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


What Do Public Library Workers Do?

I’ve written, with suggestions from contributors, a list of activities and tasks, some obvious and some not so obvious, that are often the responsibility of public librarians and library staff. These are all things that we know people working in public libraries are expected to do, whether or not we think they should be, and include all levels of work including some basic day to day tasks and some things that would best be done by trained and qualified members of staff. These are things that paid staff are able to do that volunteers might struggle with, need training for or be unwilling to do (for reasons like it’s against their beliefs, or simply because they’re working for nothing. I’m afraid I can’t commit to updating the list, but please feel free to keep adding ideas in the comments.

This post was originally written as a response to a comment by the (ex)Mayor of Doncaster, Peter Davies, claiming that running a library and being a librarian isn’t hard and doesn’t involve anything other than stamping books, and that anyone would find it easy to volunteer to run a library. This really isn’t the case, but there aren’t very many resources to argue the case with solid examples of reasons why we need trained and qualified staff with abilities and skills that need and deserve to be paid for.

Council leaders, the DCMS, Arts Council England and other organisations with responsibilities for public libraries in the UK don’t have a clear idea about what paid library workers do on a day-to-day basis, or if they do, they’re not telling people who are being asked to volunteer to run libraries instead of local councils. As a result, people don’t know what they’re letting themselves in for and the inevitable result of this will be that libraries close anyway, it just takes a little longer and does a different kind of damage to communities. People who are considering volunteering need to be fully informed about the tasks that might be expected of them, or at least what library staff do that make libraries successful and useful to people, beyond just lending books.

Interacting With Library Users:

  1. Suggesting a book for anyone from an 8 year old boy who never reads to a 70 year old woman who has read everything;
  2. Being unfazed by complex enquiries which could be of a sensitive nature;
  3. Understanding how to help people with computers who have zero confidence/experience and believe they can’t use them;
  4. Dealing with abusive visitors;
  5. Dealing with young people behaving badly – police have been called to library branches when young people have been climbing on bookshelves, causing problems, refusing to leave premises etc;
  6. Dealing sensitively with people who have mental health problems or learning disabilities and may be challenging to help properly;
  7. Keeping user information confidential;
  8. Huge training requirement around legal/ethical issues;
  9. Understanding the issues around safeguarding children and the elderly;
  10. Providing a safe, friendly space that welcomes everyone;
  11. Directing homeless people to the nearest shelter;
  12. Helping people with little or no English to use the library service by translating, using translation services or taking special care and attention to ensure people understand information;
  13. Collecting knives and guns;
  14. Sensitively working with people who are distressed and may have mental health issues to find out their information needs and make phone calls on their behalf if appropriate.

Helping People Find Information

  1. Information literacy i.e. teaching people how to research, study and helping people develop lifelong learning skills essential for an informed citizenship;
  2. Understanding what users need and how they go about finding it (and working out where the problems are);
  3. Teaching people how to search effectively;
  4. Helping people organise information effectively;
  5. Helping people assess which information is reliable, for example the NHS expect patients to use online sources to find out about healthcare, but a lot of information on the internet is not reliable and can misinform people;
  6. Showing people how to find information about legal issues;
  7. Helping businesses find business information;
  8. Helping people research their family history or local history;
  9. Unearthing the needed information from the mounded heaps of print and electronic, free and subscription services, efficiently and accurately;
  10. Ensuring that less easy-to-find materials are available for particular groups – community langs, LGBT, people with/ disabilities etc;
  11. Being able to interpret research requests – working out what people want when they’re not sure how to explain
  12. Providing pointers on free and paid resources;
  13. Knowing how to do proper subject searches and suggest unthought of sources of information;
  14. Signposting to a huge range of services &say what they can offer: advice/help on immigration, debt, tax, legal, benefits, housing;
  15. Providing specialist information i.e. market research/patents/EU/law/health;
  16. Helping people if the library doesn’t have what they need;
  17. Understanding the need for access and negotiating access to information that may be blocked by council filters;
  18. Subscribing to information sources such as WHICH reports to help people make informed choices before purchasing goods and services.

Helping People With Research

  1. Teaching people how to research effectively;
  2. Current awareness services, all types of research;
  3. Personal training sessions on resources;
  4. Filtering materials for relevance.

