Thursday, 30 April 2009

Bloomsbury Library Online

I don't generally use this blog to advertise products (except our own) but this press release about the Bloomsbury Library Online is very much in keeping with my current theme of New Ways of Working and I think that the project will be of interest to librarians. Here is the press release and I have added comments below.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: The Bloomsbury Library Online

Bloomsbury is set to transform the relationship between publishers and libraries, and between libraries and readers, with an innovative development in public lending: The Bloomsbury Library Online.

At a time when the British library system is under pressure to reach larger audiences with tighter budgets, and when the reading public is feeling the pinch, Bloomsbury is launching a unique, affordable and user-friendly online initiative.

In association with and using existing technology in libraries across the country, Bloomsbury is rolling out a groundbreaking e-lending strategy which will allow readers to read collections of bestselling books at local library terminals or with the use of a library card on home computers and internet enabled devices.

The Bloomsbury Library Online will consist of a number of themed shelves: children’s books, sports titles, international fiction, Shakespeare plays, reference books and more. They will launch with a shelf of Book Group titles including Galaxy Book of the Year, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, by Kate Summerscale, Orange Prize longlisted Burnt Shadows, by Kamila Shamsie, word-of-mouth phenomenon The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer, and international bestseller The Death of Vishnu by Manil Suri. Embracing the advantages of the online format, users will be able to read the book, search the text, access author interviews, reviews, press features, and links to specially commissioned reading group guides.

How will it work?
• The Bloomsbury Library Online will be sold on subscription – libraries will subscribe to a bookshelf for a year at a time and will pay according to the size of population served.
• New titles will be added on a continuous basis – free of charge within the subscription year.
• Users will click through from the Library terminals or through an online portal accessible via any web browser (including those found on iPhone and Blackberry) anytime, anywhere in the UK.
• Text accessible through screen readers and therefore available to blind and partially-sighted users.

Bloomsbury Executive Director Richard Charkin said “Libraries are hugely important to readers, communities and authors and are under severe financial constraints. While never forgetting the importance of books themselves, they’re also being pressured to adapt to the demands of the 21st century: bridging the digital divide, serving multicultural communities, attracting new users and reaching into homes. The Bloomsbury Library Online serves to fill that hole and will hopefully blaze a trail for similar developments in the library system.”

Kate Summerscale added: “I’m delighted that The Suspicions of Mr Whicher will be part of The Bloomsbury Library Online – it sounds a great scheme, especially for book groups.”

For further information please contact Colin Midson on +44 207 494 6054 or email on
To find out more about Exact Editions, please contact Daryl Rayner on +44 207 554 8632
or email on

I don't think there is any doubt that electronic books will play an increasing role in the future of public libraries and I think this is the first time that a publisher has provided a range of modern fiction in this format to libraries. The books have to be read on a PC or portable web browser and this is anathema to many readers and librarians. The book as a physical object will always have its fans! Many libraries struggle to provide enough PC for users who want to use the People's Network so how will they cope with users wanting to spend hours reading a novel? I suspect the focus will be on allowing library users to access these books from home. There is also the issue of subscribing to a particular platform from one publisher rather than being able to select individual titles.
You may be interested in Eoin Purcell's blog on this topic.


CILIP held a Web 2.0 Council Open session yesterday at Ridgmount Street to explore how CILIP could use social computing to engage with its members and the wider professional community. An interesting aspect was that the meeting also took place in Web 2.0 with several people blogging and twittering about the meeting. To catch up with what happened yesterday I suggest you start with K Widdows blog which gives an overview and critique, then see the Library & Information Update live blog and finally the collected Twitter feed. (This last demonstrates the problems of using Twitter as a source of information for this sort of thing). There is also information on the CILIP website and in CILIP communities.

I was busy yesterday so could not follow the debate live. What I want to see is not the breathless, instant soundbites of live updates but the more considered responses that will soon appear in blogs and printed articles. CILIP does appear to have been slow to develop a coherent approach to some of the emerging technologies but it has not done too badly. This debate shows that CILIP does want to address the issue and by opening up the event with Web 2.0 it has tested a model that may well be effective in the future.

