As part of the University of Lincoln commitment to engage and involve students in work to decolonise the university, students are invited to apply for bursaries to conduct projects supervised by members of University staff for up to 1 month during the period 12 June – 14 July. Up to 15 bursaries are available: to support student maintenance (£200 per month / pro rata for shorter periods) and project expenses
The Decolonising@Lincoln (D@L) project draws attention to how the colonial past negatively influences our present, operating unjustly to exclude certain peoples, knowledges and ways of working. It seeks to recover silenced voices and excluded forms of knowledge and practice, and to reintroduce them into our teaching, learning, research, and administrative practices. Bursaries can be used to support any activities that align with this agenda, and which will produce outputs that can raise awareness, and inspire decolonised ways of thinking and working within and potentially beyond the university.
Students may wish to focus on identifying and/or critically challenging coloniality in their subject areas or experiences of teaching and learning practices; or to identify ways of diversifying, decolonising or internationalising the university curriculum, for example by including the voices and works of formerly colonised people, and/or ideas and practices that are not from the Euro-Western tradition. Exploratory research projects in preparation of dissertation research projects are welcome, as are experimental research approaches and conceptual studies and thought pieces. Projects may be conducted by individual students or in collaboration with others.
We are particularly keen to encourage projects that:
Support the Reimagining Lincolnshire project by uncovering hidden and neglected stories from Lincolnshire, about individuals whose contributions to the county, country and internationally have largely been forgotten
Challenge the Euro-American domination of knowledge production by revealing hidden/ marginalised knowledge that is missing from subject disciplines and practices
Involve students working in groups to gather data from staff and students about their knowledge and understanding of coloniality and decoloniality.
Develop understandings of whatstudents are asking and looking for in a decolonised curriculum
Reveal where coloniality is present in University spaces and offer ways of challenging this
Helping to Decolonise the Library by identifying gaps and imbalances in existing holdings, and/or developing a decolonising library guide for your subject area (see here for an example)
Consider how to decolonise university systems and processes e.g. training and recruitment
Suitable outputs include written reports, creative outputs, online resources, public exhibitions, blogs, zines, library reading list / event / installation, social media content/TikTok videos.
Each project must adhere to university ethical procedures, and should be supervised by a member of staff, who will advise on ethics and provide up to 3 hours of support over the duration of the project.
Students who are looking for supervisors or a student collaborator from another discipline or school should, in the first instance, contact the member of staff who acts as Decolonising champion for their school.
Oonagh Monaghan (She/Her) , Academic Subject Librarian and Decolonising@Lincoln Library lead
I’m an Academic Subject Librarian at the University of Lincoln. I support the subjects of Fine Art, Design and Architecture and have worked at the University for over 20 years. Over the years I have supported various disciplines, however, over the last few years I realised I have always been an art librarian at heart! A few years back I attended the UK and Ireland Art Libraries Society (ARLIS) conference in and it was then that I began to think more deeply about critical librarianship, decolonising collections and creative innovations. During my talk today I will be acknowledging others who have been influential in my own development.
We have three libraries – one at Holbeach, one based in the Medical School in Lincoln and the main Library where I’m based. The Library is a converted railway warehouse and as you can see from this tweet, it recently featured in a documentary called ‘The architecture the railways built’ – you can also see here what the building looks like now.
I was interested in how we could relook at the history of the building itself, so I invited academic Dr Simon Obendorf to write a blog post about the building’s site, purpose and physical structure and how it provides us with many opportunities to reflect on Britain’s colonial past. Any links I refer to today will be made available so you can read more about this in Simon’s post on the Library blog.
There may be scope in the future for doing more about the colonial history of the building to highlight these aspects of this history.
One person who has been very inspirational to me is Marilyn Clarke, who is former Library director at Goldsmiths and now Librarian at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies. 2
“I as a library worker seek to transgress against the boundaries imposed by racism, classism and heteronormative structures in both knowledge dissemination and organisation, as well as institutional structures” Marilyn Clarke, 2019
This quote by Marilyn encapsulates my starting point when thinking about decolonising activities. I’m very conscious of my own privilege as a white middle-class, cis, heterosexual, able-bodied person and the fact – that here we are today – three white librarians talking about decolonisation and libraries.
