Monday, 19 December 2011

Last post

I began this blog almost 5 years and 317 posts ago. This is my last full day in the office before taking up my new job with the Arts Council, so this is my last blog. I won't go all retrospective on you. A big thank you to all my readers. I hope you found my musings on matters professional useful and/or interesting. Perhaps a new blog will arise for libraries in Yorkshire - who knows?

For now it's goodbye and all the best in the future.

Carl Clayton

Thursday, 8 December 2011


Cessation of the Sheffield Union List of Serials
Over the past year SINTO has conducted a review of SULOS in order to establish the value it offers within the context of today's enriched and developing resource discovery landscape. Opinion was sought from the wider SINTO community and this process culminated in a workshop focussing on resource discovery held in August 2011.

After the consultation process, SINTO has decided that SULOS no longer meets the community’s changing needs and that the value added by a physical union catalogue is not commensurate with the costs of maintaining and updating it.

SINTO members can now however access the new SINTO resource discovery landing page hosted by the University of Sheffield.

In particular, this provides details of serials holdings via SUNCAT, monograph information via COPAC & details of walk-in access to electronic journals.

The SINTO ILL scheme will continue to act as a cost effective means of obtaining documents from local libraries & the SYALL agreement continues to provide users with access to libraries in the region for reference & study.

For further information see the SINTO Resource Discovery guide.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Close to home

An important document of relevance to Public Libraries was published recently. It is the Equality and Human Rights Commission report; Close to home: an enquiry into older people and human rights in home care.

The report contains no mention of libraries and there is absolutely no reason why it should. It is not about libraries at all; and yet it is very relevant to the whole debate about the role and future of libraries.

Some librarians and library campaigners might even think that the report damages the case for libraries and provides ammunition for those who want to cut local authority library budgets. One argument that has been used by the leaders of local councils is that much as they would like to maintain funding for libraries they are forced to make decisions about priorities. The cost of providing support for the growing population of elderly people is a major and increasing part of the local authority budget and therefore they have no choice but to cut back on other, non-essential areas such as libraries. Libraries, they argue, are nice and may have widespread support, but the priority has to be looking after vulnerable people in the community.

This report makes it clear that there are many failing in the quality of home care for elderly people. The inquiry revealed many examples of older people’s human rights being breached, including physical or financial abuse, disregarding their privacy and dignity, failing to support them with eating or drinking, treating them as if they were invisible, and paying little attention to what they want. The inevitable and immediate conclusion is that more money should be spent on home care and that to find this extra money library budgets have to be cut. There is little doubt that many politicians, council officers and commentators will take this line.

Does this mean that librarians, and those who campaign in support of libraries, should ignore this report, or dismiss it as not relevant? I think the answer is no. We should pay attention to this report and think about what it means. For those whose job is to run public library services, or who believe in the value of libraries, we must not bury our head in the sand. This report demonstrates an important reality about the situation facing local authorities; a reality that we cannot ignore.

But I am not conceding that this report means that it is futile to fight for libraries. I believe that we need to develop library services that meet the needs of our communities and advocate for the value of libraries, and both of these can only be done with a full understanding of the reality of the situation facing local authorities. I don't think that we deserve to be listened to if we can't show that we fully appreciate the challenge facing our authority's social services department. Above all I believe that this reality strengthens our case.

By this I don't just mean that there are aspects of the library service that can benefit those receiving home care. There is a bigger and more fundamental issue.

This key message of this report is that it is essential that care services respect people's basic human rights. Councils need to take a holistic approach. It is not enough to provide care workers to wash and feed elderly people in their homes. They have to consider their needs as people and to recognize that they have basic human rights. Public authorities also have ‘positive obligations’ to promote and protect human rights. The underlying causes of bad practices are largely due to systemic problems rather than the fault of individual care workers and are caused by a failure to apply a human rights approach to home care provision. The report states;

"Whilst financial restraint is an inescapable reality, our evidence shows that some local authorities are still successfully finding innovative ways of doing things differently, rather than doing less of the same".

The report also highlights a clear need for supportive senior leadership on the central importance of quality, including respect for human rights principles such as dignity and personal autonomy, in the services commissioned. It warns that commissioning care should not be focused only on price.

I believe that this person-centred approach to decision making will highlight the value of library services as an essential and integral part of supporting the dignity and human rights of elderly people. It shows that cutting library services in order to fund social services not only does not produce a significant amount of cash but also contradicts the core goal of the local authority. Libraries are central to human rights and civilisation. You cannot have a human rights focus to care and not take account of libraries.

As I said above, this is the big message to be found in this report, but I will finish by enumerating some of the specific ways in which the public library service can contribute to the human rights of elderly people receiving care.

• Care is about quality of life. For many people reading is a key element of this.

• Isolation and loneliness. For some people reading can help reduce the sense of isolation. A visit from a home library service can be an opportunity for social contact. Getting out of the house is a major problem but if this can be overcome the local library could be a place to visit.

• Information. The report says that older people and their families need to have access to better information when making choices about care provision. The library can provide a range of information.

• The report goes on to say:

"Even when the information is available, it is often not easy to find, or easy to access. For instance, it is often online, although nearly 6 million people aged 65 and over have never used the internet: 42 per cent of those aged 65-74 and 76 per cent of people aged 75 and over. We were also told of information that is inconsistent, out of date or incorrect."

The role of the public library in overcoming the digital divide has been clearly demonstrated e.g. Brighton & Hove libraries winning the Guardian Public Service innovation & progress: transformation award for 2011.
• Support for care workers. The low pay and status of care workers is a fundamental issue that needs to be addressed directly. However the training and development of staff is important. Libraries should be an integral part of the councils' staff development programme and can contribute by developing empathy with elderly people through fiction and non fiction.

Mattie's Poem

What do you see, nursie, what do you see,

what are you thinking when you're looking at me?

A crabby old woman, not very wise,

uncertain of habit, with faraway eyes.

Who dribbles her food and makes no reply

when you say in a loud voice, "I do wish you'd try?"

Who seems not to notice the things that you do,

and forever is losing a stocking or shoe.

Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will

with bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.

Is that what you're thinking? Is that what you see?

Then open your eyes, nurse; you're not looking at me.

I'll tell you who I am as I sit here so still,

as I use at your bidding, as I eat at your will.

I'm a small child of ten with a father and mother,

brothers and sisters, who love one another.

A young girl of sixteen, with wings on her feet,

dreaming that soon now a lover she'll meet.

A bride soon at twenty-my heart gives a leap,

remembering the vows that I promised to keep.

At twenty-five now, I have young of my own

who need me to guide and a secure happy home.

A woman of thirty, my young now grown fast,

bound to each other with ties that should last.

At forty my young sons have grown and are gone,

but my man's beside me to see I don't mourn.

