One Year In

A very overdue update on what I’ve been up to!

I’ve reached the one year mark in the PhD process and although there’s a very long way to go with a lot of hard work ahead, apparently I’m on track! My research topic’s altered slightly and become more specific, from the role of public libraries in supporting and encouraging democratic engagement, to the ways critical information literacy instruction can enable people to have political agency, which isn’t all that different in the ultimate goal of contributing to a stronger democracy, but is significantly different that I’ve got to connect the dots and make it clear that it does connect to the original proposal somehow.

So, I submitted a written report on my progress so far and where I’m going next, and yesterday I gave a presentation to my supervisors and another member of the department, who made really helpful recommendations and suggestions. It really wasn’t as terrifying or stressful as I was expecting! It was a positive experience and has re-enthused me after a bit of a difficult winter. I have a lot of work to do still, but this is where I am so far:

In terms of presenting on my work and library-related things, I’ve had some great opportunities in the last year, most of which I’ve already written about. Here’s the presentation I gave at the SHARP Conference in Dublin, and updated and gave to some Masters students in the department a couple of weeks ago:

What’s next? My fieldwork starts in April, so I’ve got to get my methodology up to scratch before then, I’d like to make more progress on my literature review and I’ve got a couple of papers to write for the LILAC and Umbrella conferences, both of which I’m really looking forward to. The LILAC paper will focus mainly on my methods/methodology and what I’m aiming towards, and the Umbrella paper is a discussion of professional issues regarding the responsibilities of library and information workers to engage with substantive, political issues in information literacy education. I’ve applied to present at another couple of conferences and I’m going to try for an ESRC internship for the summer/autumn.

Library Politics and Agenda-Setting

I don’t want to alarm anyone…but there’s an elephant in the room.

Elephant in the room

It’s a very political elephant, which is a touchy subject in libraryland, especially in the UK. So I’m mentioning the elephant. I’m going to state, that I have…and I know it might come as a surprise…some views about libraries. I believe that librarians have a crucial role to play in effecting social change, in all sectors. I think they have a role as educators in critical information literacy. I think that public libraries are vital public spaces that need to see people as citizens, not consumers. I think libraries should be accessible. These are political positions. Lots of people, I’m sure, share these views, but there isn’t much substantive debate or discussion about these issues and the barriers we face, and I think in part that’s due to the political naïvety of the library and information profession.

This naïvety is, in many ways, responsible for the giant mess we’re in. Agendas have been set and we haven’t acknowledged how political in nature they are. Librarians and information professionals don’t control the discourse around library and information issues. We haven’t made it clear what values we’re espousing, because a lot of the time we aren’t savvy enough to know. We’ve courted private companies and governments whose values directly undermine the values of librarianship, like free expression of thought, privacy, and equity of access. Many aspects of LIS seek to establish and maintain certain boundaries and espouse certain political values without consciously or explicitly acknowledging that this is what they’re doing.

Playing the Game (Badly)

The political elephant is being ignored across the board, and this is causing serious problems. Attempts have been made to measure value and express it in ways that politicians and purse-holders will understand. Different methods, such as contingent valuation and cost benefit analysis are used to try to demonstrate that services make economic sense1. Library school curricula are influenced by hegemonic forces. Professional bodies are driven by the need for paying members and are directed by the power of corporate influence from stakeholders. They are limited  by their status as charities and are therefore prevented from taking political positions, even when it’s in the interests of their members and the public they serve, to do so. Library services adopt corporate language to appeal to councils and adopt marketing techniques to mimic bookshops. It all seems fairly innocuous and after all, its aim is to protect and promote libraries, so it’s for a good cause.

But playing the game is dangerous. The way librarians refer to the value of the services they provide influences how we’re perceived by society. The values libraries promote in the way they are run and what they do can and do rub off on library users. Power dynamics and the way staff relate to users (and how we refer to people who use library services – customer? patron?) do influence people’s relationships with public services. The way councils value or fail to value public space does send a message to citizens about what’s worth paying taxes for and what’s not. The language used by local and national government to discuss public spending in the popular press does determine the set of beliefs and values that become the dominant thoughts being expressed by the media, by politicians and members of the public.