What concerns me (and many of the people who contributed to the debate) is that there is a group of the Web 2 savvy professionals who are part of this debate but there is a larger group of web-sceptics who are excluded. As Martin Lewis said at yesterday's SINTO Executive meeting, many people are simply missing out on important debates and issues. There are many reasons:
  • Barriers to using Web 2.0 in the workplace
  • Lack of time at work to spend on professional development by reading professional blogs etc
  • Reluctance by managers to encourage/allow staff spend time at work on professional development
  • Barriers to using Web 2.0 at home (not least, teenagers who monopolise the PC!)
  • Lack of time at home to spend on professional development (some librarians have a life!)
  • Lack of awareness that this is happening at all
  • Lack of commitment to CPD and professional activities

The important issue here is not whether CILIP, or LIS workers, get involved with Web 2.0 (much less whether we Twitter or blog or have a Facebook page), but how we get engaged with continuing professional development and are empowered to use the tools that are available to help us do this. You don't have to use Twitter and blog feeds to keep yourself up-to-date and involved but they are a useful tool which all LIS staff should have access to and be comfortable using.

Friday, 24 April 2009

A thousand small hurdles to Web 2.0

Tim Davies asks "What’s the big challenge to using new technology for mobilisation / communication around social issues, where government or large existing organisations are to be players in creating change?" His theses is

  • The big challenges are not about technology - they are about the content and the process of mobilisation and communication.
  • When it comes to technology we’ve not got one big challenge we’ve got 100s of small challenges - and we’ve got no systematic way of dealing with them.

He lists 50 of these these challenges, as found in local government, under the headings
Internet access
Office technology
Systems and procedures
Policy and guidance
Organisational culture
Basic technical skills
Leadership and management

To take some at random

33 Senior managers see Web 2.0 and the Social Web as something to be scared of;
34 Senior managers see Web 2.0 as a passing fad, or at best a persistent distraction and minority interest;
35 Staff see Web 2.0 as an extra burden to add to already busy and pressured days;
36 Ideas from outside the organisations are treated with suspicion;
37 The organisation wants to be in control of any discussions that take place about it online;

I recognise most of the challenges Tim mentions either in my own organisation or in others - including CILIP. As Tim points out, it should not be difficult to remove these barriers, once we have identified them, if the desire to remove them is there. if we are to achieve Open Government and Open organisations at all levels, we need to start!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Training events from SINTO

The Library and Information Show has rebranded itself as the Library Show and moved to June but it is still at the NEC and SINTO will be offering its annual coach trip on Wednesday 10th June.

Places on the Advanced Internet Searching event on 14th May are going fast. If you want to reserve a place while awaiting confirmation contact the office now on 0114 225 5739.

And to look forward to this summer – three very different events but with a common theme – reaching out to our users:
SINTO Members’ Day and AGM: New Ways of Working – creating Library 2.0 - 26th June
Web 2.0: Blogs, Wikis & RSS feeds. -2nd July
Display Techniques with the Alternative Display Company. -6th July.

The SINTO Members' Day is a forum for librarians in our region to consider professional developments. Roy Clare, Director of MLA is the keynote speaker and there will be a number of short presentations looking at how libraries can reach out to their users.

Web 2.0 will look at various Social Computing tools that are being increasingly used by libraries both as a source of information and as a way of interacting with users.

Display Techniques is a pratical workshop looking at putting on displays to promote your service.

Details of all these events are on our website.

Monday, 20 April 2009

The world turned upside down. Open access and academic journals.

Paying for open access publication charges: guidance for higher education and research institutions, publishers and authors.

This publication from the Research Information network and Universities UK looks at the practical implications of the emergence of open access publishing for scholarly articles. The old model was that academics had their peer-reviewed articles published in journals and the publishers sold subscriptions to academic libraries. When electronic publishing came along it first followed this model (though often with dramatic increases in the cost of subscriptions and tight restrictions on subscribers to prevent them making the articles available outside the institution.)
Increasingly however publishers are making articles available free of charge to all readers immediately upon publication but in order to maintain a revenue stream they are charging a publication fee for authors. The authors in turn look to their institution or the funder of their research to pay these fees. As the report says "This turns the traditional publishing model on its head, and this poses challenges for publishers but also for researchers and the institutions that employ them. They have to find new ways to meet the cost of publication fees, alongside the well-established budgets for the majority of journals that still operate the traditional subscription model". All this against a background of even higher price rises due to the falling value of the pound. Academic libraries are particularly concerned that their institutions should develop a coordinated and strategic approach to this development and not just let it fall on the library budget by default.

