Monday, November 22, 2010

A Point of View

A Point of View - Reading for Free

(listen on iPlayer)

Joan Bakewell reflects on the irreplaceable value of reading at a time when the squeeze on government spending is putting public libraries at risk.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pawn shop Britain

I have to say I have never heard a weaker or vaguer slogan than the Big Society, but even the Tories are now exceeding my expectations of them.

A think tank suggests selling off local assets (like libraries) to the local community. Well, duh, excuse me for not following, but libraries already belong to the local community, and get paid for by local people, through their councils.

Selling such assets off presumably means that rich people (who don't use public transport, or libraries, or swimming pools, etc) won't have to contribute to them any more through local taxes.

They pitch it as 'poor people having a stake in society' by presumably owning shares in a library.

Most strange.

Rather than tackle the deep divisions in society, or the appalling gap in wealth distribution, they want to further dismantle what few services the poor can still access, while not rebalancing the wealth gap.

The lowest 10% "have negative net wealth" - what weasel words! You mean they are not just poor, but in debt, surely? So how will they benefit by buying a library or a hospital? They'll have to borrow more to buy it, just like the over-priced housing, and then supposedly 'keep the profit' from running such a service. My mind reels at the nonsense of this.

Press Association article

Local Gov co uk article

I have to quote some of this for its jaw-dropping, bare-faced inanity:

ResPublica warned: ‘Meaningful assets and market entry have become the preserve of the rich.’

It highlighted that currently the poorest households in the UK have no stake in society.

The report said: ‘In fact, the bottom 10% of society has a negative net wealth. This disparity is even starker in terms of financial wealth, with the bottom half of households in Britain owning 1%, whilst the top 20% accounts for 84%.’

But the group argued this would not be solved by keeping the status quo in public services: ‘The welfare state was designed for a demographic pyramid which no longer exists and has built a culture of passive dependence which Beveridge never imagined and would have abhorred.’

The report added: ‘Public assets can and, wherever desirable, should become community assets, owned mutually or by individual shareholders or stakeholders in association with communities.

‘We have an unprecedented opportunity to lay the foundations for a truly popular and meaningful “Big Society” by simultaneously capitalising civil society and spreading ownership.

‘More importantly, we have an opportunity to achieve a bottom-up prosperity that builds resilient and independent communities capable of providing individuals with sustainable exits from poverty and entrances into wealth and well-being.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Welsh Libraries and Web 2.0

Welsh Libraries and Web 2.0: a survey of access and views in 2010

This fascinating report from the MLA includes several thought-provoking differences between Higher Education, Further Education and Public libraries; bizarre practices (blocking staff from access to sites that the public can use - which almost ensures that staff do not learn how they work, and then cannot assist public with use of those tools); odd resistance to allowing people to use available options; curious paranoia, etc.IMHO.

Anyway - this remains an unofficial blog for at least one other reason (apart from expressing contentious ideas) - that it does not appear bi-lingually. Cardiff Libraries seem to be an exception in that they manage to run their Facebook Pages in two versions.

Some excerpts to tease you into reading the full document here (Welsh version available here):

1. Executive Summary (excerpt)

This report into access to and use of various Web 2.0 applications in libraries in Wales has found some commonalities across the library sectors, as well as differences. Staff in many library institutions are prevented from accessing interactive websites such as blogs, and users (students and the public) may also be blocked from accessing them as well, for various reasons. University libraries appear to be the exception to both these instances and are able to experiment with and use these technologies more freely.

2.3 Definition
It is helpful at this point to include our interpretation of Web 2.0. Although it is a commonly used term it is not always explained. Web 2.0 represents the ‘second version’ of the Internet. The ‘first version’ featured static pages that provided information. The Internet then evolved to become interactive, featuring two-way communication and platforms that allow content to be easily created and uploaded. For many people, they will be using Web 2.0 tools every day e.g. Facebook or Twitter. These are social networking examples. There are thousands of examples and usages for Web 2.0 and this report focuses on the main ones that are currently used by libraries, or are popular with users.

4.1 Is access to Web 2.0 technologies blocked in Welsh libraries?
Librarians were asked if access was blocked to:
• Social networking sites e.g. Facebook, MySpace
• Blogs and/or twitter
• Multimedia file sharing sites e.g. YouTube, Flickr
• RSS feed aggregators e.g. Netvibes, Pageflakes
• Tagging and social bookmarking sites e.g. Delicious, Digg
• Instant messaging sites e.g. meebo
• Collaboration sites e.g. wikis

Friday, October 22, 2010

ebooks: Libraries at the Tipping Point

If Libraries are Screwed, so are the Rest of Us - a blog entry at Digital Book World about ebooks: Libraries at the Tipping Point a virtual conference which included presentations from Ray Kurzweil and Kevin Kelly, for instance…

Archive viewing of the content is available for $19.95.

Friday, October 15, 2010

An open source library

Widnes Library
It was interesting to hear that one library in the UK has fully embraced the online nature of much information, education and entertainment these days.

Halton libraries use Facebook and Twitter, and they have a blog for current news.

The Koha Library Management System comes from PTFS Europe

From the Press Release:

Koha Library Management System

With Koha, library staff access is completely web-based; acquisitions, circulation, cataloguing, serials and reports are all done through a web browser. As well as an excellent search engine the OPAC offers a range of Web 2.0 and Library 2.0 facilities such as tagging, reviewing, public and private lists as well as integrating with services such as RSS, Twitter and Facebook.

Working with PTFS Europe provides the freedom and functionality of open source software together with the benefits of receiving high quality customer support.

Paula Reilly-Cooper, Library Services Manager at Halton said "This open source solution is the natural choice for Halton Libraries at a time of public service cuts and the need to justify our presence. The innate flexibility of the software and service from PTFS Europe will allow us to do so much more for less, enabling us to provide an enhanced, adaptable library and information service that meets changing customer expectation."