Sad game piece

The Library Profession

For a long time, there’s been a fight to establish and maintain the professional status librarianship and information work. The promise of “prestige, higher salaries, and an elite employment niche” was a compelling reason for librarianship to fight for recognition as a profession2, but professional bodies are now having a difficult time articulating their policy positions on the replacement of paid staff with volunteers (although the Society of Chief Librarians has now clearly stated that it accepts direct substitution of paid members of staff by volunteers3), and it seems like a lot of the problem stems from hazy distinctions between professional and paraprofessional staff and what counts as professional practice4. Chartership is very much centred around recruitment, becoming “more employable” and “transfer[ring] up through the ranks”5, without much thought about the politics and ethics of librarianship and information work or a clear sense of what it means to be a professional librarian. It feels as if it’s just another professional development box to tick post-qualification. This is a problem because it becomes difficult to articulate why paid, professional staff are a necessity and beneficial to democratic society, and doesn’t help to safeguard the public interest. Not all library workers are members of unions, and unions themselves are focusing on keeping libraries open, and the pay and conditions of workers. Few with loud voices are expressing the issues about the standard of service being lost and the ways this detrimentally affects our society.

Higher Education and Library School Curricula

Failure to engage with social and political issues is also evident in higher education and within departments providing Library and Information Science (LIS) education. Students find themselves under an “economic model of subservience”6, which prevents engagement with social issues:

“there is no future for young people, there is no time to talk about advancing social justice, addressing social problems, promoting critical thinking, cultivating social responsibility, or engaging non-commodified values that might challenge the neoliberal world view.”

Defining the library and information discipline as scientific is positivistic and confers non-political and value-free status upon it, which is both impossible and counter-productive. The LIS curriculum tends to shy away from social issues, leaving graduates ignorant about key political issues. Christine Pawley writes:

“…the deepening division of society between information haves and have-nots is widely discussed in the general press. Does the LIS curriculum participate in this debate, or does it rather contribute to the information apparatus’s aim of avoiding social criticism?

Where are the courses on information politics? On the production and distribution of information? On the ownership of information? On the stratification of information? Such courses do exist in some schools, but, for the most part, curricular consideration of these questions lurks in what are sometimes stigmatized as “airhead” or “philosophical” (that is, nontechnical) areas: courses in LIS foundations service to or aimed at low-status populations such as children or the elderly or taught from a feminist or multicultural perspective.

From a class perspective, this failure of LIS education to confront societal questions is itself a sign of the power of the dominant class to exercise hegemony. Traditionally, LIS studies both the institution of libraries and the broad phenomenon of information largely through pluralist and managerial lenses as questions of service delivery, technical efficiency, and managerial effectiveness. One result is a politically naive profession.” 6

Library Conferences and Events

Conferences and events organised by professional organisations and other groups often instil certain values in those who attend them, especially if they don’t think critically about their experiences and the information they’re exposed to, and aren’t conscious of the impact and influence aspects of the middle-class professional agenda:

“For example, when professional people attend conferences and publish scholarly papers, they are taking part in this ongoing process of establishing and maintaining the boundaries of middle-class conduct and values.” 7

Events such as LibraryCamp say that they aim to provide a “politically neutral arena for debate”8, but take inevitably political stances on censorship and make political choices about corporate sponsors, who have their own agendas when it comes to influencing policies and services9. It’s simply contradictory to claim to be non-political but explicitly state that an event aims to save libraries and return them to mass public use. Access to and use of public libraries is political. Wanting to keep them is political. Making a conscious effort to make the event accessible for people with disabilities is a political choice. These aims are valuable, and it’s more than just important, it’s imperative, that the inherent, unavoidable, political values being promoted are acknowledged. These are good things and we shouldn’t be scared to talk about them. We need a vocabulary to discuss the substantive issues, through the language of public discourse10. We don’t currently have it and we desperately need to develop it.

Doing this, however, makes it difficult to be seen as legitimate by those in power – you immediately face being branded as a troublemaker, a tub-thumper, or at the very least, someone who challenges the status quo and oughtn’t be listened to. It places some kind of social responsibility on you as an individual to seek to effect change, and think about the impact of the decisions you make and the messages you send through the actions you take and the things you say, and that’s hard work. Although sold as an arena to facilitate debate, it’s questionable how authentic that debate can be when most of the attendees all know each other on twitter, and the majority of them are qualified or soon to be qualified, and female. Even if there was a more mixed group of attendees, there’s the spiral of silence to contend with11, especially when there’s the strong chance that corporate sponsors (who as far as I’m concerned have had their thoughts heard quite enough, through the various avenues they already have open to them, thanks) will be running sessions, immediately creating an environment where discussion becomes led, rather than shared, by the members who have more experience in selling and influencing. When you start thinking about all that, it stops being a nice day out with friends and tea and cake. Which is all it’s meant to be, I’m sure, and that’s fine in and of itself. I do think events like this have some value, and I respect anyone who’s gone to the hard work of organising something. I don’t want to be a cake-smashing party pooper.