Supporting People to Use Technology

  1. Teaching people to use the internet;
  2. Helping people set up email accounts;
  3. Showing people how to use online job boards;
  4. Showing people how to use online council & government services;
  5. Teaching people to use online resources e.g. e-books, e-journals;
  6. Giving people login details for library computers and helping them when they have problems/forget passwords etc.;
  7. Providing technical support on systems and tools (i.e. loading ebooks from something like Overdrive on to a ereader);
  8. Helping people use the photocopier/printer/fax machine;
  9. Showing people how to integrate emerging technologies into their daily lives;
  10. Helping people with online council housing lists;
  11. Explaining how wifi works;
  12. Helping people structure and write CVs using word processing software and online forms;
  13. Providing IT classes.

Organising and Running Events and Activities

  1. Organising/promoting events for kids/teens/adults that promote a love of reading;
  2. Rhyme time and story time sessions, increasing childhood literacy and promoting reading;
  3. Children’s activities;
  4. Visiting authors and poets;
  5. Book festivals;
  6. Gigs (such as Get It Loud In Libraries);
  7. Helping with homework and school projects;
  8. Running and supporting book groups for children and adults which includes activities, discussions and ordering/tracking down multiple copies of books.
  9. Doing the risk assessments needed to make sure everyone is safe and secure at events;
  10. Dressing the library for events, making it look attractive and impressive (professional);
  11. Organising school visits;
  12. Providing Bag Books (stories with props) sessions for adults and children with complex needs;
  13. Running a Home Delivery Service.

Working with Schools and Organisations

  1. A working and up to date knowledge and understanding of the curriculum and the way schools function;
  2. Working with teachers to improve reading skills;
  3. Working with schools & other community groups to promote the library and showcase all it has to offer;
  4. Visiting schools, talking to parents to promoting a lifelong love of reading with parents and children;
  5. Giving talks on request from teachers on referencing and the importance of bibliographies for GCSEs/A levels;
  6. Working with U3A and other community groups to help public with online information;
  7. Working in partnership with other organisations to bid for funding to offer additional services;
  8. Working with Adult Social Care to give feedback on standards in residential homes and sheltered housing.

Managing the Library

  1. Understanding how libraries work together, dealing with interlibrary loans and the British Library;
  2. Making sure that data protection rules are being adhered to;
  3. Reporting on library use and user needs;
  4. Using statistics to identify trends and assess levels of use;
  5. Managing electronic resources;
  6. Paying invoices;
  7. Making sure that the library is getting value for money via professional management, organization and promotion of resources;
  8. Promoting and marketing the libraries, including using social media to promote the library service;
  9. Attending training and events to make sure that the library service is keeping up with developments;
  10. Dealing with legislation including reproduction and attendant copyright law: photocopying/scanning for personal use, hi-res resources for publication/TV;
  11. Maintaining and building technical solutions for users’ needs;
  12. Maintaining a safe, interesting quiet environment;
  13. Being a premises controller: be responsible for a large public bldg, know what to do when heating breaks down, roof leaks etc;
  14. Training for fire marshals etc;
  15. Reporting to local Councillors, showing how libraries meet the wider council aims;
  16. Managing budgets and staffing, liaising with those who provide the funds;
  17. Managing a ‘community toilet’ because it is the only public toilet available, often requiring library staff to be in charge of giving out a key and/or cleaning the facilities. Some libraries require staff to escort people to the staff toilets for security reasons if there is not a public toilet.
  18. Doing market research to identify and understand customer groups, in order to serve them better. (Includes doing surveys, focus groups, and larger studies.)
  19. Writing strategic plans, marketing plans, communication plans;
  20. Keeping current on new technologies so you can choose the ones to buy, implement, and maintain;
  21. Fundraising;
  22. Interacting with other professionals around the globe to share best practices, implement innovations, and move the industry forward;
  23. Building and maintaining websites, blogs, and social media presence to promote the service;
  24. Reading and writing professional articles to publicise the work of the library and library staff so that other libraries can develop too;
  25. Participating in local, regional, and national associations in order to continuously learn and teach peers;
  26. Decorating the library – displays, posters and book stands, and seasonal decorating;
  27. Rearranging furniture and shelf stacks. Preparing for refurbishment (packing up stock etc.)

Managing the Library’s Resources

  1. Ordering database and journal subscriptions;
  2. Promoting/displaying/ weeding/ordering stock;
  3. Making sure the books and other items in the library are ones that users want/need/will benefit from;
  4. Reader and community development – encouraging people to read more widely and helping communities build knowledge and skills – matching resources to people’s needs;
  5. Describing/cataloguing/arranging physical or digital material in useful ways so that people can find it;
  6. Chasing and collecting books back and enforcing fines;
  7. Matching stock held with local community group(s) needs;
  8. Dealing with stock management / complaints etc. in accordance with international agreements on intellectual freedom.