Nick Dimant, Managing Director at PTFS Europe said "We would like to thank the team at Halton for showing the vision and initiative to make this decision. The challenging economic climate is proving to be a catalyst. It is encouraging libraries to realise that by moving to Koha they can benefit from this combination of good functionality and modern technologies at a reduced cost."

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fictional Libraries

It was a small pleasure to glimpse the London Library in the latest episode of New Tricks.

Brian goes to his local library where (yes) kids are singing, people are talking on their mobile phones, others are rummaging noisily through DVDs, etc - until he can't take it any more and shouts "Silence! This is a bloody library!" and gets removed by the security guy.

His wife leads him to the London Library which, as the title of the episode reminds us, 'smells of books."

It Smells of Books - episode 48 (transmitted 17th Sept 2010)
Brian finds the library card of cold case victim Dr Richard Symes, leading him to reinvestigate the death of the professor, who died after falling from the roof of his college three years previously. Sandra and Gerry interview Symes' widow, who believes principal Jeremy Ventham drove her husband to suicide following a conflict over teaching methods.

Still viewable in BBC iPlayer (accessed 23rd Sept, 2010)

Note: The London Library is a subscription library - it'll cost you about £400 per year.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Digital Inclusion

I have just attended an enlightening seminar on Digital Inclusion for Disabled People (aimed at Museums, Libraries and Archives).

The presentations were varied and interesting, and shook up my simplistic view of 'disability' as visual or hearing impairment, and mobility difficulties, as the presenters broadened the scope to include cognitive problems, learning difficulties, etc.

Having clarified the range of issues under consideration, it became clear that design changes to websites, and other digital media, could benefit not only people with specific disabilities, but us all to some extent or another. Technophobes, and late-uptakers have problems navigating sites, too.

A presentation from Sally Booth included reference to her own website, which she undertook as an 'art project' - being a visually-impaired artist herself, and not a technical geek - and it was excellent to see an example of an experiment in progress, in what is possible, to achieve clarity, simplicity and attractiveness in a website, while remaining compliant with W3C, etc.

She also recommended the websites of Anthony Gormley, and Anish Kapoor.

Christopher Power (University of York) delivered two punchy presentations, and Marcus Weisen enthused and excited us when describing the Jodi Awards (see link below).

I am not attempting to do justice to the day, but would like to add a few links for further investigation (notes to self, and anyone who is interested).

Jodi Awards

Welsh Assembly Government on Access, Equality and Diversity

MLA on Libraries and Disability

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

What do you want? Information!

Many people (both technophobe staff and members of the public) still seem to disparage the internet and its resources, and often blame it for a detrimental change in libraries, who uses them, and how they are used.

A perfect example might be Wikipedia, which many people will tell you is full of errors, bias, hidden agendas and downright false information, as though you would be so much safer in the secure portal of (say) Encyclopedia Britannica. Well, yes, sort of... Encyclopedias do get edited and researched, vetted and assessed, revised again, and all that. So the information they contain seems pretty accurate (if dull). They also respond to change very slowly, have very limited information on obscure subjects (even assuming they offer a listing at all) and they certainly have agendas of their own (EB seems to have quite a US bias, for instance).

Wikipedia, however, in spite of the turf wars on certain 'hot topics' has far more detail on subjects of minority interest, written (for the most part) by enthusiasts, who are experts of a different kind.

They are both useful resources, even if, as Robert Anton Wilson explains:

"When I was working on my historical novels, my wife used to collect old encyclopedias. Every time she was at a bookstore they had an old set of encyclopedias and she’d buy it. And so we had about eight different sets of encyclopedias in the house. So every time I wanted to look up a historical detail, I’d look it up in three or four of the encyclopedias and always—it didn’t take as much as three—usually only two I’d find a disagreement.

If I went through all eight encyclopedias, I’d find eight different answers. Like how old was Mozart when he wrote his first symphony? – he was either 7 or 8 depending on which encyclopedia you’re looking in. This is what provoked me to what I call “Wilson’s 22nd Law: Certitude belongs exclusively to those who only own one encyclopedia. If you own more than one you’d be thoroughly encountering a certain amount of doubt and a certainty about things in general.” There is no one reliable source; there are a dozen different sources all claiming to be reliable. You got to use your own ingenious mind, and your own talent for analysis and skepticism to try and figure out “Which one of these guys really sounds like he might know what he’s talking about?” or “Which one should I bet on?”

Every act of perception should be regarded as a gamble. From the experiments I’ve done and the experiments I’ve led and in my workshops and seminars, that has become overwhelmingly obvious and true to me. Every perception is a gamble.The major problem with the US is that about fifty percent of the population who at least thinks The Bible has all the answers. And then there are libertarians who think Ludwig van Mises has all the answers—except for all the ones who thinks Ayn Rand has all the answers. If you think there’s one book that has the answers, you’re never really going to discover anything and you’re never going to think an original thought. If you find out there’s twelve books with different answers you’re almost forced to start thinking. So I feel the internet is forcing more and more people to do something they have never done in their lives before and just try to make an independent judgment and how to judge between alternatives.

Not sure if I got that quote verbatim, but IMHO - RAW got this right... libraries promote thinking, they don't simply offer answers...we'll miss them if we get rid of them...

Friday, September 17, 2010

Library Bricks

With the 4% cuts in public services now turning into 16% cuts, and the chances of job losses or pay cuts in the wind, the policy change from a suggestion of (unpopular) uniforms being provided to the (unpopular) dress code (paid for out of our own low wages), and all that sort of demoralizing stuff...moan, moan.
Book Cell

I needed something fun to post.

Link to a Library Reference Desk made out of books.
link to a small octagonal 'book cell' made of books by Matej Kren.
Tom Bendsten-Luminato books
Here's a link to his follow-up, an enormous book building

And then theres Tom Bendsten's fabulous piece at the Toronto Reference Library...

