Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Passionate defence of libraries

On Friday 23 November 2012, The Guardian published an extended defence of libraries by Jeannette Winterson.

Yesterday there was more, including the idea that collecting tax from Starbucks, Amazon and Google would easily pay for a high quality library service

Children in a public library - January 1946

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Public Library Internet Champion

I just noticed that my guest post has appeared on the Public Library IL Champions Network

I took the opportunity to smuggle in a quote from my favourite author and thinker, with whom I studied online for 4-5 years, and who opened my eyes to the greater possibilities of the internet.

Intelligence Increase

“High intelligence is the ability to receive, integrate and transmit new signals rapidly.” – Robert Anton Wilson

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Safe haven for thinking

Amongst the many virtues of a proper library service, that I would list, is that it can be a place for learning for kids you don't like school (but like learning).

Here's a more extensive list, that I came across in the Comments on a Bookseller post about the results of The Culture, Media and Sport select committee report.

Some of it still strikes me as so stupid that all I can do is splutter:

"In the last few years we have seen huge strides in that direction with libraries opening up in village halls, pubs, shops, churches, phone boxes, day care centres and tourist information centres, as well as linking with health, social care, benefits and job search providers.”

To quote "Jo" from the Comments: "A few books in a phone box is a book exchange not a library. Libraries are so much more."

And as to the 'library in a pub' model - that's really accessible to children, isn't it? Or Muslims. Or...

I haven't contacted Lauren Smith, about the list she created last year, but I hope she doesn't mind me posting it in full, here:

What Do Public Librarians and Library Staff Do?

■Dealing With Library Users:

- Suggesting a book for anyone from an 8 year old boy who never reads to a 70 year old woman who has read everything;

- Being unfazed by complex enquiries which could be of a sensitive nature;

- Understanding how to help people with computers who have zero confidence/experience and believe they can’t use them;

- Dealing with abusive visitors;

- Dealing with young people behaving badly – police have been called to library branches when young people have been climbing on bookshelves, causing problems, refusing to leave premises etc;

- Dealing sensitively with people who have mental health problems or learning disabilities and may be challenging to help properly;

- Keeping user information confidential;

- Huge training requirement around legal/ethical issues;

- Understanding the issues around safeguarding children and the elderly;

- Providing a safe, friendly space that welcomes everyone;

- Directing homeless people to the nearest shelter;

- Helping people with little or no English to use the library service by translating, using translation services or taking special care and attention to ensure people understand information;

- Collecting knives and guns;

■Helping People Find Information:

- Information literacy i.e. teaching people how to research, study and helping people develop lifelong learning skills essential for an informed citizenship;

- Understanding what users need and how they go about finding it (and working out where the problems are);

- Teaching people how to search effectively;

- Helping people organise information effectively;

- Helping people assess which information is reliable, for example the NHS expect patients to use online sources to find out about healthcare, but a lot of information on the internet is not reliable and can misinform people;

- Showing people how to find information about legal issues;

- Helping businesses find business information;

- Helping people research their family history or local history;

- Unearthing the needed information from the mounded heaps of print and electronic, free and subscription services, efficiently and accurately;

- Ensuring that less easy-to-find materials are available for particular groups – community langs, LGBT, people with/ disabilities etc;

- Being able to interpret research requests – working out what people want when they’re not sure how to explain

- Providing pointers on free and paid resources;

- Knowing how to do proper subject searches and suggest unthought of sources of information;

- Signposting to a huge range of services &say what they can offer: advice/help on immigration, debt, tax, legal, benefits, housing;

- Providing specialist information i.e. market research/patents/EU/law/health;

- Helping people if the library doesn’t have what they need;

- Understanding the need for access and negotiating access to information that may be blocked by council filters;

■Research Help:

- Teaching people how to research properly;

- Current awareness services, all types of research;

- Personal training sessions on resources;

- Filtering materials for relevance;

■Internet/Technology Support:

- Teaching people to use the internet;

- Helping people set up email accounts;

- Showing people how to use online job boards;

- Showing people how to use online council & government services;

- Teaching people to use online resources e.g. e-books, e-journals;

- Giving people login details for library computers and helping them when they have problems/forget passwords etc.;

- Providing technical support on systems and tools (i.e. loading ebooks from something like Overdrive on to a ereader);

- Helping people use the photocopier/printer/fax machine;

- Showing people how to Integrate emerging technologies into their daily lives;

- Helping people with online council housing lists;

- Explaining how wifi works;

■Organising and Running Events and Activities:

- Organising/promoting events for kids/teens/adults that promote a love of reading;

- Rhyme time and story time sessions, increasing childhood literacy and promoting reading;

- Children’s activities;

- Visiting authors and poets;

- Book festivals;

- Gigs (Get It Loud In Libraries);

- Helping with homework and school projects;

- Book groups;

- IT classes;

- Doing the risk assessments needed to make sure everyone is safe and secure at events;

- Dressing the library for events, making it look attractive and impressive (professional);

- Organising school visits

■Partnership Work with Schools and Other Organisations:

- A working and up to date knowledge and understanding of the curriculum and the way schools function (see this comment for much more detail);

- Working with teachers to improve reading skills;

- Working with schools & other community groups to promote the library and showcase all it has to offer;

- Visiting schools, talking to parents to promoting a lifelong love of reading with parents and children;

Giving talks on request from teachers on referencing and the importance of bibliographies for GCSEs/A levels;

- Working with U3A and other community groups to help public with online information;

■Library Management:

- Understanding how libraries work together, dealing with interlibrary loans and the British Library;

- Data protection;

- Reporting on library use and user needs;

- Using statistics to identify trends and assess levels of use;

- Managing electronic resources;

- Ordering databases;

- Paying invoices;

- Getting value for money via professional management, organization and promotion of resources;