Handling Archives and Special Collections

  1. Digitisation and digital preservation, making sure information will be accessible in future;
  2. Storing and conserving media (including old/rare books);
  3. Making sure the collections are stored safely and are not damaged.

Taking Care of Other Council Services Provided Through Libraries

  1. Dealing with people paying council tax and parking fines;
  2. Giving out condoms and bin bags;
  3. Issuing firearms certificates;
  4. Selling charity Christmas cards;
  5. Selling food recycling waste bags and garden waste stickers;
  6. Issuing blue badges;
  7. Issuing over 60s bus passes;
  8. Loaning electricity monitors.

Image credit: Arne Halvorsen on Flickr

CPD23 Thing 16

I was asked to write a Thing for the CPD23 project that I’m also taking part in. I’ve reproduced it below and it was originally posted here. It’d be great to get people talking about the topic of advocacy, speaking up for the profession and getting published, so even if you’re not doing CPD23, please do blog about this one 🙂


Apologies in advance to international CPD23-ers; this is a fairly UK-centric post, but I hope that those from countries where advocacy has more of a history will be able to provide some useful thoughts and resources to the rest of us!

Advocacy and speaking up for the profession

Advocacy for libraries has probably been around for as long as libraries have, but recently it’s taken a big step-up in the UK. During These Economic Times it’s increasingly important for people working in library and information roles to be able to explain and express the value of their service – what it does that benefits users, how it can help non-users, how it can add value to the organisation it’s in, and so on, in order to serve as many people as possible, meet their needs as well as possible and crucially, to ensure that we’ve got enough of a budget to do all the things we need to do. Stakeholders need to understand exactly what it is we do and why what we do is important – they’re the ones holding the purse-strings.

Perhaps the highest profile advocacy taking place at the moment is public libraries campaigning; there’s a busy #savelibraries hashtag on twitter and organisations like Voices for the Library, CILIP, Campaign for the Book, Unison and the Women’s Institute are all fighting drastic cuts to public library services across the UK. Unfortunately it’s very hard for public library staff to campaign for their own sector without risking their jobs, so it’s very important for people outside of public libraries (and within, where possible) to shout about the role of public libraries and talk about why they’re more relevant than ever.

Annie Mauger's address to the WI by ijclark on Flickr

A lot of the advocacy for public libraries has involved activities that not all of us would be comfortable doing: banner-waving; shouting; marching on parliament; speaking to local and national politicians; giving interviews for tv, radio and newspapers; helping lawyers put together arguments for legal challenges…it’s certainly not part of any job description for a librarian I’ve come across! However, this kind of thing is far more along the lines of activism than advocacy, and shouldn’t put people off getting involved with advocacy. If promoting/advocating for your own service isn’t in job descriptions yet, it a) blinking well should be and b) probably will be soon…! CILIP have put together some advocacy resources for different sectors including special library and information services, schools and further education. There’s also a campaigning toolkit on their website. The American Library Association has absolutely tons of advocacy resources that I recommend having a scout around. Some fantastic advocacy came out of the LIS New Professionals Network Advocacy Challenge including jigaws, knitting patterns, and the That’s Not Online! Project. It’d be great to see more of that kind of thing. The Lib Code is an advocacy campaign from the Philippines I stumbled across on Tumblr when I was looking for images for this post – they’ve only very recently had a soft launch, and I think it’ll be worth keeping an eye on what they’re doing.

The Lib Code [2011] from UP LISSA on Vimeo.

Getting published

In addition to all the skills you pick up when engaging in advocacy (public speaking, constructing arguments, communicating with different stakeholders, using social media effectively, designing online and print materials etc.), there is the opportunity to write and get published. Keeping a blog about your work lets people know that you’re active and people will think of you if they need information, or someone to write an article. For example, the posts I’ve written for the Voices site and things I’ve published on my own blog have led to requests for articles from places such as False Economy, Living Streets and Public Library Journal. It’s also worth pitching article ideas to places like The Guardian’s Comment is Free – they’re keen to hear from people who specialise in particular subjects, and have commissioned pieces by me, Ian Clark and Simon Barron when we’ve approached them. Emma Cragg and Katie Birkwood approached Guardian Careers, who published their piece on what it takes to be a 21st century librarian. Publishing within library-related publications helps to keep library and information people up to date with what’s going on, and publishing outside of library publications helps to get your message out of the accursed echo-chamber. Both can be very useful, and help to boost your skills and experience.

