Monday, 7 December 2009

Wirral - a costly victory

Elspeth Hyams in her Library & Information Update blog predicted that Wirral (i.e. the Council) would "wriggle with embarrassment" when they read Sue Charteris' report on the proposed library closures. Elspeth cannot be very familiar with the sort of people who run northern metropolitan councils if she thinks that wriggling or embarrassment are things that come easily to them.
The response from Steve Foulkes, leader of Wirral MDC to the decision of the enquiry was blunt:

"I want to do some very straight talking here. I know a lot of people won’t want to hear what I have to say, but I believe it needs to be said… I am disappointed not because it is critical of the decision, but because it is fundamentally flawed in its logic, and in many places it is just plain wrong."

Cllr Foulkes' first point is that if Wirral were to be in breach of its statutory duty then so would any number of other local authorities. It is undoubtedly true that other authorities have made or are planning cuts in library services at a similar level but have simply not triggered the review process that resulted in the Wirral report. We can argue that that is a condemnation of those other authorities rather than a justification for Wirral's actions but it does suggest that the lesson that will be drawn is not "don't cut libraries" but rather "don't get caught cutting too many libraries at one go".

Cllr Foulkes then argues that the report confused theory with reality:
"In theory, we could keep all our libraries open, improve our services and repair our buildings for no additional cost, just by introducing some minor changes like self service systems. In reality, the decision not to close some libraries and invest in Neighbourhood Centres will cost £2.3m next year, which is the equivalent of a 2% increase in Council Tax. Over the next three years we will also need to find another £2.4 million from revenue budgets for major repairs which will mean either increased council tax levels or cuts in services elsewhere."

He continues:
"There are winners and losers in this situation. Those who lobbied to keep their local library open have what they wanted. But the silent majority who do not use their library, who do not want to see their council tax increase, and who might have used one of the new neighbourhood centres because they were more attractive, more conveniently located and open longer hours are definitely the losers".

Given that the main criticism in the report was that Wirral failed to make an assessment of local needs in respect of its Library Services, Cllr Foulkes' claim that he has a special insight into the opinions of the majority should be taken with a pinch of salt. However, we would be naïve to imaging that he is completely wrong. Council leaders don't get to where they are without a fairly good idea of what it is that people (or at least voters) want. The strong expressions of support for libraries that we heard when these cuts were proposed were very gratifying but the fact is that at least as many people don't care that much about libraries or care more for other services and/or cuts in council tax.

Cllr Foulkes then becomes apocalyptic:
"The people of Wirral need to understand very clearly what is coming. Between 2011 and 2014, this Council is going to need to save over £67 million, and that is a minimum estimate. We will have to change or go under.
"If we continue to hang on to what we know, and reject that change, and if the silent majority continues to remain silent, Wirral will become an impoverished backwater with failing services, crumbling buildings and a mass exit of any investors who could help us weather the storm and allow us to become the attractive and prosperous region we deserve to be".

Not much sign of wriggling with embarrassment here! This is strong stuff and to suggest that keeping a few libraries open will cause this much damage is over-the-top. However Cllr Foulkes makes the point that "We can’t just look at one service in isolation from every other service we provide. There is a limited amount of money that has to be shared out to meet a whole host of demands, some of which are literally matters of life or death".

As Council leader it is Foulkes' role to see the big picture. Our role as librarians is to deliver a service within that big picture.

The report by Sue Charteris can be seen as a victory for public libraries as it resulted in Wirral withdrawing its proposals. But if it is a victory, it is one we can ill afford. How can we possibly celebrate the fact that we have won one over on Wirral council and other councils in a similar position? What sort of victory is it that results in a Council leader believing (albeit it with a touch of political hyperbole) that the decision could lead to the impoverishment of his local community?

And this is not just the view of one individual. The Act underpinning this report has been condemned by the Local Government Association as "fit for nothing but the archives" (Nice of them to fit in an insult to archives as well as libraries). The LGA wants councils to be "freed up to make decisions on how best to provide information services to local people without being judged according to laws drawn up half a century ago, before the arrival of the internet and digital media". What is frightening about this is that it makes the LGA sound forward looking while public libraries are relying on the technicalities of ministerial intervention contained in an outmoded act of parliament.

What Cllr Foulkes' rhetoric - and our own response to that - should not mask is that what Sue Charteris' report actually says is 'If you are going to make drastic changes to people's services (1) FIND OUT ABOUT THEM and (2) CONSIDER THE PEOPLE AFFECTED (3) ASK THEM WHAT THEY THINK'. (To quote Elspeth Hyams). This might not be totally comfortable for librarians as the people affected are those who have to pay for the service, and those who might benefit if the money was spent on something else, as well as those who use the service - but this is evidence based librarianship. Of course, as librarians, we should be giving people the information they need to make decisions. Cllr Foulkes' decision was based on the belief that librarians are part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. Why does he believe that? The strategic goals of Wirral Council are:

  • To create more jobs, achieve a prosperous economy and regenerate Wirral.
  • To create a clean, pleasant, safe and sustainable environment.
  • To improve health and well being for all, ensuring people who require support are full participants in mainstream society.
  • To raise the aspirations of young people.
  • To create an excellent Council.
Did the Head of Libraries for Wirral ever sit down with Cllr Foulkes and go through these points explaining how the libraries can and do help to achieve these goals? Has anyone pointed out to him that libraries could help prevent Wirall from becoming an impoverished backwater? Did anyone provide him with a vision for public libraries in Wirral - a vision that did not rely on the status quo, a vision that took account of the bigger picture, a vision that recognized that the enthusiasm of library users for their own local library building was not the be-all and end-all of the argument?

Perhaps he is not the sort of Council leader that you can sit down with and talk to. Unfortunately there are many in local government who will not listen - and that is why libraries regard the powers of intervention under the 1964 Act as still being of value in the last resort. We must fight for the principle of a free public library service accessible to all, but I pray that we are spared any more victories like this one.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Empower, Inform, Enrich 2

Not surprisingly, many of the contributions to EIE said that library buildings should be improved. They should have longer and more flexible open hours which meet the needs of their local communities (combined with 24/7 access to on-line services). They should be welcoming and attractive community spaces - a third place, neither home or work, but one where people feel comfortable. They should provide "good coffee" (according to the managing Director of Starbucks (natch); a good range of books; access to the Internet, digital resources and a virtual learning environment; be "havens for debate and the simple, basic pleasures of social networking"; provide access to a range of information services from various agencies and enable "facetime" - interaction with trained library staff.

Some essayists suggested that improving the users' experience of libraries might require fewer but better libraries - but that goes against the strong desire of communities for local, easily accessible service points. The extreme of this position is the case of the library in a phone box.

The combination of financial cuts and the need to dramatically improve the users' experience may lead some library authorities to consider closing some branches. In that case they need to be aware of another recent report - the report of the Wirral enquiry. Bob McKee says of this report "Sue Charteris has produced the best in-depth case study I have ever read of the issues faced by Public Library Authorities in the present climate, trying to meet the needs of local communities and comply with legislation in hugely challenging circumstances"

The report was commissioned by the Secretary of State to investigate if the decision of Wirral MBC to close several branch libraries was consistent with their statutory responsibility under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. Wirral reversed their decision on closure before the report was published and as a result the Secretary of State decided that no formal ruling was necessary. However the report does find that Wirral was in breach of its statutory duties. In brief the report says that Wirral was at fault not because they wanted to close branches per se, but because the Council failed to make an assessment of local needs (or alternatively to evidence knowledge of verifiable local needs) in respect of its Library Services.

The Council's plan was to set up 13 Neighbourhood Centres, each with a library at its heart, effectively replacing a service comprising 24 libraries. The Centres would house multiple Council functions and, wherever possible, be co-located with one or more of the Council’s key partners, including the Police, Fire Authority and Health Service. This would have allowed for improved opening hours and more than 99% of people would be within a two mile radius of a library. They argued that the plethora of small, outdated libraries would deter potential users. In many ways this is pattern suggested by the EIE report. However, Sue Charteris pointed out that:

"The Council took the decision to close 11 of its libraries in the absence of a strategic plan for or review of the Library Service. As such, I believe that the Council’s approach to re-visioning the service was fundamentally flawed, because their approach focused specifically on the issue of asset management and cost savings".

So "fewer but better" may be a way forward but only if this is part of a strategic plan based on an assesment of local needs which must include consultation with the community.