At fifty once more babies play round my knee,

again we know children, my loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead;

I look at the future, I shudder with dread.....

For my young are all rearing young of their own,

and I think of the years and the love that I've known.

I'm now an old woman and nature is cruel;

'tis jest to make old age look like a fool.

The body, it crumbles, grace and vigour depart,

there is now a stone where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,

and now and again my battered heart swells.

I remember the joys, I remember the pain,

and I'm loving and living life over again.

I think of the years; all too few, gone too fast,

and accept the stark fact that nothing can last.

So open your eyes, nursie, open and see,

not a crabby old woman; look closer - see ME!!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

A fable for our times.

A chief librarian is interested in commercial partnerships as a proactive and innovative way of responding to the economic challenges facing his service. One day he is contacted by a frozen food manufactures who say that they have a proposition for him, so he agrees to meet them.
A smartly dressed business man duly turns up at his office with an offer. They will provide a donation of £10,000 in return for product placement in a library book.
“What exactly do you have in mind?” asks the librarian.
“Well take Moby-Dick for example” says the businessmen. For £10,000 all you have to do is change the name of the main character to Captain Birdseye.”
“I can’t do that” says the librarian “it goes against all my professional ethics.”
“How about £20,000 plus a 10% fee for you?” offers the businessman.
“But Moby Dick is a classic – it’s part of the Western Cannon!”
“You drive a hard bargain - £50,000 plus a 20% fee”
I really don’t think I can...”
“How about we throw in a life supply of fish fingers?”
“Well, OK then, but I will have to win over my senior management team”
They shake hands on the agreement and the business man leaves.

The next day the chief librarian calls a meeting of his senior management team – professional librarians with a lifetime of service in libraries.
“I’ve got some good news and some bad news” he begins. “The good news is that Birdseye have offered us £40,000 for product placement in Moby-Dick”
“And what’s the bad news?”
“We have to lose the contract with Starbucks”

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Business critical

I recently received an e-mail from the librarian responsible for training in a local public library authority saying that although she had booked four places on our Introduction to training skills course she would probably have to change this to 2 places. She explained:

"I'm really sorry but we have a spending embargo in place now and I can only authorise £250 - was £10,000. Anything over £250 now has to be authorised by our Deputy Director - and has to be deemed business critical."

Of course this is not unusual. The cuts are beginning to bite and whatever we think about the cuts we must all agree that if savings are to be made they should be in areas that are not essential. But how does this Deputy Director decide what is "business critical". Is training staff to acquire training skills critical to the core business of a library service today? When the DD makes this decision in a rational and logical manner (which is how all decisions in Local Government are made), what evidence will they use to inform that decision?

A starting point may well be the recent report from the Future Libraries programme - Change, options and how to get there. The clue is in the title. There will be change in libraries and they need to have the ingredients for generating change. One of these ingredients is the internal capacity to support change. As the report states "Human resource support is also vital …" (p21). Obviously, training skills are a central element of this.

Then the DD could look at the Arts Council strategic document Culture, Knowledge and Understanding: great museums and libraries for everyone - paying particular attention to goal 3 Museums and libraries are sustainable, resilient and innovative and goal 4 The leadership and workforce are diverse and highly skilled. They will note the emphasis on change and innovation, and the need of libraries to adapt to this. The DD will almost certainly highlight the sentence "We will encourage skills development, collaborative working and knowledge sharing, seeking to ensure that mainstream funding responds to the training needs of museums and libraries" and may well scribble "Training skills will help achieve this" in the margin.

Finally they may observe that Training Skills are included under Generic and transferable skills in CILIP’s Body of Professional Knowledge (BPK).

Of course, all these documents are external to this local authority and so may not indicate what is "business critical" to the organisation itself. For this the DD may turn to some internal documents. The library's own document on lifelong learning quotes David Blunket as saying

“Learning is the key to prosperity - for each of us as individuals, as well as for the nation as a whole. Investment in human capital will be the foundation of success in the knowledge-based global economy of the twenty-first century.”

It goes on to say:

"Both national and local Government objectives include creating a learning society where everyone is able to learn and improve their skills via lifelong learning. Learning is at the heart of the local community and fundamental to academic, social, economic and cultural development".

The DD will of course recognise that learning is facilitated by training and instruction.

Finally the DD will turn to the vision, mission and values of their own authority displayed prominently on the office wall which proclaims one of the council's goals to be:

"Striving for Continuous Improvement. This will mean the community would receive better care and their quality of life would improve. Employees will focus on efficiency and improvement and have a can-do attitude."

The DD will know that this is not just an aspirational statement! It means that any activity that contributes to continuous improvement - such as developing staff training skills - is business critical. So the application to send four members of staff on a training skills workshop will be approved.

On the other hand the DD might just think that saving £200 is a good idea.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

YLI Music and Drama Service

Yorkshire Libraries & Information has decided in principle to close the YLI Music and Drama collection and service as it currently exists. The press release says that "The reduced demand for the service across all 12 Authorities and the consequent fall in use and income has meant that the service is no longer financially viable in its current form."

The collection, based at Wakefield, comprises over 500,000 items of music and 90,000 copies of plays, making it one of the largest collections of performing sets in the UK. It is used by individuals, schools and music & drama groups in Yorkshire and Humberside, and also by organisations and groups outside the region on a pay per use basis.

YLI has set up a review team to investigate ways in which the collection could remain available to the public from April 2012.

Making Music - the organisation that supports and champions voluntary and amateur music groups and amateur musicians - has launched a campaign to stop closure of the service, Making Music is strongly opposed to this, as it will mean the closure of one of the most important public collections of music in the country. They say "We appeal to YLI to consider ways to maintain this vital community and cultural service, and welcome the opportunity to work together to ensure its protection for the benefit of the public".

Monday, 24 October 2011

In praise of the Big Library

: has Philip Pullman got it wrong?

Few librarians could fail to be inspired by Philip Pullman's address to the Library Campaign's conference. His passionate support for libraries and librarians expressed in such his speech "Consider the context" will surely rank as a key text for the library profession and we hope for society at large. It points out that there is a context to all this talk of "Save our libraries". Saving libraries, argues Pullman, is not about saving libraries - it is about saving society.

The speech was especially welcome coming as it did shortly after publication of a comment piece in The Telegraph by John McTernan. This questioned the need for libraries in a modern society; suggesting that rather like horse troughs they had served a useful function in the past, for which we should all be grateful, but were not needed today.

But despite that - or possibly because of that - we should not take everything that Pullman said uncritically. The bit that I want to take issue with is his statement "It would be far more sensible to close the big libraries and open even more small ones" I don't want to suggest he was entirely wrong to say this but to point out that we need to examine that idea in more detail.