I don't feel myself qualified to comment on the guidance itself (as I am a bear of little brain) and I am sure my colleagues in the HE sector will do this. I am, however, interested in the wider implications. First, all librarians need to be aware that the model is changing. Public libraries have never seen it as their role to purchase specialist academic journals and with the increase in subscription charges and the move to electronic publishing I suspect that few librarians outside the HE sector are familiar with how much things have changed.

Second, public libraries are concerned with the wider issue of making research accessible to the public and these developments will help with this in many ways. If the author pays for open access rather than the reader - or the reader's library - having to pay a subscription then this should remove some of the barriers that currently exist. It is good to see that this report acknowledges that open access brings benefits not only to the research community but to society at large. Having said that, we are talking largely about material published by academics for academics and its direct relevance to most public library users is limited. (see my postings with the access tag).

Friday, 17 April 2009

Changes at Sheffield Central Library

Work will start soon on the reorganisation of service points at Sheffield Central Library. The current Business, Science & Technology (BST) and the Arts & Social Sciences (ASS) Libraries will merge and become Reception, Reference and Information - a single access point for reference services and a reception /information point for the central library. It will be located in the current BST room on the ground floor. The current Sheffield Information Service and reception will close.

The Local Studies library will move to the current ASS room on the first floor. The current Sheffield Information Services room on the ground floor will become the Computer and Internet Centre. The current Local Studies room may become an exhibition/activity area. Sheffield Community Information Unit will move to a new office.

The lending library will not be affected.

The timetable is as follows:
  • Current BST Library: closes Saturday 25th April. Reopens as RRI Thursday 28th May.
  • Current ASS Library: Closes Thursday 21st May. Reopens for People's Network service only Thursday 28th May. Closes Wednesday 24th June. Reopens as Local Studies Library - to be decided.
  • Current Sheffield Information Service: Closes Wednesday 27th May. Reopens as ICT suite Monday 29th June.

Further information and updates will be available on the Sheffield Libraries website.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Happy to help the MLA

My job is to help preserve the integrity of civilisation. It's a dirty job but someone has to do it. One of my duties in PTIOC is to read MLA news e-bulletins. As such things go, they are not too bad - short and to the point so it is easy to pick out any useful bits of information. Keep up the good work John.

Recently the bulletin contained an item from Katie Pekacar on gathering information about libraries' role in health. The MLA is gathering information about health and wellbeing activities undertaken by museums, libraries and archives to gain a full picture of the sector’s contribution in this area. They would like to find out which museums, libraries and archives have health and wellbeing projects or programmes at present and any information the sector has collected about their impact. This information will inform the MLA’s future policy and best practice guidance for the sector on health and wellbeing activities. If you would like to share information about health and/or wellbeing projects and programmes that you are involved in or know about, please contact Katie Pekacar, Policy Advisor at MLA at or call her on 020 7273 1405.

I was able to send Katie information about the 2007 winner of the SINTO Bob Usherwood student prize, Elizabeth Brewster and her dissertation Medicine for the Soul: bibliotherapy and the public library. I will also draw her attention to the Sheffield Libraries Hillsborough Disaster Research Guide as it contains some health related references.

How does the MLA meet its own information needs? It has an active research programme but the web site makes no mention of a MLA library to support this research. I don't want to make a cheap point. These is no need for an organisation like MLA to have its own library but it does need an information policy which covers how staff get access to the resources they need. I assume there is an agreement with local public and academic libraries to cover this. The MLA staff list has an impressive range of posts concerned with research and IT: Senior Research Manager; Head of Research and Evidence; Research Database Manager; Web Manager; ICT Manager and IT Infrastructure Consultant.* There is no mention of an Information Manager (let alone Librarian), but this may not be significant as this function is surely included in the job description of at least one of these posts :-). Anyway, the library profession is always happy to help the MLA.

