So dull and dark are the November days,
The lazy mist high up the evening curled,
And now the morn quite hides in smoke and haze;
The place we occupy seems all the world
~John Clare, November~
After a month away, I couldn’t wait to start work and it was on an auspicious day, the first day of the Islamic New Year. Islam has a lunar based calendar with 354 days. The New Year date changes every year as the Islamic Calendar is 11 days shorter than the solar calendar. Maal Hijra or Islamic New Year was celebrated on the first day of Muharram (first Islamic month) and was counted from the year of the Hegira (anno Hegirae) the year in which the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) emigrated from his birthplace of Mecca to Yathrib (A.D. July 16, 622) to escape persecution. He later renamed it Medina.
I still have a clutter-free work station but not for long. My colleagues were queuing to inform me what I’d been missing when I was away. Thankfully, nothing much. We’d a departmental meeting where I was informed that we were going to have a new manager in January 2014 although management can’t confirm who!!! WTF…why the secrecy? GLW mentioned that the library were thinking of changing the library system from Millennium to Sierra and the magic word here was thinking. JF told us that RDA tool-kit was still unpaid which was a bit worrying for all of us. And we groaned out loud when he reminded us of the mid-year annual review.
We drove through Foleshill and the street was lit up with strings of light draped across the roads. Eid had gone and Christmas was a month away. Then I realised that it was Deepavali or the Festival of Lights. Another festival that marked the beginning of the Hindu New Year according to the Lunar calendar, a celebration of victory of goodness over evil and light over darkness. We’d chicken khorma with onion bhaji and saffron basmati rice for dinner. We ended with maruku, a traditional Indian savoury snack, given by my sister’s manager, all the way from Malaysia. Nanri*. This is a kolam which is a South Indian form of decoration, thought to bring prosperity to homes.
.Autumn arrives, array’d in splendid mein;
Vines, cluster’d full, add to the beauteous scene,
And fruit-trees cloth’d profusely laden, nod,
Complaint bowing to the fertile sod
~Farmer’s Almanac (1818)
The British skies also lit up on Guy Hawkes Night as fireworks of many colours and shapes light up the night sky. Revellers across the country were ooh’ing and aah’ing as the sky lit up with an array of beautiful colours and some interesting shapes. It was a a riot of light and colour with whizzes, bangs and pops filled up the air and bonfires blaze. It began with the events of 5th November 1605, when Guy Fawkes, a member of the Gunpowder Plot, was arrested while guarding explosives the plotters had placed beneath the House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London, and later the introduction of the Observance of 5th November Act enforced an annual public day of thanksgiving for the plot's failure. In the morning as I walked to the bus stop the street were littered with spent rockets and the smell of sulphur lingered on.
At work, my colleagues and I joined the millions of people across the UK to observe a two-minute silence to mark Armistice Day. The anniversary of the World War One armistice was signed 95 years ago and this year honoured members of the armed forces who have died in that war and in all conflicts since. Although I wore my Buckley Crystal Poppy brooch with pride, I still made a donation towards the poppy appeal.
"When you go home
Tell them of us, and say,
For their tomorrow
We gave our today"
We made our first trip this year to one of our favourite playground, Donna Nook Nature Reserve. We have been monitoring the number of pups and planned to visit when the number of pups born had reached 700. It was a lovely day and was 6C in the car. It was an easy drive, watching the sun rise on the horizon and we sang our hearts out to a new CD ‘Woman’ which was a compilation of songs from 59 female artists. Unfortunately, the new car-park was already full and as we made our way to the farmer’s field, a flock of Brent Geese greeted us. What a promising start.
After parking the car and using the facilities, we wrapped up warm and joined the thousands who made the trip to witness one of natures most spectacular bonanza, a breeding grey seals colony. As we trekked up along the sand-dune, flocks of starlings were having a feast among the sea buckthorn bushes. From here, we could hear the mewing cries and as we looked towards the sea, there were hundreds of cows and their single white pups strewn along the beaches. As the beach got overcrowded, the cows had been driven inland and down into the sand dunes to deliver their babies.
As usual, we walked along the chestnut-paling fence that ran the entire length of the beach. We jostled to get the best seat in the house. The adorable baby seals were very close to the fence, checking out the visitors who were very thrilled to see them, under the watchful eyes of their mothers. If you get too close, even behind the fence, don’t ignore the warning hisses. Appearing in shining white color at their birth, the baby seal’s fur darkened and begins to shed as they matured. We also spotted a few males slumbering about, bidding time and waiting for the females to be in season and ready to mate.
We walked towards the main car-park where hundreds of people were pouring in to check out the spectacles. Along the route too were dozens of knowledgeable seal wardens to answer any questions from the visitors. More different aged pups were studded along the entire length of the beach and some were already moulting. We also saw a few Redshanks flew in and feeding along the mudbanks. We held our breadth when a few Pipits flew quite close to where we were standing. All you could hear were our cameras rattling away.
