Monday, 24 November 2008
Reported in France
This case was firt picked up by Alan Gibbons whoes blog I have mentioned before. Then Philip Pullman added his support, warning that the school would become a 'byword for philistinism and ignorance' and it was this that caused the quality papers to be interested. I can almost feel sorry for Lynn Asquith, the headteacher of the school. I am sure that many secondary schools have got rid of their librarian without being exposed to this sort of publicity - but the campaign for rela libraries has been growing in strength recently.
I also hope that the support from Pullman, Gibbons et al, welcome though it is, does not mean that school libraries and librarians become a sacred cow. Their role does need to be questioned and changes are probably desirable. The defence offered by the school was:
"This reflects reduced student numbers, decreasing use of the traditional library facility and a move towards the relocation and redistribution of non-fiction and fiction resources in the light of new developments in Virtual Learning Environment and interactive learning. The post of librarian will therefore no longer be required from January 2009... After reviewing this we feel that we are not removing a library from the school but changing the way it operates so that curriculum leaders will manage the resources from the internet. This is a model being adopted by many other schools and moves towards the best practice that is adopted in further and higher education institutions."
VLEs have been used in universities and colleges for some time and their introduction into schools is to be welcomed, but the idea that a VLE is about managing the resources from the internet is just wrong. VLEs manage carefully selected resources on an intranet. Some of these may be internet resources which have been carefully evaluated by the academics and information professionals but much of it will be electronic resources purchased by the library/learning centre. The VLE will also signpost print resources where relevant.
Young people have moved away from using books as their primary resource for schoolwork. The challenge facing schools and school librarians is to develop their information skills in the new environment and to encourage them to read as a rewarding activity in its own right.
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
Recognised as one of the best examples of architecture in the region, the six-storey Information Commons provides a state-of-the art learning environment for students. It combines print and digital library services with the latest IT resources, including over 500 PCs, wireless networking and IT equipped classrooms. It has well-equipped spaces for teaching, learning and study, along with a 70-seat café.The building, which also won the gold White Rose Award for Architecture, has a distinctive copper exterior and makes excellent use of natural light, as well as providing a range of study environments. It has already won a national RIBA award and two construction innovation and sustainability awards for its complex structural flooring system.
Tuesday, 4 November 2008
Wednesday, 22 October 2008
John Mellor, Dave Butler, Don McQuade, Mary Harrington and Gill Goodman have now left. Lisa Broadest (Principal Archivist) left in March, Sheila Ireland left last year, as did two other Library Managers, Chris Fitt (Children's Librarian) and Rebecca Väänänen, the Library Manager for Operations. Carol Hill, Local Studies Librarian, and Mike Dobbing, Reference Librarian leave at the end of this month. Some of these posts will be filled but we are sorry to loose so many experienced colleagues.
Thursday, 25 September 2008
The latest round in this debate began with a piece in the Times about Camden Libraries which met with a quick riposte, then a leader in the Times and now letters to the editor. Well at least people are bothered.
This debate is being reflected in the ongoing campaign in Doncaster .
Meanwhile Gordon Brown has announced a plan for vouchers so every school child will have access to a PC with broadband. Yes, but... Isn't it like saying that every household should have a fully equipped operating theatre so we can all get medical treatment without having to go to hospital? Would the money be better spent on improving access in school and public libraries where it can be integrated with a full information environment?
Wednesday, 17 September 2008
In 2007-8 13 libraries received an average of 38.5 books each through the SINTO ILL scheme last year. These 501 books were supplied by 8 libraries. In addition, 601 photocopies were supplied from 3 libraries.
These figures represent a large decline from the 1950s when SINTO members would interchange around 2,500 items per year. The development of national and regional document delivery services and the decline in the number of small business and technical libraries was the reason for this. Over the past few years there has been a slight decline in the volume of ILL traffic between SINTO members as users increasingly access information electronically for themselves over the Internet. However the service is still valued by our members. As Gilly says in her report "Despite all the well known pressures on the Scheme, it would seem that there is still potential for it to be of benefit to the local area."
SINTO will continue to provide a local ILL Scheme for as long as our members find it of value.
Friday, 22 August 2008
SINTO publishes the annual survey Fines & Charges in Public Libraries in England & Wales, and the following figures may be of interest.
Fines for overdue adult books appear to be universal with no authority reporting that they do not charge for overdue books. Fines range from 7p to 25p per day. The median is 14p and the mode is 15p. (Some authorities charge per week and the lowest rate is 30p per week). Maximum total fines charged range from £2 to £20 (Median and mode £5) with a single outlier of 75p, but many authorities have not provided a maximum charge figure. The authorities with the lowest daily charge are St Helens, Methyr Tydfil and Hartlepool, while Rhondda Cynon Taff and Vale of Glamorgan charge 30p per week. The highest charges are levied by Westminster City and Lambeth. All authorities have exemptions or reductions for various.
I think that we shouldn't represent these charges as "fines" for breaking the library rules but rather as the fee for borrowing books which we generously waive if the book is returned within a set period. This is a much better marketing ploy but of course it contadicts the basic principle of a free library service - even if we are not making any actual change in what we charge.
The figures also show that we don't have a national library service. The amount you could be asked to pay for an overdue item could vary by 2000% depending on where you live - a post-code lottery!
