Friday, February 27, 2009

Assistive Technology

As my work drifts away from hardware (computer first-aid), leaving more and more of that to ICT, I have been re-training towards working with people even more.

Apart from setting up a Moodle environment, for staff to access training, I have been working on an Accessibility training module - ATIC provided, at RNIB Cymru - which I am finding very interesting.

It does not only relate to blind and partially-sighted people - as the software that reads back text (for instance, JAWS or Supernova) could also help non-literate people, people with dyslexia, people using English as a second language, etc. And the magnifying aspect of some of these software options could assist even people like me (short-sighted people seem so common they don't seem to fall into the 'partially-sighted' group) when I have left my computer glasses at home.

And 'throwing away the mouse' to learn navigation just through the keyboard can help everyone...

The tutor on the current course I am doing has set up a blog, for more details about this issue.

Find the ATIC blog by clicking here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Images, Imagine, Imagination

Clearing up my hard drive, I came across a couple of random images.

The first comes from the blog of a friend who does artwork for all kinds of fields, from graphic novels to album covers, online and in paper form - Bobby Campbell (Penman for Hire).

I believe it was done for a friend, but he OK'd me publishing it here.
Graphic Image of Super-Librarian

The other is part of a wonderful series by Arcimboldo, but this one I hadn't seen before - The Librarian (1556).
Curious surreal image of librarian, made from books

Thursday, February 19, 2009

What Do You Want? Information!

Even a brief glance through this blog might convince people that I don't know what I am talking about.

I didn't take a degree in anything, let alone library and information studies.

I am enjoying the Effing Librarian, and the Annoyed Librarian's posts (see blog list on the right). And I refuse to make the word 'library' a taboo - in spite of all the image problems.

"We are librarians working in libraries, not audience development officers working in infotainment provision centers."
The Annoyed Librarian, posting at Library Journal.

The effing librarian's comment on the above article

I dropped out of school before A-Levels, back in 1964.  At the time I had no idea that much of my generation would drop out in disgust with the form of education we were offered, and its irrelevance to the world we expected to end up living in (and here we are!)  I didn't join in with college sit-ins, and trying to change the system, I just walked away, so if education curricula improved at all I can take no credit.

I won't bore you with how and why I ended up in show-biz, films and circus - but they all seem a long way from books, I know.  Ten years ago (turning 50) I took a job in a library, and I'm still here.  I had always been a user of libraries (more so, having dropped out of formal education) so have a certain zeal about providing such a service to maverick autodidacts (who always tend to show off their vocabulary, apparently - something to do with an inferiority complex).  OK, OK, the self-taught and lifelong learners.

Prisoner: Where am I?

Number Two: In The Village.
Prisoner: What do you want?
Number Two: Information.
Prisoner: Which side are you on?
Number Two: That would be telling. We want information, information, information...
Prisoner: You won't get it.
Number Two: By hook or by crook we will.
Prisoner: Who are you?
Number Two: The new Number Two.
Prisoner: Who is Number One?
Number Two: You are Number Six.
Prisoner: I am not a number. I am a free man.
Number Two: Ha, ha, ha, ha....

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Don't make me laugh...

Although this blog (unlike others I write) intends to remain focused on libraries, it does seem a shame that I immediately end up po-faced and solemn.

so, post-VD (Valentine's Day) - I offer a page I came across which amused me - from Library Journal:

Never Mind the Bollocks, Librarians Invented Sex, Stupid
Alfred Kinsey's "Lost" Report on Librarians and Sexuality

And I got pointed to that from A Compendium of Sexy Librarianness

Although I find the word 'sexy' rather tiresome these days (now that even cars, apparently, can 'be sexy' or advertising campaigns, or watches, or shoes, or whatever). All rather irrititating and fetishistic. But, hey, I got all solemn again. Some of this relates to an earlier post on stereotypes - and the Compendium offered a link on that, too.

I did like the Kinsey / Dan Brown joke, though.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Libraries for All

I am still a bit disappointed that the wonderful new central library in Cardiff doesn't hit the top of the Google charts when you look for news of the grand opening on March 14th 2009.

I have found sites listing the address as at Frederick St (that building was knocked down over two years ago), and John St (we have now closed, and are in the process of moving). I have tried to inform ones that offer the option to update their info. It's not really my job, I know, but since Google Maps has spent the last two years sending Central Library visitors, using SatNav, to a private address down the bay, I figure every little helps!

Cardiff Central Library
Mill Lane
Cardiff CF10 1FL
Wales  UK

I did notice that The Sprout had a little piece about it, which at least offers a tease of what we have to offer.

Swansea Library seem to have their own blog, although I can't quite tell if there really is someone called Paige Turner, or whether that name hides a sinister cabal of subversive staff (?)  Last year, when they opened their own new Central Library they had pictures of work-in-progress, video clips, etc.  (sigh).

And then again, when a library gets built because the tax-payers actually wanted the upgrade, you can end up with the astonishing Seattle Library, or the one in Minneapolis (entry from Wikipedia), whose budgets make Cardiff's look miniscule, I suppose.  Although, to be fair, those two do get listed as America's Most Literate Cities.

