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.