Library A to Z : Crowd-sourced advocacy presentation for CILIP Cymru Wales 2015

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I gave the following presentation at the recent CILIP Cymru Wales 2015 Library & Information Conference. The abridged text of my presentation appears below the presentation itself.

1.

Hello my name is Gary Green & I am going to talk to you about a library advocacy project I have been involved with called The Library A to Z.

This is a project that primarily myself and Andrew Walsh, a librarian at Huddersfield University, pulled together, but as the title suggests its success also depended on others being involved and supporting it in a variety of ways.

2.

What is the Library A to Z?

  • It’s both an advocacy tool & promotional material
  • Highlights that libraries are not only about books
  • Visual A to Z of library services & benefits in a variety of formats
  • Emphasises the continued importance of libraries

3.

The original idea came about because through my involvement with Voices for the Library in particular. I was constantly seeing these sort of questions. We all know why libraries are important, but there didn’t seem to be anything out there that highlighted the importance of libraries beyond the “libraries are just about books” idea. Yes, books are a core part of the service, but libraries provide access to many other things too.

4.

So how did we get from “nothing” to the Library A to Z? It involved a few key stages-

  • At Library Camp East (Sept 2013) I ran a session to crowd-source A to Z list of library services and benefits of libraries. About 20 people from different library backgrounds sat around for an hour and discussed it. Then I wrote it up, posted it on the Voices for the Library site and encouraged library supporters to make us of it. But I also wanted to turn it into something more than a list of words.
  • I attended Library Camp (Autumn 2013) & Andy Walsh was there – I talked to Andy about doing something creative with the list & the idea of a book came up. So the idea was there but we didn’t really discuss it again until March/April the next year.
  • Then we had the next stage, the Kickstarter (April/May 2014). Andy came up with the idea of a Kickstarter project to fund the production of illustrations and materials related to the A to Z. 155 people and organisations (mostly individuals) raised £4,500+ to fund the project, inc. £1,500 from our key sponsor the Library Campaign.
  • It was launched in Nov 2014 – i.e. the physical materials were made freely available to anyone.

5.

Even though Andy and I led on pulling the A to Z together, without a lot of people supporting the project at various stages it would have been difficult to make as much progress as we did with it. This includes:

  • Pulling together the original A to Z list
  • Backers of the Kickstarter
  • Supporters of the fund raising drive
  • Pulling together content for A to Z, especially Voices for the Library team for book content
  • Supporters of the launch
  • Those who have made continued use of the materials produced

6.

I’d like to talk about the Kickstarter now, as this was a key part of making things a success.

  • A Kickstarter is a way to get your project funded quickly by anyone who feels the project is worthy enough. Take a look at Kickstarter.com for details. All you need to do is set up a page on the site providing details of your project.
  • We stated our aims & goals inc when we planned to launch
  • We identified stretch goals i.e. what we would do if we got more funds than our minimum goal
  • We asked for pledges via social media, blogs and library mailing lists and sites
  • We gave people rewards for pledging funds – from a mention in the book, to free cards & books and more say into what happened with the materials e.g. who send out to
  • We told people about the deadlines we were aiming for – i.e. when the project would be completed and launched
  • It took effort to sustain the fundraising drive – we couldn’t just send out 1 tweet & email a library discussion list once and expect it to be a success & be funded instantly. There were lots of mentions by other people on mailing lists, social media sites and I know emails were being sent around behind the scenes to likely backers.
  • We had 155 backers – many were individuals backing the project. We also had some organisations, including our key sponsor Library Campaign, who really helped us meet our stretch goals. Our minimum goal was to raise £2,000 in 4 weeks, but we raised just over £4,500 in that time.

7.

  • The £4,500 funded the production of physical materials for distribution, which all focused around a set of full colour illustrations by Josh Filhol. All the illustrations in the presentation are by Josh.
  • Key intention is for people to use and adapt and develop promotional and advocacy material using the illustrations. Anyone can download and use the material
  • We distributed packs to key stakeholders mostly in the UK, but also contacted international library organisations (IFLA) and E.U. politicians with an interest in libraries.
  • As well as backers based in the UK we also had backers from Europe, Australia & North America.

8.

How did we organise the project?