You might also enjoy the Book Art that you can find on M.J's blog , for instance Octopus done for the Anagram bookstore in Prague by Kaspen/Jung v Matt

Anagram octopus

Monday, September 13, 2010

Welsh blogging

This blog did not get submitted, simply because the writer had not even heard about the competition.

Maybe next year (sigh).

Wales blog Awards

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Stating the obvious

An unofficial voice

This remains far from an official venture, emanating stealthily from Cardiff Libraries, but it was great to read that Paige Turner (Swansea Libraries) claims the status of oldest (OK,OOK, longest-running) official library blog in the UK.


This and much other intriguing stuff available here, in Sarah Hammond's article on Ariadne: Public Library 2.0: Culture Change?

Interesting list of the public biblioblogosphere (easy for you to say) here.

The oddest people work in libraries

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Voices for the library

The truth is that this blog does not get written by a professional librarian, simply a user who became a lowly library worker. However, my respect for libraries, and all the staff (qualified by degree, or simply by experience) means that I continue to seek out examples of people trying to raise awareness of the social value of libraries.

Voices for the library seems like one such advocate:

Why librarians?

Librarians stand for free and equal access to information for all. This means a number of things:
  • Librarians will not discriminate in the provision of access to material
  • Librarians will not disclose what you ask, read, or borrow
  • Librarians will work to fight censorship, bias, and false reporting
  • Librarians will always work to provide you with the best possible information resources to suit your needs
  • Librarians will work to provide high-quality collections tailored to the needs of a community
  • Librarians work for the larger public good

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The future of libraries debate

There was an interesting editorial in The Guardian today.


A week ago this appeared on the BBC site.

Tim Coates, who is a library campaigner and consultant, said: "I believe we will lose between 600 to a 1,000 libraries in the next 12-18 months and that may be only the beginning, we are seeing the destruction of the public library service."


And on this morning's Radio 4 you could have heard this:

a 30 minute programme about libraries still available on BBC iPlayer

What's the Point of... Series 33 The Public Library

Former poet laureate Sir Andrew Motion, campaigner Tim Coates and Arts minister Edward Vaizey join Quentin Letts as he asks, what's the point of the public library? (NB: Quentin Letts sounded to me as though he was playing Devil's Advocate, or trying to stir up an argument).


And if you missed it - there was a five minute discussion on The Today Programme back on 24th August 2010.

Library Usage is 'rather depressing'.

Richard Charkin, of Bloomsbury Publishing, and author Marina Lewycka debate why people do not use libraries as much as they used to.


But to finish on a more positive note, here you can find The Reading Agency strongly defending the value of the Summer Reading Challenge (administered through the library services), in the Education section of The Guardian.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Make 'em less attractive and you can close 'em down...

Libraries need investment to thrive

An article in yesterday's Guardian by John Harris that speaks for itself, and needs no comment from me...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Job Hunting, or borrowing fishing rods...

Public Libraries: enablers of Americans' dreams...

...a friend forwarded me the link to this interesting article on Common Ground (originally published in the Seattle Times)...

I found it useful to compare how libraries are adapting to changing circumstances, about how communities push back when attempts to close libraries are made, how they adjust to lowered funding, etc.

I fond especially interesting the quoted fact that Andrew Carnegie originally planned a place that would attract young people in, and only then encourage them to read...with him it was swimming pools or boxing gyms, with us it is free computer access...

Very intriguing, to compare the similiarities, and contrast the differences, between the library's function in the US and in the UK (for instance).

Saturday, August 21, 2010

De-skilling libraries

Read this article about 'privatising libraries by stealth' - Terence Blacker in The Independent...

"A country's public library service is a sure indicator of how highly it values its citizens, its children and its future. There may well be a place for the new localism around the outer fringes of the service – the library is a focus of local life, after all – but, if the Government allows it to slip into decline in the hollow name of community, Ed Vaizey's promises and his boss's Big Society will be exposed as a heartless sham."

Yup, here we go again - libraries run as sort of charity swap shops, by a bunch of local volunteers...only Tories who can afford to buy what they want when they want it could ignore the 'added value' libraries bring to communities, particularly in deprived areas.

The Big Society, huh. What a lame, and unvivid image. Apparently "The Big Society is a society in which we as individuals don’t feel small."

The Future Libraries Programme from the Ministry of Culture, Media and Sport (which just about sums up the government's level of cultural appreciation).

The press release.

Watch the speech.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Poems about libraries

I stumbled over a translation of one of Ernst Jandl's poems the other day, so this may become an occasional theme...


all those letters
that can’t get out of their words
all those words
that can’t get out of their sentences

all those sentences
that can’t get out of their texts
all those texts
that can’t get out of their books

all those books
covered with all that dust
the good cleaner lady
with the duster

(tr. by Peter Lach-Newinsky)

peter lach-newinsky's word and image lab

Poem found at this page

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Missing Stock

It is sad to read how much of our stock is unavailable to new library users, either seriously overdue (and unlikely to come back) or simply 'Lost or Stolen'.

South Wales Echo 6th Aug 2010

The glib answer is that people have forgotten what libraries really are - the whole idea of 'borrowing and returning' (i.e. sharing) perhaps so out of date in a world where people like 'owning' things.

With houses, perhaps the illusion that you 'own' it makes you feel secure, but with a book you will never read twice, it seems folly to clutter that very house up with stuff that needs dusting.


Libraries have tried Amnesties (they don't really work) and a few years ago even tried a 'recovery firm' which threatened people with fines, loss of credit rating, etc - and we recovered a large amount of stock (and got some fines paid off, too) but that seems like a guaranteed way of losing our friendly image.

That very 'friendly and tolerant' image, however, makes us a target for amateur and professional thieves - as shop-lifting here is so much less dangerous than in a big store. And in the past people taken to court have been found not guilty when they claimed they intended to return the stock, had forgotten to put it on their card, etc.