Smashed cake

But, we need to be conscious of the language we use and the messages we send to attendees, the library profession, and the outside world. I haven’t got a shovel big enough to clear up the mess that our elephant’s making. I don’t have a solution to get people to acknowledge it’s there or work out how to deal with it. I just know that we have to acknowledge it, and not pretend it isn’t there and that isn’t causing an almighty great stink.

———————————————————————————————–

1) Walker, C., Halpin, E., Rankin, C., and Chapman, E. (2011) “Measuring the Value of Public Libraries: The fallacy of footfall and issues as measures of the value of Public Libraries – Summary Report”. Available from: http://www.shef.ac.uk/polopoly_fs/1.199926!/file/Measuringthevalueofpubliclibraries.pdf

2) O’Connor, L. (2009) “Information literacy as professional legitimation: The quest for professional jurisdiction”. Library Review, 58 (4), pp.272-289. Available from: <http://www.emeraldinsight.com/10.1108/00242530910952828>

3) http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com/2012/08/the-scl-spells-it-out.html

4) Pawley, C. (1998) “Hegemony’s Handmaid? The Library and Information Studies Curriculum from a Class Perspective”. The Library Quarterly, 68 (2), pp.123-144. Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4309200

5) http://www.cilip.org.uk/jobs-careers/qualifications/accreditation/pages/default.aspx

6) Giroux, H. (2011) “The Politics of Ignorance: Casino Capitalism and Higher Education”. Counterpunch. Available at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/10/31/casino-capitalism-and-higher-education/

7) Pawley, C. (1998) p.132

8) Pawley, C. (1998) p.129

9) http://libcamp.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/the-co-operative-bank-grant-application.html

10) http://www.libcamp.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/librarycamp-session-proposal-15.html

11) Giroux, H. (2011)

11) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiral_of_silence

Images:

The elephant in the room CC licensed John Mallon Iphoneography on Flickr
Lost CC licensed by Robert S. Donovan on Flickr
Cake Aftermath CC licensed by jasonsisk on Flickr

Internet Access and Public Libraries

There’s been a lot of discussion on Twitter about Barking Library (run by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham) introducing annual fees for internet access:

It’s not gone down very well. The main arguments are that charging for internet access prevents those on low incomes (the people who need it the most) from accessing the service, that there’s a clear divide between the haves and have nots of Barking (wifi appears to be free for those with their own devices) and that it undermines the public library ethos and the spirit in which the People’s Network was set up.

Barking aren’t the first library to start charging for access, but from my memories of collecting information for the national Fines and Charges database, and the information I’ve been able to find online, there aren’t many that don’t at least offer an hour or so free for all users per day – in 2010, 79 per cent of library services in English Local Authorities did not charge for internet access at all and a further 12 per cent did not make any charge for the first hour (The Information Daily). I have issues with any charging for internet access after a certain time limit, so needless to say that I completely disagree with charging outright. Phil Bradley sums it up excellently, as does Leanne.

I have some other half-formed thoughts that I wanted to get down in blog form very quickly, so this isn’t by any means fully thought through, but what strikes me is that there are serious issues about equity of access to information here. By introducing a financial barrier, library services are directly preventing people from having equal access to information resources. Along the lines of Gorman’s Eight Central Values of Librarianship, I really do think that librarians and library services should be resources to level the playing field when it comes to access to electronic resources of all kinds. (As an aside, the digital divide isn’t just about economically poor vs. rich, it’s about information poverty too, which can affect anyone, and is why libraries need to offer information support and educational resources for everyone.) There are issues about ensuring that everyone has access to information in order to be able to participate fully in the democratic process (whether or not they want to or intend to is another matter, but there’s a duty to make sure that people can at least inform themselves), and issues about people who don’t have home access to the internet being able to conduct financial and governmental transactions and processes that are (or will be) online only.