After thousands of shots, we walked back to the car to warm our cockles, with hot coffee from a thermos and cheese and onion pasties. Then it was a long drive home, driving though stunning sunsets as we bid the colony good-bye with promises that we will come again. We made a pit stop at the entrance to check this very unusual but identical building with an interesting history. Twin Chapel was built in 1879 and one was built on non consecrated ground and the other one on consecrated ground. RIP to those who were buried here.
The next day, I took the bus and made a quick dash around the city-centre. I did a bit of shopping to fill up a box for the family in Malaysia. First stop was Primark. I got 2 pairs of single bed-sheets for my mum and a t-shirt for my father. I browsed a few shops and added a 2014 calendar, diary and key-chain. From M&S, a couple boxes of sweets, chocolates and biscuits went in as well. On my way to the bus-stop, I stopped to listen to this band belting out some festive songs. I wished I could have stayed longer, but I got a bus to catch.
At work, I attended a Webinar on Assessment strategies for cataloguing managers. Although I am not a manager (yet), I am keen to develop my skills and learnt about the variety of assessment techniques and hopefully develop a plan for cataloguing. These qualitative assessment activities, when conducted regularly and methodically, helped managers and administrators understand the impact and value of the work that we do for our customers. Unfortunately, I found it a bit dry and very theoretical. This webinar explored the use of customer service surveys, focus groups, quality initiatives, benchmarking, and other methods to evaluate and assess the work that we do.
Then there was the E-book review, a discussion with the relevant interested parties about the procedures of ordering individual books, the links to web-cat and the difficulties we faced when ordering one title from 2 different aggregators. I suggested that we invited student representatives because they were our main patrons but nobody listened :-(. We agreed not to publicise the patron-driven acquisition platform because it went AWOL for a while. We found out that we were paying exorbitant prices for heavily restricted digital content and were spending more money on significantly fewer books. It was a rip-off. We thrashed a lot of ideas but still haven’t found the solution. Another meeting perhaps…
But it wasn’t all work and no play. I managed to persuade Babe to accompany me to the Champion of Champions Snooker Tournament at the Ricoh Arena. I had always enjoyed watching snooker and it was in my bucket list to attend a major tournament. It would be wonderful to tick this off my list. The 888casino Champion of Champions was a brand new event featuring winners of all major tournaments over the past 12 months. The players were grouped into four groups of four and contest semi-finals and then a final all on the same day. The winners then moved forward to the weekend where there were two semi-finals on Saturday followed by the final on Sunday. The total prize-fund was £270,000 with £100,000 going to the champion.
I was hyperventilating with excitement when I got to attend the semi-finals between my favourite player, world number one, Neil Robertson, against the number 15, Ali Carter. And the icing on the cake, was he sat opposite to where we were sitting. Whoop…whoop. Since it was televised live, we witnessed first hand what happened in the background. The seats were quite small and very uncomfortable, especially for Babe. As a result, we watched it half-way and went home where I resumed watching the match in front of the tv. It was a thrilling match where he beat Carter 6:5 in an absorbing Group 4 final. Unfortunately, Robertson lost to O’Sullivan in the next game.
I attended another leaving do for Val who had been working in the library for about 30 years. Phew… what a service. Everybody contributed something and off course, I brought my ever-popular spring rolls. In fact, everyone expected me to bring that. Val wanted a small and intimate do but as usual, nobody listened. Everyone turned up and it became a very loud party. The highlight was when JS bake cupcakes with Val’s face printed on edible rice paper. We’d so much fun licking Val’s face off. What an amazing send-off. Happy retirement.
We also checked out our favourite local playground. Earlier during the week, Babe had photographed a pair of Golden Eyes and I wanted to see it for myself. Unfortunately, only the female was about and she was busy diving for food. A lonely Fly Agaric was seen outside Baldwin Hide. A large flock of Wigeons were busy grazing on the banks opposite East Marsh Hide. At Carlton Hide, we witnessed a small and brief display of starling murmuration. We made our way home as red skies appeared above us.
We welcomed my aunt and her family who were here for Syuhada’s graduation at Kent University. They decided to make a quick tour of the UK in a mobile home while they were here. What a trouper. After checking out Stonehenge and Baths, they made their way to our casa. We expected them to arrive for lunch but they turned up for dinner. We’d a lovely long chat and they relayed their hilarious adventures. By 10 pm, our visitors had gone quiet.