Empower, Inform, Enrich 1

In this blog I will continue looking at the common themes that emerge from the essays in the EIE report.

A National offer
Lynne Brindley (British Library) mentions the National Library of China with local cultural centres, regional centres and a national centre. No one suggests that this model should be adopted here but several aspects of a national service are discussed . These include
· A national library card
· A national catalogue of all library books (combined with postal delivery of requested books).
· A national Libraries Development Agency
· National marketing of library services
· A national digital network delivery electronic resources and a virtual learning environment.

Governance and leadership
· The need to change or replace the legislative framework for public libraries
· New government department with responsibility for libraries
· A reduction in the number of separate library services with library authorities joining together to deliver a regional service.
· Different models for library services such as trusts, corporations, partnerships with private sector etc

Service points
· Better (possibly fewer) service points
· Improved opening hours
· Co-location and integration of different services in a single venue
· Services offered through non-traditional outlets

Digital services
· Development of e-books and digital resources
· Improving digital literacy
· Deeper understanding of needs and behaviours of digital information customers

· Improved leadership and management
· New skills with a focus on customer services and digital literacy
· Partnership working

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Public Library consultation

The Government’s consultation report on Public Libraries - Empower, Inform, Enrich - has been published by the DCMS. This was to have been a review of the public library service but Margaret Hodge decided to turn it into a consultation exercise. Sir Humphrey would, no doubt, explain that this is the best way for a government to get rid of something they are not very interested in.

Its an odd document in many ways. It begins with 29 individual essays by authors, from Dame Lynne Brindley of the British Library to Darcy Willson-Rymer of Starbucks UK. Each author gives their own view of the future for public libraries so it is a diverse picture - but one that gives plenty of opportunity for debate. This is followed by a set of 23 consultation questions. The deadline for responses is the 26th January.

Some common themes do emerge. One, highlighted by Margaret Hodge, is the need to look at the governance of libraries. It could be argued that what is wrong with public libraries is not how they are run but what they do (or don't do) but the two are entwined. One idea is that some library authorities should combine to deliver library services in certain areas. The model of the five Library and Education Boards in Northern Ireland combining to form a single NI Library service is mentioned. John Hicks says that Councils should be encouraged to form joint services, to create joint trusts and to invite joint bids from the private sector. He suggests that the metropolitan areas have too many small services. "For example, London could be reduced to five services (inner and four outer London services) jointly provided by boroughs working together". Bob McKee says "A system delivered by 151 separate Public Library Authorities in England is inherently inefficient".

Equal attention is given to the need for public libraries to respond to the new digital environment. Professor David Nicholas is quite pessimistic:
"For a much-loved information institution, public libraries, to face possible melt-down in an information age, when information has never ever been so important, is unpardonable and something we should all be ashamed of. Yet it will happen because nobody seems to understand the need to look at the big picture and that the tail (the digital) now wags the dog".

Public librarians, especially the leaders of the profession, come in for criticism. Nicky Parker asks "What about the library leaders? Have we taken our eye off the ball? Have we slipped back into Lazy Town? Is our management style more David Brent than Alan Sugar?" and adds "Are we Tomorrow’s World or Antique’s Roadshow? "

Anyone can respond to this report. I hope that people don't get distracted by responding directly to the views expressed in the essays (even that libraries would be better if they served Starbucks coffee). That is not the point. This could be, should be, an opportunity to shape the public library service for the future. The Government might fail to take this forward but we must not fail to articulate our vision and listen to the needs of our users.

Friday, 27 November 2009

The Manchester Manifesto

Who Owns Science? The Manchester Manifesto ( examines the relationship between the dissemination of scientific information and intellectual property. The report points out the benefits to society from scientific research and innovation both in terms of increasing knowledge and understanding of the world and in the development of drugs, technology etc which are of direct benefit to people. Science and innovation depends on the free exchange of information between scientists and also on the flow of information to society to enable the public understanding and therefore support of science.
Science is also a rapidly growing industry. An important component of the innovation process has been the idea of “ownership” in science and technology. Ideas and innovations have to be protected by licences, patents and copyright so that those who generate these ideas can gain benefit for their work, which in turn encourages others to invest in research and development.
However, ownership of ideas can also result in barriers to the dissemination of information and new products. For example, the use of new drugs in developing countries may be restricted by licence and patent restrictions. Companies may use their Intellectual Property rights to restrict the development of new products if they fear this might affect their profitability.
The Manchester Manifesto makes a strong statement on this issue.

"We recognise that innovation has an essential role in economic development, but its use for the pursuit of profit should not override, and ideally should not conflict with, achievement of welfare goals and scientific progress. Scientific information, freely and openly communicated, adds to the body of knowledge and understanding upon which the progress of humanity depends. Information must remain available to science and this depends on open communication and dissemination of information, including that used in innovation.
"It is clear that the dominant existing model of innovation, while serving some necessary purposes for the current operation of innovation, also impedes achievement of core scientific goals in a number of ways. In many cases it restricts access to scientific knowledge and products, thereby limiting the public benefits of science; it can restrict the flow of information, thereby inhibiting the progress of science; and it may hinder innovation through the costly and complicated nature of the system. Limited improvements may be achieved through modification of the current IP system, but consideration of alternative models is urgently required."

Librarians have long been the champions of the legitimate rights of users in the world of intellectual property. We should welcome this manifesto and support the Institute of Science, Ethics and Innovation in their campaign.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Hillsborough archives

In April I blogged about the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster and the guide published by Sheffield Libraries. Today the Guardian reports that three professional archivists are to be appointed by Sheffield City Council to catalogue the official documents relating to the disaster which are being released by the agencies concerned. This shows the importance of archivists and cataloguers in providing access to information. A spokesperson for the Hillsborough Family Support Group said "... we want the full truth to come out". Truth is a complex concept but without preserved and catalogued documents there can be no information, and without information there can be no truth.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

A vision for public libraries

Public libraries and the people who run them, are sometimes accused of lacking a clear vision for the future. The accusation is that the public library service is facing a crisis - declining issues, competition from the Internet and bookshops, budget cuts and a genera loss of direction. The only way to counter this is to have a clear vision of the future and a strategy for achieving a new model for libraries yet we appear to have difficulty in articulating what these should be.
Library managers may feel that are already under enormous pressure to simply deliver a service - a service which is diverse and produced a high level of customer satisfaction within a very modest budget - and that this limits their ability to deliver new exciting and achievable visions at the drop of a hat. In spite of this they are mainly up to the challenge, however they may feel that they are damned if they do and damned if they don't.

Libraries are faced with conflicting demands. They need to attract a new generation of younger readers by being exciting places to go but they must not alienate the existing clientele who prefer a more traditional approach. They must provide access to electronic material, the Internet and social networking but must not abandon the book. They must be popular and socially inclusive but must promote quality reading. They must save on staff overheads so that money can be spent on stock but must maintain the personal contact with users. You can't please all of the people all of the time.

A recent attempt by the London Borough of Camden to produce a vision for the future illustrates this. The report Growing Your Library was produced at a cost of £47,000 by council staff and consultants. The plan is intended to transform the service and make it more cost efficient and customer focused.

The plan has attracted criticism (here and here) for the jargon it uses, for the proposal to make a £2m cut to the library budget through staff cuts and introducing self service machines, and because of the techniques used by the consultants in developing the report. These included visits to a series of businesses, including the glamorous Apple Store in Regent Street, to see what ideas could be transferred to council-run libraries.

Trying to produce a vision of the future while at the same time making substantial cuts was bound to create hostility from both staff and existing users. If there is anything positive in the Growing Your Library report it has been lost in the controversy. Incidentally, Camden libraries' own webpage makes absolutely no mention of the report - a lost opportunity to have a meaningful debate.

While I was researching into Growing Your Library I stumbled across another strategic plan for Camden libraries - Vibrant Places - People Spaces. However this was from Camden New South Wales, Australia and was produced in 2005. Another time, another place; and yet there is much in this report that is worth reading. The language is clear and direct. The report is aspirational and forward looking and yet rooted in the tradition of libraries. Here are some quotes:

Camden libraries are a focal point, a centre of activity and natural meeting place. They provide a focal point for the community, in the same way that the village square provided a focal point in the 18th century.

To achieve these outcomes our libraries will be wonderful interesting places that continually capture people's interest through architecture, art works created by professionals and community, programs, collections and activities that continually evolve.

