Thursday, January 22, 2009

Librarian Stereotypes

Having mentioned the misguided image that many non-users have of modern libraries, I realised that it seemed connected to the stereotype of the librarian – which most people still seem to have in their head as a spinster of indeterminate age, wearing glasses, hair up in a bun, and loudly going SHUSH! with the prune-face of an unhappy school teacher.

Books, Glasses, and A Shushing Action Figure.

The action figure you see is of Nancy Pearl

OK, OK, maybe you don’t have that image in your head, but most people appear to, including film makers, authors, and others, who manifest and perpetuate stereotypes.

the librarian stereotype and the movies

quotations about librarians

Online librarians have tackled this question frequently, but generally the UK seems to have less online presence than the USA and OZ, etc. Things have started to change. You can find a few links below, which might give you an idea or two…

Librarian Stereotype Survey: Highlights
Rejecting The Stereotypical Librarian Image

The belly-dancing librarian offers further links to people breaking the stereotype

Macho Librarians with Guns

(oh yes, did I forget to mention some librarians do have a sense of humour?)

The Laughing Librarian

Exploiting "Sexy Librarian" Stereotype For Giggles and Personal Gain

And the radicals...

Library Underground

BUY THE T-SHIRT (and other cool stuff)

Library Underground's shop

Warrior Librarian's shop

You Don’t Look Like a Librarian
You can get that wonderful Ambigram on a T-Shirt, from this Cafe Press link:   Librarism 

And some of the cyber-librarians experiment with mash-ups and other innovations...

Dave Pattern’s creative display of the biblioblogosphere

Go look at this, why not?     Hot Stuff i

And although some librarians may still wrinkle their noses at Wikipedia as a source of certain kinds of information (and I agree it may prove flawed in some ways) I don't know of any other Encyclopedia you could refer to for an odd subject like this.

Librarians in Popular Culture - according to Wiki

Librarians: We're Not What You Think (short essay)

We're not what you think (collection of images)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cardiff Library Services

I remain astounded at the image so many people have of libraries. From strangers I meet at parties, to people who work for other Council departments - I mostly get the shush! picture, and the resistance from school-haters that it's all books and seriousness, etc...

The commonest reason given for not using libraries usually involves taking a book out years ago, letting it go overdue, assuming massive fines have built up (actually, there's a maximum of £10 for a book if you return it) and never daring to return.

Apart from the fact that users can now renew (extend the loan period of) books and other items
  • at any branch in person
  • by phone
  • online
this does seem a silly reason to give up using a local facility completely. 

You can still visit, you know, and use the facilities, even if you don't want to borrow stuff.

With an easily obtained (one form of ID) and totally free library card you can
  • Borrow not just books, but music and language CDs, DVDs (recent films, classics, foreign language), Graphic Novels, etc
  • Use the internet for free in any of 20 places in Cardiff - and soon you will even be able to use your own laptop through Wi-Fi access in the Central Library
  • Check availability, and book internet sessions up to 8 days in advance - from anywhere on the Web
  • Access your library account: - see what items you have out, extend the loan period to avoid fines, and place reservations on popular items, which will then get held for you, etc
  • Anyone (even non-members) can Search the library catalogue 24/7, and members can reserve items for collection later
  • Get access to the library's subscriptions, e.g. the geneaological site will normally charge you for every search - within the library Ancestry searching is free.   Other digital subscriptions include the complete Oxford Dictionary, Encyclopedia Brittanica, The Times Digitial Archive, Which? magazine, British Standards, local papers, and many more.
  • Even better, many of those resources can be searched (by library members) from home. All you need is a library card number and PIN.  See the e-Reference collection
  • The Local Studies department is digitalizing a lot of its stock, so (through the Catalogue) you can search old photos, maps and other fascinating material - useful for school projects, as a supplement to family history, etc. Try it!  You don't even have to be a member to search these online...
  • We have a large database of local clubs and societies (is yours listed?)
  • And on, and on...
And virtually all of this (remember) is free.  OK, you pay a small charge to borrow a DVD, but you get it for a week, not overnight as with (say) Blockbusters.  You also pay a small charge for music, or talking books, unless registered blind.

Cardiff Libraries online.  (includes addresses, maps, opening hours, etc)

A Hipper Crowd of Shushers  (NY Times article about the new generation of library workers)

Monday, January 19, 2009

New Cardiff Central Library scheduled to open in mid-March

If you are not around Central Cardiff (or if you don't know which of the new buildings IS the new library) you might enjoy Rob Gale's photos of the exterior, which you can find here on Flickr.

If you like this sort of thing, the St David's 2 Development people have a couple of webcams which have been displaying their work-in-progress.  The Central Library can be seen live on the view from the Altolusso Building here.  It is the dull gold (brass) and aquamarine building, centre left.

