Interview with Paul Stainthorp

Time for another blog chat with a “Mash Oop North!” delegate — today we’ve got Paul Stainthorp from the University of Lincoln

Paul Stainthorp

Paul, can you tell us a little bit about your job at the University of Lincoln?

I’ve had the job title of “e-resources librarian” for about 6 months (informally for a lot longer!): I look after Lincoln’s ever-growing e-journal and e-book collections, digitised extracts, and RefWorks; I’ve been heavily involved in developing our library blogs, Blackboard VLE content, Institutional Repository, and copyright & research training. I used to be a subject librarian, and I still have a small subject responsibility for Food Technology, at our Holbeach campus in the deepest part of the Lincolnshire Fens…

There can’t be many libraries that are housed in a former railway warehouse — what’s the story behind the Great Central Warehouse?

Ahh, you mean “From Goods and Grains to Books and Brains!” The warehouse was built in 1907 by the Great Central Railway, to unload and store grain (the Brayford Pool area of Lincoln has been a transport hub since Roman times). It was used by a builders’ merchant for a long time, before the pigeons finally took over. The University adopted it, and we opened the Library in 2004 – five years ago this September. It’s a lovely building to work in, especially up on the top floor under the original wooden beams, with great views of Lincoln Cathedral. There’s a flickr slideshow of photos of the building in its previous life, including some pictures of the redevelopment.

Can you remember where and when you first used a web browser?

The first time I ever went online was in 1997, when I encountered Netscape. This was in the Sir Clive Sinclair computer centre at Anglia Polytechnic University in Cambridge. For quite a while I only used the web to buy records from the excellent Norman Records in Leeds because that was the only web address I knew(!)… then someone explained to me about these things called search engines.

Do you think libraries and librarians should adopt a cautious approach to new technologies, or should they be rolling up their sleeves and embracing it fully?

They should roll up their sleeves and get stuck in – while feigning an expression of aloof disinterest ūüėČ

It can be difficult, because a lot of people look to the University Library for authority, reliability, predictability, completeness, and accuracy, and it can be hard to maintain those things while experimenting with 2.0-type tools. I’ve suggested to colleagues here at Lincoln that we ought to aim ourselves at a point “just after the bleeding edge stops bleeding”. And we should be more open about our work, explain to readers when a service is experimental or makes use of unsupported elements, and accept our responsibility to explain what’s going on when users’ experience changes as a result of things over which we have no control. Above all else, we have to talk to users about our work far more than we’re currently doing.

Are you currently using any mash-ups at Lincoln?

Yahoo! Pipes powers an RSS feed of new e-journal titles, and we’ve mucked around with Google maps to identify clusters of users who might want to make use of distance-learning or reciprocal borrowing schemes (based on anonymised postcode data). But very little has made it into the public sphere: i.e. onto our OPAC.

Have you got a favourite mash-up?

I like book carousels! E.g.

Got a favourite beverage?

A cup of tea. Or a pint of Bateman’s XXXB, and *then* a cup of tea.

Paul blogs at Blogs·Library·Lincoln, has a web site at, and is @pstainthorp on Twitter.


~ by Dave Pattern on 13/June/2009.

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