Around 5am, the casa was awakened. Our visitors were up and about and I guess they wanted to continue their adventure early. I got up and asked Izzatti to make waffles for breakfast. We continued our conversations and tucking into home-made waffles and shop-brought croissants, all washed down with mugs of hot coffee. It was hilarious because they left the house at 8am!!! They were driving up to Manchester, camping at Lake District, Liverpool, Edinburgh and then London. Phew …Have a safe trip.
We don't need sugar, flour or rice or anything else. We just want to see our dear ones.
~Hafiz of Persia~
Since I’d taken the day off, we decided to make our final trip to Donna Nook. It was 5C when we left and were quite surprised to see a lot of traffic on the road. We managed to find a parking space in a very muddy car-park. If this stay the same, it will be the last time we parked here. It was freezing when we got out of the car and it made worse when the bitterly cold southerly winds descended upon us. And a fine drizzle had just started. I’m so glad that I’m wrapped up warm like the Michelin man. The sky was stormy and it melted into the sea. The sight of this seal cub suckling greeted us. Aaahhh…. They were dotted all over the place. Just lazing around on mudbanks; in water filled creeks or tucked up against the wooden picket fence, 1239 pups had been counted so far. Nearly all females had a sleepy, content pup huddled by its side. These young pups were suckled for 3 weeks during which time their weight will triple, and they gradually lose their creamy-coloured coat. Sometimes, it got very nasty when one cow moved towards another cow’s pup. They were very protective of their off-spring. But the sight of the males fighting was something else. Again, the pups were fascinated with the visitors and some seemed to be acting up to the camera. Especially this cute guy with his black soulful eyes, a button nose and a cute smile. He made this cute pose of waving his front flipper at us, roll onto his back, playing peek-a-boo. It was just cute over-load. I could stay here forever. Bird-wise, there were loads about. In the distance, we saw large flocks of starlings, goldfinches, starlings were swirling along the beaches. Then, a lovely charm of goldfinches with their yellow in the wings positively glowing in the sun flew closer. Turnstones and various gulls were feeding on the after-births. Shelducks were feeding along the mudbanks. A Pied wagtail flew very close to the beach and were very busy chasing after insects with its tail rapidly wagging along. A few Redshanks were spotted along the river banks. The cries of Curlews echoed around us. We made our way to the farmer’s field to make use of its facilities. I knew we were cheating but we planned to buy a few vegetables to compensate. I bought a huge cabbage and cauliflower when we were here last week. Unfortunately, there was none on sale today. We walked back to the car, stopping along the way to rattle a few more shots. We ate our Cornish pasties all washed down with mugs of hot coffee from a thermos. Then, as the sun went down over Donna Nook, we joined the madding crowd on their way home, leaving the grey seals to bask in the winter sunshine. Goodbye and we will meet again in November 2014, Insyallah. I ended November by attending my first 3rd annual Library Camp in Birmingham on a Saturday!!! I must be loco. SA and I took the 8.30 train from Coventry. There we met RT, KC and GLW and tried our best to make sense of the new Birmingham train station. After finding the right exit, we walked through cobbled streets and past the Christmas market where the traders were just about to open their stalls. This was also one of the reason why I wanted to attend the camp. We planned to check it out after the Camp is over.FFinally, we arrived at our destination, the £188 million City of Birmingham Library which the Architects' Journal readers overwhelmingly selected as their favourite building of 2013. The 10-storey building, clad in aluminium rings, was designed by Dutch architecture practice Mecanoo and officially opened on September 3 by Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old schoolgirl who made Birmingham her home after being shot in the head for daring to campaign for girls’ education in her native Pakistan. Before unveiling a plaque, she said "Let us not forget that even one book, one pen, one teacher can change the world". Malala placed the last book on the shelves of the new Library, her own copy of The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho. The first book to be placed on the shelves was The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. The library had been described as the largest public library in the United Kingdom, the largest public cultural space in Europe and the largest regional library in Europe. We entered the Studio Theatre and mingled with the rest of the campers. Since this was my first Camp, I was more keen to observe. Librarycamp was an un-conference about libraries. A participant-driven, power-point free zone, with no keynotes, where the participants lead the agenda. Actually, there was no agenda until the participants make suggestions for what they wanted to talk about at the start of the day. It was about sitting around in huddles sharing problems, story telling and swapping ideas.After coffee and polishing off some delicious cup-cakes, it was time to introduce ourselves. I wasn’t happy that I was 2nd in line being shoved with a microphone. I felt it was better placed in individual sessions as you can’t remember everyone anyway and was quite intimidating to introduce myself to the whole room. And also a waste of time because there was 200 of us. 32 pitches were made and then the mad scramble to pick and choose. I chose only 3.SLA and I skipped the early morning sessions in favour of a self-guided tour of the spanking new Library. Stacked high over Centenary Square, it looked like a pile of enormous, geometrically-arranged birthday presents. Gift-wrapped from the bottom up alternately in gold and black, a gold hatbox sits at the top containing the Shakespeare Archive, with everything tied with ribbons adorned with interlocking black and silver circles. This futuristic exterior of interlacing rings aimed to reflect the city's canals and tunnels.
