Thursday, 20 December 2007

Business informatiom

This will be my final posting for 2007 so Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I started this blog in February and my hit counter statistics indicate that I get about 10 views on average every day during the working week. This is not overwhelming but does indicate a moderate level of interest. If you do find the blog of interest, please spread the word.

But this is a working blog so let's get down to business - the SINTO Business Information Newsletter to be exact. I have just published issue 30 for December 2007 and distributed it to my mailing list. here are some of the "highlights".

A free online advice service aimed at small businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs, has been launched recently. The new service, funded by the UK government, aims to improve the success rate of British businesses.
The site will offer impartial, expert advice to businesses and provide access to a comprehensive library of resources, including an online community for businesses and entrepreneurs to network and share knowledge.
The online panel will include former dragon in the BBC’s ‘Dragon’s Den’ and Chairman of Library House, Doug Richard and Al Gosling, founder and CEO of The Extreme Group.

Business Information Blog
ADSET Business Information Blog (no relation to the Adsetts Learning Centre) is aimed at small businesses and carries regular postings about a range of business related news stories. It seems particularly good on news about new legislation.

Translation on-line
Barbara Verble provided a list of online translation services in Freepint.

* Omniglot
* FreeTranslation
* WorldLingo

See you next year.
Carl Clayton

Thursday, 13 December 2007

SINTO and you

This week I have been involved with two events. On Tuesday we ran the first of two Promoting Reading courses with Anne Harding. This attracted children's librarians from public libraries and school librarians. Then on Wednesday the Career Development Group Y&H ran Your Guide to Chartership at Sheffield Hallam.

At both events I was able to say a few words about how SINTO could be of help to individual librarians. SINTO is of course a co-operative of library services and much of what we do is aimed at organisations - but I do like to remind people that SINTO can help them as individuals with their own Continuing Professional Development. This applies to staff who are on the CILIP Certification or Chartership route and also to anyone who is revalidating or generally wants to develop their professional skills.

There are two main areas where SINTO can help. First there is the programme of training and CPD events. We run events that are related to the training needs of librarians (as identified by our Training Group), are reasonably priced and are local. Information is available on our website.

Some concern has been expressed about SINTO marketing courses directly to individuals rather than through the libraries. There is an understandable concern that SINTO might raise expectations which the library is not able to afford and that individuals might ask to go on courses that do not fit in with the training needs of the organisation. However, all professional staff should have their own Personal Professional Development Plan (PPDP) and be using this to identify their training & development needs. They should be activley looking out for seminars and events (as well as other training opportunities) and discussing this with their training officer or line manager. There is not an open ended commitment for your employer to meet all your needs especially if these relate to your future career progression rather than the immediate needs of your job, but there should be a dialogue. In addition many individuals accept that they should invest in their own CPD and may want to purchase training for themselves.

The second area where SINTO can help is in the use of Web 2.0 tools to develop a community of practice. The value of the SINTO wiki and blog is that they provide a wider view of the profession. In the Chartership seminar several speakers stressed that Chartership candidates needed to show a breadth of professional knowledge and understanding of the wider professional context. A common reason for failure was that candidates appeared to be too parochial and not aware of what was happening beyond their own library. And this applies to more senior professional staff as well. Everyone should be aware of what is happening in other sectors and at a regional or national level. The SINTO wiki provides a forum for librarians to share information and engage with others while in my blog I try to provide a local perspective on general professional issues.

Individuals are very welcome to use these tools. Contributing to these sites can be used as evidence of professional commitment. You don't have to speak on behalf of your library service; although you should always be acting in a professional manner in anything you do say. Make it your New Year's resolution to get involved with your local community.

Friday, 7 December 2007

Look here, upon this picture and on this...

I am always looking out for contributions by local librarians in the national media and today I have discovered two very contrasting examples which illustrate the complex issues that are facing our profession.

In Information World Review Issue 241 December 2007 there is an article Is virtual a virtue in scholarship? by Daniel Griffin. This looks at information literacy and in particular the work of Sheila Webber of the Department of Information Studies at the University of Sheffield. Sheila talks about using Second Life as a learning environment and how the University now has a Second Life island where she (or her avatar Sheila Yoshikawa) can run conferences and workshops. She also describes the new University of Sheffield Information Commons building as a "great resource".

Meanwhile in the Independent on the 6th December, Gill Johnson, former head of service at Doncaster Libraries, has written a powerful letter highlighting the problems facing public libraries. She write:

The situation Hermione Eyre describes in her piece on public libraries (1 December) is happening all over the country as public library services come under ever more extreme pressure in terms of resources. The role of professional librarians is being downgraded and in some places staff are no longer allowed to have that title, being subsumed instead into generic "managers".
The new libraries are being marketed like bookshops, and that most important role for a public library, of holding a backstock of out-of-print and less popular items to respond to readers' requests, is being sacrificed as space is given over to coffee shop franchises etc. Book funds for new purchases are an easy target when a local authority is looking for savings.