I suspect that 'educating the public' into these old socialist ways (sharing, access to tools for the poor, etc) might prove very difficult, but perhaps the Green argument might eventually prevail.

Buy reference books, and things you might need for some time, borrow material you only wish to use once.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Libraries of the Future

This ambitious project is investigating the future of information resources up until 2050.

Future Libraries

Wild West
Walled Garden


MLA to close down

The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council has had its funding pulled in the latest series of cuts to what are considered non-essential services - putting 123 people out of work.

We will see how this may impact on rolling out digital access to their brief had been:

"promoting access to collections, resources and information", pushing experiments in two-way communication with users.

One example, listed by the MLA, is allowing the public to "tag objects, make their own collections and interact with curators, archivists and librarians online".

Libraries and museums have been encouraged to find ways of allowing digital objects to be "taken out of museum, archive and library spaces and into the public's own personal digital spaces".

[UK AuthorITy accessed 29th July 2010]

Their project Reference Online integrated services across the country.

Friday, July 30, 2010

e-learning and Web 2.0

I am coming the the end of my life-cycle as a library worker, and although I have spent a decade assisting and advising both staff and public in the effective use of computers, I never have really managed to get the adoption of modern tools fully accepted.

People still seem to want face-to-face training and support. It is friendly, yes, and familiar - but it isn't really cost-effective (or terribly green) to shunt a tutor around in a car, repeating the same material over and over again.

Far better to teach people to find things out for themselves, to train them to find what they need, and to apply themselves to improving their own skills.

The attitudes extend back to our educational system, especially for people who did not move on through to the rather more self-directed forms of higher education - although even people with degrees often still resist finding things out for themselves.

I can't believe how many times I get support calls which I can resolve by simply putting their reported Error Message into Google, or choosing a few keywords to describe what the person was attempting to do, etc.

They appear to think I know everything. And these people work in libraries - where the job can so often be about finding information.

Learning Pool

Anyway, Cardiff Council have already adopted Learning Pool as a channel for rolling out e-learning to all council workers. I did some training on the Moodle-based DLE (dynamic learning environment - sometimes called a VLE or virtual learning environment). I devised a couple of simple induction modules, but have also played around with it as a way of storing FAQs, Tips and Tricks, a staff newsletter, etc.

We have received little encouragement to get staff to use a forum as a virtual coffee room (for instance) which I think might help bring together staff who are scattered through 19 buildings across the city, but I suspect management still don't really believe how much work can get done at the watering hole, and assume it would degenerate into gossip. And they may prove right, too.

Still, it is all in place and ready to go, and Cardiff Central Library is now on Facebook, so perhaps it all eventually, however slowly, moves...

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Books and media tie-ins

As publishing inevitably involves crossovers these days (the film of the book of the tv series) I find this site (with newsletter) very interesting, and probably useful to library staff - as users often enquire about items precisely because of these crossovers (the same material may appear on our catalogues as book, comic, talking book, large print, DVD, etc)

People are also interested in authors (aside from their work) and interviews and so on...

A great online resource! Books & Media

For a specific example of the depth of the resource, look at their listings for this week's radio shows which include items of interest to book lovers (although note that after a free trial, someone would have to pay for a subscription to access the complete resources).

Monday, July 12, 2010

Libraries crucial to getting people online

"Digital champion, Martha Lane Fox, wants to see digital leaders in all local authorities, all 750 Jobcentre Plus offices and all public libraries by the end of the year." from: UK AuthorITy

Find her Manifesto for Networked Nation here.

She is presenting her case to Downing Street today.

Race Online 2012

Update: Tuesday 13th July 2010

Tom Sutcliffe in The Independent doesn't think everyone needs to be online - See his article here

Friday, July 9, 2010

Low Status

I continue to notice what a low status library staff seem to have. Is this universal?

Only for example, and not to complain, I recently assisted a member of the ICT staff and during our long boring task we started chatting. He was appalled at my pay scale (for doing similar work to him, but in a different department).

I pointed out that our staff start on a Scale so low that it doesn't even exist in his department! And some of our regular workers stay there on that 'unskilled' level for decades.

OK, if it was a simple job, for simple folks - but when our super-modern library's high-tech stuff falls over it is those Scale 1 and Scale 2 folks who have to keep the whole building ticking over. They could do it by candlelight...

Sad, isn't it, that we have so little respect from a system which pays teachers, social workers, youth workers and IT staff quite a lot better.

Hey ho. IMHO libraries remain an important educational resource...

Monday, July 5, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

Save your local libraries

Libraries remain a crucial social resource, but in these times of cuts they appear like an 'easy cut' to make (for politicians). An old friend from my show-biz days made this short film in support of the local library where he now lives - in Australia - but it seems relevant wherever you live!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Top 8 Books Written by Librarians

Currently, Abebooks has displayed their top 8 books by librarians!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Darien Statements on the library and librarians

Down the right hand side you will see links to several members of the librarian blogosphere (as a non-professional library assistant I feel like a gate-crasher), which I browse at times.

I visited In The Library With the Lead Pipe to read a discussion of what librarians are for, etc - and a footnote to that article pointed to the Darien Statements, which cheered me up no end.

I offer a sample (as a teaser) but please click the above link to read the whole (brief) statement.

The Role of the Library

The Library:

• Provides the opportunity for personal enlightenment.
• Encourages the love of learning.
• Empowers people to fulfill their civic duty.
• Facilitates human connections.
• Preserves and provides materials.
• Expands capacity for creative expression.
• Inspires and perpetuates hope.

The Role of Librarians


• Are stewards of the Library.
• Connect people with accurate information.
• Assist people in the creation of their human and information networks.
• Select, organize and facilitate creation of content.
• Protect access to content and preserve freedom of information and expression.
• Anticipate, identify and meet the needs of the Library’s community.

Librarians on space hoppers

According to Manchester Libraries' Facebook Page, librarians on space-hoppers will be seen in a street parade on Sunday 20th June.