  • Andy came up with idea for Kickstarter and set it up & asked Josh Filhol to create the
  • We decided on our aims/goals for the project i.e. what we wanted to achieve
  • We thought about things we could use the illustrations for
  • Andy sorted out publishing of books and cards
  • We put together the book chapter and content with the help of Voices for the Library
  • We promoted the Kickstarter in our different networks e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, mailing lists
  • Came up with lists of politicians and library friendly media/press contacts to send packs to, and also library friendly supporters to help promote the launch
  • Andy sent out the majority of the packs
  • We set up a website and place to download the materials from

9.

This example is taken from the book.

  • Each double page spread in the book included the words for each letter, plus a quote related to that word taken from blog posts on the Voices for the Library site, plus a full page illustration.
  • The idea for the quotes was to get the words of real life users/library staff to get the message across about how libraries can make an impact on an individuals life.
  • The book also included a chapter on the value of libraries, which includes facts/figures, links to impact studies, etc.

10.

  • We officially launched the Library A to Z in November 2014
  • When we launched a lot of supporters got behind us and helped.
  • Supporters included many library & information workers & advocates for libraries, library & information students, Arts Council England, library campaigners inc Library Campaign.
  • The launch focused on both a social media/mailing list push and the sending out of physical materials.
  • During the launch week packs, including the books & cards, were sent out to over 100 key influencers inc politicians at national level (UK MPs, party leaders, & shadow ministers, House of Lords representatives, library committee members). The aim was to remind them that libraries still do exist and have so much to offer. Ultimately the aim is to encourage continued support and investment in library services.
  • We also sent packs to around 30 media organisations. The intention was to spread the positive Library A to Z message that libraries continue to remain relevant.
  • We didn’t just want it to be an online launch. Yes, it would have been easier to do just online promotion, but we felt that sending out physical materials was more likely to get someone’s attention than a link to materials/website in an email
  • We informed our supporters about the launch plan & encouraged them to get involved – many also sent out materials to their local politicians and library stakeholders
  • Encouraged supporters (library staff & supporters) to download materials & use for promotion & advocacy and spread the word about the LibraryAtoZ
  • During launch week we used the hashtag #LibraryAtoZ on Twitter and had 1,000+ mentions and retweets on Twitterand over 20 blogs and news sites mentioning it.
  • Speak Up For libraries held a conference on the last day of the launch and we were able to gave free Library A to Z materials out to those who attended, including politicians from major parties attending.

11.

What free materials are available?

  • Illustrations by Josh Filhol – we wanted them to be fun whilst getting an important message out there
  • Book (print and e-book) – inc all illustrations and words, and relevant quotes from Voices for the Library site.
  • Greetings cards
  • Posters – editable Adobe Illustrator files and sample PDF files. The posters are intended to be most effective when edited and details of local library services, events etc. are added to them.
  • Unless otherwise stated, these materials can be downloaded and freely re-used under a creative commons licence (cc by 4.0), so please re-use, adapt and take full advantage of them, as long as you credit the original creators.

12.

What are the plans for the future?

  • As I said, the materials are available for anyone to download & use
  • The original aim of the project was to fund the creation of the materials and send out materials to promote and advocate for libraries, which we have achieved. However, the original materials were also created so that other people could adapt and re-use them in new ways. They are a free resource for others to build on.
  • The intention of creating the A to Z was not to promote the A to Z itself, but enable people to promote & advocate libraries using the Library A to Z
  • So far it’s been used in the following ways:
  • Lots of social media #libraryatoz tweets with local focus
  • Posters and promotions in public libraries, health libraries and academic libraries
  • Cards & books sent to local stakeholders
  • It has earned a Blue Peter badge
  • It’s been used as part of an A to Z blogging challenge, which made use of the original materials but also included positive quotes about libraries

13.

So that was the Library A to Z, how it came about, and what’s available. Here’s the website address again (http://libraryatoz.org) where all of the materials can be downloaded from.

Thank you for listening – on behalf of myself, Andy Walsh & everyone who has been involved in the Library A to Z along the way.

#LibraryAtoZ – The General Election

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This is just a short post to say that I’ve sent out around 80 #LibraryAtoZ cards to candidates election offices throughout the UK in the lead up to the General election. I originally intended to send them out sooner, but the difficulty was identifying which parties would be standing where. I decided to target areas/regions where I knew cuts were either happening or were being proposed. Even though public library funding is the responsibility of local authorities, having library support in your area from a possible future MP (and therefore an influencer at central government level) is important.