Our libraries are modern libraries, connecting tradition with technology, reflecting the best of both worlds. Our libraries will become libraries without walls, extending our services through web based technology to meet the needs of our community.

Our libraries will retain the traditional core library services however, will have a place based focus that reflects the location of the library and the people within that community. Each library service will have its own personality and identity, rather than a franchise approach where one size fits all, there is an approach of tailoring the environment, services and programs provided to reflect the community in which it is located.

Libraries are more than books - they enrich people’s lives. Libraries are places where you can come to read, learn, connect and belong. Our libraries provide a common ground – a place in our community where individuals can be connected. They foster a passion for reading, spark intellectual curiosity and support lifelong learning.

Perhaps much of this vision is impossible to achieve here and now. Public libraries will have to follow academic libraries along the path of self-service issue and 24/7 on-line information provision. But libraries as a "common ground" is still a powerful concept and should form part of our vision and our goal.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Change is the law of life.

"Change is the law of life". This quote by JF Kennedy was used by Camila Alire, President of ALA, to introduce her talk to SINTO last month. Whether it is taking advantage of new opportunities or responding to cuts, all organisations have to deal with change, and deal with it in a positive manner.

I don't suppose that one could find many information managers today who are not expecting some sort of change, for better or for worse, in their organisation. To help them SINTO is putting on a seminar on the topic of change management.

Managing Change is a seminar presented by Peter Lumley, Personnel and Training Consultant, who has led several workshops on the Next Generation management development programme. Change Management is a structured and systematic approach to achieving a sustainable change in human behaviour within an organisation. (Copyright © 2007 Realising Change)

There are three different aspects to change management: adapting to change, controlling change and effecting change. This seminar covers all three aspects. It is aimed at staff who are being affected by change, are having to manage change and who are, or will be, leading change. It will look at how we plan, initiate, realize, control and finally stabilize change within our organisations.The objective of the course is to provide an introduction to the principles and processes of managing change and to apply them to some of the changes faced by delegates.

This course is offered at the special low price of £70 to SINTO members (£90 non-members). This is an opportunity to provide yourself and your organisation with the skills needed in a changing world.

For a booking fom go to the SINTO website or email

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

A free public library?

I recently posted a message on JISC LIS-Pub-Libs in reply to a query about policy on handling requests for items not in stock in an authority. Several libraries had indicated that they have a two-tier charging policy: a basic fee for making a reservation for an item and an additional fee for obtaining an item on inter-library loan. This is my message:

Here is a little cat among the ILL request pigeons! Under the Public Library Act 1964 , the local authority is obliged to provide a comprehensive and efficient library service Authorities can fulfil this obligation by "the keeping of adequate stocks, by arrangements with other library authorities, and by any other appropriate means" ILLs are presumably an "other appropriate means". 2a The act says that "Except as provided by this section, no charge shall be made by a library authority (otherwise than to another library authority) for library facilities made available by the authority". 8(1) An exemption is given i.e. "but this subsection shall not prevent any regulations under this section from authorising the making of charges in respect of the use of any facility for the reservation of written materials" 8 (3d). However, it is clear that many library authorities not only make a "charge in respect of the use of any facility for the reservation of written materials" but also make a separate charge as a contribution to the cost of obtaining an ILL loan. Is this later charge justified under the 1964 act? Could it not be argued that the charge for reservation should be a single flat charge and that there is nothing in the act to allow a variable charge related to the cost of obtaining that reservation? In other words you can charge for a reservation, but the provision of written materials has to be free irrespective of the means you use to provide that material. I don't pretend that this is helpful!! I just wondered if it had been considered.

The point I am making is that public libraries are rightly proud of providing a "free" service but in many instances the service is not free. If the wanted item is on the shelves (assuming it is written material and not another format) then it is free. If it is in stock but not on the shelves there is a small reservation fee which is reasonable. However if the item has to be obtained on ILL there can be a considerable charge. The JISC correspondence on this issue mentioned charges from £2 to £5 per item. This is significant because of the nature of the material that is likely to be in stock. Public libraries inevitably will stock material that will be in demand i.e. "popular" and not stock more "specialized" material. I don't want to get into the argument here about if libraries are dumbing down (see my previous postings on Excellence and equity) but the fact is that a library user in, say, Rotherham would be able to read the works of Jeremy Clarkson or Dan Brown free of charge but might have to pay £4 to read The Savage Mind by Claude Lévi-Strauss. (To be fair, Rotherham libraries does stock some titles by Claude Lévi-Strauss and could probably borrow a copy from Sheffield Libraries free of charge via the SINTO ILL scheme).

I am not particularly concerned as to whether the Public Libraries Act of 1964 does or does not permit charging for ILLs (as opposed to charging for reservations in general). I am sure that if you paid some lawyers enough money they could make a very convincing case either way. I accept that it would be very difficult for public libraries to take on the costs of providing ILLs free of charge. Even the current charges seldom cover the cost of obtaining a book from the British Library for example. I am concerned that public libraries seem to accept this two tier charging without question especially as the dividing line between free and charged for can be presented as an issue of quality.

The recent CILIP guidelines "What makes a good library service" makes a strong case for the value of public libraries without talking about a free service. Should we not be a bit more honest with ourselves that the library service is not completely free at point of use and that the dividing line between free and paid for can be arbitrary and possible unfair?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Bob Brighton

Bob Brighton is a British contemporary artist who specialises in brightly coloured abstract works of art. Brighton's paintings are typically unstretched pieces of raw hessian, cotton and flax - sandwiched together, soaked in colour and pinned directly to the gallery wall.

What makes Bob stand out is that he does not sell his pictures, instead he gives them away to public institutions including libraries.

Bob donated a substantial number of pictures to the University of Sheffield Information Commons in 2007 and now he has given a collection to hang in the Computer and Internet Centre in the Sheffield Central Library. Bob can be contacted via his website.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009


"Copyright is out of control. It is being manipulated for profit at everyone's expense. This is a global issue". This quote by film maker Brett Gaylor in The Guardian Media supplement 2nd November is taken out of context (See but it does reflect a growing belief that copyright = copywrong and that changes are needed.

FreePint has asked information professionals to contribute to a survey of copyright compliance, asking "What are the copyright guidelines -- and how can information centres manage them -- for web 2.0 content or free resources accessed via the web?"

The British Library has welcomed initiatives to make copyright fit for the digital age, announced by Lord Mandelson and IP Minister David Lammy.

The SABIP study Strategic priorities for copyright looks at how copyright contributes or acts as a barrier to creativity. A SABIP study on the relationship between copyright and contract law will be published at the end of 2009.

Creative Commons is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others, consistent with the rules of copyright. They provide free licenses and other legal tools to mark creative work with the freedom the creator wants it to carry, so others can share, remix, use commercially, or any combination thereof.

Copyright expert Graham Cornish will be presenting a half day seminar on recent developments in Copyright for SINTO on the 20th November. See the SINTO website for details.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


I have carried out a quick survey of my followers on Twitter to see if I am reaching my target audience. My core purpose in using Twitter is to communicate with Library and Information workers and organisations in the SINTO region, which is Yorkshire and the East Midlands. Beyond that I am happy to be followed by any LIS workers and organisations wherever they are.

The breakdown is as follows.:
Individual LIS workers in the SINTO region = 33
LIS organisations in the SINTO region = 8
Individual LIS workers not in the SINTO region = 62
LIS organisations not in the SINTO region = 30

On the whole I am happy with this. Obviously there are many more individual LIS workers and organisations in the SINTO region who are not following me on Twitter but presumably the vast majority of these are not Twitter users. I hope that I am communicating with these non-users through other means and if they feel that they are not getting the information about SINTO that they need then Twitter is there as an option for them. I am gratified that so many people not in the SINTO area are interested enough to follow me (or should that be not bothered enough not to follow me!)

SINTO can always add you to one of our direct mailing lists if you would prefer to receive information by e-mail rather than Twitter.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Emotional Intelligence

Camila Alire, president of the American Library Association, yesterday gave a talk to SINTO on Leadership and Emotional Intelligence.

