Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Digital Textbook Initiative

After a slighting reference to 'Arnold' on Have I Got News For You, about the simple economic savings implicit in not giving children hard copies of non-fiction text books, it feels difficult to come out on the side of digital learning.

Terminating Education on elearning 3.0 blog found at elearninglearning (sic)

Full speech at Office of the Guv'ner

Actually, I still believe in the mixed economy.  Certainly for novels and poetry, I prefer having a copy I can carry around.

The argument for up-to-date information seem irrefutable, however - as digital copies remain available for all students, when limited copies soon leave the shelves, and either stay out for months, or never come back. And they also go out of date quickly, whether books on law, medicine, economics, etc.

I think it a rather extreme position to eliminate books altogether, as though all information goes out of date quickly.  We don't just study History (where new revelations, attitudes and approaches might appear) but also how people viewed it at certain times (some classics remain important for study, even if 'period pieces' in some ways.)  The idea that all information goes out of date comes from a rather superficial view that we in the present know more, and more accurately, than people in the past.  I do think completely deleting the past a rather dangerous approach, myself.  Just think how hard it can prove, to find an out-of-print, out-of fashion  masterpiece.

This remains a heated argument within libraries, as some of us think we should appear as up-to-date, clean and modern as Borders or Waterstones - just free, is all.  Others think we should represent an alternative to best sellers and a limited choice on display, and include an archive of 'out-of-date' material and hard to find items, rather than just the latest compilation summary of past knowledge, Dummies' Guides, etc. 

Of course, bookshops and libraries can both order you copies of books they don't have, to arrive later, whether to borrow or to buy.

As it happens, as I try to use e-learning options within the libraries, for staff training - I don't feel sure either way.  I don't get a great response from my initial efforts to make knowledge available digitally, but then again we work in a library, and I am not sure how many staff spend any time with the 'How To Use a Computer' books that we have, either.  Some people spend their time learning, and others don't - so motivation seems as important as access to tools.

No, I didn't reach a conclusion...

I have studied online for the last few years, and when working through a text my favourite option remains having a paper copy for reading on the bus and in the bath, and a PDF copy for searching, cutting and pasting etc.

I don't really believe in Either / Or.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Call yourself a librarian?

Well, actually I don't (the title of the blog is a joke aimed at friends).

The word 'librarian' remains reserved for people who got a degree. I didn't. Not only didn't I get a degree in Library and Information Science, I didn't get a degree at all. I dropped out to become an auto-didact (what self-taught people call themselves to sound clever).

I work as a 'senior library assistant' (Corporal, to you).


Still, I always throw myself into whatever job comes to hand, so I thought some of you might find this LIS publications wiki interesting. Use the sandbox, to practice using a wiki...

Welcome to the Library and Information Science (LIS) Publications wiki. This wiki gathers information about publications that LIS professionals might want to write for -- whether they want to reach their colleagues or their communities. All editors, publishers, and LIS professionals are welcome to contribute to the publication profiles. To participate, just create a free account and log in.

The Truth is Out (there, I said it) - Libraries gave us power

Apparently people actually do read blogs. Well, well.

As you can tell, I belong to the group of people who think 'information wants to be free' - even if that does carry its own risks and dangers.

I grew up in the censored generation (I'm old), and I can assure you that felt even worse. OK, so perhaps the slackening of control meant that our tv screens got filled with swear words and quasi-porn, etc, and now you can read William Burroughs, Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence, etc - but people grow out of that 'secret thrill' eventually. We are talking 'the lesser of two evils' here - I don't pretend that completely open and freely available information will ever arrive. And, of course, we do have the privacy aspect to consider. When censorship went we also got satire - previously you couldn't criticize religion, the royal family, politicians, etc. Now that we know more about them (and their expenses) I think it's a good idea. IMHO. And it seems an excellent idea that we can actually say what we think out loud (Have I Got News For You), allegedly.

But still, I work in a library, and we hope to provide information without bias for all and ordinary people. You need to be able to look up the history of Nazism, unpleasant though it is. You have to be able to read Mein Kampf, too. Our job isn't to filter stuff (as I see it, and it's only a personal opinion) or to over-protect people.

