conditions.

The Future of my Digital Library

The value of a repository of knitted items is to record our cultural heritage, to record the creative output for future generations and to record the evolution of knitting trends. To this end I would consider connecting my library to other cultural institutions, for example museums or other institutions dealing with the history of textiles or crafts. A joint exhibition could be created using examples of knitting through the centuries, creating a collaborative history of textiles. The Repository of Knitted Items would contribute modern examples of knitting to the historical context.

To keep libraries, digital or otherwise, vibrant it would be necessary to connect to the community, as recommended by Pomerantz & Marchionini (2007). To facilitate this, our library would solicit further submissions to the library from the wider knitting community. By crediting members of the community who submit their knitted items to the library, we hope that they will actively engage with the collections and feel a sense of participation within the library.


Creative Commons (n.d.) Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs. Retrieved from

Gill, T., Gilliland, A.J., Whalen, M. and Woodley, M.S. (2008). Introduction to Metadata. Retrieved from

Kucsma, J., Reiss, K. & Sidman, A. (2010). Using Omeka to Build Digital Collections: The METRO Case Study. D-Lib Magazine, 16(3/4). Retrieved from

Palmer, Carole L. and Ellen M. Knutson. 2004. Metadata practices and implications for federated collections. In Proceedings of the 67th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, Edited by Linda Schamber & Carol L. Barry. Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc: 456-462.

Pomerantz, J., & Marchionini, G. (2007). The Digital Library as Place. Journal of Documentation, 63(4), 505-533.

Social Media in Libraries

One of our assignments for Current Trends in Social Computing (IS30290) was a group presentation. My group chose to talk about social media use in libraries and I gave the 20 minute presentation in class on behalf of the group. Below is a edited version of the presentation, published with permission from the group members.

Social media iconsLibrary 2.0

‘Library 2.0’  is a term that provides focus to a number of ongoing conversations around the changing ways that libraries should make themselves and their services visible to end users. In the library domain, we are seeing trends to mirror those in the wider information space. Libraries 2.0 means implementing methods that make library content visible and relevant to those who might never have thought to turn to a library for anything more than a warm place to check their e-mail.

A library website is now only part of the online presence that a library now has to have. Web 2.0, the ever changing tide towards mobile internet and social and more on the go apps have shifted the sand even further and faster in the last 5 to 10 years then ever before. We as information professionals (or librarians) will be at the coalface of this information change. The real promise and hope of library 2.0 is in its ability to strengthen communities and enable discourse around information resources which works towards advancing human knowledge.

So why should libraries be using social media?

Community engagement: We hear over and over again how libraries need to engage with their users, go where their users are, particularly digital libraries need to bring their content to their users. Well the clue is in the name – social media.

It’s free: The second major reason to use social media is that it’s free. Ok, so it’s not totally free – you’re using spending money on time and human resources. But the platforms themselves are free to use, which is great news for libraries who generally have a pretty tight budget.

Tip #1: Look at what other libraries are doing and ‘borrow’ their ideas

We also looked at how we feel libraries can make the most out of social media by using examples of how Irish organisations are doing it well. So our first tip is look at what other libraries are doing and ‘borrow’ their ideas.

Tip #2: Have a clear social media policy

The Irish Cancer Society Cancer Information Service, while not a library, is a great example of how you can use social media to disseminate information. Their Cancer Information Service is using both Facebook and Twitter to provide cancer information.

They very kindly sent us a copy of their social media policy which sets out “how to comment and respond to comments on Facebook and Twitter, how to engage with followers and how to maximize security on these networks”. They also set out clear instructions in the event that their accounts get hacked as well as how to be proactive about security.

According to the social media policy cancer information services nurses compose messages promoting awareness of cancer, while also “taking every opportunity to link with the Irish Cancer Society’s website, promote the service, publications and campaigns.” They suggest posting corrections rather than removing comments that are innacurate, as removal of posts cause lack of trust and encourages backlash. They also include a stock response in their social media policy.

Tip #3: Don’t just broadcast – INTERACT

I’m sure we’ve all encountered an organisation that just uses social media to broadcast their message or links to their website but doesn’t actually interact with users. This is the easiest way to annoy your users. Libraries should be ready and willing to respond to comments and should set out how this is done in their Social Media Policy.

The Military Archives have taken interaction to another level. They are asking members of the public to help them identify the people in the photos in their archive. To do this they have made their archive available to the public via Flickr.

This is a great way to get the community to help them flesh out their archives but also to get the community engaged with the content that they have. The Defense Forces have also seen a rise in the demand for their physical archive since they have started interacting with their audience through social media.

Tip #4: Go beyond the metrics

Libraries need to constantly justify why the run programs and in some cases they need to justify their very existence. This is also true for social media.

