#LibraryAtoZ – The General Election

Standard

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

Standard

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)

Standard

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

Standard

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!

Gallery

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…

View original 131 more words

What I did for National Libraries Day 2015

Standard

Library A to Z book and note

Yesterday (7th Feb) was National Libraries Day. Libraries and their supporters all round the UK ran events, activities and protests in support of all types of libraries.

In the morning I did a little bit of social media for my library service promoting and providing hints and tips for using the library catalogue.

As well as helping promote my library service yesterday I also wanted to do something with the Library A to Z. Part of the idea of the day is to not only celebrate libraries but also get the message out to people that libraries have so much to offer. During the launch of the A to Z Andy Walsh, myself and many other people did this by sending out materials to key decision makers, politicians and the media. We also ran on online campaign.

For National Libraries Day I decided to again share the message about the importance of libraries beyond Libraryland itself.

So, I took out a stack of A to Z books and greeting cards on a journey, with the intention of leaving them in places for passers by to pick-up and read.

I put a message in the books and cards. Both messages mentioned National Libraries Day, what it is and why libraries are still relevant. As well as the message in the card I also attached an 1850 – 2000 public libraries commemorative 50 pence piece and emphasised that 15 years on from this celebration, libraries were facing huge budget cuts and closures and that campaigners were fighting against this.

So, I spent most of the afternoon/evening travelling around Surrey and London via train and bus and left copies on different routes. Where those copies headed for was a loose plan. I aimed for covering as much of a geographical spread as possible, so when I last saw them copies of the book and the cards were headed towards London Bridge, Watford, Epping, Heathrow, Windsor, Kensal Rise, The City, Southampton, Brighton and Reading. I suppose you could say Kensal Rise was a symbolic choice, as I know that campaigners in Brent have not had the best of times there. I also visited The British Library and left a book and card there.

As I say, I wanted to promote the value of libraries outside of the library environment, but I also wanted to do something with a bit of protest about it – hence the 50 pence pieces in the card. It was not a big protest I’ll admit, but every little reminder helps get the message out there. :-)

I don’t know how much positive impact my actions on National Libraries Day will have, and I don’t know who picked up and read/kept the books and cards, but I know that if I hadn’t done it then no-one at all would have picked them up. Maybe a copy was picked up by someone who:

  • Decides to the visit the library for the first time based on what the A to Z showed them it has to offer.
  • Is inspired to be a libraries champion in the future.
  • Changes their negative opinion about libraries.
  • Is now aware of the support libraries need and maybe they will be in a position to influence someone else about the future of libraries.
I know I wasn’t the only person to use the Library A to Z for National Libraries Day. Lots of libraries and their supporters also used the materials available to promote their services, as part of events and in other creative ways. The National Libraries Day site also pointed people to the materials. It’s great to see that these materials are being used, as that was one of the reasons they were created.
Public libraries commemorative 50 pence