Saturday, December 12, 2015

Now I can call myself 'an Archivist'

I still don't have any professional qualifications, but that has remained true since I dropped out of school and decided to skip university, and the judgement of authority figures, and just live as a self-employed, self-taught person.

OK, when I gave up show business, and got my first 'steady job' at the age of 51, I half relinquished my self-employed status (although it never entirely goes away), but the job I got as a library assistant soon mutated into working as the computer whisperer for Cardiff Libraries (liaising between the staff and public and the IT department.  The internet was a newish thing, so qualifications were irrelevant.

Well, I just finished a year working on an Archive of the circus I feel part of, and of whom I am ridiculously proud, as they complete a life-span of 30 years.

We got Heritage Lottery Funding for a year, to create an archive - collecting paperwork up to give to the Glamorgan Archives - building a website that you can find here - and putting on an exhibition.

The year is nearly complete, and I will be returning to self-employed (not sure I like the word 'retirement') - or self-unemployed (we'll see).

But I can add the title Project Archivist to my cv - for the NoFit State Archive.  Cool, huh?

And by some kind of coincidence, old friends in Madrid have a fund-raiser going, to create an archive of theri collection.   In the next ten days, to complete their target.   Got (say) 20 Euros?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself

This looks like a lovely book...  Hat Tip to Brain Pickings for the heads-up

"If you don’t know what a willow tree looks like, go to the public library and get out a book about trees. You’ll notice that all through this book, I advise you to go to the library when you want to find out something. I think just plain going to the library and getting out a book is a swell thing to do. It’s something to do, when you’ve got nothing to do, all by yourself. It’s a thing I still do when I’ve got nothing special to do. I just wander around until I find a book that looks interesting; let’s say, a book about ship-building, or rockets, or a story by some author I’ve never heard of before. Now, chances are I’ll never build a ship, or ride in a rocket, and maybe I won’t like the way the author I never heard of writes. But it’s interesting to know how someone else builds a ship, or plans to fly in a rocket, or how the author feels about things."
The Globe Chandelier at the Los Angeles Public Library, from Robert Dawson's book 'The Public Library.'

"I’m really serious about the library: that’s the best place to learn more. We did lots of other things when we were kids, like collecting bugs, and wild flowers, and frogs, and snakes, and stones—and in the library I promise you there will be a really expert book on each of these, and on many other subjects, written by people who’ve made a life study of those special things. There will be books about trees and radio sets and telescopes and badminton and Indian crafts and metal work, about how to make bows and arrows, how to swim, how to — oh, there’s no end. There’s even a book on how to find a how-to book.

Some silly grownup has even written a book on how to read a book."

Friday, June 14, 2013

Kurt Vonnegut - A Man Without A Country

“And on the subject of burning books: I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength or their powerful political connections or their great wealth, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and have refused to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.

So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House or the Supreme Court or the Senate or the House of Representatives or the media. The America I love still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.”
“In case you haven't noticed, as the result of a shamelessly rigged election in Florida, in which thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily disenfranchised, we now present ourselves to the rest of the world as proud, grinning, jut-jawed, pitiless war-lovers with appalling powerful weaponry - who stand unopposed.
In case you haven't noticed, we are now as feared and hated all over the world as the Nazi's once were.
And with good reason.
In case you haven't noticed, our unelected leaders have dehumanized millions and millions of human beings simply because of their religion and race. We wound 'em and kill 'em and torture 'em and imprison 'em all we want.
Piece of cake.
In case you haven't noticed, we also dehumanize our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because of their low social class.
Send 'em anywhere. Make 'em do anything.
Piece of cake.
The O'Reilly Factor.
So I am a man without a country, except for the librarians and a Chicago paper called "In These Times."
Before we attacked Iraq, the majestic "New York Times" guaranteed there were weapons of destruction there.
Albert Einstein and Mark Twain gave up on the human race at the end of their lives, even though Twain hadn't even seen the First World War. War is now a form of TV entertainment, and what made the First World War so particularly entertaining were two American inventions, barbed wire and the machine gun.
Shrapnel was invented by an Englishman of the same name. Don't you wish you could have something named after you?
Like my distinct betters Einstein and Twain, I now give up on people too. I am a veteran of the Second World War and I have to say this is the not the first time I surrendered to a pitiless war machine.
My last words? "Life is no way to treat and animal, not even a mouse."
Napalm came from Harvard. Veritas!
Our president is a Christian? So was Adolf Hitler.
What can be said to our young people, now that psychopathic personalities, which is to say persons without consciences, without senses of pity or shame, have taken all the money in the treasuries of our government and corporations and made it all their own?”  