First, in deference to the title of the talk, we must examine the context. The full paragraph reads:

This is why Brent and the other local authorities who want to close lots of small libraries in favour of fewer much bigger ones are wrong. It's a bad policy. It would be far more sensible to close the big libraries and open even more small ones. If Kensal Rise Library is still open, if Blackbird Leys in Oxford still has a library within walking distance of the people who live there, if hundreds of other libraries all over the country are kept open and properly staffed, then readers can reach pretty well any book they want to with the help of the inter-library loan system

To some extent the line about closing big libraries is a rhetorical riposte to the plan to close small libraries. It is based on the idea that many people need convenient local access to libraries if they are going to be able to use them. Pullman is also aware (as so many commentators on libraries are not) of the interconnectedness of libraries through the Inter Library Loan system).

The point I want to make is that there should be two elements. First there has to be a good library service and this is a function of size. There has to be a range and a depth of book stock. There has to be a sufficient number of library professionals with a range of specialisms. We need to offer a full range of activities and services to meet the diverse needs of our users. The service is not the same as an individual library building. It is not even the same as a library authority. As Pullman points out individual libraries and library authorities do work together to provide a service.

The second element is how to deliver this service to the people who desire to make use of it. As Pullman makes clear, many people, especially families with young children, will be unable to use the service if local small libraries are closed. On the other hand there are also many people (and John McTernan is probably an example of this group) who are unable to use the library not because of physical access but because the quality of the provision is not what they need. If the library does not offer the full range and depth of materials and services then they are just as excluded as the young child or family who can't afford the bus fares.

Pullman's point is that the network of small libraries is an access point to the larger service and so it should be - but as professional librarians we know this is not always the case. A dozen small libraries are likely to duplicate a fairly limited range of books and even a functioning ILL system does not completely overcome this. The user will not be exposed to the full range of titles on the shelves, there will be a delay in obtaining items and in some cases the user will have to pay a charge for obtaining books from outside the library service - undermining the concept of a free public library.

Large, modern central libraries can provide an in-depth book stock, specialist information services (e.g. business, science & technology, health etc.), a wide range of literature in English and other languages, specialist journals, archives, a range of activities, professional library staff and extended opening hours seven days a week. People who want and need these services will make a special journey to access the library. We are right to be concerned about those people who find physical access is difficult but I do not believe that we are doing ourselves or our customers any favours by not having these centres of excellence. Our communities deserve excellence as well as access and it is our responsibility to deliver both.

I believe in the concept of a big library. I believe that there is a synergy in a single large library that you do not get with a network of smaller libraries. Yes, I know that in theory you can go into the small local library and find what you want on the catalogue or with the help of professional staff, but it is just not the same.

Of course, what we want is both and I genuinely believe that the benefit to a community of such a library system far exceeds the cost. However, we all know that many library managers are being faced with the reality of having to deliver a quality library services with inadequate funding. I believe that as professionals we do need to come up with a realistic way of maintaining a service in the face of unreasonable cuts and that keeping a large number of small libraries open is not of itself better than a smaller number of bigger libraries. First develop the service, then deliver it as appropriate.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Business information

JISC Open Innovation and Access to Resources (OIA2R ) project

I have been monitoring the pilot projects that were funded by the JISC Open Innovation and Access to Resources (OIA2R), funding call which is part of the Business and Community Engagement (BCE) programme.

For an introduction to the BCE programme see the video  and the BCE blog

The aim of the Access to Resources stream of OIA2R was to develop integrated business information services involving universities and other agencies. Five pilot programmes were funded to explore different approaches in different areas.

The project funding has now come to an end and the projects have reported their results. In some cases workable outcomes have been produced while in others concepts have been explored but the results have been limited. It is possible that further work will be done on these projects. I have summarised three of the most relevant projects below.

In summary, the projects have demonstrated that local projects based on co-operation between HE and FE institutions and focused on the needs of local business can produce actual and potential benefits. Local businesses do have a need to access the information and expertise held by universities. Most universities already offer business support services but there is a need for wider and deeper engagement with the business community. Information Technology and the use of Web 2.0 tools can aid this engagement but the technical issues of integrating individual institutional websites must not be underestimated. The process of how individual organisations can work together and focus on the needs of local businesses needs to be considered as much as the technology.

These projects demonstrate that that it would be worthwhile exploring initiatives in our area based on co-operation with local universities, colleges and other organisations. It would be unwise to adopt one of the existing projects as a model - instead we should explore the needs of local businesses. The Universities would be expected to lead on such a project but the initiative should come from the local authority on behalf of local businesses and support agencies.


OPEN Biz involved the pilot of an online programme to support Scottish Universities’ engagement with the wider community – namely businesses, social enterprises, charities and business advisors.

Led by the University of Edinburgh and Interface – The knowledge connection for business, the pilot project focused on the West of Scotland, working with key University partners such as the University of Strathclyde, University of the West of Scotland, Glasgow Caledonian University and University of Glasgow.

Outcomes and achievements of OPEN Biz have been:

Video case studies of 2-3 minutes hosted on YouTube-
Live blended webinars events which engaged the virtual audience through the use of moderated online chat forum- (Problem with sound at start).

• Testing easier access to research publications via a digital publishing tool.

• A free to download iPhone app with business relevant content.-

For further information go to or contact A flyer is available.

BRACKEN (Business Resource and Community Knowledge Exchange Network) project aimed to develop and optimise the knowledge, information and business support services provided by the South West Wales Vocational Support Initiative (SWWVSI) network of HE and FE institutions and regional business support agencies. The objective was to provide a one-stop-shop for business support information that would be continuously synchronised with the emerging services offer from the partner institution websites and would include general information about business support services in the region, including the support from sector-specific business support agencies, and also current opportunities for support funding.

The project also explored the Enterprise Architecture (EA) modelling methods to improve the operational effectiveness of the regional network.

A beta website has been set up but the project identified significant shortcomings in some of the partner institution business-facing websites and the information they provided about business support services. This had an effect on the ability of the information hub to trawl for information on those websites and was identified as a key area for the Bracken project to address. As a result of this analysis, each institution created a development plan for the improvement of services to be delivered through the SWWVSI network and disseminated through the institutional websites.


The ENGAGE project, led by Queens University Belfast (QUB) with partner Belfast Metropolitan College (BMC), recognises the importance of bringing together co-located private companies and higher education organisations. In the knowledge that some high profile links have been established already to individuals or private sector organisations beyond the local community (i.e. usually international and attaching kudos), the project is very focussed on encouraging and nurturing relationships between small or large local companies and complementary groups within Queens University Belfast or Belfast Metropolitan College. A useful review of the aims of the project can be found here.

Friday, 14 October 2011


I spent yesterday evening reading the judgement of Mr Justice Ouseley in the Brent hearing. Here are my comments, although I must stress that I am not offering any legal advice or guidance on this!

Brent Council's proposals for the library service were contained in a document called the Libraries Transformation Project (LTP). References below are to paragraph numbers in the judgement.