It relates to this year's Summer Reading Challenge - more details at the fun webpage at SpaceHop.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Digitization - the future of libraries?

Here's an interesting article at the BBC, about the process of putting the National Library collection online as a free resource - in competition with Google Books' ambition to do similar things...

One of the comments references a definitive critique of the difference between Google Books and a proper library system...

Google Books: A Metadata Train Wreck

Love those books (oh, and the internet)

Cardiff Central Library, on The Hayes
A quick follow up to the previous post about Welsh Libraries increasing their number of visitors.

Here's an article from the South Wales Echo, available online at WalesOnline, including an interview with Cardiff Central Library's manager...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Keith Richards - wannabe librarian

Keef strikes a blow for the stereotype of the librarian - apparently in his forthcoming autobiography he admits to a massive reading habit, and his attempts to sort the thousands of books in his house...

Keith Richards - It's Only Books and Shelves (from Times Online).

"When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equaliser."
- Keith Richards

Some better news

Paige Turner (over at Swansea Libraries) had a link to this BBC page, which shows Welsh Libraries doing better than average across the UK.

Swansea Central Library came top. For a glimpse of the new look to the design of libraries, go look at this page on Opening The Book.

Swansea Central Library - floor plan

How to ask a Library Angel

Image used without permission - from Wim Wenders' film 'Wings of Desire' Ahem - after my little rant I thought I should find something more charming and interesting for you.

How To Ask a Library Angel

I found this after reading A Whole New Mind (by Daniel H. Pink), which (in the design section) recommended the work and websites of Robin Williams the designer.

Be careful what you wish for... IMHO

Making libraries more accessible to all, by allowing the use of mobile phones, eating and drinking, no shushing, no need to be a member, etc seems like the current management style in many libraries (not just us) but it comes at a price.

We now have gangs of young people milling around, fighting, tearing each other's hair out, screaming, giggling, etc. Did the plan include losing the peaceful sanctuary of the old-fashioned library?

The parallel for me remains old churches. As a lifelong atheist I still enjoy the peace of churches and cathedrals (especially when travelling) as places to think, contemplate or meditate - although I could do without the images of torment that seem so popular in the West. I mention churches, however, precisely because even I (doomed heretic though I am) respect the atmosphere generated by years of respect for the space. I take off my hat, I don't do flash photography, etc.

If we sacrifice the 'atmosphere of respect for learning' that libraries traditionally have, then perhaps we drive away the previous users, in exchange for people who have no real use for what we offer.

If libraries no longer offer sanctuary and peace, where can a quiet person now go, when in town? The park, maybe?

Of course, being 'currently fashionable management style' means we may well reverse this approach somewhere in the future, but it could prove hard to reclaim the pleasant atmosphere of mutual respect after this foray into popularism.

Eating, drinking, running and screaming in the library - next thing you know they'll be allowing singing in church. Oh, wait...

This feels more like trying to attract people to church by having rock concerts.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Half an ear on an online talk

I had this invite a few days ago, so have used my netbook to log in to listen/watch the discussion, but I have to carry on with the day job, of course.

Fortunately, my day job does include, in its description, checking out the use of online resources, collaborative and training issues, webinars, etc.

Coalition - What does that mean for Frontline Public Services?
And does technology have a part to play in meeting the challenges ahead?
Please join us tomorrow, Wednesday 19th May, at 11.30 am for our live interview with Martin Ferguson, head of policy at Socitm, and Alan Edwards, council member and chair of CIPFA's IT panel, to discuss 'The Coalition - what does that mean for Frontline Public Services?' And whether technology has a part to play in meeting the challenges ahead.

Locally, Twitter is still blocked by our ICT Dept, but the link suggested is #LGITU-live

Friday, May 14, 2010


On a more positive note (as we all cringe and wonder what a UK coalition government, that has to make savage cuts in public services, has planned for libraries) - I really enjoy rummaging among the resources at Box of Tricks, an exceptionally good educational web place...

Coalition - what does that mean for Frontline Public Services?
Online interview, May 19th - register to listen here

De-shushing the library

Here in Cardiff, we have allowed people to eat, drink, use mobile phones, etc - in the new style library as community centre, etc.

Most people seem to like the relaxed atmosphere, although a few still ask for the 'quiet study area' and we don't have one, really.

Internet has also attracted a whole new clientele, and some of the branches occasionally find 'yoof' a bit hard to handle.

Still, we haven't yet needed to hire a bouncer, as the library in Kings Lynn decided to do...see this story in The Daily Mail (and yes, the Mail does like its 'yob culture' stories, so take the tone with a pinch of salt...)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Shush! and I'll tell you where the stereotypes come from...

I came across this book while browsing our shelves - you can borrow it (a good idea, as it could cost you £30-40 to buy a copy!

The notes on will fill you in on what it contains...

And since 1999 things have changed radically, of course, so perhaps some (if not all) future librarians may begin to look like a computer geek - someone who has mastered searching, researching, compiling, and all that. A permanent human wiki...

I guess this remains the transition period!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Whatever happened to The Book?

If you have half an hour, you might enjoy this talk from Mark Pesce, about electronic books, hypertext and much more...

Friday, April 30, 2010

Librarian's Worst Nightmare?

I just noticed a local band called Librarians Worst Nightmare, who recently won a Battle of the Bands and can be heard around Cardiff.

It made me wonder what a librarian's worst nightmare might consist of. (ending sentences in a preposition? Leaving out an apostrophe?)

According to a recent article it is Yahoo Answers, a system so flaky that it makes Wikipedia look seriously responsible and maintstream as a reference source.

Or perhaps, an earthquake?

We used to like the coincidence of Mr Hudson and The Library, because we had a regular in the Local Studies department called Mr Hudson (RIP), who was a fairly daunting 'customer'.

Our new library, indeed, was opened by the Manic Street Preachers, on the tenuous connection that one of their songs mentions a library!