Thursday, 21 August 2008
by James Hill, Senior Arts Project Officer, Leeds City Council and Duncan Scobie, Marketing Executive, Marketing Leeds - looks at a community website developed as part of the Celebrate Leeds 2007 festival, the 800th anniversary of the signing of the town's first charter in 1207. The website is a public discussion forum, ‘a site dedicated to investigating quirky, unusual or mysterious aspects of the built environment of the city of Leeds, both past and present'. There is no editorial content, just contributions from members of the public. An example is given of a thread on the forum about locating two stone skulls which used to be on the wall of a pub in the city centre. A group gathered together at the Central Library and read articles from old Leeds newspapers that proved the skulls had been there in the 1960s, but had been moved, when that area of the city centre began to fall into disrepair. Eventually the skulls were found and will be displayed when the area is regenerated.
The authors make the point that Secret Leeds has become "an excellent example of how participatory, socially engaged practice via the internet can play a strong role in regeneration and community cohesion... Not only has the website allowed people to find others who share what they might previously have thought to be a very narrow interest (across the world as well as across the city), but it has also been the catalyst for the kind of ‘meaningful interaction' and ‘engagement with heritage' that are seen as being central drivers in the promotion of community cohesion".
Most authorities want to develop community engagement in this way. The Sheffield City Cultural Services Plan for example has the mission statement "More people, more culturally active, more often". Libraries have to be able to show that they are contributing to these plans so we might expect that they would show a great interest in and engagement with local community forums on the web. Most areas do have some sort of local internet forum. In South Yorkshire we have the Sheffield Forum; Rotherham, the Unofficial Website; Donny Online and Barnsley Links. In addition social network sites such as Facebook often have groups for towns and cities along the lines of "Rotherham might be shite, but it's still home!" (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2311209949 but you have to be a member of Facebook).
I'm sure that most libraries would be able to direct users towards these sites if they were asked but the evidence from library websites I have looked at does not suggest that there is any special engagement by libraries with these sites. Although most libraries have sections on their websites for web links to local community groups I could not find any direct links from the four South Yorkshire libraries, or from Leeds Libraries, to their relevant community forum websites. I suggest that libraries should not just be signposting these sites but should be actively involved with them by providing information in response to queries raised on the forums. By doing this libraries would not only be promoting their services but would be demonstrating their role in community engagement.
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
Some questions for professional librarians in Doncaster:
1. Have you informed CILIP HQ what is happening in Doncaster? At the very least someone should have contacted the Update editorial team with a news report. Then there are members of the CILIP staff dealing with policy and advocacy who can help.
2. Have you started a dialogue with CILIP Council members? They are the governing body of CILIP rather than roving trouble-shooters available to sort out our problems, but they do want to be involved. As Judy Broady-Preston, Leader of CILIP Council said "We are YOUR representatives and rely on YOUR feedback and YOUR views as to what you think are important issues to make sure that the new Council truly represents ALL of you".
3. Have you used the resources on the CILIP website to support the campaign? I admit that they are not very well signposted but by applying your information skills you can find the CLIP statement "Local people deserve a professional service"; "CILIP Policy Statement on Libraries & Learning" and "Intellectual freedom". The Conway report is very relevant and the associated CILIP press release is another useful resource. Finally on CILIP Communities there is a useful thread on "Saving Libraries" under Advocacy.
4. Are you working with the CILIP Branch? Again, this is not a case of "Why hasn't the CILIP branch sorted out all our problems?" The Branch is a community within which you can work and which may be able to offer support.
5. Have you asked yourself what it really is that you want CILIP to do? What is the role of CILIP as a professional body? Is waving a banner at a demonstration really the best thing for CILIP to do?
So to answer Mark's question "Where were CILIP?" They should have been there in the shape of individual CILIP members taking an active role. We are not victims!
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
Any comments on this campaign would be welcome.
Thursday, 10 July 2008
This raises challenges for library staff. The role of subject and liaison librarians has changed significantly in recent years, and some lack the confidence to provide intensive support to researchers. Libraries need to ensure that they have the capability and capacity to offer high quality training for researchers, including knowledge and understanding of the research process. Such moves would in many cases require “a step-change in provision and skills enhancement for library staff”, and perhaps redeployment of library staff into research settings rather than the library building. It is interesting to note that some librarians, had to point out that that “enhancing of staff skills runs counter to the recent tendency towards de-skilling of staff”.
The failure of HEIs to recognise the importance of information skills and the contribution of librarians to this is mirrored by the comments I reported in my last post about Doncaster Public Libraries “What is the point in buying new books? Tescos sell them cheaply and everything you need to know is on the Internet.” There is a level of ignorance so profound that you don't know you are ignorant. Until you learn something about the skills needed to play a saxophone then you don't know that you can't do it. Researchers may not know enough about information skills to know what they lack. Senior managers of Universities or Local Authorities may not know enough about libraries and information to realise how much there is to understand. And whose fault is this? Librarians need to sell the benefits of information and information skills and we have ourselves to blame if we fail to do this.
Thursday, 3 July 2008
Corporate Director of Customer Services ,Stuart Hall, was reported as saying “What is the point in buying new books? Tescos sell them cheaply and everything you need to know is on the Internet.”
Further information on the public campaign to save Doncaster Libraries can be found in The Star.
The latest news is that there will be a public demonstration in Doncaster on Saturday 12th July to "Save our Libraries"
Friday, 20 June 2008
Wednesday, 18 June 2008
The theme was "Getting research into practice" and we looked at how research carried out both by LIS academics and by practitioners can be used by librarians.
