Thursday, 31 January 2008

The Next Generation

No, not the Star Trek spinoff. It is not quite "to boldly go where no one has gone before" but many professional librarians feel that they are facing a final frontier when they are faced with managerial responsibilities in their job. "I came into this job to do librarianship, not to manage" is a common complaint but the two are entwined and an effective library service depends on high quality management skills.

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

Monday, 21 January 2008

Earn up to £100,000

Do you want to earn up to £100,000? A useful way to top up your salary or perhaps you could donate it to your bookfund? Well here is how to do it.

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


Elizabeth Brewster
Last year SINTO set up the SINTO Bob Usherwood Prize to be awarded to a student of the Department of Information Studies at the University of Sheffield. The prize will be awarded to the postgraduate dissertation that makes a significant contribution to improving professional practice or understanding related to co-operation and partnership working across sectors in the SINTO area. The aim of the prize is twofold. First it will to encourage students to explore research topics that would be of value to local professional practice. Second it will encourage practitioners to take more interest in library research in general and the work produced by students from our local "library school" in particular. We wanted to avoid being parochial with this prize so although it will be given to a dissertation that is relevant to practitioners in our area that does not mean that it has to be about our area. This is demonstrated in our first award to Elizabeth Brewster for her dissertation Medicine for the Soul: bibliotherapy and the public library.
Bibliotherapy is using either fiction or non-fiction advisory texts to help people understand and deal with mental and physical health problems, primarily mild mental health difficulties including mild to moderate depression. The research revealed that the scheme Books on Prescription has been widely utilised by libraries as a form of bibliotherapy using self-help books. Librarians often feel that they provide informal bibliotherapy via reader development and readers’ groups. Research was carried out in a number of library authorities including several in our area. The study investigates the experience of bibliotherapy in the public library from the staff perspective. The impact of creative and self-help bibliotherapy are examined, and significant conclusions about the views of public librarians on partnership working, mental health, social inclusion and reader development are presented. The importance of partnership working is highlighted. The health service does not always recognise that the library service has assistance to offer within the sphere of treatment, and so wider publicity and advocacy may be necessary to improve perceptions and relationships. Careful consideration needs to be given to the suitability of potential partners and the timing of projects to ensure that relationships are successful, and are not undermined by external forces, such as the reorganisation of Primary Care Trusts.
Many public library staff felt that bibliotherapy schemes were of great benefit both to patrons of the library, and to the library itself. It was thought that bibliotherapy helps to reduce the stigma connected with mental health problems, as well as contributing to the social inclusion and healthy communities agendas.
Elizabeth concludes that: "Whether it is the pragmatic approach of self-help bibliotherapy, teaching people to cope with emotions and problems, or the journey of self-discovery that can be found within a fiction book recommended by a creative bibliotherapist, libraries have a role in providing the staff, services and structure that can benefit the population. Public library work has always reflected the desire to address the social responsibility inherent in their function, and bibliotherapy schemes have the potential to make a real difference in this respect, providing ‘medicine for the soul’ in diverse and accessible ways to the whole community". The dissertation will be of interest both to those authorities which run a Books on Prescription service and those which don't but are thinking of introducing one.It will also be of interest to anyone involved in partnership working with external agencies on any project. SINTO congratulates Elizabeth on winning the first SINTO Bob Usherwood prize.
For information about other dissertations from the Department of Information Studies go to their Publications database.
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.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Battle lines

Does Bob McKee, Chief Executive of CILIP read the SINTO blog? I am prompted to ask because in recent postings on his own blog Bob picks up on two books that I mentioned here ages ago. Pies and prejudice; in search of the North by Stuart Maconie and Bob Usherwood's Equity and Excellence in the Public Library. Of Bob Usherwood's book he says "... I commend Bob Usherwood's book to you. It is (to borrow a phrase which should resonate with Reader Development Librarians of a certain vintage) well worth reading".

Perhaps Bob has been reading my past discussions under the heading Battle lines where I have looked at the debate between the webbed and the web-sceptics. Fighting seems to have broken out again.

