CILIP joining in with #FactsMatter

This is a quick follow-up from my previous blog. As part of the forthcoming election, CILIP is starting a campaign to “to promote the need for evidence-based decision-making as a foundation of a strong, inclusive and democratic society”.

More can be found out about it here:
https://www.cilip.org.uk/news/cilip-announces-facts-matter-campaign-2017-general-election

So, as well as anyone interested in Libraries approaching candidates personally and on the ground, so to speak, CILIP is approaching the political parties to include key aspects of the work of information professionals into their manifestos. Remember then, not simply to ask your candidate “What are YOU going to do for Libraries?” but also to TELL them what libraries do for them, and the rest of the UK, or even the world. This pincer movement could begin to make politicians realise how essential Library and Information is to a healthy, prosperous society.

Snap Election and Libraries

WeIMAG1116ll, this was a surprise, an election after only two years of a new government. I had expected in 2015 that we may have a hung parliament and there would be an election shortly after that, but not now. I was particularly interested in 2015 about the different political parties’ attitude towards libraries so in my morning walk today I was again pondering how libraries figure in the policies of the parties.

The Libraries All Party Parliamentary Group was only just re-formed in January 2017, to much announcement and comment in Library and Information circles. All Party Parliamentary Groups sound so official, but when you examine them closely, they have no real power at all. They are a group of like minded people from both the House of Lords and House of Commons, who show an interest in a particular subject, and presumably try to reflect that interest in a positive way in parliamentary proceedings. So although the purpose of the Library All Party Parliamentary Group is stated as “To promote the role of libraries in society and the economy, and examine themes in the wider information and knowledge sector” there is little indication of the way that they hope to achieve that. One would hope that as the chair of the group, Gill Furniss, is a qualified librarian, then at least the group will act as a voice for libraries.

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Looking at the make up of the group, it has 4 lords and 4 MPs from Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrats. Two of the Peers are Crossbench. As yet, they have not had chance to achieve anything, and what will happen to them after this new election? Looking through the rules of APPGs it seems as though the group can continue despite the possibility of losing some members through MPs loosing their seats. At least the lords with be still there. In theory, the membership could increase with new MPs joining. But this does not answer my original question –  What are the policies of the political parties on libraries?

Well, a swift Google search tells me that in Derbyshire the local conservative party 2017 manifesto say that they will “Protect libraries from Labour’s cuts and closure threats, recognising the important role our Library Service has in our communities”. This is response to the local government elections, and guess which party are in power in Derbyshire? The Guardian tells me that Theresa May has not yet written the 2017 election manifesto and is asking MPs what they want in there. Responses, according to the Guardian correspondent are: Brexit, Brexit, Just About Managing families, Brexit, immigration and Brexit. Not a lot about libraries in there.

In the interests of being non-partisan I have found the local Derbyshire Labour manifesto which is decidedly in favour of libraries, as they say “Derbyshire Labour recognises the community value of your local libraries which is why they have kept them all open and even invested in building new ones.” And the national party? I am not sure about them, I found the Jeremy Corbyn website, which includes policies on Energy and the Environment, Transport, NHS,  as well as the Arts, which says that “We will create a legal obligation for for local authorities to provide a comprehensive library service”

My Google search was very swift and didn’t immediately throw the Derbyshire Liberal Democrat policy at me, but did give me the Buckinghamshire Liberal Democrats website, which states that they will “transform libraries into real community hubs using the library model to develop local, community led facilities.” Is that a euphemism for making them all volunteer libraries? And what about the national Liberal Democrat policy? Tim Farron has stated “No Library closed under  Lib Dem Leadership” but he said that in 2012. Nothing about libraries is mentioned in their “Issues” pages under Education or Culture.

IMAG0326So, it seems from a quick skim of the internet that libraries are an important issue to local councils and local parties but that matter of interest has been overshadowed by other events and political issues as far as national government is concerned. Perhaps it is simply a personal issue for people in politics and not part of any particular Political Agenda.
This election does seem to be one that has come about without a well considered agenda, rather too soon for pronouncements to be made on anything that is not in the immediate attention of the populace, or press for that matter. Perhaps this is a good thing is you want libraries to be an issue, a personal and a local one. When your parliamentary candidates are on the hustings, or walking your streets looking for voters, then why not ask “What are YOU going to do for Libraries? Will you join the All Party Parliamentary Group for Libraries?” At least it will get the candidates thinking and perhaps they will start listening to the advice and research that has proved the benefit of libraries to society.

The trouble with ISBNs

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As a Librarian and shuffler around of books I have found International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN) to be really useful. Unlike what is portrayed in popular media the role of a librarian is not to stamp books and go “Shh” at people aggressively. It is our job to find things and to put things in the right order or place so that other people can find them too. I like to simplistically say that the purpose of a librarian is to sort things out into piles and that is a reasonable basic analogy of what we do. We take the things that hold knowledge, such as books, scrolls, documents, vinyl records, compact discs, digital texts, databases, e-books, anything and we make them “discoverable” by arranging them in ways that are  easy to find. So books can be sorted out into the type of knowledge that they contain, such as History, Geography, Religion, Science and so on. There are many ways that things can be sorted, which is why there are many classification systems – Dewey Decimal, Library of Congress, for example. A book is assigned a particular classification number according to the knowledge that it holds, its content, so there can be many books attributed to the same number. Of course the titles and authors are different.

So, what if you want to find a particular book? This is where ISBN numbers come in handy. The number is an official International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard  which was introduced by the book trade in 1970 to identify one publication or edition of a publication published by one specific publisher in one specific format. It was set up to allow automated machine reading of books, or “book like items”, such as maps. The thirteen digit number is made up from smaller number groups that have been mathematically calculated to represent different elements. Let’s take one of the numbers from the books in the photograph above.

isbn-explained

The number above shows that it is an ISBN (preface), it was published in the UK  (geographic element), it was published by Ladybird Books (publisher or imprint) and it is this particular book (edition). In fact it is a hardback book titled The Shed. The machine readable part of the ISBN is the bar code, which can be scanned by a supplier, bookshop staff or library staff to identify that particular publication. ISBNs are issued through national agencies and held on their databases.  This means that if you know that you want to buy a copy of the Ladybird Book of the Shed and you have its ISBN number you can type that in to Amazon or a library catalogue you can find out where to buy or borrow it.

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So each ISBN number is a way of identifying that a printed, hardback copy of the title “The Shed” written by J.A.Hazeley and J.P.Morris was published by Ladybird Books Ltd, Loughborough in 2015. If the publisher decides to sell a paperback or e-book version, or the author wants to update or correct the words or change the illustrations in a second edition, then each one would have a different number in that edition element. Great, perfect for identification – by a machine.

Just imagine that you are a  librarian you only want one copy of The Shed and you don’t care whether it is hardback or paperback, or you are trying to make space on your selves and only want an e-book and all you have is a long list of numbers and you can’t work out which is the e-version, which the paper back and which is the one with different pictures. You see, the “edition ” part of the numbers is a unique grouping just for that instance of publication. It is not a code that means e-book, or hardback, or third edition. This is the problem with ISBN, they are just too unique sometimes. What is needed is an identifier for the intellectual output of that book, what ever the format.

Now, I am not very well acquainted with these, but in searching for information for this blog post I have come across International Standard Text Code (ISTC) identifiers. This appears to be a number allocated to the textural content of something, no matter what is wrapped around the outside, metaphorically. So, perhaps these are the numbers to use at a time when any piece of text could available anywhere in any format and the variety of format choice just keeps growing.