Design for Life starts "Libraries gave us power..."

Although it does continue:

Then work came and made us free
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

Which perhaps does not reflect on libraries quite so well - literacy? irony? Well, whatever...

We have bands and solo musicians playing in the library on Saturdays, now.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Well, will you look at that!

Kansas City Public Library looks like this! Snopes confirms it is not a fake.

The Community Bookshelf, it’s called, and you can see it on their website

I came across this on Cracked, which has a series of pictures that you won’t believe weren’t photoshopped!

An Assortment of Events

Cardiff Council has added an events page to the library pages...

Find out about what's going on here.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Berglas's Corollary to Parkinson's Law

I was leafing through my old copy of Systemantics recently, because it still amuses me, and I work with ‘’complex systems’ of course.

One that I came across online recently was Berglas’s Corollary to Parkinson’s Law.

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

According to Wikipedia, there are modern corollaries like:

Data expands to fill the space available for storage.

But Berglas’s Corollary amounts to:

No amount of computer automation will reduce the size of a bureaucracy

And whether you see these rueful laws (mostly invented by scientists) as pure jokes, or containing a grain of truth, you might want to compare them to real life.

When I joined the library service the department was part of Leisure, Libraries and Parks (LLP). We then changed to Leisure and Lifelong Learning (LLL), before becoming Culture, Leisure and Parks (CL&P).

Guess what? We now belong in Citizen Services (part of Housing and Neighbourhood Renewal).

Oh, and I haven’t worked for libraries as man and boy. I have only been here 13 years!

I don’t intend to single out our authority for this, and am aware that a certain amount of re-arranging of management hierarchies must prove necessary in different economic and political climates (quite apart from management fashions).

I only mention it because of the inevitable complications that arise from such reshuffles. Trashing a load of headed notepaper is not the only problem these days.

Because we use complex computer systems, containing folders and cross-references, files and documents with embedded links, etc., it means that all kinds of things can go wrong if one folder gets renamed. I find people whose email address still carries the LLL listing, files and lists that you need to search with LLP, etc. I guess the less said about the unfortunate acronym CLaP the better.

Berglas's Corollary or Why it is Important that Software Projects Fail


We have provided empirical proof of Berglas's Corollary, and clearly shown that software does not improve real productivity. Further, we have shown why it is essential that most software projects fail. No one need ever again be embarrassed by participation in a failed software project. Rather they should be proud to have spared society from yet another burden of complexity.

Some may misinterpret this article as satire. Surely it is not really desirable for software projects to fail. But the facts speak for themselves.

Parkinson's Law - Where all this started

Hay Festival 27th May - 6th June

Of interest to book lovers and library staff (if those can been considered separate categories) the Hay Festival this year has a wonderful looking line-up!

Check out the stars, here.

Christy Moore
Bill Bryson
Roddy Doyle
Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club
Brian May & Elena Vidal
Hilary Mantel
Philip Pullman
Tom Stoppard

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Events in Cardiff Central Library

I don't know if anyone local reads this, in fact I don't really know if anyone reads it at all, apart from seeing the red dots on the map (which could just be bots crawling the web, although I hope one or two are people!) The only Comments I get are in Chinese, and probably spam (I don't read Chinese).

The Cardiff Library Facebook Page has started moving, with this latest event appearing there now...

You can also read the poster in Welsh, if you prefer...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

National Library Week (USA)

11-17th April 2010 is National Library Week, according to the ALA.

Details from their website here.

National Library Week was first sponsored (according to Wiki) in 1958.

This year's theme:
"Communities thrive @ your library."

A Good Review

We came across this great review (from last year) of Cardiff Central Library, from Splash magazine.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Mashups and other jargon

Although this blog got launched after an inspiring meeting about libraries and new technology, your humble scribe doesn't get to many events. He's not a professional librarian anyway, and not having reached anything higher than a humble Scale 3, doesn't get time off to attend conferences and all those other perks of management level working.

Having said that, the whole point of online working is that things can change. We can use teleconferencing, podcasts, wikis, etc.

Here's a wiki for events I can't attend. Mashed Up Libraries wiki. And the blog for 2010.

And in general terms of online presentation, this could prove an Interesting site for all UK Public Libraries.

They award Gold Stars to particularly attractive or interesting sites. I guess, as we have a working group at Cardiff re-assessing our website, we might aspire to one of those!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

And finally...

...we have this late-breaking story that Cardiff Central Library has just joined Facebook.
You will find, in fact, two pages, one in English and one in Welsh, which will apparently run in parallel - making life just a little more complicated for the publishing team, but we wish them luck!

Cardiff Central Library on Facebook.

Llyfrgell Ganolog Caerdydd.

More and more library services seem to be extending themselves into the social networking field...

Monday, March 22, 2010

a review on the future of libraries concludes today

Here's Patrick Wintour in The Guardian

Key to saving libraries: free internet access and Sunday opening

Well, we have offered free internet access for many years now, and the 'decline in use' they perceived occurring only happened over the 'past five years'.

In Central and three of the branches we also offer free WiFi (even for non-members).

We also offer Facebook, YouTube and MySpace already.

We sort of have Sunday opening (the ground floor of the Central Library is open 11-3, with access to half a dozen first-come first-served PCs with short sessions).

Room for Improvement

It does seem (from informal chats I have had with users) that being open in the evenings would be popular (as libraries often were when I was younger) at least until 20:00.

And users would also like the library to be fully open on Sundays (in this secular world the Central Library, at least, is surrounded by shoppers on Sunday).

But then the council would have to pay staff more, or hire extra, etc - and that seems unlikely to happen. Without re-investment, however, I imagine use will continue to decline.

So not a lot of new news on how to reverse the trend, from this two year survey.

We won't be allowed to charge for e-books, apparently, if and when we ever get any...

Oh, and they suggest we should staff libraries with 'volunteers', increasing the resemblance between us and a charity shop full of second-hand tat, quite apart from de-skilling the place.
I suggest we have the government run by volunteers, after all, what qualifications and experience do you need to become a politician?