Camila began by quoting President JF Kennedy: "Change is the law of life". Her presentation would be in the context of Transformational Leadership - a leadership style that creates valuable and positive change in the followers.
Camila pointed out that "change happens". Both the USA and the UK are facing an economic downturn. Budget cuts will inevitably have an effect on people and services and leaders have to be able to manage this process.
The concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI) was developed in the mid 1990's with the publication of Daniel Goleman's book Emotional intelligence (1995). When Camila read this she recognised that the book reflected her own style of leadership. EI suggests that leaders can deal with emotions. This involves both understanding and managing your own emotions and being mindful of other people's emotions.

Camila illustrated this with an example from her own career. She was appointed as Library Dean in a US university. A few days later community was hit by severe flooding and library was under water for several days. The library staff, who had built up the collection over many years, were badly affected and they looked to her for a lead. Camila recognised that she had not only to sort out the practical issues of a flooded library but also to recognise and manage the emotional response of her staff. Every morning on her drive to work she had to deal with her own emotions and then provide a positive role model for her staff. The essence of EI is to recognise emotions in others and to have the ability to use emotions effectively in reasoning and problem solving.

The following traits of EI can be recognised:
· Knowing when to show or suppress emotion as appropriate
· Knowing how to read emotions
· Knowing when to deal with emotions - at once or later
· Taking time to deal with issues

An EI leader will show the following abilities:
· Ability to perceive emotions in facial expressions and in music & art
· Ability to understand & reason about emotions
· Ability to manage emotions

At a practical level this meant that in a meeting where change was being proposed the leader should position him or herself so that they can observe everyone around the table and asses their moods. Feedback should be invited but staff expressing negative emotions should be followed up after the meeting as they may not respond in public.
Camila emphasised that individual staff members can develop and use EI with their co-workers and clients. EI staff should be able to deal with their own emotions and help their colleagues cope in periods of change.

Camila ended with another case study where she was recruited by a university to transform a library service perceived as not customer orientated. She developed a plan for major change in close consultation with library staff at all levels. Despite this she experienced extreme hostility from one individual aimed at herself. Her response was to be cognizant of this emotion but not to regard it as a personal affront and not to react in a vindictive way. Eventually the member of staff came to recognise that the changes had been necessary.

Camila made reference to a recent book Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope, and Compassion byRichard Boyatzis and Annie McKee. She finished with a quote from Winston Churchill:
"Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must yourself believe."

Monday, 5 October 2009

Communicating scientific knowledge

As Information Managers our main concern is with managing the information in our libraries. But we should also be interested in where that information comes from. The Research Information network has published a report Communicating knowledge: how and why UK researchers publish and disseminate their findings. This starts with the assertion that researchers are driven by a desire to enhance our knowledge and understanding of the world we inhabit, and to communicate their findings to others. However, they are pulled in different directions in their choice of how to publish their findings: through formal publication in books and in learned and professional journals; through conferences and their proceedings; and through a variety of less formal means, now including web-based tools for social networking. The choices they make are underpinned by a number of motives; the desire to disseminate to a target audience; the need to register their claim to the work; the requirements of monitoring and assessment (e.g. RAE); peer esteem; requirements from funders; etc. Publication in scholarly journals or monographs and edited volumes (especially in the humanities) provides status and can be easily measured but it might not be the quickest or most appropriate method for a particular piece of work. Only a relatively few researchers make much use of open access repositories, or of blogs, wikis and other web-based tools to publish and disseminate their work. The report concludes that researchers are receiving unclear messages from funders and policy makers. It recommends that these bodies need to give a stronger and more positive message about how these channels will be valued when it comes to assessing researchers' performance if they wish to encourage researchers to publish their work through these channels.

Of course, a shift to new and more diverse channels of communication for research findings will pose a challenge for information professionals. We are on the whole very good at location and obtaining specific published papers but tracing information published in less formal ways is more difficult.

On a related theme, Ben Goldacre's book Bad Science looks at how journalists are on the whole very bad at understanding, evaluating and reporting scientific research. Most people get their understanding of scientific (particularly medical) developments not from scientific papers but from news stories in the media. Goldacre points out that many journalists do not understand the scientific method and cannot interpret or evaluate a scientific paper. Even worse they fail to distinguish between findings based on published papers and claims made without any evidence. Public Libraries have to provide access to material on homeopathy, herbal remedies and detox but they should balance this by promoting Goldacres's book and web site.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Lifelong learning

I have just been reading the report - "Learning through life" - from the Inquiry into the Future for Lifelong Learning. Based on the belief that access to learning through life is a human right, Learning through life argues that our current system has failed to respond to the major demographic challenge of an aging society and to changes in employment patterns.
There is much in the report that librarians would agree with. Indeed there is much that libraries already deliver e.g.:

"In the face of massive economic change, people need to be able to adapt, not just through acquiring new professional skills, but by having the resilience to search out job opportunities and to face the uncertainties that recession brings." p13

The report proposes a new four stage model of learning: up to 25, 25-50, 50-75 and 75+. This emphasises the need to focus on learning not just at the compulsory and post-compulsory stage but also on three phases after that. The first two feature a changing mosaic of work, unemployment and learning time while the "Fourth Age" will grow in importance. To support this, the report proposes a shift from the current funding allocation of 86 :11: 2.5 : 0.5 to approximately 80 : 15 :4 : 1. This suggests a shifting of funding towards the area in which public libraries are operating.

The report makes the case for lifelong learning and its benefits for individuals, families, communities, regions and the nation. It proposes a citizens' curriculum based on four core capabilities: digital, health, financial and civic. The report further recommends that local authorities, as the key democratic agencies responsible for the welfare of local communities, should act as the key strategy-makers at local level, promoting lifelong learning. It also proposes that a partnership between a college and a public library should be the default model as the main axis for local collaboration as these two institutions bring together "… the formal and the informal…". The MLA has picked up on this and is working with the Inquiry on developing the proposal and will publish its conclusions early next year.

Learning through life is an important document and all librarians with a responsibility for strategic development need to study it. It does not give much space to the current or potential role of public libraries although this is covered in one of the supplementary papers How Museums, Libraries and Archives Contribute to Lifelong Learning: IFLL Sector paper 10 which is not yet published.

Specific references to libraries in report.

Chapter 6 Enabling demand for learning. Access to the digital world. p125
"We urge that libraries should be supported to play a full part in [a minimum level of digital inclusion], as places of universal access serving the community."

Chapter 8. Capabilities and capacity p179
"As with other capabilities, civic capability can be developed through both formal and informal modes of learning. Evidence submitted to the Inquiry on the part played by cultural institutions such as museums or libraries in fostering civic engagement illustrates this breadth. As one submission put it, '…the values of a democratic society rest on information, understanding and engagement. The public library service, a free, accessible and non-judgemental service reaching into the heart of every local community, espouses all those ideals'. [Submission to the enquiry from Derbyshire County Council] Several submissions stressed the role of libraries and museums in enabling marginal groups such as refugees or asylum-seekers to find their way into civic activity…"

Chapter 9 Organising locally: governance and institutions.p197
"Beyond favouring greater local autonomy as a general approach, what are our specific suggestions on how this might work? They are as follows…
· strongly promote the role of libraries, museums, galleries and sport facilities as learning institutions"

"Libraries already operate the People's Network, with 30,000 free or low-cost internet-enabled PCs, available in every public library, giving them a vital role in reducing digital exclusion. As we noted in Chapter 8, many of them actively seek to include marginal groups in a process of civic engagement. They are a crucial part of any system. We would like tosee stronger links between local libraries and schools and colleges, including the possibility of co-location (as we saw with one example under Building Schools for the Future)."

"We suggest that Local Learning exchanges (LLEs) be developed. The Exchanges would:…
· provide a physical venue for people to meet, explore opportunities, and run their own courses. This is the spirit of The Learning Revolution's recommendations on the use of premises. Fifty libraries have recently opened new community spaces."

"A governance system closer to the ground
· A partnership between a college and a library should be the default model for the foundation for local collaboration. Other models are possible, but these two institutions bring together the formal and the informal in ways which make it particularly appropriate."

Thursday, 24 September 2009


We were on the coach travelling back from the Library Show 2009 at the NEC when we ran into a cloudburst just outside Chesterfield. It was raining cats and dogs; stair-rods, buckets (don't we have some lovely expressions for heavy rain?).
Meanwhile, at the Central Library in Sheffield something interesting was happening. The amount of water falling from the sky onto the flat roof of the library was more than the drains could carry away. Behind the parapet wall a lake was beginning to form. As the water level rose it found another outlet - the ducting for the old heating and ventilation system to the building. These ducts ended in ornate grilles high on the walls of the reference library on the ground floor - a library that had only just been refurbished.
Soon water was puring out of these grilles creating spectacular waterfalls. Not what you want to see in your library especially when you have just had a new carpet laid!