Helen Nicols lives in Sheffield and works in Leeds, and writes a blog called The Business of Knowing - thoughts about knowledge sharing, learning and how business can benefit from encouraging both. In a recent post she includes a video of a presentation by David Weinburger author of Everything is miscellaneous: the power of the new digital disorder. The presentation is about the organisation of knowledge and compare and contrasts the old way and the new digital way of doing this. He argues that we have been very good at organising physical objects (such as books on shelves) but that today there is no longer any need to order things in a single way. His presentation covers Aristotle, Dewey, classification and categorising, tagging, wikipedia and other miscellaneous things. He suggests that as both data and metadata are digitalised this changes the whole way we approach knowledge. There is much in this presentation that we can take issue with - his ideas on publicly negotiated knowledge (e.g. Wikipedia) for example - but if you put up with the stuttering start, this is a masterclass in the new ideas that all librarians and information managers should be familiar with.

But that does not mean we should agree with it all. Professor Tara Brabazon who holds the chair of media studies at the University of Brighton has criticised an increasing dependency on a diet of unchecked information found through internet search engines as "white bread for the mind". According to press reports in The Telegraph and The Times Prof Brabazon claims user-generated content sites such as Wikipedia are creating an age of banality by providing consensual information and stifling debate.
"I want students to sit down and read. It's not the same when you read it online. I want them to experience the pages and the print as much as the digitisation and the pixels. Both are fine but I want them to have both – not one or the other – not a cheap solution."

This view is supported in a study by Dr Ian Rowlands, a lecturer in library and information studies at University College London. It looks at how people use and search web-based information. Young people tend to use search engines such as Google and Yahoo as their first, and often only, port of call in searching for information. They have a poor understanding of their information needs and find it difficult to develop effective search strategies. They also spend little time evaluating information for relevance, accuracy or authority, it says.

Rowlands says children born after the big bang of the web lack a mental map of the information landscape, which could be affecting their ability to search for and evaluate information.

"As a kid, I grew up spending hours in the central reference library in Plymouth. This helped me form a clear understanding of the information landscape because of the physical layout of the library, and the appearance of materials. You get a sense of how big one collection is compared to another. Dictionaries, maps and official statistics all have a specific place, feel and appearance in the library and this helped me understand the concept of these sources of information and how to use them," he says.

Libraries are not keeping up with the demands of students and researchers for services that are integrated and consistent with their wider internet experience such as Google, the study says. Information consumers do not necessarily use services in the way libraries assume, and a one-size-fits-all policy towards the design of library systems will not be effective. The study recommends that libraries invest more in monitoring and evaluating the way people use their services, to ensure they stay relevant and to allow libraries to argue against static or declining budgets.

Dame Lynne Brindley commenting on the report said that libraries should also play a key role in helping to teach information literacy skills. "That the younger generation is technologically more literate but not more information literate is a challenge that must be tackled by libraries and education more widely. Students who simply want to use Google and take what it says as gospel do a real disservice to the skills people will increasingly need to survive the digital economy".
STOP PRESS. Link to BL press release and pdf file of report.

What is clear is that this battle is not a head-on conflict between two opposing concepts. The "webbed" are not promoting the use of poor quality information but their emphasis is on using technology to open up access to all information. The "web-sceptics" don't want to dismantle the new digital environment, nor (despite the headlines) do they want to ban Google and Wikipedia. Instead they want to promote a critical approach to information. There is a crying need for a synthesis between the two points of view.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Interlending & Document Supply

I have had an article about SINTO published (with Gilly Pearce as co-author) in the latest issue of Interlending & Document Supply, Vol. 35 No 4, 2007 p192-194.

In this article I outline the history of the development of SINTO from the Scheme for the Interchange of Technical Publications set up in 1933, through the Sheffield Interchange Organisation; and its merger with BLISS to form the Sheffield Information Organisation. I then look at trends in document delivery and the future of the SINTO ILL service.

I point out that SINTO now provides a wide range of service to its member organisations and that the demand for local document delivery is declining. However this service is still valued and SINTO will continue to provide this service as long as it is needed.

The URL of the article below but you will probably need a subscription to Emerald to get access to it.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Phil Bradley's Pick of the week.

I am sure that any librarian interested in using the Internet to find information will be familiar with Phil Bradley. He writes a regular column in CILIP Update and has a blog which is an authoratitive source of information on search engines and related developments. Phil has recently launched a new services My pick of the week's news. This is an audio commentry with slides which provides a summary of the news items that he covers in his blog. It is a useful way of keeping up-to-date with developments in this rapidly changing subject. If you have a good broad band computer connection, sound and (if you are in a shared office) headphones I recommend giving this a try.

Libraries pandering to the fashionable cult of ignorance

I am sure that Bob Usherwood won't mind if I reproduce his letter from The Independent (5th December 2007).

