Thursday, June 18, 2009

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.

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