Library Love by justgrimes on Flickr

Things to Do

There’s plenty you can do to incorporate advocacy into your day-to-day life; the hardest part is working out how. For this Thing:

  • Consider why it’s important to advocate for the section of library and information sector that you work for or want to work in.
  • Have a think about what advocacy you’ve been involved in. Give examples so we can pool resources and inspire others to do the same. Or, give an example of some advocacy that you think has been particularly effective – library-related or otherwise.
  • If you haven’t been involved in advocacy, reflect on what your skills are (or which you want to develop), what you’re most passionate about and think about what you might be able to do.
  • If you’re passionate about public libraries and want to help – let Voices for the Library know! We’re keen to get more people involved with things like asking organisations and well-known figures for supporting statements, securing sponsorship, liaising with other campaigning bodies and representing us at events.
  • If you’ve got any potential content for That’s Not Online! let Jacqueline know.
  • Think about where advocacy fits in with professionalism – maybe comment on Johanna’s blog post about Activism, Advocacy and Professional Identity or if you can get hold of any, look at some job descriptions and identify where you think the advocacy might fit within the requirements of the roles.
  • Publication challenge! A prize for anyone who gets a piece of library advocacy published.

Umbrellas, Windows and Voices

I was given the opportunity to go to a day of the Umbrella conference thanks to sponsorship from Credo Reference for Voices for the Library. I had a fantastic time and thoroughly enjoyed the sessions, catching up with people, making new acquaintances and finally meeting people I really should have met in person before now! I found some sessions particularly valuable, most notably Christine Rooney-Browne’s talk on measuring the value of libraries (there are some really useful links that she shared on the Voices site). Some of the themes that emerged from discussions in John Pateman and John Vincent’s session about the Big Society, social justice and public libraries were thought-provoking, such as the concept of ’empowerment’ from above, accountability, accessibility and engaging core, passive and non-users. My focus was inevitably on public libraries, with my Voices hat on, but I also found the talk by David Hunter, the Strategy and Performance Manager at the National Library of Scotland very interesting too. He discussed the bibliometric evaluation method that the NLS has been experimenting with, to try and discern the ways in which library users benefit from the library’s resources. There’s much work to be done, but I’m excited about its potential.

So much of what Gerald Leitner, EBLIDA President and Secretary General of the Austrian Library Association, the keynote speaker on Tuesday morning, had to say about the need for library and information professionals to take control of emerging digital copyright issues and negotiate with publishers made a lot of sense. I agree with his assertion that now is the time for LIS professionals to work together, cross-sector and internationally, to develop a unified library policy. Libraries provide access to culture, resources for lifelong learning and methods to counteract the most demoralising aspects of current economic and social crises. Gerald pointed out that the problem of legislators not understanding the value of library and information services and their lack of understanding about the difference between print and electronic copyright issues is not just a UK issue, it’s Europe-(if not world)wide. This needs to be addressed and it’s important for librarians to set it high on policymakers’ agendas. An issue he raised that was particularly relevant to my research interests was that a high proportion of children and young people in Europe are illiterate, which means that they can no longer be reached with written information. They are therefore more likely to become (or continue to be) marginalised and unengaged and vulnerable to radicalisation. This is something that libraries are in a key position to tackle.

The focus of the conference this year was on six themes, (skills and professionalism, promotion and advocacy, technologies and access, libraries in the Big Society, digital inclusion and social change, tools and techniques) the majority of which are relevant to the advocacy, campaigning and media work that I do. Tomorrow at the Windows on the World event at the West Yorkshire Playhouse I’ll be talking about the risk to UK public libraries, current legal challenges, what councils are doing in order to implement the cuts imposed on them and the implications these changes have in relation to access, universality, digital inclusion, education and social change.

It was lovely to meet so many people at the conference who knew about Voices for the Library, what we’re doing and why it’s not just important for the public library sector, but for the whole profession. I’m so grateful for the support that we have from so many people within the profession as well as members of the public, authors and other campaign groups. As Ian’s mentioned, we’d really like to get some more contributions from people, whether they’re working in libraries or just using them, to spread the message about the great work that public libraries do. It’s always been one of our key aims, but with all the campaigning against things that needs doing it’s hard to keep up the advocacy message for things. Please write to us at with anything you’d like to share.

On Cliques


Caveat secunda: I don’t consider myself to belong to a clique. Heck, I haven’t even read the LIS NPN forum post about all this.