It is worth making clear that Mr Justice Ouseley was not asked for, and did not give, an opinion on the issue of whether the decision by Brent Council to close six libraries was in breach of Section 7 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 (s7), i.e. the "comprehensive and efficient library service" clause. He states:

"It is the Claimants' contention that the LTP involves a breach of s7 on its merits, regardless of the information gathered by the Council. This contest is not before me, and it will be for the Secretary of State to decide what to do under ss1 and 10 about the complaints made by the Claimants and others in that respect. Before me, their allegation is a more limited one concerning the way in which the Council obtained information and then analysed it when carrying out its assessment of needs. This, they contend, was irrational or failed to meet the necessary standards." (p92).

"… I would put it on the basis that if the Claimants can show that something has gone seriously or obviously wrong in law in the information gathering or analysing procedure, they should have their remedy in this court. Otherwise it should be left to the Secretary of State." (p 94).

Given that the Secretary of State has not responded to the complaints of the campaigners in Brent or elsewhere the focus of the argument was on the way in which the Council had gone about its assessment of the LTP. The Claimants hoped that if they could establish that this process was unlawful then the High Court would stop the Council from going ahead with the closures. They failed and the closures have happened, but in principle the Secretary of State can still consider whether the LTP is in breach of the 1964 Act.

The court considered the Complainants' case under 4 headings

1) The Council unlawfully ignored the role which community libraries and groups could play in fulfilling the s7 duties.

The FTP report proposed that by reducing the number of library buildings in the borough and concentrating resources in the remaining buildings; and by developing online and digital services, the Council would improve the quality of library provision while contributing to reduction in funding. This improved library service would, it was claimed, fully meet the requirements of s7. The Council said that it would consider bids by community groups to run private or community libraries providing that they met certain conditions, but that these would be in addition to the Council's provision and not part of the Council's statutory provision. The campaigners argued that the Council failed to consider the possibility of keeping libraries open through the use of volunteers. A key factor was that the Council's conditions for community libraries included there being no cost to the Council while the proposals that were submitted included continuing Council support. The ruling was that failure to proceed with community run libraries was not unlawful.

Some campaigners who are opposed to the use of volunteer libraries may welcome this ruling. Other local groups feel that they are being denied an opportunity to keep local libraries open. It would be a very different situation if a Council was intending to maintain community run libraries as part of its statutory requirements under s7.

2) The Council unlawfully failed to consult.

The Claimants recognised that there had been consultation but argued that way in which this was done was unfair and unlawful because it had not told the public what it needed to know about the running costs of libraries so that groups could make informed responses in support of voluntary arrangements. It was further suggested that the Council had only consulted on its own proposals rather than on a wider range of possible options. The judgement rejected both of these arguments saying that: "The Council was not obliged to consult on alternative means of achieving the same ends; there is no such general principle and such a requirement would make consultation inordinately time-consuming and complex". However it also said: "There was no evidence that the Council was unwilling to reconsider its proposals in the light of the consultation process if a strong enough case had been made". This could imply that a council that was unwilling to consider alternative scenarios could be in breach of its duty.

3) The Council unlawfully failed to assess the needs of library users.

Reference was made to the DCMS Wirral enquiry report which said that in deciding how to provide a ‘comprehensive and efficient library service’ the council must assess and take into account local needs. This does not have the force of law but is a significant document. The Claimants case was that the Council had failed to inform itself properly of the needs of the residents, and then to analyse those needs. It was at this point that the judge made the point that these issue are best considered by the Secretary of State in respect of s7 rather than in the process of a judicial review. Justice Ouseley concluded that the evidence showed that the Council had assessed users needs and that their analysis of these needs was reasonable. In this section he made the following observations:

"There is no requirement that all residents of an urban area should have access to a library within 1 mile of their homes; that is not a measure of a “comprehensive” service. Such a measure could readily have been enshrined in statute. And whatever may have been the guidance of government years ago for example in the Bourdillon report of 1962, it does not now represent the measure of a comprehensive service." (p106)

"The availability of resources is relevant to what constitutes a comprehensive and efficient service; the library service and s 7 duty are not exempt from resource issues and were not entitled in law to escape the budget reductions faced by the Council." (p107)

"The Council’s reliance on mitigation measures which included the use of the internet was criticised as falling outside the scope of s7 which focussed on “facilities for borrowing books and other material”. … In reality, a service which includes the provision of books and other materials by technology and goes beyond the loan of books or other physical items, or the provision of reading facilities on the printed page, falls within the scope of s7, which is not confined to the loan or use of physical items." (p116)

4) The Council was in breach of its public sector equality duty

The Claimants put forward a number of points relating to the Equality Act 2010. It was argued that the closure of the 6 branch libraries would result in indirect discrimination as there was differential impact on some groups, such as young people or particular ethnic groups. Justice Ouseley concluded

"... it did not put persons who shared the relevant characteristic at a disadvantage compared with those who do not. All users of the libraries to be closed have to travel further, irrespective of their protected characteristic or none. No issue of justification for indirect discrimination on race or religion therefore arose". (p139)

"Disproportion in impact may evidence indirect discrimination, and require its examination but it is not of itself proof of it." (p141)

"I do not think that a council can be said to discriminate indirectly against a group with protected characteristics when it closes a facility among the users of which that group is disproportionately represented, unless all those who share the same protected characteristic are adversely affected in their use of the facilities which are left." (p142)


The outcome of this decision was that six libraries in Brent were closed down. The case probably sets a standard against which the decision of other councils to close libraries can be judged. It is possible that other councils will not meet this standard and will have their decision overturned but generally as long as they can show a reasonable level of consultation, needs assessment and equality impact assessment they will not be judged to have acted unlawfully. Attention will now shift to the Secretary of State and whether he will respond to complaints that s7 of the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964 has been breached. It can be argued that in the long term it is better that the future of libraries is decided by a debate about the value of libraries and not by narrow legal arguments over whether a council has breached this or that piece of legislation. The library profession now faces the task of advocacy and of deciding what model of library provision best meets our current needs.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Speaking up for libraries

I have been listening to the Radio Sheffield interview with Mayor Peter Davies (Items at 0:59:24, 1:05:20 and 1:25:46.) I don't intend to comment on his plans for volunteers to run several branch libraries. What was clear was that Mayor Davies has little appreciation of the value of libraries - he regards them as a cost rather than as a benefit. He also has a very low opinion of the value of professional librarians. He says he can't understand why you need professional staff to stamp out books. His view is that running a library is a simple task that can be performed by volunteers with no training and that "things are made mysterious" by librarians.

Now I think we should all stand still and take a few deep breaths....  is that better?

So, why would the leader of a local authority take this view (and let's face it, he is not unique in his views although the style in which he expresses them is quite special). Most librarians would say that he does not understand - that he has not got the message. So why is this?

