Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Four rules for creating effective (and beautiful) PowerPoint Presentations

How good are your presentation and PowerPoint skills? Academic Liaison Librarian Ned Potter shares some hints and tips on how to make yours pitch perfect.

Creating and delivering presentations well is an increasingly key skill, both while you're at University and afterwards. You may have to present in seminars, and you may have presentations involved in your assessment - and many job interviews now have a presenting element.

With that in mind, it's useful to know what works and what doesn't in terms of creating an effective set of slides. Engaging slides make a huge difference in how much the audience remembers from your talk, and how responsive they are during it. Yet most PowerPoint presentations are awful.

This is easy to address when you know what matters and where all the useful resources are. One of our Academic Liaison Librarians has created this guide to the four most important rules for creating effective presentations, to help you out – check it out below:

Monday, 22 December 2014

Celebrating the York City Art Gallery donation.... with more art!

Stephen Town continues his Night Shelf donations with a bumper collection of titles from the history of art.

Last week we welcomed York City Art Gallery staff and the Friends of the Gallery to a reception celebrating the donation of the Art Gallery’s book collection to the University Library. This has already been reflected in previous blog posts, but it has provided me with the opportunity to continue my own donations through a gift of five art history works from my own collection.

Photo: University of York reception to celebrate the donation
of the York City Art Gallery book collection to the Library (picture credit Paul Shields).
I hope that the books I am donating this week will supplement, in a small way, the acquisition of this substantial and rich Art Gallery stock. I accept that this is not really night shelf material, but Christmas calls for something special and personal, and for a combined gift to cover the weeks until I return in January.

One of the perceived difficulties for a relatively young University is to amass collections of the depth and breadth of more longstanding foundations. This is particularly true in the history of art field, in which, as Professor Prettejohn pointed out in the reception, physical books have a particular importance and weight, especially those with illustrations. The Art Gallery gift is therefore of great significance and value to the University’s academic work, as well as providing a new link to the wider York community. So I'd like to reiterate my thanks to the York City Art Gallery and all involved in the donation.

As a serious librarian, with at least some basic skills remaining, I did think to test the unique worth of my gifts against our own collections, including the York City donated collections, and also the national COPAC catalogue of seventy research university and specialist institutions. Fortunately all turn out to be unique additions to York.

Old Master Paintings from the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection - exhibition catalogue

More than twenty-five years ago I was invited to a reception at the Royal Academy to view a collection of Old Masters from the Thyssen-Bornemisza collection. The invitation came through a potential library computer system supplier; this firm being part of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Group of companies. Similar opportunities rarely arise these days as modern day procurement rules quite rightly frown on such generosities. (As it turns out, we didn't buy that library system in the end!)

Old Master Paintings - exhibition catalogue
The collection was created by successive Barons Thyssen, and at that time in 1988 was probably the second largest private collection in the world after the Queen’s. Now exhibited in its own gallery near the Prado in Madrid, the collection is particularly strong in landscapes and portraits, and includes Holbein’s striking depiction of Henry VIII. The Library also has a similar exhibition catalogue of modern masters from the same collection but this is a personal reminder of a wonderful evening, and a period when buying a library system was an exciting adventure requiring visits to exotic locations.

Masterpieces of the world’s great museums

Masterpieces of the World's
Great Museums, 1988
ISBN: 0600559149
The Prado Museum is one of those featured in this coffee table style book, among others including the British Museum, Louvre and Metropolitan Museum of Art. The book contains good quality images of many of the western world’s most celebrated artworks, as well as plans of the museums as they displayed their collections in the late eighties (at the time of publication). Displaying these dispersed collections together not only provides a comprehensive introduction for those not already acquainted with the museums, but also gives those who have been fortunate enough to visit, an opportunity for contextualisation and re-evaluation.

Spanish painting – András Székely

Continuing the Spanish theme, this item is a real rarity, as there appear to be only four other locations of this work in the UK. The colour plates have been painstakingly added after the text printing. Coverage is from Mozarabic miniatures through to Miro and the Picasso works featured are from the Barcelona Museo; the most emotionally affecting collection I have personally experienced.

Myth and ceremony in Islamic painting

exhibition catalogue

Myth and ceremony in Islamic
painting - exhibition catalogue
This apparently insignificant item covers an exhibition which I remember viewing, although I have no recollection of where and when. The national research libraries catalogue is as confused as I am; no-one wants to commit to a firm date or location for the exhibition, and there is no other copy of this catalogue in research libraries in the north of England. An almost throw-away attribution links it to J.M. Rogers, now Honorary Curator of the Khalili Collection of Islamic Art and first holder of the Khalili Chair of Islamic Art at SOAS. Although the catalogue contains no images from the exhibition, it does give an interesting account of the history and development of Islamic art and its influencers.

La Dame à la Licorne

Paris is full of museums and art galleries, and one might be forgiven for tiring before reaching the Musee du Moyen Age at Cluny, the treasury of medieval art in Paris. The sumptuous and mysterious six tapestry panels of the Lady and the Unicorn are its bewitching and unforgettable centrepiece.