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Library of Unborrowed Books

Hers's a link to the piece in The Paris Review that brought this exhibition to my attention - Borrowed Time, by Michele Filgate.

She was discussing this exhibition:

Meriç Algün Ringborg: The Library of Unborrowed Books

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Libraries and Wikipedia - not an either/or

Cory Doctorow, one of the bright minds around, has contributed this to Boing Boing

Wikipedia and libraries: a match made in heaven

Definitely worth a read, for the idea alone, and it sounds totally feasible to me (with my fairly limited technical knowledge).  Some resources in my own library are available to all, others are for members-only, but available from anywhere, and there is a small group which are both members-only, and can only be accessed from within the library buildings (it all depends on the licenses).

Access to the complete Oxford Dictionary is alone a wonderful resource, but you can also find old newspaper archives, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, specialist dictionaries of biography, arts, etc.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Things to do when you are rich

Andrew Carnegie was a very rich man, who believed whole-heartedly in the value of public libraries, and contributed enormous amounts of his own money in setting them up in different countries.

110 years ago Andrew Carnegie was made a Freeman of Limerick; in his speech he outlined the role of Public Libraries...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Passionate defence of libraries

On Friday 23 November 2012, The Guardian published an extended defence of libraries by Jeannette Winterson.

Yesterday there was more, including the idea that collecting tax from Starbucks, Amazon and Google would easily pay for a high quality library service

Children in a public library - January 1946

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Public Library Internet Champion

I just noticed that my guest post has appeared on the Public Library IL Champions Network

I took the opportunity to smuggle in a quote from my favourite author and thinker, with whom I studied online for 4-5 years, and who opened my eyes to the greater possibilities of the internet.

Intelligence Increase

“High intelligence is the ability to receive, integrate and transmit new signals rapidly.” – Robert Anton Wilson

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Safe haven for thinking

Amongst the many virtues of a proper library service, that I would list, is that it can be a place for learning for kids you don't like school (but like learning).

Here's a more extensive list, that I came across in the Comments on a Bookseller post about the results of The Culture, Media and Sport select committee report.

Some of it still strikes me as so stupid that all I can do is splutter:

"In the last few years we have seen huge strides in that direction with libraries opening up in village halls, pubs, shops, churches, phone boxes, day care centres and tourist information centres, as well as linking with health, social care, benefits and job search providers.”

To quote "Jo" from the Comments: "A few books in a phone box is a book exchange not a library. Libraries are so much more."

And as to the 'library in a pub' model - that's really accessible to children, isn't it? Or Muslims. Or...

I haven't contacted Lauren Smith, about the list she created last year, but I hope she doesn't mind me posting it in full, here:

What Do Public Librarians and Library Staff Do?

■Dealing With Library Users:

- Suggesting a book for anyone from an 8 year old boy who never reads to a 70 year old woman who has read everything;

- Being unfazed by complex enquiries which could be of a sensitive nature;

- Understanding how to help people with computers who have zero confidence/experience and believe they can’t use them;

- Dealing with abusive visitors;

- Dealing with young people behaving badly – police have been called to library branches when young people have been climbing on bookshelves, causing problems, refusing to leave premises etc;

- Dealing sensitively with people who have mental health problems or learning disabilities and may be challenging to help properly;

- Keeping user information confidential;

- Huge training requirement around legal/ethical issues;

- Understanding the issues around safeguarding children and the elderly;

- Providing a safe, friendly space that welcomes everyone;

- Directing homeless people to the nearest shelter;

- Helping people with little or no English to use the library service by translating, using translation services or taking special care and attention to ensure people understand information;

- Collecting knives and guns;

■Helping People Find Information:

- Information literacy i.e. teaching people how to research, study and helping people develop lifelong learning skills essential for an informed citizenship;

- Understanding what users need and how they go about finding it (and working out where the problems are);

- Teaching people how to search effectively;

- Helping people organise information effectively;

- Helping people assess which information is reliable, for example the NHS expect patients to use online sources to find out about healthcare, but a lot of information on the internet is not reliable and can misinform people;

- Showing people how to find information about legal issues;

- Helping businesses find business information;

- Helping people research their family history or local history;