Recently Naomi Smith who is Assistant Library Manager at UCL ran a webinar entitled ‘Librarians for critical digital justice’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8h1AREn5t0 and talked about not skirting around issues with soft words like inclusion and diversity and instead using terms like white supremacy and institutional racism. I agree that we can get lost in bureaucratic tick boxing exercises in Higher Education. My starting point has always been from a critical librarianship position, and I don’t believe in neutrality within the library setting. Critical librarianship means for me that I’m always trying to think of my work from an intersectional and social justice perspective and also that I need to be on a continual process of learning from others.
The University of Lincoln has developed action plans within schools and colleges and has commitment from the senior management team to make decolonising a serious and long-term project. As part of this plan, professional services departments are included and the Library is central to both developing professional services understanding and also engaging with the academics and the curriculum. The initial and ongoing aims of the Library are to
Reveal coloniality of existing collections
Embrace and extend decoloniality
So, what can we do in our libraries to dismantle what is already in place and rethink the knowledge distribution? There are no easy answers and we may now actually be starting to overuse the word ‘decolonise’ and inadvertently diluting the issues that are holding up the colonial structures.
Naomi said in her talk that many libraires are simply doing inclusion work and diversifying collections, and I agree that this can so easily happen. So, we really need to think deeply about what we can do to challenge this.
My talk is not offering any defined solutions to these issues but instead I will be talking about my journey with the ‘Decolonising@Lincoln’ project and developments in the University and within the library that I hope will start more conversations.
I got involved in a lead role as soon as the University created a project around decolonisation and have worked with my colleague, Dr Hope Williard who is also a College of Arts Librarian, as Library liaison on both the University Decolonising steering and working groups.
So the library is actually involved at every level since the onset of the project.
I think this is key.
For the Library to be central to all University discussions so that it then cannot be separated from discussions around the curriculum. As you can see from the chart, in addition to the steering committee and working group, there are also College and School leads and at this level, all the other Subject Librarians are required to work with their academics on decolonising projects.
The first thing we did practically was draw together information from our own institution and from other University libraries and I have been particularly influenced by the work on the ‘Liberate our Library’ campaign at Goldsmiths https://www.gold.ac.uk/library/about/liberate-our-library/.
You will notice as well that we use the terms decolonisation and decoloniality.
There is a very good explainer of these terms and the differences on a University of Arts London (UAL) article ‘Decolonising the library: a theoretical exploration’ by Jess Crilly who also co-edited the book ‘Narrative Expansions with Regina Everitt – another recommended read. https://sparkjournal.arts.ac.uk/index.php/spark/article/view/123/190
As part of my initial research for the toolkit, I contacted Caroline Ball from the University of Derby as I had seen the great work she had already done. Caroline’s work helped me get started with the D@Lincoln tookit which is available on our Library website https://guides.library.lincoln.ac.uk/DecolonialityAtLincoln.
As the toolkit was the first thing we did, I do think we need to look at this again very soon. It has been used as a focus for the University academics and professional services staff where there was nothing else visible.
Now that the University has moved forward and is developing their central Decolonising@Lincoln website, the library content can now be revised and improved.
I also want to get away from the idea that just by diversifying reading lists we can tick off decolonisation as being ‘done’. When we initially set up the toolkit on Libguides software, I had permission to use a great reading list audit tool from Manchester Metropolitan University, but I gradually became aware that this actually potentially hindered the conversation and facilitated the tick boxing approach rather than thinking more deeply about the curriculum development.
I have also now created a separate Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Guide with the emphasis being on diversifying the collection.
So often, there is confusion about the difference between the decolonising work and the EDI work. The new EDI guide will allow us to develop the Decolonising@Lincoln Library toolkit and move away from the focus of diversifying reading lists as the main outcome of library involvement.
The bookplates in the Goldsmiths ‘Liberate our degrees’ initiative inspired me to think about a design for our own libraries and one that could be used on promotional material, campaigns, bookmarks and shelf-ends. I organised a project with the School of Design for the students to submit entries to a competition in 2022 and the judges included School of Design academics, decolonising steering group members and Marilyn Clarke who was then Director of the Library at Goldsmiths.