*There is also a post of National Security Adviser. Clearly the MLA also helps preserves the integrity of civilisation!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Hillsborough remembered

Twenty years ago today 96 people died as a direct result of the Hillsborough disaster when Liverpool football fans were crushed to death at the Sheffield Wednesday ground.
The disaster deeply affected the people of Liverpool but Sheffield was shocked by the fact that those who had come to the city as guests should have faced such suffering. The role of the South Yorkshire Police in the events leading up to and after the disaster was also controversial and many questions remain unanswered.

The City of Sheffield will remember the event with a two minute silence at 3.06pm this afternoon. Libraries are the memory of society and their role in preserving the memory of this event is important. Libraries preserve documents such as the Taylor report into the disaster, academic articles about crowd behaviour, architects reports on the design of football stadia and archives of the organisations involved. They also collect published and private accounts from those who were affected by the events of that day. Of course libraries can only make available the information that has been released. Two government ministers will today call on the police, ambulance service and other public bodies responsible for the 1989 Hillsborough disaster to make available all documents they hold relating to the incident and its aftermath. Meredydd Hughes, the current South Yorkshire chief constable has agreed to investigate whether there are other documents relating to Hillsborough which have not been publicly disclosed.

Sheffield Libraries,Archives and Information has published a research guide on the Hillsborough Disaster. It is not a detailed account of the tragedy; it merely points the reader who wishes to carry out their own research to what is available within Sheffield Libraries and Archives. Although most of the material is freely available in the library, some of the official records, such as those from the police and the coroner, can only be accessed with their permission.

This publication, as much as the two-minute silence, is Sheffield's way of remembering this tragic event

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Twitter 2

At the beginning of April I blogged about setting up a Twitter account. Well how is it going? There is no doubt that Twitter is addictive. It works at levels 2 and 3 of Maslow's hierarchy of needs - friendship and esteem! It is also a useful professional tool if, like me, you want to keep in touch with a wide range of professional news and thinking. I am currently following 28 organisations. Some of these are professional organisations such as MLA and JISC which occasionally tweet about news and activities. CILIP does not have an official Twitter account but I am following Debbie Raven's Gazette tweets, the West Midlands CILIP Branch, Youth Libraries Group and UKEIG.

I am following several libraries including Sheffield University, the Information Commons at Sheffield University, Leeds Metropolitan University, Manchester Libraries, Leicestershire Libraries and Newcastle Libraries. They provide information about their services for their own users.

Library Web, the rolling news site for UK public libraries, is a useful feed as is the Credo feed which provides a daily quote or factoid plus the occasional news item.
I have now discovered several librarians who tweet. Some of these are a useful source of information such as Tom Roper, Neil Ford and Phil Bradley. Others are more of a personal nature.

My tweets are being followed by 34 individuals and organisations. Many of these are a direct response to my following them. Others are librarians who have discovered me through various sources. As a result of my tweet about Sheffield Libraries' LGBT history source guide I am being followed by Daily Gay which is cool but I suspect they will loose interest as I don't have a lot to say about LGBT issues.

My main concern was to develop links with local libraries and librarians as part of the SINTO community of interest but I have to admit that I don't have many links so far. The University of Sheffield has taken to Twitter with enthusiasm. As well as the library tweets mentioned above, several members of staff including Martin Lewis, head of library services, have accounts. Apart from that there are only a handful of others.

So is Twitter a useful professional tool? It can be criticized in many ways. It is too ephemeral, personal ("What are you doing?") and brief (140 characters) to allow you to say anything serious. Yet these are also its strengths. In many workplaces the casual contacts you make at the water cooler, photocopier or in the lift are often an important source of information and Twitter is a way of expanding this. At its best, the haiku of a tweet is better than the sonnet, or epic poem, of more formal communication channels.