This is something that needs to be taken seriously, and that libraries and local authorities should be prepared to convincingly justify if they decide to charge. Whether or not you agree that access to the internet should be a human right, it already is in several countries. The UN declaration stated that access to the internet enables “individuals, communities and peoples to achieve their full potential in promoting their sustainable development and improving their quality of life”. I’m not sure I want to live in a country that doesn’t fully endorse that view and ensure that its social policies and public resources reflect it.

LIS DREaM Workshop 3: Edinburgh

Last week I attended the last of three workshops in the LIS DREaM series, in Edinburgh (I’ve also reported on workshops one and two). The sessions were all informative, and some were of particular interest as potential research methods for my PhD.

Repertory Grids

I found the session on repertory grids particularly useful. The repertory grid (RG) is an interviewing technique that enables the researcher to elicit “both the conceptual content embodied in an individual’s mental model and the relationships which exist among these concepts” (Latta and Swigger, 1992). This is something I’m going to investigate further because a lot of the reading I’ve been doing around political behaviour and how people conceptualise politics highlight the issue that politics is a very personal topic. In addition, people’s attitudes and behaviours are not always rational or directly influenced by knowledge, and are often influenced by heuristics or rules of thumb.

I want to talk to teenagers about their attitudes towards politics and participation, and what political issues they think are important to them, rather than assuming that I know what matters to young people. In order to do that properly, and talk about issues that are actually relevant, I need to be able to identify and define those topics. The use of repertory grids as a scoping tool prior to in-depth interviews seems like a good way of doing this. Dr. Turner pointed out that using a method like this with cards and scraps of paper is a very unthreatening way of getting a lot of information out of people, and I think this will be a benefit when talking about such a personal and potentially emotionally-charged issue.

I can also use my findings to identify any possible trends and groupings of concepts when the data from the grids is turned into chart form. Dr. Turner recommended Repgrid for this, but there’s also an open source alternative. OpenRepGrid – this is an add-on to R, which is free statistical computing software. I’d never heard of R until a Researcher’s Digest session in my department a few weeks ago, and I’ve never used statistical software before, so at some point in the future I’m going to have to acquaint myself with it. I imagine bucket-loads of coffee will be required.

This week I’m reading about the use of RGs in Information Science, including the following journal articles:

  • Birdi, B. (2011). ‘Investigating fiction reader characteristics using personal construct theory’. Aslib Proceedings, 63 (2/3), pp.275-294.
  • Crudge, S.E. & Johnson, F.C. (2004). ‘Using the information seeker to elicit construct models for search engine evaluation’. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 55 (9), pp.794-806. 
  • Latta, G.F. & Swigger, K. (1992). ‘Validation of the Repertory Grid for Use in Modeling Knowledge’. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 43 (2), p.115.
  • Madigan, D. et al. (1995). ‘Repertory hypergrids for large-scale hypermedia linking’. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 43, pp.465-481.
  • McKnight, C. (2000). ‘The personal construction of information space’. Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 51 (8), pp.730-733.
  • Mengshoel, O.J. (1995). ‘A reformulation technique and tool for knowledge interchange during knowledge acquisition’. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 43, pp.177-212.
  • Oppenheim, C., Stenson, J. & Wilson, R.M.S. (2003). ‘Studies on Information as an Asset II: Repertory Grid’. Journal of Information Science, 29 (5), pp.419-432.
  • Potthoff, J.K. et al. (2000). ‘An Evaluation of Patron Perceptions of Library Space Using the Role Repertory Grid Procedure’. College and Research Libraries, 61 (3), pp.191-203.
  • Rugg, G. & McGeorge, P. (2005). ‘The sorting techniques: a tutorial paper on card sorts, picture sorts and item sorts’. Expert Systems, 22 (3), pp.94-107.
  • Whyte, G., Bytheway, A. & Edwards, C. (1997). ‘Understanding user perceptions of information systems success’. The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 6 (1), pp.35-68.

Discussions about research and practice

Much as the sessions were all interesting introductions to different research methods, I found that the conversations snuck in between talks were also of great value (and wish we’d had time for more). Along with the final session of the day – impact snakes and ladders – I found that some issues I have about the ‘state of the profession’ and current goings on are shared with others. For the final session we were split into groups and asked to answer some questions, then join with another group to share our responses, which roughly lined up with one another. My group, full-time PhD researchers, was paired with the group of public library workers.