Our first keynote speaker was Dr Ian Rowlands whose report on Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future has attracted a lot of attention. Ian has explored the reality behind the idea of the "Google generation" i.e. the belief that there is a new generation of people with very different information seeking behaviour based on the use of the Internet and who are turning away from libraries. He suggested that the real situation was more complicated and that we may be seeing the rise of "digital dissidents" - young people who are moving away from the Internet. Dr Rowlands pointed out that librarians have to ensure that their services remain relevant to the needs of students, researchers and the public.
Liz Brewster gave a presentation about her dissertation at the Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield, on bibliotherapy and the public library. This work won her the SINTO Bob Usherwood prize and is a good example of how student dissertations can be a useful source of information for practitioners. Information on tracing student dissertations from the DIS can be found here.
Matt Borg and Deborah Harrop from Sheffield Hallam University Learning Centre then reported on work they had carried out on information skills training. There keyword was "Inspiration" and they pointed out that information is a mechanism not the outcome and that we need to be learner focused. They also showed that information skills training could produce results.
Our second keynote speaker, Juliet Eve from the University of Brighton gave a paper "Academics are from Mars, practitioners are from Venus" which looked at the gap between the two groups. She has outlined her argument in her own blog on this event.
The discussion that followed was fairly low key despite Bob Usherwood's attempts to stimulate debate. Briony Birdi explained the DIS's commitment to making research available to the wider community and their interest in working with practitioners. Some practitioners explained that although they were interested in using research they had limited time to keep up-to-date with everything that was produced and that if they did carry out their own research they had no time to publish it themselves.
Bob Usherwood mentioned Edward Dudley's column in Update to the effect that librarians don't spend enough time thinking about or discussing professional issues. The members' day was an opportunity to do this and I hope the members found it to be a useful interlude.
Thursday, 5 June 2008
Can you have an "old dawn"? Aren't all dawns new by definition? And does a dawn have a heart? And as for "best practice", best for who or what. Does best practice mean practice that is best for the needs of the individual library authority or are we looking at standardised practice across the country?
OK - the headline is not as important as the content of the press release. The new MLA may be able to achieve things that the old MLA didn't. Roy Clare says “The result will be a leaner, fitter MLA, uniquely positioned to work collaboratively to challenge and invigorate our sector, embrace the future, and work for standards right across the country that measure up to the best.” I hope he is right as these are outcomes devoutly to be wished - but I don't think that the breathless bumph at the top of this press release strikes the right note.
Friday, 30 May 2008
Teaching and Training Tips for Librarians
Wednesday 23 July 2008, University of Huddersfield. 9:15-16:30
CILIP Yorkshire & Humberside Branch and Career Development Group Yorkshire & Humberside invite you to attend this one day workshop, aimed at those involved in teaching within a library setting in all sectors. An excellent opportunity to learn new skills and share ideas and experiences.
9:30-9:40 Welcome and Introduction
9:40-10:40 Crosswords, library bingo and quizzes: getting more active learning into our teaching.
11:00-12:00 Creativity in Teaching
12:00-13:00 Enquiry Based Learning
13:45-14:15 Lesson Planning
14:15-15:30 Group Activity (includes refreshments)
15:30-16:15 Poster Promenade
16:15-16:30 Question & Answer session/close
£50 +VAT (£58.75) per delegate for CILIP Members
£70 +VAT (£82.25) per delegate for Non-CILIP Members
Places are limited to 25, advanced booking is essential. A booking form must be completed to ensure a place.
For a booking form contact Andrew Walsh firstname.lastname@example.org University of Huddersfield, Computing & Library Services, CSB, Queensgate, Huddersfield, HD1 3DH. Tel. 01484 472052
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
Most of the audience appears to be library staff who are interested in seeing how the profession is represented on the big screen. I had hoped that some heads of service would take the opportunity of inviting their senior management or elected members along to the film as a way of promoting the service but I have no indication that this is happening. We don't often get the opportunity to promote the value of libraries and it would be a pity if this was not grasped with both hands.
On the tickets for this screening I have said that the dress code is "flamboyant librarian". This is not to be take too seriously - I know that most people will be coming directly from work and will not have an opportunity to dress up - but it would be nice if people could use the Hollywood theme to chalenge the usual image of librarians, even if it just among ourselves. There will be a small prize for the most flamboyant librarian on the night.
Friday, 16 May 2008
Some forthcoming events from SINTO will help library and information services in our region to respond to this challenge.
The SINTO Members' Day on the 12th June asks "Why do we do what we do?" Do we have the evidence that proves that what we do is meeting the needs of our users or is the most effective use of our resources? This day will look at how research can inform professional practice. Keynote speakers are Dr Ian Rowlands, author of Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future and Juliet Eve of the University of Brighton with a presentation Academics are from Mars, practitioners are from Venus.
Advanced Internet searching led by Stephanie Taylor on the 17th June will cover what is a core skill for all information professionals. This course will examine techniques that will enable staff to find relevant and authoritative information efficiently. Stephanie Taylor will take delegates through the latest search tools and techniques. Each person will have their own PC for hands-on practice. This is the Google Generation but information professionals need to be ahead of the field.. We must be better at finding information tham our users.
And just because we have to embrace the new does not mean we abandon the old. A Brief Introduction to Cataloguing and Classification on the 3rd June covers another core skill in information handling.