If you have studied communication theory you will know that for communication to happen you need a sender who develops and encodes the message, a channel of communication and a receiver who decodes the message. A failure of communication can result from a fault by the sender, a fault by the receiver or problems with the channel (noise). In this case one suspects that the receiver is unable or unwilling to decode and understand the message. Several reasons can be suggested for this - many of which will involve criticism of the receivers intelligence, personality or politics. Listening to the interview it is clear that Mayor Davies feels that he must find savings, has identified the library budget as a source of saving (albeit a very small percentage of the whole) and is not interested in discussing the details.

However, just because we can blame the failure of communication on the receiver does not mean that the sender has no responsibilities. The case for the library service and the role of professional staff has not been made successfully and as professionals we have to ask ourselves why this has happened. Do we have any responsibility ourselves, as the senders of the message, for this failure? Could we have done any better?

This is where advocacy skills come into the picture. Librarians are, I think, generally good at doing what they do but are not good at blowing their own trumpet - at convincing people of the value and impact of what they do. As Mayor Davies pointed out - we tend to 'make things mysterious' instead. All library services need people with advocacy skills to sell the service to their 'power people'.

In a commercial organisation, if you are good at doing what you do then you please your customers and they pay for your service. In a public service like libraries you still have to please your customers but they do not pay directly. The people who do pay are not receiving your service directly. That is why we need advocacy.

SINTO is running two workshops on advocacy. Gaining support and influence: an introduction to advocacy shows how a planned approach to advocacy can put your library in a strong position. This course is for librarians with responsibility for speaking out about the value of their service.
Measuring and communication impact: advanced advocacy takes advocacy a step further. It looks at ways of raising the profile of your organisation by making sure you demonstrate how it already plays a part in the delivery of key policy agendas.

Having advocacy skills does not guarantee success but not having these skills will probably contribute to failure.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

SINTO Training Programme

The recent spell of warm weather may not be an Indian Summer to be pedantic. (Of course, for librarians, pedantry is not an insult but rather a job description). However, it does remind us that the summer is over and winter is on its way - so it is time for the SINTO Winter 2011-2012 training programme.

SINTO was expecting problems in delivering a training programme during 2011 and 2012. We knew that training budgets were likely to be limited. Also we have been emphasising that our training programme relates to workforce development, in other words providing staff with the skills that are needed to achieve the future strategic goals of the library service. But what are those strategic goals? Continuing uncertainty about the level of future funding and the exact impact this will have on the service makes it difficult to plan ahead. Beyond that there are big questions about where library service should be going. For public libraries that is represented by the debate about the Future Libraries project. The outcome of all this is that library leaders (and yes, I am talking to you!) find it difficult to know what their library service will look like in the next few years and therefore what skills they should be providing for library staff.

SINTO's response has been to listen to its members and to provide a lead - identifying future needs and offering a programme that will meet these needs. Our Preparing for the Future programme is an integrated programme of workforce development events and activities. The goal is to strengthen the link between training outcomes and the strategic goals of the library and its parent organisation.

This is what we have to offer over the next 6 months.

Advocacy. It is probably too late to tell your decision makers how good the library service is after cuts have been proposed. Advocacy has to be 24/7 - an integral part of everything we do. Two linked workshops; Gaining support and influence: an introduction to advocacy and Measuring and communicating impact: advanced advocacy; will give staff at all levels the skills to promote the service.

Copyright. Essential for everyone working with published information. This day will be in two parts - in the morning, an introduction to copyright and in the afternoon, an update on recent developments. You can book for either or both parts. The workshop is lead by copyright expert Graham Cornish.

Training skills. The ability to provide training to small groups is a key skill for library staff. Whether it is staff training or providing instruction to library users, staff need the skills and knowledge to be effective. A two day course.

Answering enquiries. A repeat and update of the successful Enquiry desk techniques events that we have run in the past this workshop will cover the essential interaction with the enquirer - whether they are face to face or remote - and the skills needed to find the information. So much is changing in libraries but this remains a core competence for library staff.

Effective communication. No matter how good you are, if you don't communicate well you (and your organisation) will achieve nothing. Is there a secret to being a 'great communicator'? This workshop will explore communication in the work setting from both a theoretical and a practical standpoint.

Perhaps you don't know exactly where your library service will be in 5 years time but this package of skills will help the library workforce respond to the challenges they will face.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Community engagement

I recently blogged about community engagement and a course that SINTO is planning to run on this subject. I pointed out that community engagement is one of the "ingredients for change" that are listed in the recent Future libraries report. Most of the debate on this report has, understandably, focused on the "four models of reform"  but the ten ingredients for change were identified as important success factors in developing, planning and implementing change. While politicians, heads of library service and the profession and public at large are debating the pros and cons of the models, it will be job of senior library managers to look at the list of ingredients and consider how they can be embedded within their library services. It doesn't grab the headlines but it is an essential part of delivering a library service.

The response so far to the SINTO course has been 'interesting'. One library authority wants to run the course in-house for their staff as they see it as an important part of what they are trying to achieve and want as many staff as possible to attend. I have been happy to help arrange this.

Apart from that I have had only one booking. Does this mean that the topic is not relevant to most authorities? But in that case why is it relevant to two? Is it that senior library managers want to send people on the course but cannot afford it? Or is it the case that over the summer librarians are focusing on their holidays? To be fair, perhaps they are focusing on keeping the service running with reduced staffing levels as other people are on holiday!

I have talked in the past about workforce development. In theory, libraries decide what it is they want to do (e.g engage with their communities), identify the skills that they will need to achieve this and then identify the training provision that will give their staff those skills. In practice it does not always work out like that!  Perhaps the e-mails, flyers, blogs and Tweets I have sent out about this course have got lost in the clutter on people's desk, or in-boxes or brains. It happens! See Current Awareness, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the "Mark All As Read" Button by Woodsiegirl and Phil Bradley on filter failure.

I have to remain relaxed about all this. I put this course in the SINTO programme because I thought it was important for the current workforce development needs of our members. If  I am wrong then I will postpone or cancel it. But perhaps, when we get to the end of this long hot summer (as if), people will rediscover the messages under all the clutter and will book places. Let me know soon - I am taking a late break myself!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Arts Council England announces commitment to library development

[This is the text of a press release from the Arts Council England, Yorkshire]

On 5 August 2011, we signalled our commitment to the continuation of the Future Libraries programme, in partnership with the Local Government Group (LGG) and the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS).

The first phase of the Future Libraries Programme has now concluded, with the Local Government Group and MLA publishing the lessons learned on Saturday 6th August. The Arts Council will build on the achievements of this first phase and continue with the partnership approach for Future Libraries 2, a two-stage programme that will run from autumn 2011 to the end of March 2013.