You can seldom anticipate or prevent such disasters, but you can plan to cope with them. The SINTO workshop Disaster! How to plan and how to cope will show you how to deal with the unexpected. It features contributions from people who have had to deal with the effects of fire, flood and locust (I made that last one up) in libraries, archives and museums.

No doubt Sheffield Libraries will block up these ventilation ducts - but the next disaster will come in a different form.

Perhaps it will be locusts!

Are you prepared?

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Training for librry and information services. Part 2

The message from this survey is simple. Training is important but budgets are limited and are likely to be cut. Organisations therefore need value for money. The "value" comes from events that meet the workforce development needs of the organisation. The "money" element is that events must be low cost and provided locally.

It seems obvious that the best way of achieving this is through local consortia of libraries working together to commission and provide training events. A consortium can decide on what training is needed and by working together and sharing resources can achieve cost savings. It is improbable that the "free market" could deliver the sort of specialist and tailored training that we need. It follows from this that library and information services should not just see themselves as consumers of training; they need to work together in partnership to ensure that appropriate low cost training can be provided in their area. Libraries need to set up and support local consortia both financially and by being involved in planning and organisation. Most libraries will have a training plan or policy of some sort and this should include a commitment to supporting local consortia.

I do of course have a vested interest. SINTO is a local not-for-profit consortium of library services that provides training activities. We provide a very successful training programme for our local area but I am concerned that cuts in training budgets will make it more difficult to provide a full range of events. I am not asking for support for SINTO as an act of charity but I am saying that if local library services want local low cost provision of training events to continue they need to see this as something they have responsibility for and should be prepared to become involved. They need to help SINTO identify what training is needed by their organisation and then send staff on these events.

SINTO has traditionally operated in the South Yorkshire and north Derbyshire area. We are keen to attract staff and organisations from a wider region to our events but we are also keen to provide events across the whole of the Yorkshire and East Midlands region. Again, this can only be done in partnership with libraries in this region. SINTO would very much like to hear from local consortia of libraries that are keen to develop local provision of training. Any individual library service that would like to join SINTO or take part in our events should also contact me.

Finally, I have been talking about training events in a traditional way but on-line provision of training will be of increasing importance. I am already in discussions with a local training organisation about on-line training packages covering for example the use of Twitter for libraries.

The current recession and spending cuts makes things difficult for our sector but it should make us focus on what we want and how we can achieve it. Library managers need to think about what is in the best interest of their organisation and take steps to achieve this. Local training consortia are part of the solution and should be developed

Training for library and information services

Earlier this year I carried out a survey of Continuing Professional Development and Workforce Development for the library and information services sector in Yorkshire. This originated in a round table meeting that SINTO hosted to discuss the implication of the closure of MLA Yorkshire at the end of 2009. This meeting agreed that the regional provision of LIS training was important and that SINTO could have an expanded role in providing training. It was suggested that SINTO should carry out a mapping exercise to provide some background information.
Financial support for the survey was received from the Yorkshire and Humberside Branch of CILIP but unfortunately Yorkshire Libraries & Information (YLI), the only other regional body in a position to support this, declined to make a contribution. This did limit the time that I was able to devote to this survey and as a result I did not get a response from all of the services I would have liked. However I do feel that the survey has produced significant findings.

I deliberately used the terms Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and Workforce Development (WD) as well as the more general Training. CPD and WD cover the same activities but while CPD focuses on the development needs of individuals WD focuses on the needs of the organisation. When piloting the survey it appeared that although people were aware of the distinction they did not regard it as significant.
The overall purpose of the survey was:

  • To help LIS services and co-operative bodies understand the overall pattern of provision of training in the region and consider if this meets their needs.
  • To help LIS services and individual staff identify providers of training in the region
  • To aid providers of training to co-ordinate their provision
  • To identify any gaps in provision

I interviewed or received survey forms from eleven librarians with responsibility for training in their organisations.
I began by asking respondents about their training budgets. This is more complicated that it might seem! Libraries often have to bid for training funds from a larger institutional budget so there is no set figure. On average people were working within a budget of about £100 per member of staff but there was wide variation. Given that a typical CILIP course in London can cost around £200 or more this obviously does not go very far! Most respondents agreed that funding placed at least some constraint on training provision. The majority said that their budgets had either increased slightly or remained static over the past few years. They reported that training was important to their organisations and were not anticipating significant cuts in budget in the short term. However the survey took place before the recent widespread debate about public spending cuts and I suspect that people are less optimistic now.
As might be expected, all libraries have a similar model for establishing training needs. This consists of appraisals or professional development reviews which establish what staff want and a service development plan which states what the needs of the service are. Senior managers make the final decision based on a balance of these needs and available resources. There was some evidence that the emphasis is shifting away from the needs of individual staff towards the needs of the organisation, but it was stressed that the two were not necessarily in conflict.

There was widespread agreement on the broad priorities for CPD/WD. The top three topics were leadership & management, customer care and IT developments (particularly Web 2.0).

When it came to sourcing training a great deal of generic training e.g. in management skills, was provided by the parent organisation (university or local authority) of the library. However there was a need for training specifically aimed at library staff. The following organisations were used for this training (ranked in order of importance):

  • Regional and local library consortia. SINTO was mentioned by most of the respondents.
  • CILIP National Groups. CILIP subject groups run seminars and conferences including the annual Umbrella event. These cover specialist subjects and are very relevant to LIS staff.
  • Training companies and individual trainers. Libraries bring in trainers to meet specific WD needs
  • National training organisations e.g. Aslib
  • Local colleges and universities. Local departments of information studies make some courses open to local library staff. FE colleges support NVQs and other training.
  • On-line and print training materials. This includes material such as the Intute Virtual Training Suite.
  • CILIP Training & development at CILIP HQ. Most respondents said that these events were highly valued but that take-up was severely limited because of the costs of the seminars and the associated travel costs.
  • Local professional groups such as CILIP Yorkshire & Humberside Branch. The CILIP Branch would be used more but did not provide an active programme of events.

Respondents were asked to identify gaps in provision. The most common issue was the lack of events in the region compared to London. It was felt that events in London were not only expensive in themselves but that travel costs greatly added to the cost. Other gaps identified were courses for para-professional staff, briefings on new topics or technologies and general professional awareness updating.

I will discuss these results in my next blog.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Libraries vs Recession

The SINTO seminar Libraries vesus Recession looks at how libraries can help their local communities during the economic downturn.

When we were planning this event we were going to call it "Libraries and the credit crunch". The crunch turned into a downturn and then into a recession. We now seem to be coming out of the recession but the effects on individuals, businesses and communities will be long lasting. All politicians are talking about cuts in Government expenditure and that means cuts in services.

Libraries will no doubt suffer their share of cuts, but this seminar looks at what libraries can do to help their local communities. At a simple level libraries can help by providing free or low cost services such as book loans and Internet access, but this seminar will look at the information and advice services that libraries can deliver.

The seminar will start with a presentation by Christene Rooney-Browne author of an article Rising to the challenge: a look at the role of public libraries in times of recession (Library Review 2009 58(5) 341-352).

Robert Matthews of the Financial Services Authority will talk about their financial capability programme which aims to help people to manage their finances. He will discuss how libraries can contribute to this programme.

Speakers from Jobcentre Plus and Business Link Yorkshire will explain the services and information they offer to the unemployed and small businesses.

In a workshop, David Lindley of the Libraries Agency will focus on the role libraries already play, and the need to communicate this more effectively at local level (there's quite a lot of national advocacy going on) to ensure libraries are not overlooked when it comes to fighting for their fair share of dwindling resources.

In another workshop Tim Davies of Rotherham Libraries will lead an exchange of experience session. Bring along examples of what your library service is doing to share with colleagues.

Overall, the seminar will not only show librarians how they can expand their services to their communities but will give us an opportunity to show the speakers how we can work with other agencies.

Delegates will be welcomed to the seminar by Cllr Sylvia Dunkley, cabinet member from Sheffield City Council.