Contact the SINTO office for more information.
Thursday, 1 May 2008
The Hollywood Librarian is a unique and charming blend of film clips, humour and critical analysis of the popular image of librarians. It creates a new-found empathy for the profession by revealing the diversity of individual librarians and the importance of what they do.
Wednesday, 30 April 2008
It is with great sadness that I write to inform you that Laura Tolley, Senior Information Adviser (Acquisitions), died on Friday 25 April. We last saw her at work only a week or so before this date, so there is a great sense of shock amongst those of us who worked closely with her. Laura was a long serving member of staff who will be known to many, both in LITS and across the University. Our deep sympathy goes to her family and especially to Paul and the children.
Laura's funeral will take place on Friday, 2nd May at 2.30pm at Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium, Periwood Lane, Sheffield S8 0HN.
The family have requested no flowers but have asked that any donations in Laura's name should be made to Nightingale House Hospice in Wrexham.
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
"In real life, Sheila Webber is a senior lecturer in information studies at Sheffield University. In Second Life, she is Sheila Yoshikawa, blue-haired babe and cultivator of a Japanese garden - Webber's avatar in the online virtual world populated by millions. 'I see her as a digital extension of me. I do some teaching, some professional networking and some shopping. I have a huge wardrobe and I'm much thinner.'"
Wendy interviews Sheila about Dr Ian Rowlands report on the 'Google generation'. The report, Information Behaviour of the Researcher of the Future, found users "power-browsing" or skimming material, using "horizontal" (shallow) research. Most spent only a few minutes looking at academic journal articles and few returned to them. "It almost seems that they go online to avoid reading in the traditional sense," said the report authors. Dr Rowlands is one of the key-note speakers at the SINTO Members' Day on June 12th.
"Students of all ages need to learn to make independent assessments of the quality of material by looking at the authors' experience, funders, use of sources, and where published. 'They have to be taught these skills explicitly,' says Sheila Webber. 'Some academics recognise its importance but don't see it as their job to teach it. University librarians do see it as their responsibility - but there aren't enough of them to do it. Academics must join in.'"
Elsewhere in the supplement Martin Lewis, director of library services at the University of Sheffield is interviewed about how technology has changed his role. "Users can carry out more routine transactions themselves while we provide more time offering learning support to students. As teachers of information literacy, we can give students critical appraisal skills so they can use the internet."
Monday, 21 April 2008
Friday, 11 April 2008
However, the Green benefits of the SINTO Directories don't just stop there, oh no! Using the directories opens up a whole world of resource sharing which is essential to a sustainable lifestyle.
The General Networking directory lists all SINTO members, including many separate site libraries, and provides all the contact details you need. Exactly how you make use of this is up to you but the possibilities are endless. The green mantra is "think globally, act locally" and the directory helps you to do this. There are many ways in which you can improve your library services and save resources by working in partnership. A small example is the list of Library Management Systems used by SINTO libraries. If you want to see how a particular system works you can visit a local library - and use public transport as well!
The Inter Library Loan Scheme directory takes this even further. Here is all the information you need to contact those libraries that take part in the SINTO ILL scheme. Again, sourcing things locally should be a central theme of your environmental policy (you do have one, don't you!).
And don't forget that SINTO training events are all run locally - and we serve Fairtrade coffee!
All this Green stuff does get confusing but just remember that using SINTO will save all those polar bears in the Amazon rain forest.
Thursday, 10 April 2008
Tuesday, 8 April 2008
As from April 2008 the Business Link services in the Yorkshire and Humberside area have been delivered by a new provider. Y&H IDB has been selected by Yorkshire Forward as the contractor for the new regional Business Link. Y&H IDB has been set up by Examplas (which runs the east of England Business Link) and Reed in Partnership (which delivers New Deal and Train to Gain programmes in Yorkshire.
The main change is that the four regional Business Links have been replaced by the single Business Link Yorkshire based in Barnsley. It offers a "fast, friendly and practical business information from our experienced team of Information Advisers". The range of business information on offer is vast, backed by a broad network of library and technological resources. Information Adviser will help new start ups or established companies obtain the most appropriate package of support.
At the same time the South Yorkshire Euro Information Service has closed and been replaced by the new Enterprise Europe Yorkshire based in Bradford. Enterprise Europe Yorkshire is part of a Europe wide network with over 500 partners. Supported by the European Commission and Yorkshire Forward, they provide a comprehensive enquiry service on EU related matters for local businesses.
The development of these Yorkshire wide agencies for business information highlights the issues raised by SINTO in the Libraries are Good for Business project. This showed the difficulty of providing a comprehensive business information service for Yorkshire through 15 separate public library authorities. Despite their being no central planning or co-ordination, a structure has emerged with two libraries (Leeds and Sheffield) providing a regional service, others providing a specialised local service and a few which do not attempt to duplicate provision but refer specialist enquiries to other sources.
The project also demonstrated the difficulty of co-operation between Business Link and the public libraries with a lack of a strategic approach to co-operation and partnership working. Business Links have seldom regarded public library business information services as significant - but while Business Links serve the needs of businesses, business information is important to a much wider audience including consumers, trade unionists and business students. Public libraries also act as an access point for small businesses, start-ups and pre-start-ups. It would be nice to think that the development of a single Business Link would make dialogue and partnership easier, but with the demise of MLA Yorkshire there is no longer a single voice for libraries in the region.
