What’s your travelling talisman?

I’m at the Special Libraries Association (SLA) 2017 conference. It’s fabulous fun and I’ve come away with a plethora of ideas to follow up and people to contact. All in due course – I have another week in the States after this, and shall spend it hiking in the national parks of Utah before heading down to San Diego for a bit of R&R. 

I wanted to share with you a fun little story. Do you have something that you take away with you when you travel, either for practical reasons, comfort and familiarity, or just luck?

Here’s mine . It’s tomato ketchup. 

Allow me to explain. I don’t NEED to eat ketchup wherever I go. I’m not a philistine Brit who won’t eat local food. This happened by accident. 

Last year, I was hiking  with my good friend Betsy in North Yorkshire. We did a beautiful coastal walk, part of the Cleveland Way national trail, from Scarborough to Robin Hood’s Bay (around 12 miles). At the end of it, we got fish and chips. (One has to eat ketchup with fish and chips; it’s the law). At the end of it I tucked the leftover sachets into a tiny little pocket on the waist strap of my big backpack… And completely forgot about them until this year, when I flew to Helsinki. I only realised, days after I arrived, that the ketchup pods had survived the journey intact. I was so tickled that I immediately wrote to Betsy to tell her how durable Heinz tomato ketchup pods are! A little while later, I flew to Phoenix, AZ, via Philadelphia. ‘What the hell’ I mused – ‘leave the pods and see if they make it to Phoenix’. I figured that if they survived two flights plus the Phoenix heat (nearly 50 degrees Celsius) then it’d be a miracle. But I like a challenge. 

The little suckers are still going strong. Let’s see if they can make if for the rest of the trip and home again. I think they must be lucky.* And, they’ll come in mightily useful if I ever do get an inedible meal!

What’s your travelling talisman?

*The paradox, of course, is that if they ever DO burst, it won’t be very lucky…

SLA Conference – award winner

I’m delighted to announce that I have won the Special Libraries Association, Legal Division’s early career award this year. As a result I shall attend the SLA annual conference in Phoenix, Arizona. I’ve been to the States a couple of times, but never to a conference there, so I am very much looking forward to networking with our colleagues across the pond.

I took a chance applying for the Legal Division award as I am not a traditional law librarian – however, I went for it as I believe that I can bring a unique perspective of legal information training and management from an academic library perspective. I plan to fly the flag for copyright and intellectual property! I hope also to learn a great deal from law librarians from a variety of backgrounds.

I shall post more in due course, and in the meantime I wish to thank the SLA, SLA Europe, and the Legal Division for this wonderful career opportunity.

New site name

I have ‘rebranded’. The Hearing Librarian is, nearly, no more. I still use it as my Twitter handle, for now.

This change is because I want to focus less on my hearing (although it is still a big part of who I am). My law degree has given me a new focus and areas of professional interest. I also wish to expand my copyright and IP ‘remit’ to talk about issues beyond accessibility. However, this is and always will be close to my heart, and now is such a hot time to be talking accessibility issues in the context of universities, publishing, and scholarly communications. So there will be lots more coming up!

I look forward to sharing insights with you all in due course. I am almost three months into my law degree and loving nearly every minute!

HERON User Group meeting presentation

Image CC0 from

I was invited to present at the final HERON User Group on the 14th December. The HUG consisted of librarians and copyright officers, in conjunction with the CLA, who worked in the field of digitisation and making course packs for students. Both HERON and PackTracker (the digitsation software) were retired in 2016, replaced by the CLA’s new Digital Content Store. The final meeting was a great way to wrap up, covering current themes such as lecture capture, accessibility, CLA and British Library developments. We also saw the presentation of the George Pitcher Memorial Award: the PackTracker service was pioneered by George. Sadly George passed away in 2014 and the Award was been set up in his memory to recognise technical innovations in the industry. The worthy winners were Megan Benson and Esther McLaughlin from the University of Central Lancashire for their work in making better accessible copies for students with visual impairment. The CLA’s Meghan Mazella has written a great summary of the day.

My presentation covered the landscape around making reading accessible for students with print impairments. You can see my Prezi here: (if you require an alternative format or PDF copy then please email me).

A tribute to Chester

Many colleagues who I have met at meetings, conferences, etc, will have met my beautiful hearing dog, Chester.

He is still very much with us – to clear that up straight away – but I no longer have him.

Giving Chester up was the hardest decision I have ever made. It’s difficult to explain but I would like to try. I want to pay tribute to a wonderful dog and companion, and to draw some closure under what was and still is a difficult and painful choice.