Details of the seminar are available on the SINTO website

Friday, 4 September 2009

Access by UK SMEs to journal articles

Access by UK small and medium-sized enterprises to
professional and academic information
Mark Ware Consulting Ltd for the Publishing Research Consortium

This is an interesting report as it addresses the problem that led to the creation of SINTO in 1932 - the provision of specialist journal articles to small businesses. The report points out that research journal literature is important to the success of many SMEs. While a majority (71%) of respondents for whom journal access was important reported reasonably good overall access to journals this figure was smaller than for large businesses and academic bodies. A majority (55%) reported that they had recently experienced problems in accessing articles and a payment barrier was the most likely cause. Again this was larger than the figure for large companies (34%) and universities (24%).
The majority of respondents in SMEs obtained journal articles via Pay Per View services. Where they had problems in obtaining articles in this way, the following alternatives were used
Look for an early version of article on web 28%
Check access via in-house library or information service 15%
Check access via colleagues subscription 15%
Approach author directly 11%
Check access via local academic library 7%
Request an ILL from library 7%
Check access via local public library 0%
Did not try any of above 11%

Respondents were also asked if they had used a variety of sources for meeting their general information needs (not just journals). Replies included professional society membership (81%), in-house information services (56%), local academic libraries (51%), ILLs via local libraries (42%) and local public libraries (38%). When asked about monthly frequency of use of different sources the results included professional society membership (10%), in-house information services (15%), local academic libraries (2%), ILLs via local libraries (1%) and local public libraries (1%). (The percentage represents the proportion of total uses).

The report concludes that access by SMEs via local academic libraries is currently negligible. Suggested reasons are lack of interest or resources among librarians, inconsistent or ambiguous publisher licences and the requirement for access to be provided on a walk-in basis.

SINTO has received e-mails from local companies that suggest that cost as a barrier to access to journal articles is a major problem for SMEs in the SINTO area and there is not much that SINTO can do to help. Although some of these journals will be held by local academic libraries, local SMEs cannot get on-line access to articles for a number of reasons.

SMEs are an important part of the local economy, as they were in the 1930s. It is a pity that we seem less able to respond now than we were then due, in part, to the present dominance of free-market thinking.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

Dr Camila Alire, President of the American Library Association is visiting Sheffield and has agreed to give a talk to SINTO on the afternoon of Tuesday 13th October 2009. This will be a special opportunity to hear a leading library professional talk about leadership. Dr Alire is Dean Emerita at the University of New Mexico and Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado. She has additionally served as Dean/Director of Libraries at University of Colorado at Denver. Camila received her doctorate in Higher Education Administration from the University of Northern Colorado. She also holds an MLS from the University of Denver.
Camila's presidential initiative is "Libraries, the heart of all communities". In this talk she will cover two of her interests - advocacy of libraries and leadership.
Camila’s writing focuses on library marketing and advocacy, library services for Latinos and other minorities, library disaster recovery, leadership development, and recruitment/retention of minorities in the library profession and in higher education. She recently co-authored Serving Latino Communities (2007), Academic Librarians as Emotionally Intelligent Leaders (2007), and edited Library Disaster Planning and Recovery Handbook (2000).

For further information about the speaker go to and see the Sinto web site for details of how to book for this event.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Can 11 words breach copyright?

Thanks to Corus for alerting me to an interesting ruling on Copyright from the European Court of Justice - the highest court in the EU in matters of European law.
The ruling refers to a court case in Denmark between the Danish newspaper industry body DDF and a clippings service Infopaq over reproduction of 11-word snippets from newspapers for sale to clients.
Infopaq's clients identified keywords that they wanted monitored. Infopaq scanned newspapers and used software to locate those keywords and print them out with the five words on either side to provide a context.
Infopaq claimed that this copying was "transient" and so was covered by exceptions in the EU Copyright Directive. However the ECJ ruled that "transient" only covered the creation of files resulting from the process of converting image files which were then deleted automatically from the computer memory. Printing out these files produced a non-transient record which was not exempt.
The court then looked at whether these 11-word extracts formed a element that was protected by the law, in other words were they a substantial part? The court stated that "words as such do not… constitute elements covered by the protection". It is the "choice, sequence and combination of these words" that creates a protected element. It continues:

"That being so, given the requirement of a broad interpretation of the scope of the protection conferred by Article 2 of Directive 2001/29, the possibility may not be ruled out that certain isolated sentences, or even certain parts of sentences in the text in question, may be suitable for conveying to the reader the originality of a publication such as a newspaper article, by communicating to that reader an element which is, in itself, the expression of the intellectual creation of the author of that article. Such sentences or parts of sentences are, therefore, liable to come within the scope of the protection provided for in Article 2(a) of that directive."
The court did stress that the question of whether a particular sentence or part of sentence did come within the scope of protection had to be decided by national courts.

So what does this mean for information professionals, especially those that provide abstracting services or keyword alerting services?

Although the EU Copyright Directive has been implemented in to member's legislation we are still working with separate Copyright laws so you should not assume that all aspects of the Danish case apply to the UK.

The Copyright Directive removed the concept of fair dealing from copying for a commercial purpose. In a non-commercial context this may still apply.

Personally I am surprised that Infopaq tried to argue that their extracts were exempt because they were transient. Copyright expert Graham Cornish in his presentations and writings on copyright has indicated that the temporary copies exemption applies only if they are a necessary part of the technical process to transfer the information and the copy does not have any independent economic significance. However this does demonstrate that nothing in legislation can be taken for granted until it is tested in a court.

The issue of whether extracts form a "substantial part" of the whole is also interesting. Again Graham Cornish has pointed out that "substantial" is not defined in the legislation and that you cannot assume that a short extract is unsubstantial. The ruling confirmed that individual words cannot be copyright protected so if Infopaq had just printed a list of keywords and their location in an article this would not have infringed copyright. The problem arose from trying to put the keywords into context by printing the words on either side. If they had just printed one word on either side it would probably be unsubstantial and not infringe copyright but at the same time it would not provide enough context to be of any use. The paradox is that the closer you get to providing a useful context the more likely you are to infringe copyright. Of course, if you write your own abstract, or provide a context for a keyword in your own words, then you are not infringing copyright. The problem is that organisations are looking to reduce the amount of staff time spent on these professional activities by using automated systems. Possibly Infopaq or someone will come up with a piece of software that can generate a context for a given keyword without resorting to cut and paste - although this still seems to be something that the human brain can do better and faster than a computer.

A final point is that copyright legislation is only breached if you do not seek the permission of the copyright holder for these acts. In theory Infopaq could have asked DDF for permission on the basis that providing keyword alerts to its clients would benefit the newspapers by directing more customers to those titles. Of course DDF may well have asked for a licensing fee to permit this.

The main lesson from this case for librarians is that any copied extract, no matter how short, may be covered by copyright. If it is worthwhile to someone to copy it then the chances are that it could be a substantial part.

The full text of the ECJ ruling can be found at

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Events from SINTO

I am organising the programme of SINTO training events for the Autumn and I think we have another strong programme. In particular I think that some of our events are not just about developing the skills of library staff - they will help libraries think about and develop their policy in important areas.

13th October. Leadership and Emotional Intelligence for librarians. Dr Camilia Alire, President of the American Library Association is visiting Sheffield and has agreed to give a talk to SINTO. This will be a special opportunity to hear a leading library professional talk about leadership. You can find out more about Dr Alire by visiting her website

15th October. Libraries vs Recession: how libraries can help communities during the recession. This is not about how libraries can survive the recession, but rather the contribution that they can make to help people, businesses and communities. The seminar will also look at how libraries can promote the value of their services.

3rd November. Disaster! How to plan and how to cope. As Sheffield Central library discovered recently, disaster can strike from a clear blue sky (or at least a cloudy one). This day will consider how to plan for a major incident and how to cope when something happens.

November (date to be confirmed). Managing change. How to deal with change, how to help other people cope with change, how to introduce change into organisations.

Further details will be circulated soon and I will be blogging some more on these events. If you want more information or want to register an interest, contact the SINTO office.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Brendan Loughridge

Brendan Loughridge died last week. Brendan joined the Department of Information Studies University of Sheffield in 1978, after six years as an Assistant Keeper of Printed Books and Assistant Secretary of the Library at the National Library of Scotland and eight years as a Sub-Librarian at the New University of Ulster in Londonderry and Coleraine. His teaching and research interests at Sheffield were chiefly in the field of academic library management and information resources. He also had several long spells as Programme Co-ordinator of the MA in Librarianship programme.