One recommendation in Libraries are Good for Business was that public libraries (through the Society of Chief Librarians Yorkshire) and Yorkshire Forward should develop their role in the Better Deal for Business framework beginning with libraries signing up to this framework. SCL Yorkshire was not able to take this basic step and in most authorities business information services are being cut back. The contrast between a single Business Link and EIC on the one hand and a fractured public library provision on the other is stark and the profession seems unable to respond, as it has done in the past, by working together.
SINTO, meanwhile, produces a directory of business information services in Yorkshire to enable resource sharing, networking and referral; and runs a business information group. for more information contact the SINTO office.
Friday, 4 April 2008
Thursday, 3 April 2008
On Wednesday I had a telephone interview with Roy Clare, Chief Executive of MLA, to explore the implications of the restructuring of MLA and the probable demise of MLA Yorkshire.
Roy began by stating that everything that he was doing was customer focused and that his concern was with the users and audiences, not with the structures. He said that there was a need to do more joining up, not only between libraries, museums and archives but between the MLA, the Arts Council and the Sport England. There must be an end to compartmentalism between these different Government bodies.
A growing trend in Government policy was the increasing importance of local government and the role of regional non-departmental public bodies. These bodies are competing with each other for the ear of local authorities and regional development agencies, and there needed to be a fundamental change in how things were done. It was the intention to have more collaboration and a Director of Programme in each region.
Roy pointed out that the old MLA structure had been complex and that the available funding had to be split into a number of separate pots to support the regional MLAs. However, he insisted that MLA is not walking away from the regions and that it will maintain a strong leadership through three areas:
- A focus on connecting with local authorities. This will include ensuring that culture is reflected in all Local Area Agreements.
- Connecting with the Regional Development Agencies. Working jointly with other agencies MLA will promote the core role of culture, art and sport for regional regeneration and development.
- Promoting learning society capacity in the regions. The concept of the learning society for promoting learning and skills development was central to regional development and the new MLA will be working on this.
Roy explained how MLA would operate in the regions. A Regional Transition Working Group has been set up which will be led by Sam Bestwick of MLA East Midlands to oversee the transition and Roy did not want to speculate on the final structure. Roy expects to have high calibre people in the regions. They would not operate autonomously but would consult with an advisory group that would work with other non-departmental public bodies. The reduction in the overall MLA headcount would mean that more funding would be available in the future for organisations to bid for to support projects.
I asked Roy if the MLA would be looking to work with consortia of libraries, museums and archives in each region. He said that the Yorkshire Regional Museums Hub was a good model of the type of organisation that was needed and that he was keen to encourage closer collaboration within and across domains. The staff of the new MLA would not be domain specialists and libraries, museums and archives should work together. Roy identified two upcoming events; the new comprehensive spending review and the next general election. For both of these it was essential that culture was high on the agenda and that we all had to stand together to achieve this.
Finally Roy said that we owe a great debt to Annie Mauger, John Tarrant and all the staff of MLA Yorkshire for their work. The architecture has now changed and bodies like MLA need to change because of this.
Roy Claire has offered an explanation and justification of the changes at MLA. Few will disagree with his message that the cultural sector as a whole needs to get its act together and promote itself as a force for regional regeneration. This will require people of exceptionally high calibre who can lobby the decision makers. They will need to understand the particular characteristics and needs of each domain and at the same time be able to meld this into a vision of what we can offer the population of our region. His support for regional consortia as partners in this process is to be welcomed and it is significant that he has highlighted the Yorkshire Hubs from the museums domain as a model of good practice.
What is missing in Yorkshire is any framework for libraries to work together and with other domains. Clearly the Yorkshire Hubs model needs to be replicated for the libraries domain. The role of MLA Yorkshire was limited but it did achieve some things. The Libraries are Good for Business project which looked at business information provision across the region is a good example. This research could only have been commissioned by a regional body and it demonstrated the difficulties of delivering a regional service through separate library services. MLAY did a good job of promoting the value of libraries with Yorkshire Forward, but at the end of the day we were unable to offer the region an integrated business information service or even a robust model for co-operation at a regional level. (This example also shows that although libraries and culture overlap there is not an exact fit). Roy sees MLA working with the Arts Council and Sport England to promote our role with the regional development agencies but the RDAs will be asking how we can deliver a co-ordinated service and that will prove difficult without a regional framework.
Thursday, 27 March 2008
And what about that photograph? Well it shows a picture drawn by pavement artist Julian Beever. The bottle and ladder are drawn on the pavement but with a perspective that makes it look like a 3-d object. The artist is kneeling at the end of the picture in the middle distance while the lady with the glass is much closer to the camera. Strange but true! Have a good weekend.
Wednesday, 26 March 2008
Sword swallower meets The Indexer
The brainchild of Guardian journalist and editor of the Annals of Improbable Research, Marc Abrahams, the Ig Nobel awards celebrate research that 'first makes people laugh, and then makes them think'.
Australian indexer Glenda Browne received this accolade last October for her article on the humble word 'the' and why it causes so much trouble for people trying to put things into alphabetical order. She shared the stage with, amongst others, Dan Meyer, fellow Ig Nobel winner for research into the injurious effects of sword-swallowing.