The competition was shared with all of the School of Design students via the Blackboard VLE noticeboards and via a publicity, using posters and social media. I also did an Adobe presentation https://express.adobe.com/video/tiVyWQG6CrNSI which I could share with students and help them understand the background to the decolonising initiatives. It was a massive effort on my part to try and get the students to feel confident to enter the competition alongside all the other work they had to do on assignments and dissertations, but by the competition deadline, we had six entries. This doesn’t seem like a lot, but I was really pleased with the thought processes that I could see within the designs. I could tell that the students had had conversations with academics had done their own research. The judging panel consisted of myself, School of Design academics, Decolonising@Lincoln steering group members and external judge Marilyn Clarke.
We eventually decided on a winner and had two runner-up prizes. I organised a prize-giving event and invited all the key stakeholders and the three students – this was covered by the Marketing team and featured on the University staff news, social media channels and on the Library blog.
So here we have the winning design by Kes Whyte which we now have as a recognisable University of Lincoln image to use on materials and on the web. I have included the Instagram handle of the illustrator as they are now out in the real world for you to follow.
In addition to the winning image, one of the runner-up images was so good that we decided that we wanted to turn this into a mural in the Library. This has taken some time to negotiate and wasn’t without problems along the way, namely a pesky plug socket which you can now see is covered with a black socket plate (we also had to work with the student to redesign the whole image to suit the space). You can also follow Rhoda, who designed this mural, if you so wish, on Instagram. Both students are amazing artists.
One of the developments I’m most proud of is our new zine collection. I could do a whole presentation on the development of the zines!
I’m very proud that our Libraries and Learning Skills department now has a growing collection of zines and these are displayed on the ground floor the the main Library.
The collection includes zines donated by zinesters (which is the name for zine makers), zines bought by the Library via sites like Etsy and those made and donated by students in the University itself.
Zines have a long history of being used by marginalised and excluded people and communities due to their DIY and self-publishing format. The aim is to provide a medium that diversifies our collections further and challenges white-centred practices which impact our collections, users and services.
I’m always keen to take an intersectional approach and develop a zine collection which I hope will begin to help us think about the voices so often not heard.
In addition to the new collection, I have developed connections with academics, students and external people who have a common shared interest in zines. We have held workshops and I’m working with academics on other initiatives as part of the EDI agenda. You can also see on this photograph that we have a vinyl sign version of the ‘Whose voice are you hearing’ design produced by a great College of Arts Technician colleague who I’ve also worked with on a zines workshop in the Library.
Co-investigators include heritage professionals, teachers and researchers from a wide range of organisations in the region, as well as staff and students at the UoL and Bishop Grosseteste University. The project seeks to uncover hidden and neglected stories from Lincolnshire, of those whose contributions to the county, country and internationally have largely been forgotten.
I have been lucky to work alongside the project on various initiatives, one of which was part of a Wikimedia UK funded connected heritage project. (https://wikimedia.org.uk/connected-heritage/ Connected Heritage projects are a collaboration between Wikimedia and heritage organisations in England and Wales.
In October 2022 we organised a Reimagining Lincolnshire: Black History Month Wikithon where participants were invited to learn Wikipedia basics and make some edits to highlight some of the stories and people with connections to Lincolnshire.
Editathons aim to address the underrepresentation of people from the Global South, women, people of colour, LGBTQ+ people and other marginalised groups in Wikipedia entries and among contributors.
We had some great fun editing on the day and in particular a new article was created on Mahomet Thomas Philips https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahomet_Thomas_Phillips who was a sculptor and stone carver. The event coincided with an exhibition in the Library produced by the Reimagining Lincolnshire team.
Embedding decolonising into other events/history months/displays
I’m conscious that an integral part of decolonising is that we think about it in everything we do as much as we can. So, I have tried to integrate it in the other activities across the Library.
An example of this was the display that we had this year for LGBTQ+ History Month and which included a Talis reading list with lots of recommendations including books on global issues of sexuality, gender and decoloniality.