Seattle has maybe twice the population of Cardiff, but when consulted directly, in 1998, the public gave 69% approval to spending $196 million to upgrade the city's library service.  A large chunk of it went towards the award-winning Central Library (Wikipedia entry).  And yes, they are a wealthy city (dot.coms, internet, computers, etc).
Minneapolis, who consulted its citizens in 2000, got voted a $140 million package to similarly improve their services. Their population is not a lot bigger than Cardiff's. Their new Central Library opened in May 2006.

Words, wurdz, werdz...

For all my years, I continue to enjoy the modern world, even if everyone borrowed far too much money to live beyond their means, and burned up the planet in the process.  Whoops, sorry, wrong blog!

Working in a library has brought me around to the world of words and books, the world that (when at school) I think my mum thought I would end up in.  It only took 40 years!   Not only do I now write on websites, blogs and wikis, but I have completed two novel-in-a-month projects, and right now find myself proof-reading OCR printouts.  I am one of 150 volunteers, proofing a 600 page book for release as a PDF.  I have a bit of a proof-reader's eye - as typos jump out at me when reading hard copy.   Still, they seem to slip by me on screens at times.  It is a different kind of reading.

Fun to collaborate in a big project, though.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Library Angels

That I ended up working in a library, after more than 30 years 'on the road' does not surprise me (though it startled some of my friends). Book Person.

And the most common experience for a real 'book person' - that keeps them addicted when confronted with everything that anyone ever wrote down - comes in the form of 'help' in research through synchronicities - the right book at the right time, to change your life. Further than that, if you become a researcher, the right passage in a book will be thrust in front of you (doesn't mean that you never do frustrating hours, days, weeks, months or even years, looking for something - sometimes you just have to relax and shrug).

And then what Koestler calls the 'library angels' can help you out. And I don't necessarily mean those pony-tailed beings in Berlin's public library, the Staatsbibliothek, in Wim Wenders' film 'Wings of Desire', although they could have something to do with it.

Robert Anton Wilson mentions their influence (but not by name) when he quotes from The Illuminoids on p8 of my edition of Cosmic Trigger

"A book by another Wilson, Colin Wilson's The Occult - was also discovered at just the right moment and often "fell open at the right page" just as Wilson says other references did for him."   RAW

And here, John Michell (quoted in "Is The Universe Friendly?")

“Study a subject, allow it to obsess you, ask questions of it, and next time you visit a library, a bookstore or a friend’s house, you may pick up the one book in the world which gives the answer you were looking for. Coincidences can be invoked. I have asked many writers about this, and nearly all of them were able to give striking personal examples of being helped by this useful aspect of the feedback effect which Arthur Koestler attributes to library angels.”

After reading through a score of library cases, wrote the late Arthur Koestler, “one is tempted to think of library angels in charge of providing cross-references.” Koestler was the one who put the seraphic spin on this particular species of good fortune. His library angel will be no stranger to many writers, readers and researchers. Whether she’s sister to serendipity, or just cousin to dumb luck, she seems to make her appearance at the moment when your guard is down. You’re either idly seeking some piece of trivia, or giving up on some search through the stacks, when suddenly the right book or magazine falls at your feet open at the right passage.

And sometimes, of course, that precious aid to research might just be a real live member of staff with deep knowledge, a 'feel' for their subject, and willing to follow a hunch.  but I still like the improbable...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Best wishes

Sad to hear that Phil Bradley has had to cancel the Web 2.0 seminar this week.

Cardiff Library staff send best wishes to him and his family - and look forward to meeting later this year, maybe.

Monday, February 9, 2009


Having spent decades in community work, in a grey area between education and entertainment, and involving creativity (learning by doing) rather than 'learning by rote' - I really enjoyed this post on The Good Library Blog about a small library in Ireland.

 Follow this link for the whole thing, but I'll offer a few tasters as motivation to click through:

I am very fond of a quotation which I came across a few years ago which says: "even in the smallest town the public library is the institution which is building a sense of local community as we enter this new century."
A librarian wrote in 1876 that we should “receive readers with something of the cordiality displayed by an old-time inn-keeper.”
Up to a few years ago those who ran libraries defined them in their own terms, and defended them by being knowledgeable about books and reading and literacy and learning and local studies. Now the words and concepts of corporate management have swept in. Even people who read and study in libraries are becoming known as clients or customers.
Her role reminds me of the term “Animateur” as used in an old Council of Europe Report which I have to hand. The work of a good animateur affects the totality of life in the community, from town-hall to corner shop, from pub to factory floor. A good community animateur, or an animateur in a library, will enable people to develop resources within themselves - powers of expression, creativity and communication – independent of market and commercial processes.

We need more Animateurs - derived from the Latin word “anima” meaning spirit, breath, life or soul - in our libraries, and less of the sterile language of the corporate world.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Rapidly changing world

At the end of this week the temporary central library will close, and we will have five weeks to move all the stock up the road to the new 'state-of-the-art' library, for a grand opening in mid-March.

Some of the staff continue training during all this - especially relevant if your work practice is going to change.

On Friday the 13th a few of us will go to the next town, to take a one day Web 2.0 course with Phil Bradley, which I look forward to.    Here's the first of a two-part article he wrote about Web 2.0 - for CILIP (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) - which not only clarifies the concept, but offers suggestions of the kind of new services we could offer - and new ways for staff to communicate among themselves and with the public.

Phil's reference list for Web 2.0 software, possibilities, options, etc  I want to   from his website.

Also the I want to blog for up-to-date information.
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