Dan (aka 'Cap'n Cutless, Swashbucklin' Saber Swallower') was back on stage recently (and giving a practical demonstration of his skills!), as part of the 2008 Ig Nobel Road show touring the UK during Science and Engineering Week. This time he was sharing the platform with Maureen MacGlashan, editor of The Indexer, the journal in which Glenda's article was first published and which is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year.
Joining the motley crowd of Ig Nobel award winners (whose research ranged from 'Scrotal asymmetry in man and in ancient sculpture' and 'The effect of country music on suicide' to 'Homosexual necrophilia in the mallard duck' and assembling the world's first periodic
(four-legged) table) were fifteen members of the Society of Indexers, who entered into the spirit of the event by holding up letters that read 'INDEXERS UNITE'. 'We thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to get across the idea that indexing is a serious business and that there are people who do it for a living,' said Maureen. 'Most importantly, we showed that we can laugh at ourselves for what we do and how we do it'.
Tuesday, 18 March 2008
Taleb's idea is that our lives are dominated by Black Swan events; that is events which are extremely rare but have very high impact. These events can not be predicted in advance because they are completely different to anything that has happened before. Afterwards, these events are subject to intense scrutiny and explanations are developed which appear to show how they could have been predicted, but this does not prepare us for the next Black Swan. He seems to suggest that none of the unread books in the antilibrary would enable us to predict these events although some of the books (including presumably his own) can help us to deal with the effects of Black Swans on society.
Taleb also claims that information is bad for knowledge. More knowledge does not mean that you make better choices, only that you are more confident in the choices you have made. This echoes Eliot's line about "Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?"
So a mixed message for libraries! What you don't know is more relevant than what you do know so libraries are important. However the events that will have most impact are unknowable and providing people with more information does not necessarily help.
The profession is faced with its own Black Swan in the shape of the Internet. The development over a few years of a system which (potentially) offers every individual the ability to find any information they want instantly from their home or office (or mobile device) could not have been anticipated and is having a massive impact - modified only by the fact that the potential and the reality are very different. So how do we cope?
In the announcement of the Skills Exchange milestone (last posting) Stephanie Taylor makes the point that the Skills Exchange concept is very different from that of an email list:
This is fundamental to dealing with Black Swans - and even grey cygnets, their less traumatic offspring. You don't need more information. You need to step back and think, and the best way of doing that is to talk to other people. Librarians are very good at doing things right but we need to focus on doing the right thing. Forums such as the Skills Exchange, CILIP communities and the SINTO wiki are an ideal tool for this. Librarians claim that they have less time to get out of the library and network. They don't even have time to spend an hour or so on the computer networking. However they are making a grave error if they think that keeping their noses to the grindstone is helping their users or their employers in the long term. Stop what you are doing and look for Black Swan in your organisation. Help your manager, and your manager's manager to look for Black Swans. That is your job - after all you are the custodian of the unread books.
Friday, 14 March 2008
The new online community where librarians and information workers can meet to exchange ideas now has over 100 registered users - well over actually - 121 at the latest count, and growing all the time. This should now be a user-base that can be of genuine use to each other in the exchange of knowledge and experience in the LIS sector.
It is cross-sectoral in its make-up, with representatives from the academic, public and commercial sector. This can become a valuable feature of The Skills Exchange, as a fresh perspective on tackling similar issues can often lead to new and innovative thinking.
I wish the Skills Exchange all the best in the future and recommend it to all librarians in the region.
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
The question now is what will happen post-MLAY? It is not the role of MLAY to set up a successor body to take over from them although Annie Mauger (Chief Executive) has said that she is prepared to facilitate any discussions. It is up to the library services in our region to decide what they want and how they want to achieve it. The wants list would certainly include a body that could represent and lobby on behalf of libraries with the regional and national decision making bodies such as Yorkshire Forward; strategic planning; promoting and supporting library and information services; co-operating with the museums and archives sectors; and supporting and delivering regional training and CPD activities. What is needed is some sort of regional development agency for libraries along the lines of LLDA in London. or Libraries and Information East Midlands.
There are a number of bodies already in existence that could play a part in this. The Society of Chief Librarians in Yorkshire is a forum for public libraries. Yorkshire Libraries and Information is the Regional Library System for Yorkshire and Humber (although if you visit their home page you will see it was last updated in November 2003). The CILIP Yorkshire & Humberside Branch represents CILIP members in the region and organises some CPD events.
Then there is SINTO. We have grown from a Sheffield based partnership to one covering South Yorkshire (and north Derbyshire), and now have members in West Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. There is no reason why we should not extend our remit to cover all of Yorkshire and the Humber. This would require a major expansion of the SINTO office, but I don't see this expansion in terms of SINTO recruiting more members. Instead, the libraries in the region need to decide if they want to set up a development agency and then build on the existing structures, including SINTO, to achieve this.
All this needs to be discussed by the SINTO Executive and the existing members. It is possible that they will decide they don't want SINTO to change and grow. One of our USPs is that SINTO is a local consortium for local libraries and expansion might damage this. However, the opportunity is there to build on the ashes of MLA Yorkshire.