Sigh. Oh, IMHO (see disclaimer) I'll throw in an 'only joking' smiley - sorry emoticion - for luck.


You'd think in these days of 'saving the planet' that sharing resources might have its day, at last (without being considered 'socialism', totally unnecessary or something just for the poor).

IMHO (he said hurriedly, like Ian Hislop throwing in an 'allegedly').

More general links about library stories on the Guardian blog

Post Script

Where do these people live? Or perhaps they just base the judgements on their assumptions about libraries (without actually visiting them). Here's UK AuthorITy:

Libraries to dust down their image and embrace internet age

Or perhaps Cardiff is simply ahead of the game (?) Apart from ebooks, that is, and that's another whole can of worms... Copyright, you say?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Digital Economy Bill - thin pickings

Extreme Web Laws

Many online businesses have expressed concern about the Digital Economy Bill, and its clumsy attempt to control copyright infringement (bit torrents, etc). It does suggest that the government hasn't quite grasped the scale of the problem (trying to shut down, or control, a system originally designed to self-heal or by-pass attempts to disrupt service).

We talk of China refusing full access for its citizens to the Web, and now we have the UK going for something which at least contains the same potential to restrict public access to information.

Similar moves to block/filter/censor internet access in Australia have raised a storm of protest.

Libraries and Copyright

Of course, libraries have always found themselves in an awkward position in terms of 'artists and creators' getting properly rewarded. We buy a book and lend it to 50 people, which seems like 49 sales the author doesn't benefit from (in the simplest model). Similarly, one would have to be naive to assume that at least some people don't take music CDs home and burn them onto their computer for future reference. No doubt they also borrow copies from their friends, and do the same thing, so it's hard to see how we can prevent that, except to 'lock' CDs in the first place. Sharing online doesn't seem drastically different from borrowing your neighbour's hard copy.


The only positive comment I have seen about it refers to a clause (originally Clause 42, but confusingly renamed Clause 43) that would allow libraries MORE freedom, surprisingly - freeing them up to digitalize and share 'orphan works' which they hold, and for which copywrite holders may prove impossible to trace.

Version at UKAuthorITy

Rob Myers blog comments

At Last...the 1709 Copyright blog offers plenty of detail

Lobbying for further debate before creating a new law

However - if you wish to contact your MP, to ask for more debate of this contentious and complicated subject, you can go to the 38Degrees page online, use your PostCode to trace your MP, and use their template letter as a basis for your complaint.

Guardian discussion of the issue.

38Degrees lobbying page.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Cardiff Libraries appear in the Guardian

In an article about how much stock libraries hold (in particular, Welsh language material) which never gets borrowed, Cardiff Central Library got targeted with a Freedom of Information request.

See article here

Of course, it's slightly misleading to only go by what gets borrowed, as many items may be quickly 'referred to' or skimmed, without the need to take them home.

And if you scroll down the comments you may note that only a small percentage of Cardiff residents actually speak Welsh, so the lending pattern may not be as extreme as it appears, etc.

Monday, March 15, 2010

BBC Newsnight on libraries - tonight

To quote the blurb on the Newsnight page at the BBC:

David Grossman will be exploring some of the challenges facing public libraries - will they be circumvented by digital technology and what is the future of local authority funding?

Watch item here


Well that proved frustrating. The metaphorical argument presented went something like: The Victorians built public baths when people didn't have running water in their homes. We don't need or use public baths now.

The libraries were built when people didn't have access to education and books, but 70% of households are online so why do we need libraries?

No, I'm not making this up. I find it hard to try to construct logical rebuttals to such fatuous parallels. 70% of households have cars, so we don't need buses? (Even though, when the breadwinner is out with the car, everyone else is stranded). If your mum can afford her Mills&Boon, and your dad his sports biographies, you don't need exposure to the other range of books possible. Even your teachers keep you to the curriculum recommended texts.

Libraries contain dangerous ideas, don't they? Thoughts outside the box, or your narrow little world view.

And personally, if they insist on their metaphor, I miss the public baths. Forget that I can fill a kettle or take a shower when I want at home. When I first came to Cardiff the Empire Pool offered safe, hygenic Sauna, Turkish baths, cold plunge, jacuzzi, swimming pool, etc. I miss it since they pulled it down (promising to replace it, but never did).

I've had saunas in Sweden and Finland, and they are integral to the culture, and terrific for public health, but I don't want to have to go to sleazy dives full of fat, sweaty politicians hoping for a hand job - not meaning to slag off the 'massage parlours' still available, perhaps they are not all like that, but they scare me. I used to like going to the council baths.

The idea that I don't still need that safe environment provided presumably comes from people with swimming pools in their back garden (or in their second home in Tuscany), and who have bathrooms with Jacuzzis and saunas.

I hate to tell you folks, but most people still don't have those in their homes as standard.

Yeah, I said it was a stupid parallel, but I didn't bring it up. :-)

Libraries remain one of the few places for self-educators and lifelong learners, and evidence from around the world implies that an educated population is beneficial to the country's wealth creation.

Perhaps the people become a bit more dissident, getting exposure to a wider range of ideas and possibilities, but in the long run it seems a better idea. However, your voters become a little less easily manipulated, perhaps.


Just personal opinion, rant over. G'night.

PS: they reiterated the idea that making libraries self-service doesn't need to mean that staff lose their jobs, just that they get redefined. Yeah, right (you will hear on the shop floor). And they also mentioned bad management of the services, and that some of the jobs that could afford to go might lie in those higher realms. Hmmm. Isn't that how we lost being represented by a Chief Librarian, and an Assistant Chief Librarian, all those years ago...

Anyway - don't believe me, you can go check it out online at the BBC...

Friday, March 12, 2010

Writing Readers

So much of library works seems about reading (and lending) that we sometimes neglect the fact that someone has to write all these books, and the two functions seem closely entwined.

