Beating The Crunch


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A brief presentation to introduce a discussion session at the CILIP Midlands & Anglia Local Studies Group Day School held at Nottingham Central Library on 7th October 2009.

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  • Sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of the basics of the job and to think that the everyday stuff is less important than the big, externally-funded projects. This session is just to kick-start some of your discussions about the more low-key things you might be doing that probably won’t win awards or get money thrown at them but might be inspirational and achievable for someone else.
  • This was a Family Learning Week activity that involved designing a coat of arms for a family name. We used a combination of PC-based activities (especially using the V&A site – – follow the link to ‘more things to do’) and more traditional pen and paper activities. We’re going to develop this activity to coincide with the opening of a new library in an area undergoing regeneration – the idea will be to produce a coat of arms relating to the area’s history.
  • This is a WebQuest-style “self-instructional learning environment for students” but created using PowerPoint. Children can work through the tasks at their own pace and all the resources they need (maps, newspaper articles, trade directory extracts) are included on the CD that we’ve produced this on. It’s been used with homework clubs and the children loved it and got really excited about maps and finding their house on a map. It’s really simple to create and is based on a free template. I really like combining heritage content with IT (and learning) to create something new…
  • … apologies to those of you who have already seen these. You may recognise this as being the clip we worked on at the ‘Tubular Tales’ workshop at the LSG Day Conference at TNA in June. Now the Council’s Web Team have managed to come up with a way of embedding our YouTube clips into the Council’s web site without upsetting our content management system.
  • Still on the IT theme, we’re trying out an online forum so that enquirers can post one message and get the combined expertise of local studies staff, community library staff, local history groups and any knowledgeable/interested members of the public all in one place. We’ve used the forum to good effect to get some unidentified pictures identified.
  • Since we’ve had Ancestry, we’ve seen a huge rise in requests for help being made to less experienced staff both at the Central Library and in our community libraries. I’ve done a lot of training sessions for staff on using Ancestry but the real need is for training in the process of family history, which is difficult to do as a training session. I think ‘how do I start my family history?’ is one of the most demanding questions staff can be asked. I’ve used the WebQuest format – common in schools – to create a self-guided training package using my family tree as an example, as it’s the one that I have the answers for!
  • These are 5- or 10-minute activity sessions that can be incorporated into library visits, either as targeted local studies visits or incorporated as taster sessions into a a general library visit. The way it works is that school groups are divided into 5 or 6 smaller groups and each group is given an activity related to the area’s history. The type of activities we’ve done include putting (undated!) maps into chronological order, finding their school or the library on a modern map and aerial photo, then finding the site on the tithe map and working out what the field was called before. After 5-10 minutes, the groups rotate so that by the end of the visit all of the groups have had a go at all of the activities. They then do a feedback session to library staff about what they discovered. This seems to work really well and takes away the fear that some library staff can have about doing a local history event. Staff don’t actually need any local history knowledge to do this event – they just need to be comfortable working with children. By keeping the activities short and making the groups move round, the children also don’t get too much chance to get bored! It seems to work really well – especially if you have good input from the teachers as to what is being done in the classroom.
  • Beating The Crunch

    1. 1. Back to Basics Tracey Williams Local Studies Librarian, Solihull MBC e-mail:
    2. 2. Heraldry Craft Activity
    3. 3. PowerQuest Free template from:
    4. 4. YouTube Video Clips
    5. 5. Heritage Forum
    6. 6. Staff Training WebQuest
    7. 7. Bitesize School Visit Packs