Friday, 7 March 2008
I used the above picture in a posting some time ago. It's a piece of sculpture I spotted when walking around Barcelona last summer and I suppose it just tickled my fancy. Later I began to wonder what the piece is called and who the artist is, but a search on Google images failed to find it. Then I heard (through Phil Bradley's excellent blog) about a service called Picanswers. You post photographs to this site with a question and see if anyone replies. I posted my Cheeky Sculpture picture and a few days later I received a detailed reply giving full information. Here is part of the reply:
"The sculpture in your picture is located in the Park of Carles I along the Avenida Icaria, in the district of Sant Martí in Barcelona. It was made by Eduardo Úrculo in 1999 and is a homage to Santiago Roldán, president of the Olympic Holding from 1989 to 1993 (so it says at the base of the sculpture)."
There were also links to other photographs and a Youtube video clip. It just goes to show the power of social computing.
I'm still not sure if this blog has much power or influence but I checked recently and it is getting an average of 12 hits a day. If we ignore the weekends, when my intended audience should have better things to do, that's almost 17 per day. It peaked on the 5th February this year when it had 33 hits. Thanks for reading.
Thursday, 6 March 2008
Next Tony Shrubb of Force Ten Co demonstrated software that can be installed on PCs to improve accessibility and displayed the latest in text magnifiers and text readers.
During the seminar there was a discussion about how well libraries are meeting the needs of people who have problems in accessing standard text. Most libraries do make provision e.g. providing large text and audiobooks and in providing specialist equipment. However it was conceded that awareness and training of front line staff could be a problem and that a user with special needs might not always get access to the services that would help them. Examples were given of library staff who were not aware of what assistive technology was available or how to make best use of it. It was pointed out that training of all staff was expensive in money and time and, as use of these services was often low, it was difficult to maintain staff skills at a high level. On the other hand, the low level of use might be a result of the poor service offered.
The trouble is that this is only one of many areas where more investment is needed in equipment and staff training. Training events like this one organised by SINTO help to improve the skills and understanding of library staff at the operational level. They also raise awareness of the demand for these services and the technologies that are available to meet this demand. This awareness needs to be disseminated to the users of our services on one side and the decision makers and funders of our services on the other. The expectations of users should be increased and the funders should be challenged to provide for this need.
Thursday, 28 February 2008
This debate was sparked by Bob Usherwood, Emeritus Professor of Librarianship, University of Sheffield and Chair of SINTO. His new book Equity and Excellence in the Public Libraries: why ignorance is not our heritage, was published last year by Ashgate. Prof Usherwood summarised his views in an Opinion piece in Update 6(12) December 2007 p22.
His argument is that too many public librarians steer clear of making value judgments when choosing stock and as a result are "failing to counteract the ignorance and prejudice engendered by a society that cultivates celebrity, cash and trash." It is a cause of concern for Bob that so many librarians "appear unable or unwilling to make a judgement about the quality of books or other material." He further suggests that libraries should focus on services to encourage and support people with learning difficulties and others who do not deliberately embrace ignorance rather than "larger louts, chavs and other imposters masquerading as [the] true working class" (Usherwood quoting Knightley). "Such groups" claims Bob "are not by any means genuine representatives of the disadvantaged, and public librarians have to be very wary of the siren voices of those policy makers and others who mistakenly seek to promote their interests on the name of inclusion and equity."
Helen Buckley Woods of Sheffield Hallam University took issue with this in a letter to the January/February Update. She argued that it was not the either/or situation that Bob seemed to suggest and that most librarians would have "[a] steadfast commitment to provide a broad range of materials and services for all parts of the community, endeavouring to offer an excellent service to every user, no matter who they are...".
John Pateman (Head of Libraries, Lincolnshire) wrote to Update to support Helen's views that we should not separate the 'underclass' from the 'true working class' but argued that "...we should be mindful of the balance between social classes in our communities and ensure that resources are allocated accordingly. He also said that Helen was right to point out that there need not be a tension between equity and excellence in public libraries. However in a later piece in the Library & Information Gazette headlined "Equity not excellence" John says "My view is that we should not put our focus on excellence in terms of bookstock, but on equity with regard to social inclusion." He continues "Surely it is better to compromise on high professional standards so that libraries can truly be open to all?" John concludes by saying "In the modern public library service, excellence has its place - as a secondary consideration. But it has not served public libraries well in the past. Equity must be the watchword for the future."
On the face of it this is a clear conflict between the supporters of Excellence on the one hand and Equity on the other. However, Bob's definition of Excellence is about the quality of the material that we select and the need to provide knowledge and enlightenment. John chooses to interpret this as support for "high and elitist culture" which panders to a "predominantly middle-class, female, white and middle-aged" minority. Bob's comments about the "perils of populism" may justify this interpretation. The OED definition of populism is support for or representation of ordinary people or their views; speech, action, writing, etc., intended to have general appeal and a rejection of this inevitably suggests an elitist approach which may not be what Bob intended. The word quality has many definitions (including the archaic people of high social standing) but in the sense of excellence or superiority it is not an antonym of popular.
Wednesday, 27 February 2008
If there are any local history librarians out there you might be interested in the Earthquake thread on the Sheffield Forum. It's a snapshot of how people reacted to the event as it happened.
Wednesday, 20 February 2008
Chair of MLA Yorkshire, Professor John Tarrant, said: "This is not just a sad day for museums, libraries and archives but also a sad day for Yorkshire. The staff of MLA Yorkshire have done an excellent job providing a strong voice for museums, libraries and archives in the region. They have championed the work that supports our communities and helped the cultural sector play a leading role in the revitalising of our region's economy.
"Closing MLA Yorkshire will impact on local authorities that have looked to us for guidance, small organisations we have supported such as voluntary museums and the public who have benefited from our work to improve the sector for users.