Site Visits
I have been wandering around inside a couple of times, and today took some informal pictures, but I am not entirely sure how popular I would be if I posted them right now.  Perhaps 'De Management' would like to keep an element of surprise (?)

There are great views from the top floors

And even on a grey day the front prospect (from The Hayes) is quite impressive

OK OK, I can't resist just one sneaky peek preview of the interior...

[update 20th Feb 09]

[yer too late!] I had posted one nice pic up, but apparently the elders of the tribe have protocols in place about information about the new library, and pictures of the inside are included (or rather, excluded from public consumption). They like to keep a surprise. Most tax payers I have spoken to are surprised there is even going to even be a new library, and seem even more surprised to find out where it is, so I assumed any word-of-mouth buzz was a good idea. Shows how little I know about advertising, and why they get paid the big bucks (as the saying goes).

It's a shame they forgot to actually tell staff about the protocols before pictures got handed around at parties, sent to friends on the internet (and the genii got out of the bottle) - but General Ignorance, Major Disaster and Kernel O'Nut don't talk to Corporal Punishment or Private Parts, as one knows all too well from how wars get fought (and Catch-22 describes any hierarchical bureaucracy). And 'they' perhaps don't understand about Internet, and how things escape.

I feel suitably chastened, even if no-one actually came here, or saw it - and I am sitting here typing into an echoing and empty room in my head...

Pix of interior will, I think, be available (for people who can't visit Cardiff, but are interested) after March 14th, I assume (I don't know, no-one has explained what I can do, only what I can't...)

Go Dewey yourself!

On a lighter note, at SpaceFem I discovered this software which will find a way to classify you in Dewey.  I got a couple of results, but was allowed to choose the one I preferred (I like those kind of quiz results!)

And thanks to the Dark Librarian, as I found the link on her blog Card Catalog of Creativity.

Anon Librarian's Dewey Decimal Section:

750 Painting & paintings

Anon Librarian = 1454292818914 = 145+429+281+891+4 = 1750

700 Arts & Recreation

Architecture, drawing, painting, music, sports.

What it says about you:
You're creative and fun, and you're good at motivating the people around you. You're attracted to things that are visually interesting. Other people might not always understand your taste or style, but it's yours.
Find your Dewey Decimal Section at

Non-judgemental libraries

I am not a qualified librarian, nor a lifelong information worker - I have only been in the business for ten years - so I suspect that some debates which still engage me seem like old hat to others.

As a lifelong user of libraries, however, I always assumed that they were information neutral, in other words, had no role in censoring or filtering the material I had access to. I realise that is an image of an ideal library, and that in 'real life' the constraints of budgets, the complaints of users, etc. - no doubt influence the content of the shelves. And I guess we have to distinguish between censorship (no access) and filtering (limited access).

Now that libraries offer access to Internet, the same issues of censorship and filtering apply - magnified by public hysteria, but also by very real threats to children and vulnerable adults. So Councils err on the side of caution, of course, but then get feedback from many users that a heavily filtered service that blocks too many internet options is worse than useless. One solution is to have some PCs made Adult Only, some Children Only, but most of ours are set to Access to All.

Bowing to pressure from users, a large number (not all) of our branch and Central Library PCs now have access to Facebook, MySpace and YouTube - presumably as the 'more respectable' of the social networking sites (i.e. ones that have their own virus checkers or moderators or whatever).

I assume this trend will continue, but as a continuous back-and-forth between outraged citizens of both types - outraged at being cut off from resources, and outraged that others should have access to everything...

LibrarySpot special on filtering in libraries (US)

"The use of software to filter Internet content in public libraries has been declared unconstitutional in the United States, and the new Human Rights Act opens the way for a similar process to happen here."
...above quote from this site, discussing the European situation - article apparently dated 1998!

'Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.'

CIPPIC discussion of the issue (Canada)

Huffington Post on self-elected internet censors

Committee of Concerned Journalists on circumventing government censorship.

Australian blog discussing filtering, and moral panic - Somebody Think of the Children

Thursday, January 15, 2009

If You Can See What I Am Saying...

I spent today on an training course at RNIB Cymru - Breaking the Barriers through Accessible Information - Funded by the Equalities and Human Rights Division, Welsh Assembly Government.

The trainer, Tony Jefford, was really excellent - delivering his material in a mixture of ways that kept us all interested, motivated, entertained and learning.

I won't elaborate on the detail right now, as I am digesting it, but it directly related to my role at Cardiff Central Library - not only as I might become called on to assist the public, or to train staff, but in terms of trying to ensure that the services we do offer are well advertised and fully used.   It is obvious that many people remain unaware of the nature of modern libraries, and the resources available - but equally it became clear to me that we probably do not raise awareness adequately ourselves.