Moving forward we can continue to think about future projects, widening involvement and all-team engagement. Communication and sharing knowledge is so important. The plan is to:
Continue to work on individual projects and events
Next, we will be organising a whole Library team meeting where academics of the D@L steering committee introduce decolonising concepts and invite discussion
We need to move the Academic Subject Librarians project forward – this involves collating information about existing curriculum initiatives which are already taking place in different disciplines and help us share good practice and ways of working together with the academic curriculum.
We will be developing the information on our various different subject guides (on libguides) and working with the D@L champions within the schools to improve the subject discipline specific information.
The Subject Librarians will also be working on identifying sections/books within the print collection which are either
Problematic in content due to coloniality or
Identify those sections/books which highlight marginalised or underpresented voices
The aim of this is to utilise the School of Design/Library competition winning design which will be used on shelf-end and bookmarks with explanations. This will include highlighting the systemic bias of the Dewey Decimal system.
I hope to invite speakers to an away day in the future and have a themed day on decolonising and EDI issues including the difference between them.
And colleagues have started working on embedding these themes into our Information literacy and critical thinking aspects of the skills workshops. Goldsmiths also do something already around this with their ‘resistance researching workshops’ which are designed to help students think more critically from a social justice perspective.
And finally, there is also an extra zine project I am working on which still needs to take shape. I successfully secured funding for a Reimagining Lincolnshire zine with the aim to amplify hidden voices from Lincolnshire’s past, but reflect on these alongside the lives of people living in Lincolnshire today. The zine will also include reflections and responses from students and staff at the University of Lincoln and people outside of the University – these could be creative responses or reflections on the past stories – or how the colonial past has impacted their own lives today or their experiences of Lincolnshire. This is ongoing but I will get it done! The problem is I have too many ideas and not enough time!
To conclude, I referred to Naomi’s talk earlier and in particular she spoke about the fact that Higher Education is ignoring the impact around the technology we use with – assumptions made from western perspectives and our over reliance on the internet which means – we are largely ignoring the knowledge from marginalised communities. One example of this is the oral word.
When we are thinking about decolonising we need to take into account different forms of knowledge from different people and not just prioritise Western forms of knowledge. I would recommend listening to Naomi’s talk on this issue in relation to our reliance on technology and commercialisation of Higher Education.
I think the technology and the commercial aspects of the University are so embedded in everything we do, that this prohibits us from really moving forward with decolonising work. My starting point at Lincoln has been around trying to get involved in conversations and bringing that knowledge and those questions back to the Library and then trying to make some creative and practical changes to help with the conversations. I cannot claim that it would even be possible to decolonise the University of Lincoln Library in my lifetime or at all. But what I can do, is raise awareness, encourage discussion, involve students and staff in thinking about the issues and be creative about working with the collections we have.
Dr Simon Obendorf from the University of Lincoln reflects on the Library building and it’s colonial past.
“The Great Central Warehouse Library building, in its site, purpose and physical structure, provides us with many opportunities to reflect on Britain’s colonial pasts. Built on a site first identified by the Romans as an ideal harbour for their “Colony on the Lindum” (Lindum Colonia – Colony by the Dark Pool), the site was used as a hub for trade across Roman Britain and out to other parts of the Roman Empire. As the United Kingdom gained – and gained from – its own Empire, the site on the Brayford was expanded and strengthened to become a key transshipment point between water-based and railway transport. In 1907, the Great Central Goods and Grain Warehouse (our present-day Library) was opened. In its physical structure, the building embodied the global reach of Britain’s colonial power at its height. The huge 16.5m long pine beams that hold up the roof, and on which the original winching machinery was installed, were shipped to Lincoln all the way from Canada. The warehouse itself served as a focal point for an increasingly globalised trade: a building in which the goods of empire were organised, sorted and sent on to destinations across Britain and around a globe that had been reshaped by colonialism. Today, the Warehouse – and its new Library occupant – plays a similar role in collating, organising and sharing forms of knowledge. The history of this building should inspire us to ask: what sorts of knowledge “goods” are organised and catalogued here? Who is able to access and benefit from this warehouse of knowledge? Our hope is that, just as the physical form of the Warehouse has been disrupted and given new purpose by its architectural transformation into the University Library, we can transform and decolonise our collecting, cataloguing, knowledge sharing and librarianship to better reflect a post-imperial, plural United Kingdom – and to better serve the global community of scholarship, research, pedagogy and practice of which we are a part”.