As part of my CPD23 stuff, I mentioned the fact that I tend to lurk around blogs rather than commenting on them, a bad habit I’ve once again found myself guilty of. As I mentioned in my reasons for not tending to comment, it’s usually because I’m not interested enough, don’t have anything insightful to say or am Too Darned Angry to say anything sensible.

The reason I haven’t commented on blogs about this so far is definitely within the latter category, but I feel something of a duty to write about it because Rachel’s post on the topic is largely based on things I said, and the term I believe I coined (correct me if I’m wrong), much to my shame – #cliquegate – now seems to be the hashtag du jour. I have too much to say for it to be a comment on her blog – there’s nothing I like less than an essay-length comment – so I hope she’ll forgive me for putting it here instead.

Yes, yes, I do use old twitter. No, I am not sorry.

So. Here’s my two-penneth’s worth, for what it’s worth.

Over the last couple of days a few people have written about Rachel’s findings for her New Professionals Conference paper that one respondent to her survey (out of 35 respondents) said they do not “identify with the current clique”.

My first concern here is that the survey was about ‘non-new professionals’ and how they perceive ‘new professionals’. Not about the online librarian community, not about the twitter librarian community, not about the blogging librarian community, not even about the LIS New Professionals Network librarian community. However, it seems to have been automatically assumed that this one respondent meant the entire online community of new professional librarians. I find this in itself bothersome for a couple of reasons:

1) They never mentioned the internet (did they?) so I think worrying about an online community might be worrying our little heads over something that isn’t an issue, not even for one person in the entire profession.

2) (Even if they did specifically mean the online new professional community) There are literally, like, a gazillion new professional librarians on the internet. Seriously. The internet, I don’t know if you’ve heard, is kind of big. And librarians, I don’t know if you know, are down with that kind of thing, so they all kind of have a go on it, all over the shop. They’re everywhere. For my reasoning here I shall now refer to my usual recourse in all matters rhetorical, the Oxford English Dictionary:

clique, n.

1. A small and exclusive party or set, a narrow coterie or circle: a term of reproach or contempt, applied generally to such as are considered to associate for unworthy or selfish ends, or to small and select bodies who arrogate supreme authority in matters of social status, literature, etc.


“Small.” “Narrow coterie or circle.” Not huge great whopping number of people in the same profession who happen to use a wide range of social networking tools to keep in touch with fellow professionals around the world.

My second concern is a small but important one. Cliques are “exclusive”. New professionals aren’t. Except for that bit where someone labelled everyone who’s been in the profession for less than five years as a ‘new professional’. Which I hate. I didn’t make it up. Who did? Shoot them. Anyway, it’s not the fault of some poor LIS graduate that they’ve been termed a new professional and are thereby automatically part of some sort of ‘set’ that they might not even want to belong to or identify with.

My third concern is about the aforementioned identification. What Rachel’s respondent said was that they don’t “identify” with a group. That’s surely ok, right? Not everybody has everything in common with everyone. I’m aware of a lot of groups in my day to day life that I don’t identify with. It doesn’t mean I don’t accept them as valid and valuable groups. It just means that I, personally, don’t see a need and/or don’t have a desire to be involved. It doesn’t mean I want a cuddle and an invitation to become vegan/existentialist/join the LGBTQ community. I demand the right to not identify! Rather than the respondent complaining about a “clique that they cannot infiltrate” as Rachel interpreted this, I’d suggest that maybe they just don’t want to. And even if this person kind of does want to (I don’t know), it’s not to say that everyone who doesn’t consider themselves involved wants to.

Fourth, the term ‘clique’ is one of “reproach or contempt”, i.e. it’s something applied to a group by an external body in order to make out that there’s a degree of disapproval. To that I say: “I don’t need your approval!” I made a flippant comment on twitter about my imagined reaction to being accused of being in a clique. It involved 1) telling the person they’re an idiot 2) flicking them the bird and 3) bitching about my peers so how can I even be in a clique anyway. I guess this paragraph is 1) and 2). This entire blog post appears to be 3). Whoops.