Libraries pandering to the fashionable cult of ignorance
Sir: As a past president of what used to be known as the Library Association, I congratulate Hermione Eyre on her perceptive piece on the perils facing our public libraries (1 December). Research for a recent book has led me to believe that many, but not all, responsible for the service no longer have confidence in its core values and are confused about how to defend them.
It is suggested that if you provide demanding material and activities, people will not come through the doors. This is part of a wider, and what many might regard as a patronising, argument that few people are interested in the world around them or appreciate high art or aesthetic values, and that the poor and disadvantaged in particular crave escapism of the easiest kind, or material that provides an instrumental outcome.
I find it amazing and depressing that it is regarded as elitist for public libraries to redistribute the wealth of information and ideas. Providing access to knowledge is one of the greatest contributions that libraries can make to social inclusion. It is one that benefits individuals and society at large. Ignorance excludes people from much that is important and valuable.
We are beginning to pay the price for the fashionable celebration of ignorance, and the modish dismissal of education. Ignorance and intolerance go hand in hand and the library service should set its face against both. Importing a vacuous culture and tabloid values into public libraries is to betray their past and an abuse of public funds. It may be too late for some, but encouraged by Ms Eyre and others who care we need the professional and political leaders of the library world to understand the perils of populism, recognise that ignorance is not our heritage and formulate a suitable vision for the future.
Professor Bob Usherwood

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Iraqi National Library

The Radio 4 Taking a Stand programme this morning (repeated at 21:30 this evening) featured an interview with Dr Saad Eskander, director of Iraq's National Library in Baghdad. It was a very moving interview as Dr Eskander has experienced members of his staff being killed while trying to reconstruct the library following the damage caused by looting following the invasion. He also had to try to rebuild the collection at a time of civil war, political corruption and death threats.

Dr Eskander wrote a blog between November 2006 and July 2007 which can be found on the British Library website. There is also a Facebook group for the Iraqi National Library (you will have to sign up to Facebook to see this).

You can listen to the programme on the Radio 4 website.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Sheffield's Victorian Voices

Sheffield, an industrial scene on the river Don. 'Picture Sheffield' image s12209 © Sheffield Libraries, Archives & Information.

Sheffield Archives and the Local Studies Library have recently undertaken two projects funded by Museums, Libraries and Archives Yorkshire.

Victorian Voices on the My Learning web site is a learning resource for Key Stage 2 history about children's employment in Victorian Sheffield. It gives extracts from the 1862 Royal Commission report into working conditions which interviewed many child workers:

Went at 9 years old to hardening and tempering crinoline steel at Tower wheel. In winter the proper hours were from 7 a.m. till 7 p.m., but we had to work over a good deal, and I didn't like it at all. For many and many a month we worked till 9½ at night every day but Monday. [Of course Saturday is also excepted - J.E.W.] That reckoned a quarter over for each day. Many a time we used to work till twelve at night. Either once or twice - I cannot be sure which - I worked from 7 one morning all through the next night and day, and on till twelve the following night, and then was allowed to come in late the next day.

Another "learning journey" - Victorian Values, which explores more themes, is due to go live on the My Learning website early this year.

Ebeneezer Elliott: poet of Rotherham and Sheffield

There is an interesting piece in The Library Campaigner (Winter 2007-8 No 75, p14) about how the Friends of Rotherham Central Library became interested in the local poet Ebenezer Elliott (1781-1849). Elliott was an ordinary half-educated man who believed passionately in the value of learning and self-improvement. He was an advocate of free libraries and took the lead in the setting up of a reading room for members of the Sheffield Mechanics Institute. He even donated 22 of his own books to help start the project. Keith Morris, a retired librarian from Sheffield Libraries and editor of the Friends newsletter has a website about the life and works of the poet.

Sonnet 28
We are not lonely, Kinderscout! I stand
Here, with thy sire, and gaze, with him and thee,
On desolation. This is liberty!
I want no wing, to lift me from the land,
But look, soul-fetter’d, on the wild and grand.
Oh! that the dungeon’d of the earth were free
As these fix’d rocks, whose summits bare command
Yon cloud to stay, and weep for Man, with me!
Is this, then, solitude? To feel our hearts
Lifted above the world, yet not above
The sympathies of brotherhood and love?
To grieve for him who from the right departs?
And strive, in spirit, with the martyr’d good?
“Is this to be alone?” Then, welcome solitude.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Imagination Library in Rotherham

I promised to provide some more information about Dolly Parton's Imagination Library scheme. Here is an article from Elenore Fisher of Rotherham Libraries which gives a lot more detail of the scheme as it will operate in Rotherham. If you have any questions or comments about the scheme please let me know and I will invite Elenore to respond.