Dr Simon Obendorf
School of Social and Political Sciences
College of Social Science
Decolonising is a term that you may have heard a lot about recently as it has gained traction in Higher Education in recent years. At Lincoln, several key groups have been set up to discuss what it means to us as an institution and how we are going to move forward to address the issues.
Decolonisation of HE originated as a movement 20 years ago to ensure that the knowledge and practices of indigenous people were represented in the HE curricula of post-colonial countries.
“More recently the ‘decolonising the curriculum’ agenda was reignited in South Africa in 2015 with the “Rhodes Must Fall” movement, where students demanded the removal of the statue to the colonialist, Cecil Rhodes, and for indigenous knowledge to be placed on an equal footing in the curriculum with that from the global north. This agenda has gained momentum in the UK, led by the National Union of Students ‘Why is my curriculum white?’ campaign which suggests that while the Arts and Humanities disciplines have the most work to do regarding decolonisation, all subjects have opportunities to reconsider teaching matter”. Dr Neil Williams, Kingston University
So, the opposite of a decolonised curriculum is a colonial curriculum. A colonial curriculum is:
Unrepresentative because it selects particular teachings and excludes others
Inaccessible because it consequently prevents recipients of the teaching from identifying with the narrative (but appealing to the historically favoured demographic)
Privileged because it continues to ensure that this select group of people is the dominant narrative
As a University, we have committed to recognise and uphold the five principles of our One Community Values: equality, understanding, listening, kindness, acceptance. The present project of decolonising our curriculum and pedagogy flows from and embeds this commitment. This means that we should critically question the ways our scholarship, teaching and practice have been shaped and look at ways that the Library is able to contribute.Historically, the voices of Black, Indigenous and other non-White people have been silenced, misrepresented or suppressed. This is the key focus where we can engage with decolonisation across the University. We must also remember to situate our thoughts and actions around this with the intersecting aspects of gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, dis/ability and/or religion.
Everyone in the University can play a part in thinking about these issues – thinking about the sources of knowledge that have been marginalised and drawing on a broader range of voices, ideas, approaches and intellectual perspectives.
The Library is an integral part of this way of thinking. It also goes way beyond adding a few extra texts to a reading list. It is also a different but linked agenda to the work around Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.
To decolonise, not just to diversify, recognises that knowledge is marked by power relations in which straight, white, hetero upper class men, still have disproportinate prominence.
From the Library, Hope Williard and Oonagh Monaghan are on the Decolonising steering and working groups. Hope and Claire Arrand are also on the Reimagining Lincolnshire group. Hope and Oonagh have attended various related conferences and events over the last couple of years and recently contributed to the University of Lincoln IMPact Journal which is a peer-reviewed, open access journal. The article ‘Critical reflections and collaborative approaches to the University of Lincoln’s decolonising projects: A library perspective‘ was included as part of a special issue on ‘Race matters: towards and Anti-praxis in higher education’ and was a reflection of the these events and how they have influenced planning and practice for the future in the Library at UoL.
Decoloniality at Lincoln Toolkit
The Library toolkit is designed for everyone in the University community to understand more about decolonisation work. https://guides.library.lincoln.ac.uk/DecolonialityAtLincoln This currently sits under the ‘Learn’ menu of the Library Website but there are plans to highlight this more during the University year.
There is no simple ‘to do’ list or quick fix to decolonise the Library but we take our starting point from thinking critically about our current practices and policies. Critical librarianship aims to put issues of social justice at the centre of everything we do.
What are we doing as part of our equality and diversity practices?
Do we represent the lived experiences of the people who work and study in the University and Library?
Do we collaborate with our users and enable exploration of the collections in new ways? What does our collection consist of?
