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MEMSLib at E-Quadrivium 2020 - Envisioning our digital future

Anna-Nadine Pike reflects on MEMSLib's recent participation in the online Quadrivium conference, hosted by the University of Kent, and the team's discussions about the future of our project.

The 28th and 29th November 2020 saw the University of Kent host the fourteenth annual Quadrivium, a conference and training event for postgraduates and early career researchers, coordinated by the Medieval Manuscripts Research Consortium (MMRC). Like so much of this year, Quadrivium 2020 was a necessarily digital 'E-Quad', but, importantly, this gave its organisers the opportunity to focus on the uses and practicalities of remote or digital manuscript study. Reflecting not only on the changes of this year, but also the potential afforded by a future in which access to remote collections is increasing, and digitisation plays an important role in a library’s sustainability, papers ranged from “Using Libraries and Archives in a time of pandemic” to “Digital futures in Manuscript Studies”. The first day of Quadrivium closed with the MEMSLib founders leading a roundtable discussion (chaired by Dr David Rundle), in which we reflected on the process of conceiving and building MEMSlib, the ways in which it has evolved as one lockdown lifted, only to be replaced by another, and (perhaps most importantly) our vision for its continuation and development.

With the aid of a well-received meme format, we began by revisiting the brief which was emailed to us in April 2020, seeking two students “to establish and promote an online group for mutual support in seeking library material among the MEMS community”. As we now know, the “How it’s going” is a radically different story; not only are we a team of five, but MEMSLib now comprises a blog, thirteen individual resource pages, an interactive forum and, most recently, designated Medieval and Early Modern Studies Noticeboards. With Emma-Louise Hill having introduced this project, Roisin Astell gave a behind-the-scenes insight into the designing of the site on Wix, with a view to establishing a comprehensive house style. Anna Hegland spoke about the process of compiling our resource lists, before handing over to Dr Daniella Gonzalez to talk through our collaborations and external contributors. It then fell to me to offer a virtual walk-through of the site itself, navigating through the format of our resource pages, the uses of our forum, and the scope of our Advice Unlocked blog.

Sustainability and longevity were the main topics when it came to questions, and rightly so. As we come to the end of 2020, out of a second lockdown and into a tiered world of learning more blended than a fresh green smoothie, it will be important for MEMSLib to remain adaptable to ever-changing research environments. To that end, we are resolved to:

  • Regularly maintain the site, particularly checking for any dead links, to ensure that our resources remain fully usable and up-to-date. We will continue to include accurate ‘Last Updated’ details on each page, keeping ourselves accountable for the information we provide.

  • Increase our fluency in SEO and online marketing, to ensure that MEMSLib remains discoverable beyond the time of pandemic – many thanks to George Knight, current MEMS MA student, for this suggestion!

  • Ensure that we create style guides for the creation of additional pages and maintenance of the existing site which can form part of a handover to any new members of our team.

  • Increase the use of the Forum through the addition of our new ‘Noticeboard’ feature. Not only will this widen the outreach potential of MEMSLib - Noticeboard posts are all publicly available - but we hope that feature will also allow MEMSLib to connect with global academic and likeminded institutions.

Such connections are central to our vision for MEMSLib’s development; it has been so rewarding to see our site begin to be featured on external university or library resource pages, from New York University’s 'History of the Book' Libguide to University College Dublin’s 'Digital Methods and Data Literacy' project, and we hope this will continue. As the founders of MEMSLib look to their own futures, be that doctoral submissions or new employment in the Library and Archives sector, it seems important to keep MEMSLib grounded within the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies. In our final question of the Quadrivium roundtable, David asked each of us where we would like to see MEMSLib in five years’ time. I said that I would like it to be one of the things that prospective students already know about the Centre at Kent, when considering where to begin their academic future in MEMS – I would like students to apply for the MA, already eager to get involved in this exciting web-based project, and keen to steer it in new, digital directions which its founders could never have predicted!

If you are a current student of Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Kent, and you would like to get involved with MEMSLib in 2021, please send an email with your contact details and motivation/vision for the project to, and we’ll contact you in the New Year. We look forward to hearing from you!

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