Shortcut Keys

The thing that I most enjoyed was to realise that the Windows Shortcut Keys (a few of which I use and teach as convenient tricks) are actually a very powerful tool - built into Windows and requiring no further investment in software.

I will be exploring and expanding my own use of these, and encouraging staff to use more, as well. 


One of the great things about Shortcuts is that they do not involve learning something specifically designed for people with disabilities - they would actually prove very useful to all computer users. It just so happens that becoming proficient in their use would also increase staff's ability to effectively assist people who are blind or partially sighted in the use of computers.

And one final joke (Tony is a great trainer, and told several stories against himself!).  When we were blindfolded and taken outside to experience the disorientation of being blind, and fumbled along the edge of a busy road in a bedraggled 'conga-line' of scared and helpless folk (safely supervised, I hasten to add), we were noticed by a passing driver who apparently rang Kiss FM to describe this strange sighting, and ask for the significance of it.

I don't know if Tony got through to them to explain. We all suggested he claim it was a demonstration in favour of putting a Pelican Crossing across that busy road, given that the RNIB offices are there...

Hot Stuff

I did submit this blog to Dave Pattern's Hot Stuff - not because I consider this project as much more than an example of what is possible (this isn't intended as vanity publishing) but because I prefer learning by doing, and demonstrating with practical examples.

As he gave a particularly motivating talk at the CLIC meeting in November, I wanted to follow through by taking part in his assorted mash-ups and experiments.   So if you want to follow this link you can see a word cloud of my keywords, and also a long list of similar blogs which you might enjoy browsing, too.

Audience Development Officers ?!?!?!

Librarians to be renamed 'audience development officers'

I have to admit that when one of the ICT guys told me about this I really did think he was putting me on.

I understand about restructuring, changing job descriptions, etc - but we have all laughed at (say) dustmen (as everyone calls them) getting called Refuse Disposal Officers, as though that somehow enobles the job, or raises its respect or status.   Um.

I am already being cheeky calling myself a 'librarian' because in the trade that label is kept for qualified staff - everyone else is a 'library assistant' - however, that's what people I meet think of me as, so I use it.

Even if we are rolling out self-service systems, and changing our roles - I feel quite well prepared, having spent seven years in facilitating use of computers for both staff and public. Very little will change for me.

Still, I don't see the other staff 'freed up by self-service' thinking of themselves as Audience Development Officers!   It takes me back to my show-biz days...  An audience for what exactly?  Books?   Council Internet services?   Are they mistaking us for people working in a Museum or Art Gallery or something?

By most people's definitions, an 'audience' is passive, and the whole approach to libraries that this blog (among others) supports is an interactive model. 

Most bizarre.

Story of Edinburgh Councils redefinition of 'librarians' in The Telegraph

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Standards for Accessibility

My Net Trainers course did cover some of the issues of accessibility (in terms of course design, website design, hardware devices, etc).

I have done a certain amount of training about accessibility from working for the Council, but very rarely get to employ any of this knowledge in a practical way.

I noted an article about web standards in this month's issue of .Net - which said in passing that many web designers had really not come to terms with the issues yet...

One contribution might be to check out the draft of British Standards' BS 8878:2009 - Web accessibility – Building accessible experiences for disabled people – Code of practice - which is currently available to review and comment on (Deadline January 31st 09).   You do have to register with an email address, but that is quick enough...

You can also download it in Word or PDF format, etc - see the page linked here

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Easy Being Green

Apart from protecting our grass roof with hawks, our new Central Library building is generally designed as an ecological/environmental showcase...

I believe it will be *BREEAM compliant  (for more on this, see The Green Guide), and although I don't know the ins and outs of all that, I like the idea.

It was certainly designed to those standards, but presumably the completed building will have to be assessed once completed and / or in use.

The latest I heard (don't quote me on this) is that we will open in mid-March 09.

* Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method

Monday, January 12, 2009

Back to work, and everything changing

I had a week off, to walk in the hills with the dog and huddle by the fire with Julie, and have now returned to find the new Central Library proceeding rapidly...a bunch of new People's Network PCs are arriving, and we can start planning the layout, self-service set-up, etc.

I find it annoying to currently be deaf in one ear (wax, you don't want to know) but such temporary hindrances tend to make one more empathetic about people with disabilities.  Speaking of which, I will be attending an RNIB training on Thursday - Breaking the Barriers through Accessible Information - which I am looking forward to.

Next month there is another Web 2.0 meeting (in Newport, this time) - the tutor is Phil Bradley (his blog) - which should also prove useful.

Things seem to have started falling together, which I take as a sign I am doing something right...   :-)
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