How do we decide what is in the collection?How can we amplify marginalised voices? How can we challenge the status quo?
If we take action in our policies and interpret and disseminate what is in our collections, more students and staff will be able to understand what decolonisation is and how the Library and it’s engagement with staff and students is instrumental in the wider processes underway in schools and colleges.
Watch this space for the next steps in the Library…..
For Black History Month 2022, the Library has two great activities for you to join in with! Everyone is invited to join in with these events.
Connected Heritage & Reimagining Lincolnshire: Black History Month Wikithon (in collaboration with the Library)
Reimagining Lincolnshire: Black History Month Wikithon logo used above was designed by Oonagh Monaghan and features art created by ‘Ccrow Illustration’ (Kes Whyte), University of Lincoln graduate, 2022 and photos from Reimagining Lincolnshire’s collection.
You are invited to learn Wikipedia basics and make some edits to highlight some of the stories and people with connections to Lincolnshire uncovered by the research team at Reimagining Lincolnshire. This event is a part of Wikimedia UK Connected Heritage project, which is funded by DCMS and The National Lottery through The Heritage Fund’s Digital Skills for Heritage initiative.
Editathons aim to address the underrepresentation of people from the Global South, women, people of colour, LGBTQ+ people in Wikipedia entries and among contributors.
The event will take place on Thursday 20th October 1pm-4.30pm online via Zoom and there will also be email communication before the event for all those registered to make sure attendees are prepared.
As we get closer to the start of the new year, the Academic Subject Librarians are starting to hear from students who are looking for help accessing content for their research. This post offers some tips for what do when you’re struggling to find that key article that everyone is citing…
First, as a member of the University, you never need to pay for access to academic journal articles. If you start your research on Google Scholar, find an article that looks great, but hit a paywall, try searching for the title of the article on the library website—we offer access to many, many thousands of journal articles. What we don’t have ourselves, we can often borrow for you!
Second, try installing a browser extension called Lean Library—it links up with our website and steers you towards links to access content that we pay for, but that would otherwise appear to be behind a paywall if you aren’t regularly logged into or using our site. If you are being really thorough, you might then want to…
Third, double check our library’s journal holdings. Despite the vastness of the internet, not all academic research is easily available online. For instance, you might want a digital copy of an article that was published in 1992, but the publisher has only digitised articles from 1995 to the present. A search of our journals via Electronic Journals or Browzine is an easy way to quickly check for access issues of this sort. Don’t worry if our library doesn’t offer access to an article, because we might be able to obtain it from another library for you–this is called interlibrary loans.
Finally, if a search of the internet, our websites, and our journals turns up nothing, you can request an interlibrary loan by filling out our request form. Select the type of material you want to find, ‘journal article,’ from the drop-down menu. Interlibrary loans are free for you and delivered straight to your inbox—article loans tend to arrive within 3-5 working days. The article is then yours to download, keep, and use in your research.
And there you are–in three or four steps, you have gone from not being able to access materials you need for your research, to having what you need at your fingertips.
If you are struggling to access academic content or have any questions about how to find research materials, remember that your academic subject librarian is always here to help. We can speak with you about your research by appointment (a perfect option if you have several articles you’re trying to track down or if you’d like a refresher on what databases or journals might be useful for your topic). You can also email us questions about finding material.
March is women’s history month and the library blog is celebrating by featuring posts about the lives and stories of women. This first post is by George Grant, library assistant at the Ross Library. Thank you for writing for us, George! We would love to hear your comments and questions about the posts: please tweet us @GCWLibrary, email us at email@example.com, or tell us your thoughts in the comments section at the end of the post.