"Every museum, library and archive in our region will lose as a result of this decision. They will have less of a voice in Yorkshire and the Humber than they would have in the devolved nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland."
MLA Chairman Mark Wood said: "The Board has taken the decision that only radical reorganisation will sustain a stronger, more focused MLA working nationally and regionally, and making better use of public money. We believe that the costs of nine independent agencies, concentrating only on museums, libraries and archives, are unsustainable. "
MLA’s Chief Executive Roy Clare said: "This is a tremendously challenging programme of change. We will continue to work closely with the nine independently-constituted agencies and with local government and regional development agencies to plan for a unified MLA. We aim to introduce substantial improvements, while making savings quickly within the looming financial year. We will retain flexibility to ensure that the MLA's emerging shape and capacities are compatible with the results of the ongoing DCMS review of the regions."
This is deeply disapointing news for the sector in Yorkshire. MLA nationally has been seen by many as having lost the plot and failing to speak up effectively for libraries. The regional agencies had their problems but they did retain their contact with the musuums, libraries and archives domains while at the same time being an advocate and support at a regional level. We are a diverse and fragmented profession and a single regional agency was of benefit. It was also the only evidence of central Government support for the infrastructure that is meant to support the Information Society. We are entitled to feel that we have been left in the lurch by a Government Greport highlighted the problems of a lack of understanding of what information was all about in our schools, colleges and workplaces but it seems that should be extended to Downing Street as well.
Wednesday, 13 February 2008
Thursday, 7 February 2008
I am always happy to pass on news from any other SINTO member libraries if you send it to me.
Monday, 4 February 2008
Roy Hattersley penned a heartfelt tribute to public libraries in general and Hilsborough Library in Sheffield in particular, in a Daily Mail piece on 7th January 2008 headlined Why closing local libraries is a tragedy for us all. He wrote "They still provide essential information, informal education and, most important of all, hours of pure pleasure.... Yet 40 [libraries] closed last year. What happens in Hillsborough shows what a tragedy that is."
I mentioned the Oxford Online Library Champions Award when they were launched last year and I am very pleased to see that Sheffield Libraries were joint winners (with Plymouth) of the Best Website Promotion of Oxford Online Resources category. The judges were impressed by the number of ways people could find out about the service on the Sheffield Libraries’ website. ‘The overall aim has been to ensure high visibility of the OUP packages for 24/7 use, to maximize awareness of them at as many entry points on the web pages as possible, to ensure easy access to the packages and maximize their use by as diverse a customer base as possible,’ says Karen Wallace of Sheffield Libraries.
Friday, 1 February 2008
The idea behind all these is similar. Sharing ideas and discussing professional issues with librarians from other organisations is an important tool for professional development. Opportunities to do this have traditionally been limited. We read the professional press and attend the occasional meeting or conference but most of the time we are working on our own. Social networking provides the opportunity to keep in touch with a community of interest from your workplace or home. As with many new developments the critical thing is not mastering the technology but changing our behaviour to take advantage of the new opportunities. Many people would take a half -or full-day, or more, off work to attend a meeting or training event but would find it difficult to spend a few hours a week to sit down in front of a computer and take part in on-line professional discussions. I wonder how many heads of service or training officers encourage their staff to do this during work time as part of their CPD activities.
It is perhaps dissapointing that there are now so many different social networking sites on offer - but there has always been a number of different professional journals available, each with its own remit and coverage. These things grow organically and we can not expect them to conform to a central plan. What is important is that individual professionals and LIS organisations seize the opportunity that is being offered and join in with these networks.
Thursday, 31 January 2008
For several years Museums Libraries and Archives Yorkshire (MLAY) have been running the Next Generation Management development programme and this year SINTO is taking over the administration. The programme is aimed at staff who are just starting in, or aspiring to, their first management post - or as can happen, are in a management post but have never received training. It consists of a number of workshops on various key topics with the aim of developing skills and confidence.
The programme will be developed in consultation with the course participants but subjects covered will include managing your staff, your manager and yourself; project and financial management; creative thinking; influencing & persuading and presentation skills. Seminars will be held at various locations in Yorkshire. Participants will be encouraged to make use of an on-line community of interest. The programme will start in April and run for one year. The cost will be in the region of £450 for ten workshops.
Next Generation has a high standing in the museums sector and this year we hope to attract more librarians. A feature of the programme will be the sharing of experience with people from different backgrounds.
More information is available on the SINTO website or contact me at email@example.com
Monday, 21 January 2008
Copywatch, the enforcement arm of the Copyright Licencing Agency, is offering rewards of up to £100,000 to anyone who provides information on illegal copying. There is even a special section of their website for reporting local authorities and they say that research has established that local authorities "copy significantly".
It shouldn't be too difficult to spot illegal copying going on, then all you need to do is send a message to Copywatch. "No one" says Copywatch "will divulge your identity."
An alternative course of action is to sign up for the SINTO training event on Advanced Copyright. Graham Cornish will explain the copyright legislation and how if effects library. Armed with this information you can avoid infringing copyright law and advise your users and colleagues to do the same.
Of course you won't get the £100,000.
Friday, 18 January 2008
The Centre for the Public Library and Information in Society web page has a list of PhD Theses and Students' masters Dissertations relevant to the theme of public libraries and information in society. Many of these are available in full text on-line.