The questions we were asked to answer were these:

  1. To what extent do you consider that it is a PhD student’s responsibility to ensure that their PhD study has impact?
  2. What strategies have members of your group developed to ensure that your PhD project is having/has impact?
  3. Are there any particular difficulties with ensuring that your project has impact when you are a PhD student?

And the public librarians were asked these:

LIS researchers would like to complete projects to support librarians in delivering their services.
a) What do researchers need to do to make this happen?
b) Are there any particular difficulties for public librarians in accessing and using LIS research? How could these be addressed?

We were asked to discuss issues of relationships between research and practice and come up with recommendations about how to improve communication and getting research into practice etc. The usual suggestions came up, including ‘continuous discourse’, ‘networking events’ and ‘communicating with each other’. This is all well and good, and I appreciate the value of events such as the LIS DREaM Project and the work that goes into them, but I think the issues we have go far deeper than putting researchers and a few interested practitioners in a room with each other. No amount of that will solve the underlying systemic issues that exist within higher levels of the profession, and stem from a lack of appreciation of the values and principles of public libraries and the point of academic research.

This isn’t something new and is an ongoing problem. A number of our ‘solutions’, ironically, were things that used to exist. And quite frankly, it’s a crime that they don’t any more. Public Library Journal, for example, was the only UK journal that published the kind of research that’s actually useful and potentially implementable by practitioners. And without consultation or notice, CILIP killed it.

We suggested publishing research that promoted improvement and innovation in library services, and demonstrated the value of libraries to society. If only there was some kind of government department that ‘got’ that kind of thing. It could maybe include related services…museums, and archives, perhaps. We could call it the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. What’s that, we had one? Oh, the coalition government got rid of it? Bummer.

A number of us also felt quite strongly that although high-quality research is being conducted in academic departments across the UK, its impact is severely limited if those in control within library services find it inconvenient to listen and respond to the results in a meaningful way. This is if researchers can even get access to library services to research within in the first place, which for various reasons can be incredibly difficult.

Thanks to Hazel and everyone involved in the workshop for another useful and thought-provoking day.

SHARP Conference, Dublin

I’m going to be speaking at the SHARP Conference in Dublin at the end of June, with Professor Claire Squires and my supervisor David McMenemy. In fact, we’re lucky enough (?) to be the very first session on the very first day of the conference. The programme is available here.

Our bit is about this:

The Fight for Libraries: 21st Century Advocacy, Austerity and Alliance

  • David McMenemy (University of Strathclyde) Losing the library faith? The public library ethos in an era of austerity
  • Lauren Smith (University of Strathclyde) Advocating for libraries in an era of cuts
  • Claire Squires (University of Stirling) Uneasy Alliances: Libraries and the UK Book Trade in the 21st Century

I’m really excited to be presenting for the first time as a PhD researcher (although what I’ll be talking about isn’t within the remit of my research and is based on my experiences and what I’ve learnt over the last couple of years as an activist/advocate/interested party) and it looks like a really varied programme with an audience who might not usually be exposed to library and information science research and goings on, which is always a good thing. I’m a bit disappointed that I’ll be missing Alistair Black’s session, which will be happening at the same time as mine, but I’m looking forward to the rest of my time there.

Here’s a bit of blurb about the conference:

The 20th Annual SHARP Conference
The Battle for Books
26-29 June 2012
Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

“In a city like Dublin, which has been home to Swift, Wilde and Joyce one
naturally thinks of ‘The Battle for Books’ in terms of censorship,
constraint and restraint. This major international conference will address
these topics but will also consider the concept of ‘the battle for books’ as
broadly as possible.

More than 180 papers will be presented at the conference. Keynote speakers
include Professor Ann Blair (Harvard), Professor Germaine Warkentin (Toronto),
Professor Nicholas Cronk (Oxford), Professor Claire Connolly (Cardiff),
Professor James Raven (Essex), and Sir Peter Stothard, editor of the TLS.

This conference will bring the leading practitioners in the field of ‘book
history’ from around the world to Dublin, a city which has recently been
designed as a UNESCO City of Literature.

If you are interested in books, and the cultural, social and economic
conditions in which books are produced and consumed, you should not miss this
conference.”

iLab

I’ve not posted in a while so I thought I’d share the presentation I gave yesterday to some members of my department here at Strathclyde now that I’m a couple of weeks away from the three month mark. It’s an introduction to my PhD topic (which has taken a bit of a different direction to the one my proposal was supposed to be going down, but that seems to be fairly standard procedure) and gives a brief outline to the problems, research questions and theories I’m considering. I’m by no means an expert in political or critical theory, so it’s all new, but I managed to justify how it’s relevant to information science in a fairly convincing way I think!

