CILIP Conference, Day two – Reaching people.

The theme that I have picked out from the second day of the conference is the way that libraries can reach everyone. This is specially true of public libraries. Neil MacInnes, Strategic Lead-Libraries, Galleries & Culture, Manchester City Council spoke of the work that Manchester Libraries are doing to bring information and literature to the people of Manchester. This has required quite a lot of revision of the service but they appear to have succeeded in getting more people using the libraries and perhaps significantly, more people using the items that have been held in archives for many decades.

For example, the geographic locations of the branch libraries were compared with the current centres of habitation, and it was realised that some libraries were not where the people are. This meant moving some of the services, some be co-located with other services. The Central Library, which was built in 1938, had become unloved, and so it was completely refurbished. Such effort brought in many more visitors. The overall remit is not merely getting people IN to libraries, but is also getting books OUT to people. They had a Shakespeare folio in the archives which had been seen by very few researchers. Now it has its own taxi and security staff and is taken to branch libraries where students and school children can see it. It has been viewed more times in the past few years than it has been for decades.

Work like this is so important to show that libraries are not dead archives for the intellectual only. Showing a precious object can inspire and stimulate a sense of history as well as showing off treasures to be found in ordinary libraries. Manchester is managing to shout out about their achievements. After Neil’s talk a delegate said to me “Oh, the Central Library from my city does many of these things too.” but that other city is being quiet about their achievement.  It is important these days to be Loud Librarians, to be one of the strident voices clamouring for attention and funding, and to demonstrate the impact on society and learning that libraries have.

And that brings me to the second workshop that I attended, “Loud Librarians” by Selena Killick (Open University) and Frankie Wilson (Bodleian Library, Oxford). And they are. Loud, that is. This workshop was very well attended, so many of us wanting to be loud!! Selena and Frankie had us working (always a good thing for a workshop), and considering:

  • Who were our stakeholders
  • What were the main outcomes they wanted
  • How we could record how we addressed those outcomes – not just numbers

It was a very practical session and I will certainly use their techniques, so simple, logical and effective.  They told us how we could demonstrate the ways that libraries are reaching out to people.

I then attended a series of seminars on the themes of Information Literacy and Literacy and Learning and the presentation that stood out was Dr Konstantina Martzoukou’s (Robert Gordon University) talk about trying to reach “Syrian New Scots” – how to give essential information to Syrian refugees in Scotland. The project was working with groups to find out what information they wanted and considered ways of giving them the information. The plight of the refugees was made very clear by the inclusion of a poignant video showing the city of Homs, before the current conflict and the devastation the conflict has caused.

Jason Vit of the Reading Agency outlined the current work that they are doing to engage people with reading. This included working with bus companies to put up posters on busses, and having “pop up” bookshops in certain places. They are developing “Hubs”, certain towns, where they are concentrating efforts to increase the literacy of disadvantaged communities. The Reading Agency take a down to earth and innovative approach to reaching people, wherever they are.

So, this conference consolidated my belief that libraries do get information out to people and that there are other organisations that we could work with to do that. We also have to realise that we are the vehicle by which the ordinary members of society can have objective, authoritative information, to balance the subtle persuasion of  internet giants or the noise of press and politicians. It means that we have to be very Loud Librarians shout about our services and successes instead of being quietly complacent.

 

 

Books and Cycling

 

I have a Google alert that notifies me of anything that crops up about children’s mobile libraries and bookmobiles. This is because of my doctoral research into children’s mobile libraries and their effect on literacy. I am still fascinated by the subject, but these days I have little time to really read the alerts. I collect them with some false hope that one day I will collate all the information to produce the definitive work on children’s mobile libraries. Every now and then I have a little clear out of the data that have accumulated, such as vanished links or notices saying that Y will not be visiting X today because of rain/snow/mechanical breakdown. Actually, perhaps I should keep account of the days that mobile libraries are off road and the reasons for doing so. Someone, somewhere will no doubt really want that information.

But I digress. Today was one of the clear out days, and I found a fascinating podcast about a Bicycle Bookmobile. Like me, you may have seen some posts circulating around social media of bicycle libraries in developing countries, but this time I was really surprised to find that the podcast was an interview with a university teacher who has started a service in Arcata California. When I searched further I discovered that there are many “Bikemobiles” in the US.

The interesting feature of the Arcata bicycle bookmobile is that it combines the two passions of Melanie Williams, books and bicycles – which is obvious really. She was a university teacher that took a group of students to help reconstruct some libraries in a area of the US which had had a natural disaster, and she describes how that experience changed her life. She realised how important books are to literacy. She is an educator, and now in another role is promoting children using bikes to improve their health and to give them road sense before they become drivers.

While doing this it occurred to her that a bicycle bookmobile would be a great way to help literacy and promote bikes. All the books are children’s books with the theme of bicycles. She describes and recommends some in the interview. The podcast lasts for around 20 minutes, the first half is about books and the second half deals with promoting cycling. It is really worth listening to and can be found here.

 

COUNTER

I was a bit confused when I heard to term COUNTER compliant statistics because the word COUNTER has so many meanings. Could it be to do with those round disks you have use to go up ladders and down snakes in the board game?

roman gaming counter

“Glass mosaic counter or inlay” by Roman via The Metropolitan Museum of Art is licensed under CC0 1.0

 

Statistics is about counting, so that makes some sort of sense. It could not be a shop counter then,

lego counter

“View of counter” by Takanori Hayashi is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

or a ticket counter, these are types of counter that help people to access something.

ticket counter

“Ticket Counter For Foreigner s” by Barney Moss is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

or how about a kitchen worktop, some people call those counters. They are things to facilitate tasks. In the kitchen.

butterflycounter

“Butterfly on a counter” by Helena Jacoba is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Or indeed, counter also means against, opposed to, so counter compliance must mean that it is statistics that is not compliant.

No, I reasoned, it must be something to do with counting.

clicker counter

“Counter” by Marcin Wichary is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

So after all my speculations I gave in and searched Google. I discovered that COUNTER is an acronym, as many things are these days. It stands for Counting Online Usage of NeTworked Electronic Resources. It is a standard code of practice that facilitates exchange of the usage data of e-resources. So, in plain terms, it means that when publishers count the number of views or downloads of a journal, book or database has had, they should save and organise that data in a standard format that can easily be shared with libraries that subscribe to the journals or have purchased a book. These are simple examples of a rather more sophisticated system.

According to the COUNTER Code of Practice the data are also arranged in standard reports, for example JR1 is a statistical report of all the views, downloads or attempted downloads an individual journal has had over a period of time – basically how many people have access the webpage for that journal. Similarly, BR1 is the statistical report of the number of views, downloads or attempted downloads of a book. There are a variety of other types of report as well.

Overall, COUNTER compliant statistics are a way of libraries being able to understand whether the e-resources that they have purchased or to which they subscribe are being actively used. In the day before electronically automated systems when physical books were stamped as they were borrowed, you could easily tell which were your most borrowed items. So, COUNTER is doing the same job, but better, because you could never count the number of times a book was looked at, a reference noted, a photocopy taken and returned to the shelf.

To learn more about this, visit the COUNTER project website where it explains things in more detail in a much better way.  However, I don’t think I was entirely wrong about COUNTER, it does include some of those other meanings. It counts people who are trying to read an article or book, it facilitates the work of librarians and publishers, it gives librarians access to data that they need to improve their electronic collections. It doesn’t serve cake though, which is a bit of a shame…

cake counter

“Sweet Counter” by terren in Virginia is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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.

IMAG0656

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.