My condolences to his family.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Graphic novels in public libraries.

Do you deal with graphic novels in your public library? Arwen Caddy, a postgraduate student at the University of Sheffield, is doing some research into this topic. The aim is to gather the opinions of public library staff on whether all graphic novels, comic books, comic strips, manga, and similar materials should be shelved in the same place in simple alphabetical order, or whether they should be ordered using genre, subject, type, author or illustrator name, reading age or other method. The researcher is also aware of uncertainty over the contents of some graphic novels and similar material and their suitability to be shelved in a public library at all. This is particularly an issue when the library in question is used by children and young people. This is one of the reasons why the researcher is interested in the possibility of splitting such material into age-ranges or subject types. This project is especially interested in the views of library staff on these sensitive topics.

The survey can be found on Survey Monkey and an information sheet can be obtained from the Sinto office

Monday, 13 July 2009

Is your library faceless?

Lorcan Dempsey makes an interesting observation in a recent blog
He says:
"I continue to be amazed at how difficult it is to find the name or contact details of the library director on many library websites. And in some cases to find the names of other relevant library contacts. This is especially the case given the emphasis on the human touch the library provides, and the expertise of library staff."

I have to agree with him. I often need to find contact details for Heads of Library services and the libraries websites often fail to provide this information. Most websites provide general contact details or an enquiry form but these are often anonymous and do not identify a specific individual.

Looking at local examples, Rotherham Libraries is a model of good practice. Under Contact Us it has clear instruction for contacting the library service by phone, e-mail or in writing. It then goes on to list the job titles, names and contact details of all the senior staff. Bernard Murphy as head of service even has a photograph.

Sheffield Libraries is also good at providing general contact details. It then invites the public to contact the senior management team by e-mailing the City Librarian, Janice Maskort. It does not provide details of the senior management team and this may be deliberate. There have been many changes recently and perhaps it is preferable that enquiries go right to the top and can then be delegated as appropriate. It does however leave them faceless.

Leeds and Doncaster libraries again have general contact details but neither gives any clue whatsoever to the identity of the head of library services or senior library staff.

Academic Libraries seem to do better. The University of Sheffield Library has a detailed listing of staff with contact details (no photos though!)

How important is this? As Lorcan says, libraries do like to think that we have a human touch. Many local government authorities insist that front line staff wear name badges on the grounds that users prefer to know who they are dealing with - so why shouldn't this apply in the virtual world as well? And libraries are all about information. Isn't it reasonable to expect that the library website should give information about the library service as well as library services? If you go on the website for Marks and Spencer or Sainsbury you can find a link somewhere that gives you the names of the senior managers. Why should Chief Librarians be so reticent?

Monday, 29 June 2009

SINTO Members' Day 2

Here is a brief description of the other presentations at members' day on the theme of New Ways of Working.

Alison Little, Librarian for the NHS, University of Sheffield
New ways of working - Clinical outreach services to the NHS
A key role for health libraries is to support clinical decision making. Knowledge is core to the business of the NHS. Medicine increasingly uses Evidence Based Practice i.e it requires clear evidence that drugs or procedures work in terms of supporting patient care. The outreach service at UoS has developed by raising awareness of resources and the role of EBP. The service provides support for individuals and teams, integrates local and national resources and provides handouts, guides and a strong web presence. The message is that a library service does not equal books or visits to a physical library but a service delivered to you when and where you need it.

David Fay, City Library Manager, Newcastle-upon-Tyne
David gave a presentation on Newcastle's new central library. Not only did he wow us with the high tech features of the library building (including a book vending machine) but he also described the marketing of the new library including a TV advert.

Angella Parker and Askander Akram, Rotherhan Library,Museums & Arts. The Social Library
Angella and Askander described how Rotherham libraries are using Web 2.0 to promote their library service. They have a Facebook page, a blog and a Wiki for staff communication. Facebook is used to promote the library service to people who do not use the library. The presentation can be seen here.

Peter Field, Senior Library Assistant at the School of Pharmacy Library, University of London. Adult literacy in prison libraries
Finally Peter , winner of the SINTO Bob Usherwood prize, gave a presentation on his dissertation on adult literacy provision in prison libraries Not only did he remind us of the importance of this sector but he showed some of the problems that face researchers.

As I said in my summing up - there are some interesting contrasts here. To some extent the importance of the library as a physical place is declining and yet the impact of a new building on library use is important and people want to have an accessible place to go to. Public libraries are clearly moving into the hybrid library stage of development where the real and the virtual library are equally important.

SINTO Members' Day 1

The SINTO Members' Day went very well with about 35 attendees. I will post brief reports of the presentations starting with the keynote speach by Roy Clare CBE, Chief executive of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.

Roy Clare began by highlighting some of the uncertainties facing the library profession. We are approaching a public finance "Grand Canyon" at some time in the near future. The nature and policy agenda of the next Government is uncertain and the nation as a whole is not at ease with itself and is divided.
Libraries have a key role to play in bridging this divide and helping with lack of attainment etc, but are we making the most of this opportunity? Roy referred to the Cultural Olympiad and the Stories of the World project.
Roy said that his experience of visiting library authorities was that there was a contrast between examples of creativity & energy on the one hand and complacency on the other. He gave an example of a sign outside a library that had several letter missing - and they had obviously been missing for some time.
There was a growing "technology gap" as information technology takes over from the physical places as the main source of information. When Roy attended the Wirral enquiry he was impressed by the extent to which the local community wanted and needed physical access to a library collection. However in some circumstances this need could be met by alternatives to the branch library such as small collections co-located in post offices or other community centres.

Following his presentation Roy answered questions about the use of volunteers in libraries and the feasibility of a single library card.

Friday, 26 June 2009

A tragic death

The early death of Michael Jackson is sad, the death of a community is a tragedy. More than 800 jobs are being axed by Corus in Sheffield and Rotherham - 40% of the current South Yorkshire workforce. The effect on individuals will be devestating and the whole community will be seriously affected.

Public libraries are a part of that community and will share in their pain. To be honest there is little that libraries can do to alleviate the initial impact of mass redundancies but they can a should be part of a process to help damaged communities to heal themselves. At a basic level they provide free or cheap access to books and DVDs. They are a source of information needed by people who are unemployed and facing financial problems. They provide a gateway to lifelong learning opportunities. Finally, they are a community resource, a place for people to come together.

If libraries are to have any impact in this situation many things must change. Librarians will need to consider new ways of working and new priorities. Local authorities must see libraries as being more than just books. Other national and local agencies must recognise the potential role of libraries.

Some mining communities never recovered from pit closures. Some communities in South Yorkshire may not recover from this latest blow. Many lives will be damaged and some destroyed. Can libraries be a light when all others have failed?

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The twater's lovely

According to Alison Flood on "Libraries throughout the UK are testing the waters of Twitter as a way to both engage with their readers and dispel their image as fusty, silent enclaves staffed by old-fashioned introverts". [No doubt this article was written by a journalist in a short break between a long liquid lunch and a boozy night out in a Fleet Street public house.]

The article points out that librarians are using Twitter to network among themselves as well as communicate with potential users. As Stephanie Taylor points out (my last blog) there are barriers to librarians using Twitter etc at work. Also it is very difficult to build up a following among your target audience. The recently launched Sheffield Libraries tweet so far has only 23 followers and many of those are organisations like SINTO rather than members of the public.

However, barriers can be overcome and followers will grow in number. My message to anyone thinking of sticking a toe in is "Come on in - the water's lovely!"

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

One Counter, two cultures

Next week SINTO is running a seminar on Web 2.0/Social Computing, led by Stephanie Taylor of Critical Eye Communications. This is a course that Stephanie has run for us before and is very popular.

In her own blog Libraries in a cold climate, Stephanie raises an issue that she has come across in several courses she has run. Library staff are often blocked from accessing Social networking tools at work. She point out:

In some UK public libraries, things are so bad that on one side of the counter, library users can freely access social networking sites via PCs linked up to the People's Network, but on the other side of the counter, library staff are blocked on their own PCs from accessing those same sites. The customer side of the counter - free access. The professionals' side of the counter - no access. This is the situation in many of the UK public libraries today: one counter, two cultures. Is this really the best way serving users of public library services? Of any library services?