AHRC Justice Symposium

I’m going to be submitting a position paper to the AHRC Justice Symposium that’s being held at the University of Stirling on Saturday 28th April. I think it’s a really good opportunity for Computer and Information Science researchers to make contact and share ideas with researchers in  other disciplines, as well as being good practice for presenting in an academic environment, so I thought I’d share the details in case there are other Strathclyde or Stirling students who’d like to get involved.

Any Strathclyde/Stirling students wishing to participate in the event should email  graeme.t.brown@strath.ac.uk by no later than Friday 30th March for a booking form, and ensure that they provide a brief outline of the intended topic and content of the position paper to be presented.

Students and staff from Strathclyde will be able to take advantage of free transport from campus to the symposium and lunch and refreshments will be provided on the day, again free of charge.

The purpose of the event is to bring together researchers and students from Strathclyde and Stirling in intellectual debate and discussion, and to mark the establishment of the Consortium agreement that now exists between our universities.  As you may know, the Consortium has attracted significant financial support in the form of studentships from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

There will be two main elements to the symposium. In the morning, staff and students will gather to hear a keynote address from Chris Mullin, the author, journalist and former MP who served as a minister in three departments of British government and was chairman of the Home Affairs select committee. Chris Mullin’s books include three highly acclaimed volumes of diaries, “A View from the Foothills”, “Decline and Fall”, and “A Walk-On Part”, along with the novel “A Very British Coup”, which was made into an award-winning television series. His “Error of Judgement – the truth about the Birmingham Bombings” led to the correction of one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in British legal history, and was made into a drama documentary by Granada Television.

After lunch, delegates will be able to attend round-table discussions on the theme of Justice as it relates to their specific subject area, be that History, Literature, Creative Writing, Publishing Studies, Journalism, or Archives and Information Sciences.

The CIS strand of the BGP Consortium Symposium invites staff and students from Strathclyde and Stirling universities, who are working in CIS related areas, to present position papers of no more than 10 minutes on a CIS specific topic that is closely related to the overarching symposium theme of justice. Due to time constraints the number of presentations will be limited to four.

The structure of the CIS specific event is designed to break down into two broad sections. The first section will consist of the position paper presentations. This will be followed by a discussion session that relates the specific topics covered within each of the presentations to broader issues within the justice theme that are relevant to the CIS discipline.

The justice theme of the BGP Consortium symposium is particularly relevant to the CIS discipline and can be approached from multiple perspectives.  It is not the intention here to produce an exhaustive or exclusive list of topics that participants may discuss, but a range of potential topics are offered below that that may or may not be taken up by participants.

Social Justice

  • The public financing of public libraries and information services; the nature and consequences of privatisation of public libraries and information services and the consequences of specific treaties such as GATS.
  • The extent, nature and consequences of neoliberal and neoconservative policies on publicly funded information services.
  • Information poverty and the digital divide(s). This could be related to other broad concepts such as equity of access and information literacy or more specific areas such as the way individuals access healthcare information or political knowledge to engage with democratic processes (or the role information providers play in providing this information).

Censorship and bias

  • An examination of the way information was/is provided under totalitarian regimes: can social media undermine certain aspects of state sponsored censorship?
  • What are the implications of search engines censoring results and in the case of Google, closing certain AdSense accounts?
  • The extent and effects of self-censorship: what were the effects (actual or potential) of Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1998, which stated that local authorities “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality”, on library collection policies.
  • What are the effects of internet filtering software on the ability of public library users to search for information online?

Citizen Involvement

  • What impact is the ‘guerrilla librarian’ movement on social justice having and can the profession learn from it?
  • What role did social media and citizen journalism play in the Arab Spring uprisings?
  • Does unmediated content delivery on the internet constitute a fairer platform for discussion or are the traditional publishing avenues still necessary to ensure provenance and reliability?

Legislation and Privacy

  • Does Freedom of Information legislation make public bodies more accountable and improve social justice?
  • In what way has legislation such as the PATRIOT Act in the United States had an impact upon data mining and data protection?
View over Airthrey Loch, University of Stirling (cc Astacus on flickr)

Library Day in the Life: Day Five

Mostly a day of study and preparing for National Libraries Day tomorrow!