The easiest way to look at ‘success’ with social media is to look at the metrics. This can mean looking at the usual metrics such as the google analytics and seeing how many people have viewed your website or blog.

But it also means looking at the number of likes on Facebook and the number of followers on Twitter or Flickr. Libraries can also look at the number of likes and retweets on a particular tweet, the number of likes, shares or comments on a Facebook post or blog post and the number of comments on Flickr.

But to get a real sense of whether their social media use is working Libraries should also go beyond the metrics and look at the comments and replies they are getting. By doing this they can see whether they are reaching their target audience.

Tip #4 NLI commentsIn the example on screen we’re returning to the National Library of Ireland. They shared a photo on Facebook from their Wiltshire Collection. As well as 63 likes and 21 shares we can see the comments on the post. One commenter said they could spend months browsing the collection, where another comments that they had just started to learn about holy wells that are also found in the collection and that they were delighted to find some photos of them. This proves that the NLI are reaching their intended audience and helping new users to discover their collections.

A library weekend

Books 016

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend two library related seminars. The first was the Academic and Special Libraries Annual Seminar, while the second was the New Professionals Day inaugural event. Both were fantastic events and other bloggers have written great accounts of both days. Rather than go through the days in chronological order I want to discuss some of the recurring themes of not only these two seminars, but many of my classes at UCD.


Every time I hear the word “engage” I hear Jean Luke Picard of the Starship Enterprise saying the word in my head. But we keep coming back to this idea again and again. Libraries, be they public, academic, specialist, digital, whatever, need to engage with their users. Libraries need to go to where their users are, we need to use the same services their users use and we need to make their content available wherever the users want it. This was an idea strongly advocated for by Simon Tanner.

This can mean aggregating content across services (for example Europeanna) or engaging with users on social media platforms. For example the Military Archives uses Flickr to publicise their digital archive because this allows them to go to their audience. This means that users are in turn engaging with the content as well as raising awareness that the content is available.

Crowd sourcing

This is a topic that I hope to tackle in an assignment for Current Trends in Social Computing. Many libraries and cultural institutions are now using crowd sourcing to help with various projects. Using the above example again, the Military Archives are using Flickr to ask members of the public to help them to identify people in their image library.

Simon Tanner also spoke about some interesting crowd sourcing projects including Old Weather and Transcribe Bentham. With this kind of crowd sourcing of information there is always an opportunity for online abuse, however anecdotal evidence suggests that in general communities involved in these types of projects are passionate about the project and will also help monitor abuse. Redundancy also means that people are essentially ‘voting’ for the best answer.

To me this is a really exciting way for libraries and other cultural institution to engage with their users, while gathering valuable information about their collections.

Places & people

People want to know about themselves and where they live. This is why the genealogy market is so popular. People want to know more about themselves, their families and their history. They also want to know more about where they live.  Julia Barrett from the UCD Digital Library explained that some of their most popular collections were related to people and places.

The interesting affect of making these digital records available to a wider audience online was that it actually creates a demand for the original record, encourages people to visit the physical space.

Open source & open standards

One of the most exciting things to me about libraries is that they democratise knowledge and learning. Knowledge and information isn’t just for the elite or those that can afford it. They are, and should be, for everyone. To me open source software and open standards is an extension of this.

There are of course issues with open source software, the main one being the lack of technical support. However John Duffy of the Bar Council or Ireland Law Library, Commandant Padraic Kennedy of the Military Archives and David Hughes of DBS extolled the virtues of open source software and open standards and cautioned against using proprietary software.

The use of open standards goes hand in hand with open source. If we use open standards rather then bespoke solutions data can be inter-operable and libraries and repositories can talk to each other. It also makes things easier when transferring data or content from one system to another.

Social media

I’m a huge advocate of social media and have regular discussions with my mum who feels that social media can be dangerous. However, you can’t get away from social media anymore. It’s not going anywhere. And it’s free, which makes it an ideal means of engaging with users (there’s that word again) for cash strapped libraries.

Karen Skelly spoke about how the Irish Cancer Society is using social media to provide cancer information. While there was skepticism at first they are now using Facebook and Twitter as a means of disseminating information. Michelle Dalton also spoke passionately about the use of Twitter for sharing information and for keeping in touch with other information professionals.

The main take-aways from the two days was that social media is not about broadcasting, but interacting with your users. Libraries also need to have clear goals and a clear social media policy. Karen Skelly suggested looking at how other similar organisations use social media and their social media policies if they are available online.

Metrics give quantitative data – the number of likes, follows, RTs etc. but figures only give one side of the story. What was really interesting to me was that Karen explained that comments give qualitative feedback, comments show that you are reaching your audience.

And we’re right back to the beginning – engage with users and go where they are.