Photo: The Lady and the Unicorn by Terretta
Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence
One of the most famous tapestries in the world, this book guides the reader through each element before offering a more in depth study of the piece's significance. Interpretations of its meaning are debatable, but enjoyment of the five senses, together with a rejection of those passions generated by ill-control of sensory pleasure, as conveyed in the six panels, might be a salutary message for Christmas celebrations.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

L.S. Lowry in the Library's Art Gallery Gift collection

More gems unearthed in the Art Gallery Gift collection

We have now added over two and a half thousand items to the Library's stock from the York Art Gallery gift collection. Among my favourites are a collection of books detailing the works of Lancashire-born artist L. S. Lowry, best-known for painting industrial and urban landscapes of the North-West of England.

Cover / A memorial exhibition of paintings & drawings by L. S. Lowry, R.A., 20th May-3rd July 1976 
Lefevre Gallery, 1976

Lowry worked as a rent-collector in Manchester, wandering the streets he was fascinated with the urban world around him and its inhabitants. Many of his city landscape pictures featured crowds of enigmatic figures, barely distinguishable from one another, and reflected the complex and unresolved relationship between the people and the city. The image below, called 'Old Property', is a typical example of his style. The painting can be found on page 17 of A memorial exhibition of paintings & drawings by L. S. Lowry, R.A., 20th May-3rd July 1976Lefevre Gallery, 1976.

Old Property (Main Street Tweedmouth) on the Lowry Trail in Berwick upon Tweed.
Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence by permission of the Europe a la Carte blog

Other scenes featured desolate wastelands; particularly brooding were those painted in the 1930s, a period of unhappiness and growing isolation for Lowry as he took care of his bedridden mother. Out of this period also came one of Lowry's most striking and disturbing works. The Head of a Man (1938) is a disconcerting portrait full of frustration and despair, a dark illustration of the artist's mental state at the time (page 78 in the  Lefevre Gallery book).

The Copley Prize December Winner, Lowry Gallery. Supervisor Jacob holds up Daniel's interpretation of Head of a Man (With Red Eyes) 
in front of LS Lowry's original. Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence.
Nonetheless, L. S. Lowry was a prolific and varied artist, regarded as one of the most important 20th Century British painters. To learn more you can find the books about him in the collection by keyword searching for 'Lowry York City Art Gallery' using the University Library catalogue here:

And York has a direct local connection with Lowry too. According to the York Art Gallery's website:
In 1952 [we] commissioned L.S. Lowry to paint a picture of York. He chose to paint Clifford’s Tower and his painting is now one of the most important modern works of art in the gallery’s collection. (From 'Lowry in York School Challenge')
You can view his painting online here:

and the rest of the Gallery's oil paintings can be seen here:

They're currently running a competition for schoolchildren to use his painting of Clifford's Tower as inspiration to create a new artwork. The winning entries will be displayed in York Art Gallery when it reopens in 2015.

And finally, here's a photo of the man himself, taken in 1962, contemplating the industrial landscape of Stockport.

Photo Credit: Smabs Sputzer via Compfight cc

Monday, 8 December 2014

A History of South Africa

For his fifth donation in this series, Stephen Town travels to the beautiful plains of South Africa to discover the turbulent past of a developing nation.

Welsh, F., A History of South Africa, in the University Library at Q 68 WEL

Those of us who grew up in the late sixties and early seventies tended to be clear on our view of South Africa. As a child Cape Town was one of the places I always wanted to go to, based on pictures of that spectacular setting of mountain, city and sea in my father’s photography books. As a liberal minded campaigning student however, South Africa was not a place one could contemplate visiting under the apartheid regime.

Photo: Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa by Dietmar Temps
Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence 

It was therefore an immense pleasure and privilege to have been in South Africa again last week, to deliver a paper at the 75th Anniversary celebrations of the Library and Information School at Cape Town University, and to renew acquaintance with colleagues from Universities and libraries across that country.

The nation’s transformation has been one of the most affecting events in my lifetime, and opportunities to contribute in any way are welcomed. The conference was an excellent example of robust debate and exchange about the role of Universities, their libraries and the new landscape of scholarly communication, and how library schools can play their part in shaping a nation’s future through their education and research.

Freedom poster. Part of
the South African archives
held at the
Borthwick Institute for Archives
Owing to its turbulent past, broad, even-handed histories of the country are hard to write. And whilst the Library has many specialist academic treatises on aspects of its history and culture, and an interesting collection of archive material, it perhaps lacks a recent general history. So Frank Welsh’s A History of South Africa seemed a fitting selection for my fifth gift in this series. The book is a colonial history, covering the period between the first European contact with the Cape and the end of the twentieth century, culminating in the first fully democratic elections in 1994. Both scholarly and readable, Welsh’s account provides a good introduction to the complex history of this diverse nation, and is recommended for anyone taking the flight.

I did also have some time off, and whilst this blog is not really intended for holiday snaps, on this occasion I could not resist!

Photo: Lion in South Africa by Stephen Town

Friday, 5 December 2014

Bah humbug! Using ECCO and EEBO to uncover a time when Christmas wasn’t so merry...

