Monday, December 14, 2009

The New and The Old

The new library just won the GGB BDP Building of The Year Award.

Fenestration News (if you want to know about glass walls)

Cardiff library at e-architect.

BD Online, the architects' site - a review of new buildings in Cardiff.
Here's Owen Hatherley:
"The library, part of the same development, is mannered on the outside; a barcode facade meeting copper cladding, with the entrance to Wagamama clearer than that of the library itself. The interior is better, balancing activity and quietness with a hint of brutalism about the materials."

One phrase from BDP Chairman Tony McGuirk struck me oddly, though, as he is quoted as saying "The first step of genius was to place the library at the centre of the street, the second step was to create an architecture both externally and internally that creates an irresistible place for people to spend their learning time".
The Old Library I agree that it is a good looking building, but as to its location, the 'stroke of genius' seems to closely resemble the design decision made back in 1882, when what we now call The Old Library was placed right in the middle of The Hayes, next to the market. And its opening day was declared a public holiday! They really knew how to do grand openings back then! :-)

The extended version, with the wonderful south-facing facade, was later inaugurated by The Prince of Wales himself, in 1896 - as anyone willing to pop over to Wikipedia would know - and the building remained in use as a library until 1988.

I wonder if this new one will last 92 years?

Oh, and the Old Library is still functioning, by the way, over a hundred years later, but now as a tourist and information centre.
Here's an interesting exhibition inside it (dig those interiors! Some of our staff remember that place. I was a customer back then, I never worked there) : The Cardiff Story.

But don't mind me, I only work here in The New. And my office is pleasant enough...

Friday, December 11, 2009

Kicking and Screaming into the 21st Century

Actually, we've been here in the new century for nearly a decade, although some (but not all) staff, some (but not all) ICT departments, sombunall management teams, sombunall members of the public don't seem to have got up to speed yet.

Quick as a phone call
I don't intend to sound snarky, just because I use a Blackberry. Email me, I respond ASAP - and I prefer it to phonecalls, not only because they interrupt meetings, and still don't seem appropriate in the library environment, but because I have a written record of exchanges.

Email people who may check their emails every few days and you might as well have sent them a snailmail letter. So I can't use that for quick advice to all staff (20 buildings across the city).

Blogs, Wikis and other Library 2.0 tools
Similarly, although I have a blog (this one), and have set up e-learning modules through a Learning Pool channel, and also added staff FAQs to the same zone, very few people seem able (or inclined) to access them.

I would prefer to set up a Wiki structure, so that we could all contribute to hone elegant and clear FAQs - relevant to staff's everyday enquiries - but this seems a bit ambitious. Cardiff has started a Knowledge Bank wiki on the intranet, but library staff do not seem to consider it part of their space.

All this to mention a Wiki that has been set up - a Local Government Library Technology Wiki

It seems worth a visit, even if you don't intend to contribute or edit material.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Noisy Librarians!

The library staff no longer shush people: they can chat, laugh, talk on the phone, even eat noisily if they want!

And yes, that sentence remains deliberately ambiguous!

This morning I was training a couple of members of staff to use our new shelf scanners (and admittedly I do have a rather booming voice) when I got shushed by a member of the public who was trying to revise!

No, we don't provide any quiet areas for study any more.

Still, I don't think I am the first member of library staff to be accused of being noisy.

Noisy Library Staff

Noisy Library, Peaceful Mind from Eva's Book Addiction.

Southwark Noisy Library Day on Flickr

Letter to The Times from Sue Mckenzie, President of the Association of London Chief Librarians

A noisy library is a joyful thing

Monday, December 7, 2009

Useful Web 2.0 links for libraries

SLIC website
The Scottish Library and Information Council (SLIC) have combined with CILIP to produce a helpful 10 page guide to the use of Web 2.0 technologies in libraries - PDF version available here.

They also offer some interesting webpages discussing these options, possibilities and futures...including offers of support and advice.

For example, on the Guidance page you will find:

Have a clear purpose
It is easy to be drawn in by the latest tool, especially high profile sites like Twitter, without proper consideration of targets and expected outcomes. Try to match the service to a business need rather than using just for the sake of it.
Be responsive
Most Web2.0 services are interactive, involving sustained input and communication. If your users take the time to contact you, you should always try to reciprocate.
Be prepared for informality
The open and instantaneous nature of Web2.0 services means that communication can be particularly informal. Do not be afraid to embrace this, less formality may help to engage potential users and even update the image of your service.

All of which may come as a surprise to managers who like the idea, but who don't realise the follow-through necessary for incorporating these approaches, from selecting and training staff to giving them the time (and delegating the responsibility) to allow staff to respond quickly and informally.

I note that in the PDF the main problem remains for many libraries not the staff skills, or the management's approach, but simply the resistance to change from the ICT departments around the country. Currently, for instance, staff here cannot access Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Google Wave or any Blogger blogs - to name but five. And although staff PCs can access Facebook, they are discouraged from using it (or familiarizing themselves with it) in work time.

I have no opinion either way about which direction we should take, but it is reassuring to hear that the problems we encounter are similar across the board, and not local to us. This website looks like a very useful, and growing, resource.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

If you write as good as you talk, nobody reads you

Simon Hoggart managed to get a laugh out of Camden Council (in London) with this wonderful example of bureaucratic language. If everyone wrote like this, no-one would read books (including me).

Reader John Richardson sends in a magnificent example of jargon, from a report by Camden council, north London, called "Growing Your Library" [sic]. This turns out to mean sacking lots of staff and replacing them with barcode scanners. It includes phrases such as "information plinths" and reads in part: "The People work stream sits alongside service visioning, ICT procurement, spatial strategy, pilot RFID (radio frequency identification), enabled library and communications work streams."

The Good Library Guide has already picked up on this, but I’ll mention it anyway.

Just to be fair, however, when I looked at the PDF the Council offers on ‘Grow Your Library’ (I don’t even like the title: ‘grow your own…’ maybe, or ‘grow your libraries’ perhaps), there’s something about the rhythm or the grammar that just doesn’t work as a slogan for me. [muses] ...Grow your rose, grow your pig, no it doesn’t work for me.


Anyway, I can find no phrasing quite as awful as the bit Mr Hoggart quotes, in the PDF.

We all live with 'noisy library theory' these days...

Oh, and the title for the post is the way I remember Lou Reed dealing with an inarticulate heckler...on Take No Prisoners (read Gadfly for background)
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