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
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