Fifth, I feel one of my arguments has been misrepresented. Rachel said “The argument that there is no room in the profession for someone who lacks confidence and feels unable to get involved has been made”. If it wasn’t just me who said something along these lines, then hurray. If it was, then that wasn’t what I said. What I said was “Mostly I am of the “they need to man up” school of playground politics” (call me a cow, but know this: I certainly wasn’t ever one of the cool kids and it didn’t do me any harm to not belong) and “This profession no longer belongs to the meek and mild”. I stand by that. I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but the profession is kind of falling in around our ears in many ways. This ain’t no time for navel-gazing. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dusty. Besides, we’ve got too many LIS graduates and not enough jobs. It’s a dog eat dog world, guys… (ooooh that one’s going to get me into trouble…)

Sixth is something that’s hit a nerve, I guess. This one’s about what the heck this clique/these cliques might be and who’s in them. I covered the fact that it’s spectacularly ridiculous to suggest that all librarians with any kind of internet presence are in a clique by virtue of sheer scale up in my first issue. All those hours ago… But also, Steve, Rachel’s boyfriend (that’s a clique in itself right? I think we should all demand to be invited in 😉 ) blogged about the topic too. I happen to know them both personally – I did my graduate traineeship alongside Rachel and did my MA with them both. If you’re screaming “CLIQUE!” right now, I’ve got something in my pocket for you. Aherm. So. Yes, I know Stevelin. He’s a lovely chap. And I was sad to see that he used #UKpling as an example of something that is in its nature “exclusive”. For those not in the know (there is irony dripping from my pores), #UKpling means ‘UK public libraries in need group’. I know, I know, it’s a bit lame. What can I say? It was a late night. I think we were all having a bad day. I suppose Steve’s right – at the beginning, it was exclusive. That was kind of the point – it was set up to discuss a specific topic – but that’s how twitter works. The hashtag grew – and before we’d had a chance to pick something slightly less lame and more obviously meaningful, it was incredibly popular and it was too late to change the account to something like VftL – believe me, we agonised over it. The hashtag grew, and then #savelibraries came along. Everybody pretty much went over there and used that instead, because #UKpling was a small thing for organising stuff between a small group of acquaintances. #savelibraries is the big, public-facing, outreaching hashtag. And although yes, Voices does have a core membership, we need to. We’re a campaigning body and have to have some sort of semblance of organised-ness. We’re not a professional network and involvement is absolutely not something people should be seeking as something to put on their CV to demonstrate that they’re professionally active. I mean, it does mean you are, but lawks, there are less stressful things to do if that’s all you’re after. I guess what I’m saying is that folksonomy doesn’t equal clique. I suppose it has to mean exclusive, because, well, you’re librarians, figure it out.

In conclusion, despite this giant rant, I still don’t think there’s much cause for concern. I think it’s a topic that nice people worry about because nobody wants to be a meanie pie. Librarians, on the whole, are nice people. Which is why the clique thing isn’t an issue. If people want to get involved, it’s ridiculously easy to get involved. If they refuse to engage, it’s their loss. I don’t know what exactly Rachel intends to do as part of her “contribution to library advocacy” – Hair stroking? Hand holding? Personally visiting each and every person in the library profession who expresses some kind of insecurity about their sense of belonging to make them feel better? Forgive my cynicism, I’m just really unconvinced that there’s much to be done.

In conclusion conclusion, what I said in my first tweet-response still holds true. I think it’s BS and I think it’s about how members of the new professional community conduct themselves that is important, and none that I know are exclusive in the slightest. I’m also acutely aware that my very…passionate?…response to this and my belief that it’s a fairly BS-filled topic make it fairly likely that I alienate some people. Probably new professionals. Thereby either 1) exacerbating the problem or more likely 2) excluding myself from any perceived clique that people might perceive me to belong to. Hey guys I exploded the clique! Problem solved! We can talk about something else now!


Warwickshire Libraries – BBC Midlands Today

Hello! For your viewing pleasure (for the next week), here I am with my best Deer in the Headlights Face, doing a bad job of constructing sentences in a grammatically correct or coherent manner.

(Caption competition…click to link through to video)

Inevitably I didn’t manage to mention any of the stuff I’d swatted up on or talk about how volunteer-run libraries would struggle to be sustainable and meet the needs of communities, eventually closing anyway because the council looks to be set to charge community groups an awful lot of money for the privilege of struggling away with minimal council support for a few months to a year or so, resulting in reduced footfall and issue figures so the council can justify closing the branches with less attention from ever-more-disenfranchised communities and the media. Next time eh.

Up All Night

I did an interview for BBC Radio 5 Live’s Up All Night programme last night. It mostly covered old ground, why libraries are important, why local and national government have responsibility for the cuts and closures etc.

An interesting question raised was “why aren’t you trying to find generous benefactors to pay for the libraries?” – my response was something along the lines of “we did, a hundred years ago, and now the government’s forcing councils to sell off what was given to them – doesn’t really encourage people to invest in the social good, does it?”

Anyway, you can listen to it here.