Imagination Library
Dolly comes to Rotherham

Rotherham was recently the focus of the world’s media when it hosted the launch of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library presented by Dolly Parton in person. The venue was the Magna Science and Education Centre and dignitaries, officials and children from across the region were invited to share in the event. It was a fantastic occasion and rather surreal with the Leader of the Council and Dolly Parton sharing a stage and where Dolly sang a couple of her favourite songs to a very impressed audience.
But the real surprise was that the scheme that Dolly Parton had launched and funded in her home county of Servier in Tennessee over 10 years ago was now being offered to the young children of Rotherham.
Dolly Parton began the Imagination Library in her home county of Servier in Tennessee over 10 years ago to try to address the poor literacy skills of the children and to help children develop the same love of books that had inspired Dolly when she was young.
Why Rotherham? Rotherham is very similar to a lot of towns where traditional industries have disappeared and it is now evident that the population does not have the literacy skills necessary to obtain the jobs available. On current analysis about 40% of the adult population in Rotherham have some difficulty with literacy skills. This low literacy level of the adults impacts on the help that a parent can give their child either by reading with them, using the local library, or aspiring for and with the child.

Rotherham is launching the Imagination Library to help create a bigger impact on children’s early reading skills and to connect with those families who lack the confidence and skills to use local services such as libraries. Many families have not been introduced to the possibilities that libraries can help them with such as borrowing books, using computers, help with homework or studying for their own personal interest.

In Rotherham, like many other towns, the speaking and listening skills of children starting in Foundation stages of early education are low and much earlier interventions are required to improve this. Imagination Library complements other schemes such as Book Start and Book Time ,reaching out to children from birth. and will give an additional platform from which to reach out to the families who are not accessing other early education experiences and who are not aware of how important their role is in encouraging speaking, listening and reading with very small children well before they start school.

How does the scheme work? All children resident in Rotherham aged between 0 – 5 years old can register for the Imagination Library. A leaflet with a registration form is available from a variety of settings including the hospital, registrar’s office, children’s centres, schools, libraries and doctors surgeries. The books are addressed to the child and are delivered to their home once a month about 8 – 10 weeks after registering for the scheme. Traditional stories and good quality story books, appropriate to their age, are chosen by a panel of literacy experts and reviewed annually. The funding comes from communities, charities, grants and individuals who sponsor a child or children. The cost per child is the equivalent of 50 pence per week for the 5 years if the child is registered at birth making a total of about £125 per child for the 60 books that make up the Imagination Library.

How will another reading scheme make any more of an impact than what is already being funded and provided for families and children? It is difficult to answer that question at this time. What is evident is that for the first time the book will go directly to the child at their family home and because the parents have to enrol and register the child they will be engaged in reading with their child from the start of the Imagination library membership.
Rotherham is monitoring and evaluating the impact of the scheme by working with some families to evidence any progress they make in reading with their child , increasing their participation with libraries and any changes to their own reading habits.
Activities are already being extended that link to the books being delivered so that different age groups of children can be invited with their families to “Baby Book Clubs” that could run in local libraries or other local community settings. This will build on the many and varied activities that already take place. Story Sacks can be created, again linked to particular books that will have been sent to the children, and parents can come along and join other families in using puppets to retell stories and learn about the language of books. Schools will know which children have already registered and can prepare first steps into school around this knowledge encouraging other families to join the scheme.
The Skills for Life agenda will be considered with awareness training taking place for staff across all organisations that support and serve families with young children. Additional opportunities for parents who may wish to improve their own reading skills will have a raised profile and can provide a further improvement to the skills of our community.
It is not yet clear what, if any, additional work there will be but we do know that a different approach is necessary. By using the information that connects and gives a link to every family who is registered the ideas are endless. In addition to membership of the Imagination Library, the registration forms will offer membership of their local library and this could also help in informing families when they are eligible for their Book Start packs and how to collect them. We do know that when parents are involved in their children’s learning the impact is huge and children make great strides, whilst their parents often develop their own love of learning and reading. Adults become a more positive role model and, together, the family starts to use more local services and are able to make better choices for themselves.
Everyone who is concerned about the literacy skills of our population is constantly searching for new ways to engage adults and children and improve their reading and involvement in learning to help provide a vibrant and successful community.
Dolly Parton has a unique, well tried and tested opportunity and our children deserve everything we can do to help them become lifelong readers.