Religious parents may object that children can borrow books on atheism and anarchy, but I could object to the amount of shelving dedicated to religion - as opposed to Free Thought. I like the idea of a library as a level playing field for information.

The Secret Is Out

Let me not rant, though. The male voice choir's voice is ringing through the libraries, the mayor and entourage have arrived, the Manics (yup it was them, as I originally posted, before being told it was supposed to be a secret, which made me go edit the post and confuse the fan forums) will no doubt cut that ribbon, unveil their plaque and everyone can go home.

And using the speed of online media, you can see proof that the Manics really were at Cardiff Central library today - my photo shows them on the 3rd floor, looking down on the Press on the 1st floor (the Children's Dept). You'll see better quality pictures in the papers, later...

The staff will carry on serving the public as they have for 3 months now (we are open until 19:00 on a Thursday) and all's right with the world.

Library 2.0

Oh, and because I don't like anonymity (it goes with censorship) I guess most people who work around here now know (or can find out) who posts this blog. The blog arose from a growing awareness of an online culture of (some but not all) library staff around the world who think we should use modern media tools, as a complement to the traditional library - an approach called - in shorthand - Library 2.0. (Like Web 2.0, etc).

Oh look! Swansea library have joined Twitter! See their Paige Turner blog. Of course, Twitter is currently blocked at our library, but everything does change slowly...and eventually.

So - learning by doing - I continue to try to demonstrate what we could be using these tools for, including ephemeralizing the library (so you don't actually have to visit a building, even a state-of-the-art one). I haven't been inside a bank building for months. I do it all online, pay my taxes, renew my books, check my accounts.

Don't you? You could, you know!

Did I mention the library has free WiFi access, so you don't have to depend on the Council network, or use Council PCs, just bring your laptop, and do all your work on your own machine.

And if you prefer to work from home here's the Library Catalogue, which also offers access (from anywhere) to our free e-reference material, and your account, if you are a member.

All you have to do is join!
You can see a nice slide show of images of the Opening Ceremony here. Funny that they chose the opening line for the plaque though...when they had this choice, from Design For Life:

Libraries gave us power
Then work came and made us free
But what price now for a shallow piece of dignity

I wish I had a bottle
Right here in my dirty face to wear the scars
To show from where I came

We don’t talk about love we only want to get drunk
And we are not allowed to spend
As we are told that this is the end

And here's the BBC's version of the story.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

And talking of scare stories and rumours...

Many of the staff (who sadly have ten year old PCs) and even the public (working on nice new ones) have complained about the speed of the internet (at times) since we moved into the new building.

Given that both old and new PCs suffer from it, we all assume it is the network.  Not many of us know very much about networks (if I ring Virgin about bad service at home they start talking about 'load-balancing' and other esoterica). Then they stop taking my calls (but they don't stop taking my money).

Since a Cardiff school (with a quite specific problem, I might add) got into the local papers speculating that it was the adoption of Kaspersky anti-virus software which had caused problems with their new IT Suite - staff have generalized from that to blame K for the performance here, too.

It seems possible, of course, but I don't speculate beyond the data.  ICT deny that K has caused performance issues for libraries, and I accept their current assessment.

School blames K    23 May 09   South Wales Echo

K denies liability    28 May 09  South Wales Echo

Of course, it doesn't answer the question as to what DOES cause the problem, and even more importantly, HOW CAN WE MAKE IT GO AWAY?

It appears to be something to do with the infrastructure from which the Council purchases its services, and outside of ICT's sphere of influence...we'll just have to wait and see.
The internet is falling apart, maybe?
Back to the books, people!

Make a Noise in the Library

We will be having a 'grand opening' on June 18th - with 'mystery guest stars'. (I have been discouraged from actually naming them).  In the modern world, the only usual reason for not naming your 'celebrity guest star' is because most people may not have actually heard of the latest drop-out from Big Brother or a person who came second in a talent contest - better to use the buzz words - 'famous' 'celebrity'  'star'.

As it happens, you probably have heard of this band, even if you couldn't necessarily name one of their songs, and they won't be playing - just showing their faces, and maybe cutting a ribbon, but hey.

And I could have sworn we had been open to the public for months now, but I am a mere public servant (touchs forelock)... not invited to the 'drinkies'...    :-)
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