A triple-height rotunda at the core of the day-lit, and naturally ventilated building was lined with thousands of books. In every direction, on every visible floor, elegant oak-framed book stacks fan out reassuringly. The journey through the library’s interior was ‘intended as a sequence of events and experiences, each discernible from the next’. As you glide up to level four on a travelator, the reading rooms became enclosed and calm. The jostling “accessibility” and getting together – the people, the noise – was concentrated below decks, in the yellow-walled children’s library flush with daylight, and in the handsome music library opening into the amphitheatre below Centenary Square. The library has more than 200 public access computers, theatres, an exhibition gallery and music rooms. It also had a brown roof garden with wild flower meadow and from the balconies we enjoyed panoramic views of the city. We didn’t stay long because it was bitterly cold. We left our coats downstairs.
We checked the pièce de résistance, the Shakespeare Memorial Room inside the ‘crowning’ golden rotunda on the 10th floor. But the queue for the Glass lift which takes you from the 4th to the 7th floor was just too long. So we took the normal lift to the 7th floor and then walked up the steps to the 10th floor. The Room was designed in 1882 by John Henry Chamberlain for the first Central Library reflect the Elizabethan age as a tribute to the playwright and poet, featuring carvings, marquetry and metalwork representing birds, flowers and foliage. When the old building was demolished in 1974 Chamberlain's room was dismantled and later fitted into the new concrete shell of the new library complex. When the Library of Birmingham was built, it was again moved to here.
After an hour, we went back to the Studio Theatre and found out that it was lunch time. The long table was groaning with yummy food, brought by the attendees. I contributed a cheese and tomato quiche for the table and tucked into the delicious spread. It was also a good time to network and share experiences. Since we got an hour to kill before our first session, SLA and I went out to get some fresh air and checked out the Christmas stalls outside the Library. A outdoor ice-skating rink was on the door-step and a huge ferris wheel dominate the sky-line. It was lovely watching people having fun.
And then it was time for our first session on coping with disasters in libraries. A dozen of us listened to disaster planning ideas from Kingston, Lambeth, Cambridge and Aberystwyth which among them had faced flooding, fires and pestilence. We found it interesting because our workplace don’t have any disaster planning in place and will definitely propose one to management. The next 2 sessions were very close to our hearts. From the cataloguing demystified session, it was lovely listening to the views of those who’d just become or thinking of becoming a cataloguer.
The next session was an eye-opener on the improving of metadata to ensure effective usability. A high level cataloguing as it included experienced cataloguers and those interested in improving usability. It brought to the fore on how important metadata was in unlocking the secrets and treasures that were held within collections across the field. I was keen on the idea of using a dummy book with QR code to indicate that it was an e-book, virtual shelf and have a ‘fix the catalogue button’ if mistakes were spotted in the catalogue. I was also interested on investigating the tools from the National Library of Finland called KDK-Alli/RecordManager, a metadata record management system intended to be used with a Solr-based discovery interface.
“The convenience of the public is always to be set before the ease of the cataloger”
By 4.30 pm, it was time to dismantle the camp with promises to keep in touch with new acquaintance and strengthened old ones. The 4 of us (SLA, KS, RT and moi) braved the thousands of people who were here for the Christmas market. A one-way system for crowd control measures was introduced but we were still jammed solid trying to pass each other. We were bumped, jostled and knock a few times while battling through the hordes, somewhat like shuffling through the set of a zombie movie, a bottle neck.Tempers flared. It was difficult to see a free square inch of space.
We were in the midst of the 13th annual Frankfurt Christmas market. To go to the market from Centenary Square, we’d to walk along the bridge of sheds and a proliferation of stalls selling everything from kangaroo to ostrich. The market was in 3 sections that ran into each other and it was a representative of the flavours of the markets in Germany. The biggest market outside Germany, it stretched more than a mile. There were 190 wooden chalet-like stalls selling traditional Christmas decorations, jewellery, craft goods, handmade wooden toys, ceramics, candles etc.
We didn’t try any of the Bratwurst or drink any gluhwein. It was a hassle to queue at the food and drinking stalls so we spent meandering about, checking things out. We huddled together, soaking up the magical atmosphere of the lights, the laughter of the crowds and inhaling the festive aroma of hot doughnuts and roasting chestnuts. There was live music and a fairground carousel adding to the festive atmosphere. We had a good laugh at the singing moose above the drinking tents. Then it was time to head home before purchasing a few sweet and salty giant pretzels and a gingerbread man.
Now Autumn’s fire burns slowly along the wood
*Thank you in Tamil.