Kirsty Whitehead, Academic Liaison Librarian for History, Archaeology and the Centre for Medieval Studies, explores seventeenth century attitudes to Christmas with two of our electronic resources.

Imagine how different this time of year would be without Christmas. In the seventeenth century Christmas was, as it is now, a big event: an important religious festival but also a chance to unwind by indulging in eating, drinking, dancing, singing, and all round general excess, of which unfortunately the Protestant Puritans disapproved. This contributed to a deep religious divide which subsequently led to civil war, and in 1649 the Puritans took control of government and, whilst in charge, abolished Christmas. Fortunately, when Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660 all legislation banning Christmas was dropped, allowing Christmas to be celebrated once again with renewed enthusiasm.

Anon., The Vindication of Christmas.
London: G. Horton, 1652.
Our electronic resources such as Eighteenth Century Collections Online (ECCO) and Early English Books Online (EEBO) contain a wealth of primary sources, amongst which you can find contemporary perspectives on this period, such as the examples shown here.

In this 1652 pamphlet the Puritans' attempts to do away with Christmas are described in a tale about Father Christmas visiting Scrooge-like characters in London, and, of course, merry farmers in Devon. On the title page shown here, the man on the left - a fairly unthreatening-looking soldier - warns Father Christmas "Keep out, you come not here", with Father Christmas responding "O Sir, I bring good cheere". On the right, a friendly countryman says "Old Christmas welcome; Do not fear".

King, Josiah. The examination and tryal of old Father Christmas.
London: Charles Brome, 1686.
This pamphlet by Josiah King, published in 1686 after the legislation banning Christmas had been dropped, celebrates the reinstatement of the festivities through a humorous portrayal of the campaign against Christmas as a trial of Father Christmas.

He is ultimately acquitted of having "...abused the people of this Common-wealth, drawing and inciting them to drunkenness, gluttony, and unlawful gaming, wantonness, uncleanness, lasciviousness, cursing, swearing, abuse of the creatures, some to one vice, and some to another; all to idleness...". Phew!

Where can I find these resources and how can I get more help?

ECCO and EEBO are available to University of York users via the E-resources Guide, or you can explore other useful resources for your subject on your department’s Subject Guide. Both ECCO and EEBO can be used with EndNote Online to help you collect and manage your references - more information is available on our Reference Management site. For more advice about using electronic resources and for general advice about Library resources for your department contact your Academic Liaison Librarian (contact details are on the Subject Guides).

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Introducing Mobile Device Management

Pritpal Rehal investigates what mobile device management could offer the University.

One of the biggest IT demands over recent years has been for more and more access to wireless connectivity across the University estate. This has been fueled by the fact that many - possibly most - of us are adapting a mobile way of working.

Photo by John Houlihan
Laptops, mobiles and tablets have become a part of our lifestyle. An important tool, they hold our personal data and become (to some) an extension of who we are. Just like your house or car keys, if you lose your mobile, panic sets in... you start checking your pockets, coat, man bag, your pockets again your coat... ahhh - you know the feeling.

Many of these devices are University owned, as well as (wait for it... another IT acronym) BYOD (bring your own device). So what's the problem? Is there a problem? What are we trying to solve?

We've worked hard to develop and improve our IT Services Desktop PC platform, to provide a fully managed, adaptable and agile solution. Now the question is - can we deliver something similar for the emerging and growing mobile platform? Key to this is how we support and protect our data. Let me introduce MDM - Mobile Device Management.

MDM is designed to manage mobile devices, support users and, vitally, protect and manage corporate data. Over the last six months, IT Services have been working with various University groups who use mobiles to access data as part of the way they work. We ran a scoping exercise to find out how staff use their mobile device, what support they'd like to see, and how we could manage the data and devices en masse.

Information gathered from the groups suggested we look at a mobile solution. We are currently evaluating one MDM product, which offers a number of features including:

  • Delivery/deployment in various forms depending on the device owner - University or personal. This give us the flexibility to deliver relevant features and services, and to support a range of operating systems.
  • A self service web portal allowing users to register and manage their own device
  • Bulk central registration of devices
  • Multiple workspaces within each mobile device, keeping work (encrypted area) and personal data separate
  • Set global or local profiles, policies and access control to support the data (including mobile apps), users and devices
  • Integration with our identity management system (IDM)
  • Sharing single tablets to multiple users
  • Create a University App Store to deliver required or popular apps to our user base
  • Develop our own University apps 
  • Pre-purchase mobile apps, ebooks and other content for multiple devices 
  • Encrypted Secure Locker, allowing us to push University data content to all or specific users anywhere in the world. Ideal for sending documents to students during Freshers' Week. We can also 'time bomb' the data, so it will automatically removed from the device after a set period of time.
  • Geo-fence a device, limiting where and when it can be used
  • Remote wipe for phones that are lost or stolen
These are just a selection of the many powerful features available - implementing any of these would need to be supported by University policy on role access, usage  and security.

We will be testing the technology with a group of departments over the next few months and hope to gain a better understanding, so that we can make an informed choice about having MDM as part of our mobile strategy.

Laptop in the Grass by Simon Brown
Used under a Creative Commons license.