Follow me at

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Broomhill library in the rain

"And then there's this place which, for me, is in another league altogether when it comes to instant nostalgia: Broomhill Library, Sheffield, outside which I am standing, in the rain. I gaze at it across the street and, as if by magic, I ache with longing, just as I used to in the days when a trip here was the most enjoyable thing I could possibly imagine: when books were all I wanted, when I thought of them as pieces of ripe fruit, waiting to be peeled and devoured. I have never given up being grateful for the fact that, when I became a reader, so many of these juicy things were so readily available. "

Its taken me a long time - too long - to get round to reading and blogging about Rachel Cooke's article Time to go into battle to save our world of books. Articles about public libraries tend to fall into set categories: the shush sterotype piece, the OMG like the library has computers! piece - and this is firmly in the category of the soft focus, Hovis advert, nostalga for times past article. Rachel is slightly sceptical of the plan to move the libray into a new building with wheelchair ramps, perhaps understandably so as ramps are often a substitute for, rather than a symbol of, real access. She is firmly in the Tim Coates camp that books must be central to libraries and I still feel that this ignores the important point that libraries were about information long before the book appeared and will continue to be if and when the book finally becomes extinct. However this is mere detail. We can and must make use of her central argument:
"Make no mistake, this is a crucial time. If those of us who love books, and libraries, and believe they are a vital, beautiful and cherishable part of our cultural and social heritage, take our eye off the ball now, we will regret it. We must make a fuss, and we must name and shame those who are set on destruction".

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

CDG Martin Award

Vote for Daniel Park!
If you are a CILIP CDG member you may like to vote for the Martin Award for the best article in Impact. One of the shortlisted authors is Daniel Park - chair of the Y&H CILIP Group - for an article on dealing with redundancy, which is well worth a vote.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The Darien Statement on the library

There is an old "shaggy dog" story about the Ambassadors in a particular country being phoned up and asked what they wanted for Christmas. The results were published in the newspapers the next day, with the US ambassador saying he wanted freedom and democracy for all mankind, the Russian ambassador saying he wanted peace and equality for all people and the British ambassador saying he wanted a pair of slippers and some sherry. The point of the joke is that while the other nations interpreted the question in terms of high ideals and principles the British response was in personal and practical terms.

I suspect the same is true for British librarians. If you were to ask a typical librarian (and in another context this has been summarised as "predominantly female, White-British, middle-aged and what we can describe as middle class") what libraries were all about, you would get a practical description of what libraries do. I don't think that most of us would start with "The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization".

This phrase appears at the start of the Darien Statement on the Library and Librarians, written and endorsed by John Blyberg, Kathryn Greenhill, and Cindi Trainor - three US librarians. It continues "The Library has a moral obligation to adhere to its purpose despite social, economic, environmental, or political influences. The purpose of the Library will never change".

Many of us will find this phraseology awkward and pretentious but the message is important. In Chris Batt's talk at the Library of the Future Debate he said that librarians need to build a common narrative and find new friends. We do need to be able to express ourselves with passion and vision if we are to convince others. CILIP has put together a statement about the role of libraries which uses more pragmatic phrases such as "Enable access to services and opportunities which enrich the lives of people of all ages and backgrounds". (See the Campaigning toolkit). We need to steer a course between the Scylla of "preserving the integrity of civilisation" and the Charybdis of "enriching the lives of people" which will reach out to our audience and show them that we believe passionately in what we are doing.

And at the next party when someone asks you what you do, lower your voice and say "I can't divulge any details but I help preserve the integrity of civilisation".

Monday, 6 April 2009

A new library service for Sheffield?

An extract from Bob McKee's blog

First, investment. After completion of the new Central Library in Newcastle(due to open on 7th June) and the announcement of a major investment programme for Manchester's libraries (Central Library and local community libraries),comes the announcement of plans for the new £193 million Central Library in Birmingham. It's good to see the great cities of the North and Midlands showing
the way forward, investing in library service at the heart of their civic aspirations for local people, local communities, and the whole of society.

And what about the great city of Sheffield you may ask? The Sheffield City Council Cultural Services service plan for 2009-2010 includes the following two bullet points:
  • Develop and agree a plan for the future of the Central Library
  • Deliver a modernised library service – that delivers improved and more efficient services

(Key priorities 3 and 4 of 12).

So we're getting there (copyright British Rail). There will be a presentation about the new central library at Newcastle as part of the SINTO Members' Day on 26th June.

Library of the Future Debate

The Library of the Future debate organised by JISC and Oxford University Library Service took place on 2nd April. Video clips of sessions from the debate are available.