The Library A to Z cards focused on the usual message of “These are the great things that libraries provide”, along with a request that the candidates’ party in that region pledges their support for libraries.

An advocacy idea in the run up to the general election

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There’s a suggestion on the Voices for the Library site about raising the issue of public libraries with candidates in the run up to the general election:

Candidates will be going door-to-door over the next few weeks and we think the cuts to public libraries should be one of the issues that canvassers are confronted with on the door step. It is for this reason that we have created two posters for you to post in your windows to highlight the importance of public libraries both to the politicians out canvassing for your vote and to your friends and neighbours.

The posters can be downloaded from here.

vftlelectionposter

IFLA Public Libraries Section Meeting (Feb 2015)

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The minutes for the February 2015 IFLA Public Libraries Section meeting have been released.

It’s interesting reading – covering aspects of what is happening around the world in public libraries, various projects IFLA are working on, planned events, and themes to focus on.

A few things that caught my attention in particular were:

  • The IFLA Satellite event in Philadelphia proposed theme: an emphasis on “why public libraries should be free.”
  • The use of the Lyon Declaration (access to information and development) as an advocacy tool at local level.
  • The desire to update the Public Library Manifesto – a joint manifesto with UNESCO.

It’s well worth reading through the brief minutes, just to get a feel for what is going on in public libraries worldwide and the issues affecting them.

MeaningCloud – Extracting Meaning from Content

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I received an email the other day to inform me that Textalytics had changed its name to MeaningCloud. This was really handy, as it reminded me that it existed – I’d signed up for it during the summer, but hadn’t had much of a chance to use it, as I was working on the Library A to Z.

Anyway, it’s something I want to explore more. It’s an online service that analyses the content of text, documents or web pages you supply it with and it highlights key subject, people, places, things and other entities and concepts for you. As a librarian (specifically with my classification head on) I’ve been interested in the idea of automated classification for some time and have tried various experiments including using Yahoo pipes and my recent WordPress snapshot cards to extract meaning from text.

I’ve tested a few other online services like MeaningCloud, but this was the one that seemed the most straightforward and easy to use. The documentation is clear enough for me to understand all I need to and, as I have only really got my head around working with XML output, having this as one of the 2 output options is important to me. It also helps that it’s free up to a certain amount of use.

The way it works is you submit a url containing all the key parameters to the online service:

  • The text, document file, or url of the web page you want to analyse.
  • The type of results you want returned to you (eg sentiment – positive/negative/neutral; text classification – very broad categories such as “libraries and museums”; topic extraction – more detailed subjects and concepts).
  • The output format (eg json or XML).

You can specify more than this and you can define topic dictionaries that are used.

It then returns the information you requested to the service you sent the request from. So, in my case, it would most likely be sent via a program written in Processing. You can then do whatever you want with that response. So, in theory I can develop my WordPress snapshot cards idea to include the subjects, concepts, people, places etc that it returns.

Even though I recognise that analysis tools don’t always pick up on the finer points of text and lack human understanding that is sometimes needed to make complete sense of a piece of text, I like what they can do, and I hope I can do something useful with MeaningCloud.

If you want to try it out, take a look at the demos and enter your own text into the box. The image below shows some of the results it gave me when I entered the text from this blog post. It threw up a couple of odd things “begging” (request) and “boss” (head), but as I say, if you are using it properly you can take the time to set up a dictionary to overcome these sort of issues.

Screenshot of MeaningCloud analysis of blog post

Happy 100th Birthday Wallasey Children’s Library!

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garygre:

I must send a card!

Originally posted on Adventures of a Retired Librarian:

I was intrigued to see this tweet the other day:

It’s one of many Suzanne has been sending out to invite birthday cards for Wallasey Central Children’s Library’s centenary. In case you can’t read the text, it says:

Wallasey Central Children’s Library is celebrating Its 100th Birthday! One of the first separate public libraries for children in the country, the library was opened during WW1, survived being bombed in WW2, has been much loved by generations of Wallasey children and reaches its centenary in 2015. Readers and Staff at Wallasey Library would like to invite anyone who loves libraries to help us celebrate by… Sending us a birthday card! Please send a 100th Birthday card – homemade cards welcome of course – as early in the year as possible…

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