The first stage of Future Libraries 2 will be delivered by the Local Government Group, and will share ideas, learning and best practice from the original programme through seminars and the development of expert guidance. The Arts Council will deliver the second stage of Future Libraries 2, which will focus on long-term goals, strengthening the sector encouraging partnerships and innovation at a local level. We will announce further details in September.

While the Arts Council will not be responsible for providing or funding library services, we will play a significant role in supporting and developing the libraries sector. We see our role as developing the cultural richness and potential of libraries. We would like to facilitate the formation of new partnerships and develop innovative approaches, to enable a stronger 21st century library service for communities across England.

Continuing discussions with the libraries sector, new in-house expertise and a national overview will enable the Arts Council to draw an accurate picture of the challenges and opportunities for libraries, and be in a unique position to help drive national cultural policy.

We will work with partners to promote reading, encouraging people of all ages to experience and enjoy it through festivals, reading challenges and groups, author events, and other initiatives. Digital technology will be harnessed, enabling many more people and communities to access and appreciate reading and create the content themselves.

This is a challenging time for libraries, as it is for many different kinds of cultural institutions across the country. Through working collaboratively with museums and arts we believe exciting opportunities will open up for libraries to build on the important role they play in our communities.

Relationship Manager, Libraries
The position of Relationship Manager, Libraries, in the Yorkshire Office is currently being advertised on our website, with a closing date of 22 August 2011. Further information can be found here:
Please feel free to disseminate details of the vacancy to any relevant networks.

Companion to Achieving Great Art for Everyone
In September the Arts Council will also publish a companion document to Achieving Great Art for Everyone, our 10 year framework for the arts, on how we will interpret our strategic goals for museums and libraries between 2012 and 2015. This will also outline the benefits and opportunities we believe exist for all our stakeholders as a result of our wider cultural role. This will build upon the publication of Estelle Morris’ review on how the Arts Council could best approach our extended remit.

We have further work to do ahead of taking on these functions and will continue to engage with you and the wider museums and libraries sector as we look to adjust the Arts Council’s goals to reflect their needs and priorities. An informal consultation on the longer term focus beyond 2015 will be launched in the autumn to ensure a wide range of views are heard about how best to reflect the long-term ambitions of all the sectors that the Arts Council now represents.

I hope that you find this information useful, please do not hesitate to contact Cluny or myself if you have any other queries.

Kind regards,

Abi Cattley
Assistant to the Regional Director
Arts Council England, Yorkshire
Direct line: 01924 486225
Fax: 01924 466522
Textphone: 01924 438 585

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Politics, pragmatism, principles.

In my recent blogs I talked about the call for librarians to be "political with a small p". But what exactly do we mean by that.
One answer can be found in a paper by Ann Curry published in Journal of Librarianship and Information Sciences 1994 (1). This paper explores the relationship between the chief librarians of public libraries and members of their local authority and was based in part on Bob Usherwood's investigation of public library politics and governance (2).
The paper shows that chief librarians were concerned that elected members might try to influence policy, especially library selection policy, because this might introduce political bias. There was particular concern about "special-interest lobbying groups" and both councillors and librarians felt that they had a better insight into the needs of the community than the other. The councillors felt that they were representing legitimate concerns of minority groups while the librarians complained that members were too ready to respond to unrepresentative pressure groups.

Many UK librarians (in contrast to Canadian librarians) deliberately avoided introducing a stock selection policy on the ground that it would have to go to a library committee and that would encourage a political debate that might not be to the benefit of the library. This sort of pragmatism was also reflected in policy on library displays. The aim of the chief librarian was to avoid conflict. "You have to be reasonably pragmatic. If a councillor says that you must do this, then it is no skin off anybody's nose to move or remove a book. There is no point in having a blazing row over something that is not important in the broader picture". Similarly "Exhibiting material which challenges council policies was considered by officers to be foolhardy and futile, like 'shooting yourself in the foot' according to one respondent." Examples of such taboo subjects included race, sexuality land development, education, taxation, labour relations, nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons. Librarians were particularly keen to avoid controversial media stories. They observed with 'cynical resignation' that "The political careers of the councillors would certainly come before any beliefs in the freedom to read".

This shows a high level of political awareness and skill in avoiding anything that might upset the elected members. The justification was that retaining the good-will and support of elected members was of more benefit to the library service in the long term than having arguments over individual matters of principle.

That was 1994 and seventeen years is a long time in politics. Much has changed including I suspect a distancing of councillors from any involvement in the details of library policy. The community is more empowered and I think would be less tolerant of councillors deciding what books to buy or display. On the other hand pressure groups might want to have a direct say over library policy, so the librarian is faced with a similar need to be pragmatic and avoid controversy.

But is this all that we mean by being political? For some the term means awareness of and involvement in public policy debate. An example of this is social exclusion. The report Open to All? The Public Library and Social Exclusion (3) contains statements such as "Public libraries, as institutions of the capitalist state, are thus configured like many other agencies, in favour of the middle class, who consume public goods to a disproportionate extent". This is a long way from a desire not to upset elected members. The report draws attention to the accelerating problem of exclusion in the United Kingdom, and the widening gap between rich and poor. "This is of concern to the Government because it has implications for both the economy and for social stability".

No one, least of all the authors of this report, would suggest that investing in libraries and promoting social inclusion through libraries could, of itself, prevent a breakdown of social stability. Libraries are a part, and a very small part, of any solution. But they are a part. As I have said before, the Darien statement that "the purpose of the library is to preserve the integrity of civilisation" is overblown and probably pretentious. But there is currently a debate on how we can preserve the integrity of civilisation. Some look to water cannons, plastic bullets and more police on the streets. Others are looking at underlying causes. Libraries are not the answer but they definitely have a part to play in giving individuals and communities some hope of a better future. As Bob Usherwood points out we must not allow councils to play off one part of public service against another. I'm sure that some will say that we can't afford to spend money on public libraries when we have to tackle the real problem of disaffected youth and a 'sick' society, but they are wrong. We should argue for the role of libraries in a political context.

So we have two concepts of what being political means. Heads of service have to work within the system and be pragmatic. They cannot damage the service as a whole for the sake of every 'principle' that comes along. Perhaps this is a function of age and experience. To paraphrase - if a librarian is not an idealist at twenty they have no heart, if a librarian is not a pragmatist at forty they have no brain.

But there is a principle at the core of what we do and we should understand what that is, explain it to our 'Power people' and seek to defend it. Without that core of principle the profession is an empty husk and does not deserve respect. We have to decide for ourselves on the right balance between pragmatism and idealism - and that choice is a political act.