I have just watched the presentations by Chris Batt on public libraries and Sarah Thomas, Bodley's Librarian and Director of Oxford University Library Service. Chris makes the point that librarians should be more reflective and do more practical scenario planning. Both these presentations are a good starting point for this and the debate as a whole is a valuable masterclass on environmental scanning for librarians from all sectors.

LGBT History Source Guide

Sheffield Libraries, Archives & Local Studies have been nominated for an award for "support and positive contribution to Sheffield's Lesbian and Gay Community'. This is to reflect their work with a number of partners on an LGBT History Source Guide (one of the largest such guides from a local authority archive and library service in the country), for giving talks to the Spring Out conference, the SCC LGBT Officer Group and the Sheffield PCT Officer Group and for their work in actively acquiring material to add to collections to help ensure that they reflect the diverse makeup of the city.
The award will be made at the annual 'Spring Out' LGB community event in June, which is organised by the Centre for HIV and Sexual Health and SHOUT! with the aim of providing people with the opportunity to take part in discussions and workshops which promote the health and well being of LGB communities across the Sheffield area. For more information contact Pete Evans, Archives and Local Studies Manager 203 9397.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Library services for Deaf people

I recently had a meeting with Richard Stacey and Nick Havard about how libraries are meeting the needs of the Deaf community. This discussion arose from the Deaf awareness workshops that SINTO ran. We were interested not just in making libraries accessible to d/Deaf people but also in exploring how far libraries provide for the information and cultural needs of this community. The point here is that deafness is not just a disability. Many Deaf people (especially British Sign Language users) see themselves as s linguistic and cultural minority whose needs are not recognised by mainstream society.

This is illustrated by some recent issues. There has been controversy about Deaf parents who want to have deaf children (here). Genetic screening means that deafness could be screened out, but should Deaf parents be able to screen for deafness? And what about cures for deafness such as cochlear implants or recent developments in stem cell treatment for deafness at the University of Sheffield. Is this any different to attempting to to "cure" homosexuality or Barak Obama's story about skin bleaching in "Dreams of my father"?

This is not a rhetorical question. Perhaps it is different. The point I am making is that some Deaf people do see themselves as a cultural and linguistic group and libraries should provide for them on that basis.

One issue we discussed is whether there is a category of BSL "literature" that libraries should stock or provide access to? The Sign Bytes project makes the point that:

Deaf people who use BSL as a first or preferred language however are able to
access very little information in their own language. The reason for this has
not been any sort of malice on the part of hearing society, rather it has simply
been because there is no written form of BSL (or indeed of any other sign
Sign Bytes is providing access to information in BSL but these is a limited amount of BSL literature. One example is the series of videos produced by Deaf Educate .

I have a personal interest in this. My aunt Dorothy Miles was a sign language poet and playwrite. I am very aware that libraries have many competing demands on their resources especially in the area of social inclusion but I would like to see the Deaf community and their needs given a little more attention. I am hoping to organise a seminar to discuss this with the SINTO Social Inclusion group later this summer. If you are interested please contact me.

I have also produced a list of Deaf organisations and websites.

Thursday, 2 April 2009


I have set up a Twitter account . I was reading Phil Bradley's article in CILIP Update (Gathering followers twitter in the skies. Update April 2009 p34-37) and he made it sound easy and useful! His guide at takes you through the steps of setting up an account.

Will it be useful? I see it as a part of the on-line community of interest that SINTO has developed including this blog, the web site and the wiki. I hope that Twitter users will be able to keep in touch with what SINTO is up to. But are there any Twitters out there in our regional libraryland? The University of Sheffield Library and the Information Commons both Twitter but so far I have not found any other libraries or librarians in the area that do. I am also following some other Twitters such as MLA and Debby Raven of the CILIP Gazette.

If you type Library into the Twitter search box you get about 600 hits but they are almost all US libraries. Like many Web 2.0 applications it is possible that Twitter is just a passing fad and if libraries ignore it for long enough it will go away. And yet in a way that is what modern communications are all about. If your library ignored the last fad (Facebook?), this fad and the next fad then how are you communicating?

I will try Twittering for a bit to see how it goes. Why don't you gaive it a go?