The role played by women in the history of medicine is a storied and contentious one. It is defined by the struggle against the formalised and male led medical field which often side-lined and overlooked the important role of women. From the Renaissance writers who tactfully avoided the works of classical female medical practitioners, to the role of the church in labelling medicine/wise women as witches, women have, at least in Western Europe, been forcefully kept out of the more formalised aspects of medicine. This began to change in the mid-nineteenth century, with the rise and growth of movements advocating for the improvement in women’s legal and education rights. These movements led many women to question their position in society and to push into fields that had previously been closed to them. The following three short biographies show how, in this period, women were able to make significant headway into the professional medical field by gaining medical qualifications against significant opposition. They worked to inspire each other and train the next generation of female doctors. As it stands today, over half of GPs in the UK are women. This staggering change in less than 200 years was built on the foundations laid by these women and others like themContinue reading “A Celebration of Women in Medicine”
Librarians can give you many reasons why our resources are considered preferable to those you might find on the open web – such as the resource’s reliability, relevance and the review process, to name a few.
While, yes, we librarians love to extol the virtues of the Library and would prefer our students, staff and researchers make use of our wonderful (and not inexpensive) print and electronic resources, we are aware that many people find using Google for their research easier and, dare we say it, quicker!
March is women’s history month and the library blog is celebrating by featuring posts from authors around the university about the lives and writings of women. Our second post in our series is by Rebecca Norman, a third year student on the BA History course. She explains the topic of her dissertation and how it helps us understand the lives of lower and middle class British women. Thank you for writing for us, Rebecca! This post has been guest edited by School of History and Heritage administrator, Emily Hanson. We would love to hear your comments and questions about the posts: please tweet us @GCWLibrary, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or tell us your thoughts in the comments section at the end of the post.
When my grandpa found out I was writing my undergraduate dissertation on Denise Robins’ popular romance fiction, he commented that:
‘You don’t need to be paying to read that rubbish at University, your grandma has plenty on her kindle!’
Somehow, in his initial pride that his granddaughter was studying a ‘proper’ subject like History at university, he had not envisioned me carrying out a research project on what is widely regarded as ‘trashy’ fiction; but I’m about to finish off 10,000 words on the gender identities constructed and communicated in popular romance novels of the 1930s.
March is women’s history month and the library blog is celebrating by featuring guest posts from authors around the university about the lives and writings of women. Our first post in our series is by Emma Fox, a third year student on the BA History course. She explains the topic of her dissertation and offers advice to students beginning to think about theirs. Thank you for writing for us, Emma! We would love to hear your comments and questions about the posts: please tweet us @GCWLibrary, email us at email@example.com, or tell us your thoughts in the comments section at the end of the post.
For my dissertation, I have been writing about the Woman’s Exhibition held in 1900 at Earl’s Court. This was one of many commercial exhibitions held by London Exhibitions Ltd under Imre Kiralfy who was known in both Britain and the USA for his spectacles and shows. My dissertation explores the exhibition’s representations of women and if and how these appealed to the public.
A student told me yesterday that it is quicker to use Google rather than the Library. It felt like I had to do a full-on sales pitch for the next hour extolling the virtues of the Library resources. I felt I partially succeeded. The student listened and decided they would like to investigate further.
So why use the Library resources when Google is such a handy option?
What’s the big deal about the Library?
To do academic research, your tutors will expect you to go beyond Google to find good quality, scholarly material. Your search on Google does not go through a review process. Anyone can publish on the web. The Library resources are carefully reviewed and selected by Librarians based on their reliability, relevance to your studies and add value to your academic research.
Your Subject Librarian has organised Library sources into a Subject Guide to help you easily decide which databases and journals you need for your research. Internet sources are not organised and there are too many pages for any search engine, like Google, to organise by subject matter.
Use the Library to find print and e-resources specific to your subject area and find a wealth of material including academic articles, news items, technical information, magazines, images, statistical data and more. Many of the databases that the Library subscribes to are indexes to millions of articles from an array of different disciplines.
No one is saying don’t use Google. Use it for information on corporations and other organisations, for news and current awareness, for researching a well-known event or individual or to find opinions on a topic. Use Google ALONGSIDE the Library resources. They can complement each other.
What about Google Scholar?
Again, it can be a great source when used in conjunction with the Libraries’ article and other databases but not on its own. Yes, it has scholarly articles but it also includes other material that is untrustworthy and you may miss out on articles in full-text.
So….check out the Library Subject Guides and find out who your Subject Librarian is so that they can get you started on where and how to search effectively for your individual topic. It might well save you the time you thought you were saving on Google.