1.Curry, Ann. The chief officer / councillor relationship in British Public Libraries. JLIS 1994 26:211
2. Usherwood, Bob. Public library politics: the role of the elected member: Library Association Publishing, 1993.
3. Open to All? The Public Library and Social Exclusion. Resource: The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries, 2000

Monday, 8 August 2011

Communities - empowered or engaged

What is the difference between community engagement and community empowerment? A good basic explanation is given by the Local Government Group. Community engagement is about talking and listening to local groups. The Group suggests that "Residents can be sceptical about consultation. They often believe that it is a phoney 'box ticking' process and that the council had already decided what it wants to do". Perhaps this is a result of consultation on the lines of "Which branch library would you like us to close?" or "Should we shut the library on Monday or Friday?"

Community empowerment  is defined as the outcome of engagement. "Power, influence and responsibility is shifted away from existing centres of power and into the hands of communities and individual citizens".

Both terms are used in the report Future libraries: change, options and how to get there. Learning from the Future Libraries Programme Phase 1 published by the Local Government Group and MLA. "Empowering communities to do things their way" is one of the four "models of reform" presented in the report. This includes transfering library assets or management to a trust or community forum and the increased use of volunteers to run libraries. This has not proved popular with many campaigning groups such as Voices for the Library.

This is followed in the section "The ingredients for generating change" with a section on user and community engagement. This talks about the need for early engagement and the difference between engagement and consultation. "The dynamics of the [engagement] processes are entirely different and produce significantly different outcomes".

The question is has there really been widespread community engagement about libraries and has it really produced the outcome of a desire by communities for empowerment along the lines suggested in the report? Were they really demanding the transfer of library assetts and an increased use of volunteers? I suspect (and tell me if I am wrong) that most library authorities have not progressed far beyond consultation and into engagement, let alone uncovered a demand from communities to run their libraries. A quote from Hertfordshire and Shropshire councils on page 27 of the report ends "However, the engagement also highlighted the need to have 'professional' support and backing through the local authority".

Engagement is essential for public libraries. It can strengthen our case on the value of libraries. It can teach us important lessons about how we should deliver services. It might make us face up to an uncomfortable truth that communities would prefer community run libraries using volunteers to no library service at all. If that is the case we need to do some serious thinking about how we deliver that within the context of a professional library service.

True engagement with a community is not easy. It requires more than good intentions. SINTO is offering a training programme on Achieving Community Engagement through Action Learning. It takes an innovative approach to the subject which may be challenging but which I believe is worthwhile. So far no one has signed up to this. This event is not 'about' training. It is 'about' the future of libraries - change, options and how to get there. Public libraries need to engage with their own future as well as engage with their communities. They need to empower themselves as much as empower their communities.
[At the time of writing I could not find a working link to the Future libraries report. I will review this later.]
Link now added.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Library leadership

There has been a running theme in my recent blogs, and the SINTO AGM & Members' Day, about Library Leadership and the question of whether librarians should be 'political'. Both terms need to be defined. Library leaders can either mean the senior professional librarians who manage the service or the elected members and senior officers who have ultimate responsibility and control of finances. In this context we are talking about the professional leaders.

Politics also needs to be defined. It can mean the broad view a person has about how society should be organised and governed e.g. "If a man is not a socialist in his youth, he has no heart. If he is not a conservative by the time he is 30 he has no head". However it can be used in the phrase 'playing politics' to mean the horse-trading, wheeler-dealing, and compromise that takes place in order to reach a decision.

On the whole I define politics as the art of the achievable. To achieve the goal of providing a good library service you have to engage with the decision making process in your organisation. There is no point in assuming that the Power people will automatically know what you are doing or appreciate the value of your service. They are faced with many conflicting demands and their goal is to make choices that in their eyes generate the greatest benefits for the smallest cost. They are subject to all sorts of pressures and most of those pressures will direct resources away from the library. Library leaders need to be inside the chamber where the decisions are being made and they need to understand what motivates the decision makers. (One is reminded of the observation that Michael Heseltine was able to find the clitoris of the Tory party!).

That is never easy! There are formal channels of input to the decision making process but there are also I suspect informal channels. In the good old days Chief Librarians probably influenced decision makers by being members of "the club" - in some cases, literally, of the golf club or even, I suspect, the local Masonic Lodge. Today it is in theory all above board and professional but I suspect that library leaders find themselves on the fringes of the real decision making process. However, we must seek out, recognise and seize upon any opportunity we can. We must have the appropriate performance and impact indicators at our fingertips. We must have our "elevator pitches" ready and waiting - and recognise that it could be worthwhile riding the elevator up and down all day waiting for the opportunity! We must collect the stories that will appeal directly to the hearts of the most dedicated bean-counter. We must have a clear policy for advocacy and the confidence to put it into practice.

I have discussed the ethical issues about library staff campaigning against cuts elsewhere. Library leaders need to bear this in mind but they do have a right, indeed an obligation, to make a strong case for libraries.

SINTO is running workshops to help librarians make this case. Two workshops on advocacy will give you the basic and advanced skills for raising the profile of your library. The workshop on community engagement will help root your service in the needs of your community which in turn greatly strengthens your hand when dealing with the decision makers. Leaders, as much as those they lead, need to develop their knowledge and skills. The SINTO training programme will help you achieve this.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Trust me. I'm a librarian.

Today I am featuring a guest blogger - Prof Bob Usherwood. Bob has been chair of SINTO for the past 9 years and has helped us to be an effective organisation with a firm focus on professionalism. This blog is based on his summing up the presentations at the SINTO Members' Day last week which I have transcribed so it is not in the polished style of writing that Bob usually employs. Bob, in common with many library professionals, is not a blogger or Tweeter but it behoves (lovely word that) those of us who do inhabit the blogosphere to remember that challenging and radical ideas can exist elsewhere.

Bob's Blog!
I would like to pick up on some of the themes in today's presentations.
First of all the idea that librarians are political. Some of us have been saying this for a number of years and one of my heroes, E A Savage (1942), wrote a book about the librarian and his committee in which he examined this relationship. Two recent books; Libraries and Social Justice by Pateman and Vincent (2010) and the Holts (2010) in the US also stress the importance of politics to libraries. We need to grasp and learn about the importance of lobbying, how to get on with politicians and so forth.

Another major theme was how we evaluate and demonstrate the value and impact of libraries. This goes back to the debate about qualitative and quantitative research and the fact that politicians tend to look only at the numbers of bums on seats or book issues. As Einstein said "Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted".

Then there is the whole idea of the role of print in the digital age. Among the older generation 25% do not have access to computers.

One thing that came through but was not stated, and annoys me, is how politicians these days are trying to set library services against other public services. I remember the Mayor of Doncaster and the Council Leader in Oxfordshire saying "Well I hope those people who are protesting against library cuts will talk about the old people who won't be served; or the young people who won't be served; or people with dementia." I only wish they had seen the kind of thing that Carla and Becky have done on services to the homeless and dementia patients to show that library services are an integral part of such services. It is wrong to pitch one part of local government services against another.