  • Went to Buchanan Street station with two CILIP/CILIPS members to have some photos taken for the Subway’s intranet and publicity, and to collect my ‘shoogle‘ bag to take round on the Glasgow Subway Librarithon tomorrow. Many thanks to Anabel for doing all the organising, I’m really excited about it!

  • Tweeted a bunch of #NLD12 and #savelibraries related stuff, and tackled my email mountain (by tackled, I mean ‘put red To Do labels on things and deleted whatever I could’…)
  • Found that some of the stuff I was reading for study was probably worth sharing so tumbled it as I went along.
  • Listened to this EP by Golau Glau (who are amazing) which they made specially for National Libraries Day.
  • Instructed Ian on how to update the Voices for the Library website.
  • Gazed in wonder at his handiwork!
  • Got an answer from the library about the EBSCO problem – OmniFile Full Text Select from Wilson isn’t and won’t be until next week. There’s a way round it though, hurrah!

I also spent a few hours with my finger splint off, which is quite a big thing for me because I ruptured a tendon six and a bit weeks ago and I didn’t know if it had healed properly. It looks like it should be fine, albeit a bit less straight than the rest of my fingers, and it’ll take a while for it to get moving again, but I’m really glad it doesn’t look like I’ll need surgery.

Dragon and Fionn spent a good hour or so outside, too – and came home – which is great because we’ve only been here for three weeks, and before we moved Fionn hadn’t been outside since he was rescued as a tiny kitten by daveyp and librarygirlknit.

Library Day in the Life: Day Four

I wish I’d taken my camera to work with me today because I met a fox, a magpie and a crow at the top of the steps down to the train station. Aw well. Imagine a scene a bit like this:

The main events of today were:

  • Being interviewed by a lecturer from a library and information studies department in Japan about my involvement in library campaigning and advocacy as part of Save Doncaster Libraries, Voices for the Library and CILIP.
  • Giggling all the way through my lunch break whilst looking at The 25 Most Awkward Cat  Sleeping Positions.
  • A meeting with my supervisor to see how I’m getting on – basically, it’s okay that I’m not really sure what approach I want to take and I have a better idea than I think about the area that I want to research. And, it’s okay to keep on reading!
  • Compiling a big reading list for the next couple of weeks.
  • Struggling to make EBSCOHost work. What’s going on, guys?
  • Publicising the fact that I’ve set up a Google Calendar for my CILIP Vice President activities (I’ve only added the lobby for libraries at Westminster so far, but there are things I’m doing that don’t have a set date yet).
  • Promising Colm that I’d put the report from last year’s Fallacy of Footfall Workshop online. Here it is!
  • Having a wander round town – I’m trying to learn my way around bit by bit (I’ve only lived here for three weeks and have been in Amsterdam, Doncaster and Leeds for some of that!) – so I managed to get lost, but I did also manage to find a rucksack that my laptop will fit in, so I’m counting that adventure as a win.
  • Learning how to use a waiter’s friend with the help of youtube videos and diagrams from my housemate.
  • Watching Channel 4 News just to watch the report about National Libraries Day.
  • Planning when my friends from Leeds can come up and visit me in Glasgow – yay!

Library Day in the Life: Day Three

Bit of a photoblog today…

Pictures (top left to bottom right): my whiteboard diagram of Giroux’s ideas about transformative libraries and radical democracy; my desk; my lunch (Scotch Broth); my dinner (red lentil, mushroom and roast pepper bake); Fionn; Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Science and Gorman’s Eight Central Values of Librarianship on the whiteboard; the view of Glasgow from my office in Livingstone Tower; Dragon.

Fionn woke me up at five o’clock when he put his claw through my lip. Thanks Fionn. That meant I slept through my alarm when I nodded back off, so I got off to a bit of a late start. Headed into the office, did some reading, responded to emails and tweets and things, some more reading, then scribbling all over a whiteboard when I got really excited about finding a critical theory that seems to have really good potential for applying to my research area, lunch, then spent the afternoon in a really interesting training session about how government policy-making processes work and how academics might be able to influence policy with their research and evidence. I was supposed to be doing some more reading this evening, but I’ve struggled to find some articles (I think EBSCO’s playing up), and cooking and playing with cats was far more appealing than faffing about with databases.