Good to see that Academi awards writer's bursaries even to people who have not yet got published. Check out "how to be a writer"

Every November for the last three years your humble scribe has embarked on (and successfully completed) the mad adventure of writing a 50,000 word novel in a month, with NaNoWriMo.

Well, a first draft, at least!

Coming up in April (from the same people) you will find Script Frenzy, a self-challenge to write a 100 page film/tv/theatre script in a month. No cost to enter, no obligation to finish, no prize (apart from fun and satisfaction).

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A million library books to be sent down the mines

Did you see this item about Manchester Central Library?

During a three-year refurbishment of this building they intend to store their books down the mines!

Monday, February 15, 2010

PLR releases "most borrowed" statistics for 2009

Public Lending Right has released its 'most borrowed' figures for the year, and as ever I feel baffled and weird.

I don't read this stuff. I love non-fiction (which never appears in the hit parade).

Call myself a reader?!

In addition they have released a 1999-2009 comparision between books borrowed and books bought. Very interesting.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Libraries may come under threat, again.

And speaking of news, you might want to keep an eye on the progress of this review.

The government, of course, say they have no intention of closing libraries, just by taking away the statutory obligation for local councils to provide this (relatively expensive) public service...

The Conservatives would never (of course) consider reducing tax bills by cutting services aimed at the less well off (who can't buy every book or DVD they fancy). Ahem.

Anyway - the Telegraph went with this headline (full story here)

Libraries could shut in wave of spending cuts, under Government plans

Public libraries across the country could be closed to save money, under plans being considered by ministers.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


I attended a brief training in our new newspaper online resource, NewsBank.

The national library of Wales lives just up the road from the cottage, and they also offer a WAG-funded website which has made a start at integrating library services throughout Wales, where you can find NewsBank to use, if you register with the site.

And/or, of course, we offer it to members of Cardiff Libraries, in the e-Reference section of our online catalogue.

That website has all kinds of other interesting stuff - you might find this interesting...

The Little Book of Welsh Libraries (PDF)

Thursday, January 28, 2010


And talking of passing through, this travelling arts road show looks interesting...

Cerbyd aims to strengthen the connection and the unification of artists, artist groups and ideas across Wales’ unique geographical form. Cerbyd hopes to highlight and challenge the similarities/differences in creative practice between artists in North and South Wales. Cerbyd will travel to areas of Wales that are often bypassed by contemporary art. The route will create networks, partnerships and collaborations with established artists and artist groups, increasing critical awareness.
As an introduction, you could look at the first post on their blog

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

just passing through

I like to have some idea of visitor numbers, even though a lot of hits may come from trawling search engine robots, etc.

I noticed that my great little Clustr map had suddenly lost all its exciting dots, but that happens fairly regularly (the maps get archived) or the whole thing would turn into a red splurge.

Still, I miss the excitement, so I thought I'd just post up the 2009 archived map.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A smile for Monday morning

I don’t seem to be keeping my current reading list up to date. I was leafing through my old copy of Systemantics recently, because it still amuses me, and I work with ‘’complex systems’ of course.

One that I came across online recently was a corollary to Parkinson’s Law.

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

According to Wikipedia, there are several modern corollories like:

Data expands to fill the space available for storage.

But Berglas’s Corollary amounts to:

No amount of computer automation will reduce the size of a bureaucracy
Sir Humphrey from Yes Minister
And whether you see these rueful laws (mostly invented by scientists) as pure jokes, or containing a grain of truth, you might want to compare them to real life.

When I joined the library service the department was part of Leisure, Libraries and Parks (LLP). We then changed to Leisure and Lifelong Learning (LLL), before becoming Culture, Leisure and Parks (CL&P).

Guess what? We now belong in Citizen Services.

Oh, and I haven’t worked for libraries as man and boy. I have only been here 12 years!

I don’t intend to single out our authority for this, and am aware that a certain amount of re-arranging of management hierarchies must prove necessary in different economic and political climates (quite apart from management fashions).

I only mention it because of the inevitable complications that arise from such reshuffles. Trashing a load of headed notepaper is not the only problem these days.

Because we use complex computer systems, containing folders and cross-references, files and documents with embedded links, etc., it means that all kinds of things can go wrong if one folder gets renamed. I find people whose email address still carries the LLL listing, files and lists that you need to search with LLP, etc. I guess the less said about the unfortunate acronym CLaP the better.

Berglas's Corollary (the complete article)

[excerpt] Conclusion

We have provided empirical proof of Berglas's Corollary, and clearly shown that software does not improve real productivity. Further, we have shown why it is essential that most software projects fail. No one need ever again be embarrassed by participation in a failed software project. Rather they should be proud to have spared society from yet another burden of complexity.

Some may misinterpret this article as satire. Surely it is not really desirable for software projects to fail. But the facts speak for themselves.

NB: The wonderful clock image was found at litemind/parkinson's law

Monday, January 18, 2010

Social Networking ambiguity

This pseudonymous author had taken a break in the hills, got snowed in, but has now returned refreshed.

I felt pleased to see that Socitm decided to encourage the use of 'social networking' in businesses and organisations, rather than block staff from using these tools, and learning how to work them.

As an early-uptaker, it seems to me that blocking staff access to modern tools seems like refusing to let them use a phone, because they might spend time gossiping, or arranging their evening drinks... Apart from the patronising attitude (and lack of trust) to make phones completely unavailable as a 'solution to the problem' would render most library work virtually impossible.

So, the council now trendily uses Twitter to contact its customers, but prevents us workers from using it at all; the public can use Facebook, but staff are discouraged from using it during work time, etc.

I know we only have to patiently wait for the inevitable, but I have an impatient temperament.

Manchester Library's blogLook at Manchester Libraries, with their Facebook Page, their Twitter connection and a blog - The Manchester Lit List.

Hey ho.
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