The whole idea of professional leadership has come up in different ways. Leadership from CILIP; the relationship between librarians and elected members. I think it was Becky who mentioned the importance of trust and that is something we should sell harder. I remember when I was doing some work on library public relations a colleague in a marketing agency said "trust is marketing's magic ingredient". At a time when the Murdoch's of this world are polluting the information area, trust is one thing that libraries can demonstrate.

Holt, Leslie E & Holt. Glen E. (2010) Public Library Services for the Poor: Doing All We Can. Chicago: American Library Association 158pp £45. 50 ISBN 978-0-8389-1050-4.

Pateman, John and Vincent, John (2010) Public Libraries and Social Justice
Farnham: Ashgate 199pp £40 ISBN 978-0-7546-7714-7

Savage, Ernest A, (1942) The Librarian and his Committee London Grafton

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Resource discovery in the SINTO area

SINTO is holding a meeting to discuss local resource discovery on the 15th August.
A definition of resource delivery is the location and retrieval of specific information for library users from a network of collections. In many ways it is the same thing as cataloguing but it is applied to finding items from a number of collections rather than in a single library.
Today the term is generally used for finding information on the World Wide Web but in this meeting we will be looking at local resource discovery - how we can find books and journal articles for our users within the SINTO area. However we cannot ignore the fact that much information is available in electronic form via the Internet.

When looking for something the first step is to check our own library catalogues to see if we have the item in stock. If it is not available we need to explore resources outside our own library. Either we can locate the item and bring it into the library for the user or we can send the user to another library where they can use it.
This is what SINTO was originally set up to do. The scheme has grown and developed since then but the world of information has also changed. The time has come not just to review what we do but to ask why we are doing the things we do.

There are two paths to resource discovery in the SINTO area:
• Inter-library loan scheme. SINTO members can sign up to the local ILL scheme and agree to lend books and supply copies of articles to other members free of charge (except to cover direct costs).
• South Yorkshire Access to Libraries for Learning scheme (SYALL). SYALL members agree to allow the public access to their libraries for reference and study.

SINTO provides various tools to help with local resource discovery:
• The SINTO Directories. The SINTO ILL Directory provides contact details for ILL staff in all SINTO member libraries that take part in the ILL scheme. It also provides details of the online catalogues for libraries in the scheme.
• Learners' Guide to Libraries in South Yorkshire. This annual publication gives contact details for all libraries participating in the SYALL scheme
• Libraryfinder website. This is the online guide to libraries participating in the SYALL scheme. It can be searched by region, organisation and by broad subject headings.
• Sheffield Union List of Serials (SULOS). Many SINTO members list their periodical holdings on the periodicals catalogue of the University of Sheffield. A search of this catalogue will give locations not only for the University of Sheffield's libraries but of other libraries in the region.

Questions for the meeting.
1. What is the need for local resource discovery?
a. Do users still expect libraries to provide them with specific books and journal articles?
b. Is this still part of what your library service offers to its users?
2. What alternatives are there to local resource discovery?
a. Everything is available on the Internet - isn't it?
b. The British Library can provide any item - but what about costs?
c. There are other schemes such as the Unity System.
3. How useful is the current system of local resource discovery?
a. Is SULOS up to date?
b. Are library staff aware of the SINTO tools and do they use them?
c. Does the local ILL system work? Does it deliver access to items in a timely manner?
4. Are there alternative ways of providing a local document discovery service?
a. E.g. Instead of a network could requests be sent to a central hub which then passes them on to other libraries?
5. How should a local document discovery scheme be marketed?
a. I.e. how should the product be developed to meet customer needs and promoted?

The discussion will take place in a relaxed World Café format. If you are interested in attending please contact me

Thursday, 28 July 2011

SINTO Members' Day

We had a very successful AGM and Members' Day yesterday. Papers from the AGM will be circulated soon. I will also circulate a report on the presentations at the Members' Day including Ronan O'Beirne's paper on From Lending to Learning, the presentation by the two SINTO Bob Usherwood prizewinners on reminiscence work and outreach to homeless people and my reports on the Measuing the Impact of Public Libraries workshop and the Arts Council round table.

The Power Point presentations are available on Slideshare.

Here is short version of Ronan's paper.
From Lending to Learning: the development and extension of public libraries.
Libraries offer a range of services that have evolved in a haphazard way. This is not to say that there is poor quality of service, simply a lack of consistent strategy. The question is "Who looks after public library services in this country?" Is it central government, regional bodies, local government or quangos, and is it all held together by the short term thinking of hands-off politicians and civil servants?

There is a conflict between the professional role of librarians and their role as managers within the local authority structure. Many senior library managers are limited to a planning and overseeing role. Leadership qualities are not required and may not exist. Examples of leadership skills would include motivating staff in difficult times and convincing elected members of the relevance of library services to the community. There is a schism between national government policy for public libraries and local authority provision with library leaders caught in the middle. Library leadership is often reduced to an exercise of dismantling a service piece by piece in a way that delivers savings yet maintains the appearance of an acceptable library service. It is rare to find a library service that is led by a professional librarian and not by the local authority bureaucracy.

Informal learning
This is a very powerful concept. People use libraries to improve themselves and achieve self fulfilment through self-directed learning. The library provides a body of knowledge arranged so as to be accessible. Our focus should be on the content of the book - the information and learning they contain - and not on the physical books. We have not capitalised on this enough. We should consider the architecture of learning space in the community unifying academic and public libraries. In Bradford Public Libraries Ronan developed engagement with learning both within and outside the library. Many people trust the neutrality of libraries where they don't trust educational organisations. The current Big Society agenda means there is a need for a revival of the Community Librarianship approach of the 1970s and 80s.

Information literacy.

This is an important concept that has not been fully recognised in public libraries. The implementation of the People's Network was very successful but the training was based on the European Computer Driving Licence and this was too shallow. On the whole users were not interested in word processing and spreadsheets but in using the Internet for information and communication. front line staff weren't trained in this. In Bradford Ronan developed the Pop-i project using online virtual learning to train public library staff in information literacy. It increased job satisfaction by enabling them to help library users. An attempt was made to involve MLA in distributing the package to all public libraries but they were not interested.

In the UK the information literacy agenda is biased towards the needs of academic libraries with an emphasis on plagiarism. In the USA recently there was an Information Literacy Month supported by Barak Obama to help people understand the implication of the information that they are exposed to. Technology has failed to remove the barriers of social exclusion in libraries and the promise of free access for all has not been met.

Ronan finished with three key messages
1. Library leaders need to be political with a small p. This is against our own sense of being professional but we need to get inside the chambers of local authorities and say "This is what we do". The next generation of professional staff need to take this on board.

2. Learning is happening in public libraries. It is informal and hard to measure, but it happens.

3. Digital literacy is the territory of librarians and we need to move into this.