- Promoting and marketing the libraries, including using social media to promote the library service;

- Attending training and events to make sure that the library service is keeping up with developments;

- Dealing with legislation including reproduction and attendant copyright law: photocopying/scanning for personal use, hi-res resources for publication/TV;

- Maintaining and building technical solutions for users’ needs;

- Maintaining a safe, interesting quiet environment;

- Being a premises controller: be responsible for a large public bldg, know what to do when heating breaks down, roof leaks etc;

- Training for fire marshals etc;

- Reporting to local Councillors, showing how libraries meet the wider council aims;

- Managing budgets and staffing, liaising with those who provide the funds;

■Collection management:

- Promoting/displaying/ weeding/ordering stock;

- Making sure the books and other items in the library are ones that users want/need/will benefit from;

- Reader and community development – encouraging people to read more widely and helping communities build knowledge and skills – matching resources to people’s needs;

- Describing/cataloguing/arranging physical or digital material in useful ways so that people can find it;

- Chasing and collecting books back and enforcing fines;

- Matching stock held with local community group(s) needs;

- Dealing with stock management / complaints etc. in accordance with international agreements on intellectual freedom;

■Archives and Special Collections:

- Digitisation and digital preservation, making sure information will be accessible in future;

- Storing and conserving media (including old/rare books);

■Other Council Services Provided Through Libraries:

- Dealing with people paying council tax and parking fines;

- Giving out condoms and bin bags;

- Issuing firearms certificates;

- Selling charity xmas cards;

- Issuing blue badges;

- Issuing over 60s bus passes.

And while we are at it - this, from the American Library Association last year.

10 Ways Libraries Matter in a Digital Age

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Another really public library

In a phone box in New York City

Add caption

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The man who turned his home into a public library

 "The only rule is that there are no rules."

Nanie Guanlao's library

The idea is simple. Readers can take as many books as they want, for as long as they want - even permanently.

BBC News Magazine, 20 Sept 2012 - for full story.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


I thought to let this blog wither away, but our official blog seems to have fallen asleep again, so I will return here occasionally.

Friern Barnet library has attracted the attention of the Occupy folks...

Reclaim Frien Barnet Library!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Information Literacy

Will be attending an information literacy training session quite soon, so Dave Pattern's comments are (as usual) relevant and thought-provoking. This slide show comes from an event in Sheffield today, related to Summon, search patterns, student research, etc.

Path of Least resistance – principle of least effort. 
Students don’t use Google and wiki because they are lazy – they use it because they are easy -  "Student’s should not have to become mini-librarians to use the library." 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Vandalism and barbarism continues

This piece by Maggie Gee was first published on Thursday (in The Guardian) and pops up in The Week in Books in today's issue.

Midnight Library raid (read the whole thing)

On Monday morning, between 2am and 3am, when most people were asleep, Brent council sent in a team to remove thousands of books in cardboard boxes from London's Kensal Rise library, which local people, ably backed by household-name writers such as Philip Pullman and Zadie Smith, have been fighting to keep open since November 2010.   [...]

The Kensal Rise pop-up library. Photograph: David Levene
However, the library service has never stopped operating. On the day of the closure, after one round of our expensive legal battle was lost on 13 October 2011, we opened our own Kensal Rise Pop-Up Library within the library's perimeter wall.

Apologies for use of excerpts without permission.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Carnegie research on libraries

Although CarnegieUK Trust are no longer involved in providing library services, they have recently created a detailed research report on the current state of play, with recommendations for the future.


In Cardiff we still have two branch libraries originally founded by Carnegie, as you can see in this article from The Guardian (Aug 2010)

"The library on Cowbridge Road East and Library Street, is one of two Carnegie libraries in Cardiff (the other is in Cathays) – founded by Scottish-American industrialist Andrew Carnegie as one of 2,500 across the globe. "

Cathays Carnegie Library opened 1907

Come with a story, leave with another

I love the Mighty Optical Illusions page.

Here's a link to a library campaign, Come with a story, leave with another.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A sad decline in standards

Before I joined the library as a member of staff, I had a beard and ponytail, from my time in the circus, playing a pirate in Treasure Island! Here you can see us doing a group apple juggling routine, with me on the left...
When I got the job in the library I still treated it as a 'performance' job, so shaved and cut my hair short, to try to look like a librarian.

After the first couple of years I managed to get a job backstage, in the computer maintenance team. At this point I was still pretty clean and tidy, waistcoats and all.

I even wore a tie most days, even though I didn't meet the public that much...
And although it was a serious job, we also got to play with things like webcams...

I kept up appearances because I helped run training courses for staff and so on...

And would spend any wet lunch hours in The Stacks. As you can see, my hair started to grow out in what I considered a kind of 'Archivist' look.
When we moved into the temporary library in John Street, our original 'public internet access' experiment solidified into a cybercafe, and somehow the techie look seemed to allow a ponytail, so long as it was tidy, etc.
In fact, according the Wim Wenders, in Wings of Desire, 'library angels' all have ponytails...
And the technology carried on changing, with our RFID tag and reader...
Somehow the combination of library work and computers got me into writing a novel in a month, just for the craich.
And then, getting a Print On Demand copy or two from Lulu - just for the hell of it!
By the time we had moved into our state-of-the-art library, and became the universal computer support guy, I had a beard, the hair, and a bad attitude to uniforms, compulsory second language and other limitations... As the politicians try to eliminate libraries completely...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A bit of good news for a change

A [Conservative] council that had its library restructuring plans quashed in the high court spent more than £70,000 fighting the judicial review.

The review at the high court in November decided it was unlawful for Somerset county council to withdraw funding for 11 libraries because the cuts did not comply with "public sector equality duties" owed to vulnerable social groups.

Full Story at The Guardian
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