Stephanie raises an important point. Social networking tools are a valuable source of information and an important CPD tool. Library staff must be able to use these tools at work.

Friday, 19 June 2009

Twittering Yorkshire

Recently the Bookseller had an article on Libraries populate the Twitterverse which said that:

Libraries are seizing on Twitter, the micro-blogging phenomenon, as a new way to
reach out to users and to network with colleagues and the wider book trade.

Mike Stores of Stockport Libraries posted messages on LIS-PUB-LIBS about libraries and related bodies that are using Twitter and listed almost 40 organisations.

When I last blogged about this on the 4th June I said I only knew of one public library in our area (Leeds) that was using Twitter.

Here is a list of libraries from all sectors in Yorkshire that I now know of who are using Twitter.

  • Sheffield Libraies. @SheffLibraries
  • Rotherham MBC Culture & Leisure (including libraries). @Cultureleisure
  • Leeds Central Library. @leedscentlibs
  • Business & Patents library Leeds @baplig
  • Bradford Libraries & Information Services. @bradfordlibs247
  • Leeds Metropolitan University Library. @LeedsMetLibrary
  • University of Sheffield Library. @UniSheffieldLib
  • Information Commons at the University of Sheffield @sheffinfocommons
Have I missed anyone? Let me know if I have.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

The Library Show 2009

The Library Show is traditionally strong on library management systems and library furniture suppliers and most people go to get information from a range of suppliers. However one benefit of attending the show is the serendipty of finding suppliers that you weren’t looking for but are still of interest.

In the spirit of "we go to the library shows and drink the overpriced coffee so you don't have to" here is a random list of some exhibitors at the show you may have missed.

Harwell Support Services. Restoration of library and archive collections after fire and flood.
The Library of Birmingham. Plans for the new Birmingham Central Library
Sight and Sound Technology. Solutions for the blind or visually impaired and for people with learning and reading disabilities.
ICC. Business information services
Bailey Solutions. Library management systems, knowledge management and research tracking for smaller library systems.
Spectrum Plastics. Durable plastic library cards and other encapsulated products.
Action Deafness Books Supplier of Sign Language Books and DVDs
Access-it Software. Library management system designed for schools and colleges.
Go Green Bags Company. Eco-friendly bags.
Carel Press. Library promotional material for school and other libraries.
MultiScreen Channel. Using television to communicate with library visitors in-house.
DLT Media. Supplying libraries and businesses with magazines.
Digitorial. UKPressOnline Newspaper Archive (Daily and Sunday Express,Daily and Sunday Star and Daily Mirror).

and last but not least
The Amazing Adventures of Curd the Lion and us in the land at the Back of Beyond by Alan Gilliland
A self published children's book. Not the first writer to think they can match Lewis Carol, but this whimsical nonsense story stands out because of its illustrations by the author and it has a local setting - Brimham Rocks in the Yorkshire Dales.

More Sheffield Floods!

I was at the Library Show yesterday with a SINTO coachload of librarians. The LIS could be called the "Not as good as last year show" which is what people always seem to say but it does still perform a useful role. Perhaps the idea of running it every other year might work.

I attended Phil Bradley's presentation about twitter . Phil gave a basic introduction to using Twitter and then looked at how it could be used by librarians for professional development and as a source of information. As Phil said - the first reaction to Twitter is "What is the point?" but as you get into it you find it is a useful tool and should not be ignored.

I will post some more about the show later but at one point I was at the Harwell Support Services stand, who specialise in restoration of collections after fire and flood damage, suggesting that SINTO might run an event on disaster planning.

On the trip back we ran into very heavy rainfall but I don't think anyone realised how bad it was. I got off the coach at Meadowhead (and was then stranded there for a couple of hours) so I don't know how everyone else managed. There was severe local flooding causing traffic disruption and I imagine many people found it difficult to get home. Sheffield Central Library suffered flooding and is closed until further notice.

Although it was not of direct help to us at the time (no-one having mobile internet access), Twitter was to be a useful source of information on developments. As Phil had pointed out earlier, Twitter is good for breaking news. A local blogger @sheffieldblog provided regular tweets on developments and the Sheffield City Council's Press Office @SCCPressOffice also provided valuable information including first news of the Central Library closure. The University of Sheffield used Twitter for news of the closure of the Information Commons.

I have always thought that public libraries should have a more active role in such situations. They could act as a valuable source of information to their local communities by seeking out information from websites, blogs and Twitter and passing it on. They are the link between the information rich and the information poor.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Twitter as a resource for business information librarians

Twitter is a microblog - that is an application where you can post short messages which other people can then choose to follow. It can be used to keep your friend informed of what you are doing or it can be used professionally to disseminate information.

There is growing interest in the use of Twitter as a business tool in different areas. For example Phil Bradley recently wrote a piece in Library & Information Update about Twitter and librarians (April 2009). I will look at how Twitter might be a useful tool for the business information librarian.

One advantage of Twitter is that each post (tweet) has to be short, no more than 140 characters. As information overload and information obesity are major problems this enforced brevity can be very useful. Many people use Twitter to tell their followers about items they have posted on their blogs or websites so tweets can be seen as an alternative to RSS feeds. Regular checks of your Twitter feeds can keep you in touch with a wide range of useful sources of information.
Twitter is a form of social computing so it can be used not just for a one-way flow of information but as a networking tool to maintain a dialogue with colleagues. You can make use of this yourself and you can promote this to your users (e.g. small businesses which may feel isolated).

A probem with Twitter is that it is a very informal means of communication with many tweeters indulging in personal comments and asides. This is fun in small doses but can be a problem if you are trying to use it as a source of hard information. The business librarian probably needs to look at Twitter in three ways. First there are those tweets that are useful to you as a source of information. Second, tweeters that it would be useful for you to network with. Third, the wider world of business tweets that may be of interest to your users.

Sources of Information
(It is usual to prefix Twitter user names with @. When searching for people on Twitter do not use the @ prefix.)

@BIPC. British Library Business and Intellectual Property centre. Provides links to the new BIPC website.
@PATLIBUK. Supporting the UK's Inventers and Entrepreneurs with specialist patent and IP information and services
@baplig. Business and Patents. Leeds Library providing information for business, companies, inventors & students on patents, trademarks, copyright, designs, market research and much more.
@karenblakeman. Karen Blakeman. Karen is well known for her business information blog.
@intutebusiness. Intute Business. Covers the Intute Business website.
@BusinessLinkGov. Business Link

A useful way of developing a network using Twitter is to find someone of interest and look at who is following them and who they are following. Useful starting points might be:
@baplig (listed above)
@cityinfogroup. CiG A community for .people who work in and around the City of London, and utilise business and commercial information.
@tadpole99. Alison Williams. Business librarian by day. Haiku librarian by night.

General business tweets
There are of course thousands of these! Just Tweet It ( is a directory of people who tweet organised by categories. However many of the categories contain hundreds of entries and most will be US based. There is a Twitter for Business section which includes "50 ideas on using Twitter for Business".

Here is a small selection of tweets I have come across:

And last, but not least - don't forget @SINTOcarl for keeping up-to-date with all things SINTO.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Libraries using Twitter & Facebook

Public libraries in our region (Yorkshire and East Midlands) have not on the whole been early adopters of Web 2.0 technologies. At the SINTO Members' Day on 26th June there will be a presentation from Rotherham Libraries about their use of Facebook and Leeds Central Library has a Twitter feed. Apart from that I know of no other public libraries using these tools. (see the list provided by Mike Stores on the JISC Lis-pub-libs list.)
Does that indicate that public libraries in our region are old-fashioned and out-of-date? Or does the low uptake mean that most libraries have concluded that this is just not an effective marketing tool and there is no point in wasting resources on it? The Leeds Twitter feed has 93 followers (i.e. people who are receiving the tweets) but over half of these are other libraries or organisations and only 40 are individuals who may, or may not, be library users in Leeds. This does not suggest that Twitter is having a large impact in the target audience.
Twitter is often portrayed as a useful way of communication with a younger demographic and one which libraries need to reach out to - but if the basic library offer is not attractive to this group then no amount of Twittering will work on its own. However, as part of a package including greater use of e-books and on-line services, Twitter could be a useful tool. When we walk through the doors of our libraries and into our place of work we cut ourselves off from our customers. No matter how good we are at doing our job we always have to reach out to our customers and potential customers. Twitter and other Web 2.0 tools are one way of doing this.