- Unearthing the needed information from the mounded heaps of print and electronic, free and subscription services, efficiently and accurately;

- Ensuring that less easy-to-find materials are available for particular groups – community langs, LGBT, people with/ disabilities etc;

- Being able to interpret research requests – working out what people want when they’re not sure how to explain

- Providing pointers on free and paid resources;

- Knowing how to do proper subject searches and suggest unthought of sources of information;

- Signposting to a huge range of services &say what they can offer: advice/help on immigration, debt, tax, legal, benefits, housing;

- Providing specialist information i.e. market research/patents/EU/law/health;

- Helping people if the library doesn’t have what they need;

- Understanding the need for access and negotiating access to information that may be blocked by council filters;

■Research Help:

- Teaching people how to research properly;

- Current awareness services, all types of research;

- Personal training sessions on resources;

- Filtering materials for relevance;

■Internet/Technology Support:

- Teaching people to use the internet;

- Helping people set up email accounts;

- Showing people how to use online job boards;

- Showing people how to use online council & government services;

- Teaching people to use online resources e.g. e-books, e-journals;

- Giving people login details for library computers and helping them when they have problems/forget passwords etc.;

- Providing technical support on systems and tools (i.e. loading ebooks from something like Overdrive on to a ereader);

- Helping people use the photocopier/printer/fax machine;

- Showing people how to Integrate emerging technologies into their daily lives;

- Helping people with online council housing lists;

- Explaining how wifi works;

■Organising and Running Events and Activities:

- Organising/promoting events for kids/teens/adults that promote a love of reading;

- Rhyme time and story time sessions, increasing childhood literacy and promoting reading;

- Children’s activities;

- Visiting authors and poets;

- Book festivals;

- Gigs (Get It Loud In Libraries);

- Helping with homework and school projects;

- Book groups;

- IT classes;

- Doing the risk assessments needed to make sure everyone is safe and secure at events;

- Dressing the library for events, making it look attractive and impressive (professional);

- Organising school visits

■Partnership Work with Schools and Other Organisations:

- A working and up to date knowledge and understanding of the curriculum and the way schools function (see this comment for much more detail);

- Working with teachers to improve reading skills;

- Working with schools & other community groups to promote the library and showcase all it has to offer;

- Visiting schools, talking to parents to promoting a lifelong love of reading with parents and children;

Giving talks on request from teachers on referencing and the importance of bibliographies for GCSEs/A levels;

- Working with U3A and other community groups to help public with online information;

■Library Management:

- Understanding how libraries work together, dealing with interlibrary loans and the British Library;

- Data protection;

- Reporting on library use and user needs;

- Using statistics to identify trends and assess levels of use;

- Managing electronic resources;

- Ordering databases;

- Paying invoices;

- Getting value for money via professional management, organization and promotion of resources;

- Promoting and marketing the libraries, including using social media to promote the library service;

- Attending training and events to make sure that the library service is keeping up with developments;

- Dealing with legislation including reproduction and attendant copyright law: photocopying/scanning for personal use, hi-res resources for publication/TV;

- Maintaining and building technical solutions for users’ needs;

- Maintaining a safe, interesting quiet environment;

- Being a premises controller: be responsible for a large public bldg, know what to do when heating breaks down, roof leaks etc;

- Training for fire marshals etc;

- Reporting to local Councillors, showing how libraries meet the wider council aims;

- Managing budgets and staffing, liaising with those who provide the funds;

■Collection management:

- Promoting/displaying/ weeding/ordering stock;

- Making sure the books and other items in the library are ones that users want/need/will benefit from;

- Reader and community development – encouraging people to read more widely and helping communities build knowledge and skills – matching resources to people’s needs;

- Describing/cataloguing/arranging physical or digital material in useful ways so that people can find it;

- Chasing and collecting books back and enforcing fines;

- Matching stock held with local community group(s) needs;

- Dealing with stock management / complaints etc. in accordance with international agreements on intellectual freedom;

■Archives and Special Collections:

- Digitisation and digital preservation, making sure information will be accessible in future;

- Storing and conserving media (including old/rare books);

■Other Council Services Provided Through Libraries:

- Dealing with people paying council tax and parking fines;

- Giving out condoms and bin bags;

- Issuing firearms certificates;

- Selling charity xmas cards;

- Issuing blue badges;

- Issuing over 60s bus passes.

And while we are at it - this, from the American Library Association last year.

10 Ways Libraries Matter in a Digital Age

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