So we have academic librarians expanding into new real and virtual accommodation while public librarians are facing cuts. It is easy to say that academic libraries have always been better funded but the point is that universities fund their libraries/resource centres because they recognise that they are central to what the university is trying to achieve. They support the teaching/learning goal of the university and they are a marketing tool for attracting students in a very competitive environment. Local authorities, and society in general, tend to see public libraries as being 'nice' but not essential.

Perhaps it is a case of academic librarians being successful in making their case while public librarians have failed - but it has to be a two way dialogue and I suspect that the fault lies with the decision making process as it operates in local authorities. Local councilors might recognise the importance of promoting reading to pre-school children (at least when a busty blond celeb is involved) but they find it difficult to champion or even understand the holistic role of libraries and information in their communities. Combined with the absence of any top-level support from DCMS or MLA, as Gill Johnson points out, it is no wonder that this sector is struggling.

My opinion is that the whole structure of public library provision needs to change. Local authorities should provide bright and attractive services points with coffee shops, internet access and a limited range of books. These should be supported by regional libraries that hold a collection of out-of-print books but also act as an access point for electronic resources - together with the information professionals providing an enquiry service. These regional libraries could develop close links with local university libraries and might even be co-located. They could also have a virtual presence (in Second Life or whatever) so that people could access them from the local service points or from home.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Dolly Parton

Photograph from The Star

In a desperate attempt to get more people to read my blog I decided to illustrate it with a picture of the photogenic country and western star Dolly Parton. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be relevant to the topic of librarianship in South Yorkshire!

Ms Parton (we are not on first name terms) visited Rotherham to promote her charitable Imagination Library project. The scheme involves posting a book every month to all pre-school children. I don't know very much about the scheme but apparently the local community is responsible for purchasing the books and postage costs. The Dollywood Foundation then takes over responsibility for sending them out.

Dolly Parton's visit gathered a great deal of publicity - far more than literacy promotion scheme generally get. Rotherham deserves credit for this publicity coup but it will be interesting to see what happens next. Is this just a celebrity-led flash-in-the-pan or will it be integrated into the reading promotion work that libraries are already involved with? Meanwhile rumours that Dolly will be appearing at the forthcoming SINTO training events on promoting reading to teenagers are exaggerated.
There is a bit more information available on the Rotherham website and I hope to have more next week.

Science Learning Centres Resource Bank

Last week I attended the CILIP Y&H member's day at the National Science Learning Centre, York. While I was there Emma Jones gave me a quick introduction to their Resource Bank and she has kindly provided the following information.

Science Learning Centres Resource Bank

The Science Learning Centres Resource Bank was quietly added to the Science Learning Centres portal last year and can be accessed from the ‘
Resources’ link on our homepage.

It has been populated with a broad selection of resources: from a large array of examples of how science stories are reported in leading newspapers, websites with useful teaching resources such as: Atmosphere, Climate & Environment: Information and teaching resource (includes practical information sheets and related fun games and puzzles), through to details on a group of Wellcome Trust funded projects titled ‘Creative Encounters’, that have found innovative ways to communicate about science with young people.

A number of collections form the Resource Bank:
The Agenda: policy and white papers related to the Science Education community and professional organisations
The Exchange: resources created by and for teachers that can be edited or reused
Science Links: web sites and pages of interest selected by Science Learning Centre staff and our users
New collections will be available over the coming year for Controversial Issues and Creative Encounters

Browse for resources by Subject, Age range, Audience type, Collection or any combination of these. Keywords can also be used to help you locate a resource quickly. A full text search option finds keywords when used within a resource (on a webpage or in a PowerPoint for example).

If you have a favourite site or resource you have created and would like to share it, all registered users can contribute resources to both ‘The Exchange’ and ‘Science Link’ collections.

All contributed resources under go a Quality Assurance process, before being added to the Resource Bank and are tagged with learndirect and Curriculum Online vocabularies to enhance their ‘findability’.

Creative Commons Licences can be assigned to user contributed resources – the licenses (copyright statements) let others know how you as the contributor would prefer the resource to be re-used and distributed.

Once your resource has been published you can view a list of all your contributions and share the link to this page with your colleagues.

We are looking at ways we can improve the Resource Bank to make it more accessible and useful to our users. New developments coming online over the next year include: improved page layout for search results and resource details; opportunities to share your thoughts on resources with a commenting feature; a ‘bookmarking’ tool: find resources on the Internet and quickly add them to your Science Learning Centre’s Portal personal area and choose whether to share them with others through the Resource Bank.

Find the Resource Bank at:
A short online guide describing how to contribute is available at:

More on Creative Commons at:

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

eep - the educational evidence portal

Julia Reed of the Department for Children, Schools and Families has sent me details of an online resource dedicated to and for educational professionals. The educational evidence portal, eep, aims to provide practical evidence and research materials to underpin practice and policymaking. Documents from leading education organisations have been collated in one, easily accessible, searchable site making information and evidence on a wide and ever-growing range of topics freely available.

This will be an important resource for libraries providing information about education but should also be a resource for many librarians as our work overlaps with and is influenced by education. I did a quick search using the keywords 'promoting', 'reading' and 'libraries' and found a number of interesting documents. This included the text of a speech launching the National Year of Reading although the document contained no details of who had delivered the speech, when or where. Still, evidence based practice is the name of the game and this site should prove useful.