Friday, 9 November 2007

MLA Yorkshire Big Day

Yesterday I attended the MLA Yorkshire annual gathering at the National Media Museum, Bradford. The theme of Big day 5 was "making a difference" - how museums, libraries and archives make a difference in our region and how MLA Yorkshire and the MLA Partnership can help.

Professor John Tarrant, Chair of MLA Yorkshire and speaker at the SINTO Members' Day began by pointing that that we had to be able to show that we were making a difference - to provide evidence. he pointed out that libraries, for example, were no longer the self-evident sole source for resources. Instead our role is as mediators between users and resources - but we have to be able to show that this is so.

The meeting then looked at how the sectors could contribute to the London 2012 Olympic Games and the Cultural Olympiad.Tessa Gordziejko is the Creative programmer for Yorkshire and outlined the three core values of Welcoming, Youth and Legacy. Isobel Siddons, Policy Adviser, 2012 programme at MLA introduced the Setting the Pace programme. This has 5 themes, International Exhibitions (Stories of the World); The People's Record (capturing life stories of people's engagement with the Cultural Olympiad and games); The Record (developing an archive of the Games); Literature and Storytelling (to inspire young people by celebrating London and the UK) and Information Hubs (showcasing the cultural wealth of London and the regions through engagement with non-accredited media).

Roy Clare, the recently appointed Chief Executive of the MLA spoke on the future of the (MLA) Partnership and partnership in general. He highlighted the need to show the impact of what we do and stressed the need for innovation, sustainability and knowledge & skills development.

Other presentations were given by speakers from Arts Council England, Key Fund Yorkshire and Yorkshire Forward. Caroline Flint MP, Minister for Yorkshire and the Humber spoke about the importance of culture in making a difference to Yorkshire.

The Open Forum returned to the issue of providing evidence for what we do. Echoing the theme of an earlier posting on this blog it was argued that we needed both hard evidence, that could be compared across time and with other areas, and anecdotal evidence that provided stories of what people can achieve through museums, libraries and archives.

So does the MLA Partnership make a difference to what we do as librarians? Someone commented to me that the emphasis on partnership begged the question of why all these organisations were separate in the first place and had no formal mechanisms to bring them together. A warning was given about working in silos and there is a feeling that after many years we are still trying to get our voices heard and our contribution recognised at a regional level. Nothing, however, will be achieved just by complaining about it. The Big Day does provide a forum that brings significant players together and provides an opportunity for librarians to network and lobby. It was perhaps a pity that there were not more heads of service from our region present.

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