I applied for a hearing dog when I’d just finished university, in 2008. I was living alone, low in confidence, and missing everyday sounds like the doorbell. The waiting list was almost five years. When I got Chester in 2013 it was a wonderful surprise; it’d been such a long time. I’d moved house, had a partner (who loved dogs). He slotted in straightaway and became a wonderful companion and help. He was so well-behaved (although cheeky, especially around food!) and got on with everybody he met. I had to take him to Newcastle, including an overnight stay in a hotel, and to London, within weeks of getting him. I’ll never get over how calm he was on the tube, not even blinking when a train pulled in to the station. He caused a lot of raised eyebrows and laughs when I carried him on the escalators!

chester 1
A day in the office

He also helped me to feel truly okay about my deafness. I’d always been unsure or apologetic. Now that I had him there as a badge, all the time, it felt like a weight had been lifted. If any access problems arose I became very assertive; for example, I had some issues with certain people at my workplace not understanding the legal requirements to give an assistance dog access. I learned to – politely and clearly – state my needs and any relevant obligations. Chester helped me – and I helped him; we went for wonderful walks and runs together. He was a real outdoors dog and loved nothing more than sniffing for badger sets and (very unsuccessfully) chasing rabbits.

chester MPs
Meeting MPs at the House of Commons
chester 2
After the morning run

Although Chester helped me enormously, as the years wore on, I could never quite shake off the feeling that somebody else could benefit from him more. I’d received a second cochlear implant in 2010 and my hearing was getting better and better (it’s a long way off perfect, but I say that I ‘hear pretty well for a deaf person’). And, paradoxically, as I grew more accepting of my deafness, it felt it was less a part of me. I contacted the charity to explain my doubts and they offered a trial separation. I must add that these are extremely rare in the advanced stages of a partnerships. He went on the 21st September: his 5th birthday. I cried so hard, then felt a sense of calm. I didn’t know what would happen but I knew that I needed to try this.

I must stress here that having an assistance dog is a hugely personal choice, and that this blog post is in no way making a connection between hearing ability and the decision to – or need for – an assistance dog. For my part I am and always will be profoundly deaf.

To cut a long story short, I said that Chester should go to somebody else. He has another 5-6 working years left and he will be a blessing to whoever gets him. I had three wonderful years with Chester and he increased my confidence so much. They were not wasted years in any sense. He came everywhere with me, my little doggy sidekick, and made me feel it was okay to be just me, to be deaf. And dogs are wonderful, aren’t they? I’d never had one before getting Chester. They love unconditionally. They make you go out walking – rain, wind, or sun – and meeting people. You know most other dog owners by the names of their dogs, not the person. Chester was the most amazing alarm clock. He’d jump straight on the bed and paw me awake, knowing that another joyous day was just beginning, starting with a run outside and a large plate of biscuits!

Not having him is still strange. The house felt so quiet and empty for weeks. I do miss the doorbell occasionally. I have to buy special equipment, such as a flashing smoke alarm, and alarm clock (which I miss sometimes as I roll off the pillow it’s set to vibrate under!) Most of all, my identify without Chester feels different. The day after he went I had to go to a conference and I missed a lot of conversation. I realised that it was no longer obvious to people and I would have to start telling them once more. But I have the confidence to do so, whereas before I had Chester I did not. And that’s his wonderful legacy.

I still miss him every day but I am so thankful that I had him, and I’m truly gratified that he is going to be somebody else’s ears and companion.

Thank you, my lovely Chester.

chester books
A true library dog


Marrakesh Treaty – why are we waiting?

At the end of October I attended one of the quarterly meetings of LACA – the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance.  As usual it was a lively and interesting session. I feel fortunate indeed to work with so many knowledgeable folk from a plethora of backgrounds (a full list of members can be seen on the LACA webpages).

In the meetings we discuss copyright developments and issues at a national, EU, and international level. One issue that spans all three is the ratification of the Marrakesh Treaty. [Disclaimer: the following represents my own views, not those of LACA]. It seems baffling on the face of it as to why our government has not taken concrete steps to ensure that this important treaty is transposed into our laws. But, at a time of uncertainly with Brexit (and anti-EU feeling from some of those in government), it is not so surprising that the UK is questioning EU competence re. ratifying the Marrakesh treaty on behalf of the member states. The EU certainly dragged its heels for long enough in the first place, having signed the treaty in 2014, but at a time when they’ve produced a reasonable Directive and Regulation, this additional delay is a huge pity. We risk comprising human rights in order that we do not ‘capitulate’ on sovereignty. One can only hope that the UK government sees sense and stops blocking EU ratification or, failing that, moves swiftly to implement the letter and the spirit of Marrakesh into national law.

My blog for for CILIP on the subject can be seen at:


The book famine: whilst 5-7% of books are published in accessible form in the UK, this figure drops to just 1% in less developed countries. Marrakesh aims to redress this balance (image: CC0 from



Catching up

When I started this blog, I thought I’d keep it strictly professional. However, personal life sometimes takes over, and one has to take a break in order to regain a little balance.

I have written several blog posts but not published them, so I will be bringing this site up to date with snippets of news from this year, ready for 2017.

It’s been one of those years with lots of change but with one constant – I am in the same role, at the same place, and enjoying what I do. Sometimes it feels like everything falls apart in order to come back together again, but if one thing stays in place then that can ground you, provide something of a lifeline. I have decided to go one step further and to develop my knowledge of copyright and other intellectual property rights by undertaking an LLM in Intellectual Property Law at the University of Edinburgh. I will be studying over 2.5 years – and I simply cannot wait! The course looks fascinating and perfectly suited for my background of law in industry. I’m looking forward to developing my knowledge of the practical aspects of IP law as well as getting stuck into the theoretical and underpinning concepts.

I guess one thing I’ve learned from this year which I’ll take ahead as I embark on my studies (after my last master’s whilst working full time, I said ‘never again’..!) is that there are always mountains ahead, but we can at least enjoy the view…

Mountains by Victor Filippov – CC0 from