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.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009


Just for fun.

The Da Vinci Code chapter 77
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