Ed Vaizey, Libraries, You and Yours

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I listened to Ed Vaizey (Conservative MP and Minister for Communication, Culture and the Creative Industries ) being interviewed on BBC Radio 4 “You & Yours” (19/01/2011) about libraries.

During the interview he said “We (Conservatives) have never said – and it’s a gross misrepresentation of what we have said – that somehow volunteers should replace professional librarians.”

“No-one is suggesting that volunteers should take over the role of professional librarians…. Nobody is saying that there’s a strategy to replace  professional librarians with volunteers.”

Lauren Smith (Save Doncaster Libraries and fellow Voices For The Library campaigner) pointed out that there are libraries being run up and down the country solely with volunteers and without librarians.

To this, Mr Vaizey responded with “That’s the point… Currently run without professional librarians. So those libraries are already open.”

What did his response mean? Was he suggesting that because there are libraries already being run by volunteers that this proves they can be run successfully without professional librarians?

Lauren continued with the statement that these volunteer libraries are not fulfilling the role of what a library should and could be.

Anyway, the Government’s Future Libraries & Big Society programme is advocating the use of volunteers, but it’s not specifically saying to what extent. In the context of libraries it’s not saying, “Don’t get rid of librarians and trained staff.” It’s as woolly as the Public Libraries & Museums Act 1964… open to interpretation and gives councils an opportunity just to dump local library services if they feel like it… and some are planning just that. Take a look at Gloucestershire Libraries.

Mr Vaizey also made the comment, “I’m constantly telling people what the role of libraries is, but I can’t tell every single person in the country.”

Really? I can’t see how the Minister responsible for libraries in England, who can easily get the ear of anyone he wanted to via the media, is unable to spell out the importance of libraries! I have witnessed lots of campaigns springing up over the past few months that are very effective at spelling out why libraries are important. If they are capable of it, why isn’t Mr Vaizey?

He also went on to say, “You have to elect councillors who believe in libraries and you have to campaign in your local area to get councils to back their libraries.”

I’d question why we should have to persuade local councillors of the importance of a local library service? We don’t vote in councillors with the thought of “Hmm! I wonder if they’ll support libraries?” You’d expect them to support and fight for any statutory service the council was responsible for, as part of their job, wouldn’t you? I would.

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#SaveLibraries Trending Update

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Tony Hurst sent me this image of friendship relationships between Twitter users who had used the #savelibraries hashtag. The size of the text indicates the number of tweets a user sent (the bigger the font, the more they sent). You can also see links between usernames. The centre of the image indicates that quite a lot of users are connected, but around the edge of the image you can see that many others aren’t. It just goes to show you that the message can be spread far and wide and that it’s not just an isolated community of Twitter users who are concerned about libraries.

(c) Psychemedia/Flickr : Friendship connections between #savelibraries hashtaggers

Voices For The Library Data Mashup Challenge

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In August last year I set up a few Twitter archives using the Twapperkeeper service.  The archives were based around the theme of ‘Love libraries’ , ‘Save Libraries’ and stored any tweets that used combinations of these words in them. At the time I was getting disheartened about all the flack public libraries were getting and I was just looking for something positive.

I had great intentions to do some kind of creative mashup with all these tweets, but never got around to it. Since starting these archives I got heavily involved in the ‘Voices For The Library’ campaign, which is a national campaign defending the value of public libraries in the UK, and that has been my focus. The reason I set up the tweet archives was the same reason I got involved in VFTL.

Yesterday something fantastic happened – Twitter user @MarDixon started the ball rolling to get #savelibraries trending. Up until yesterday the #savelibraries archive contained just under 500 tweets and today it contains 4890 (Edit: 9,193 as of 24/01/2011). When I set up the archives I was hoping something like this would happen, but didn’t know if it would. Yesterday showed the clear support for public libraries, during a time when UK councils want to needlessly close so many of them – over 370 at the last count!

So, thanks to @MarDixon we now have an archive of ‘Save Libraries’ tweets overflowing with library positivity waiting to be used creatively in a data mashup and…

I want to issue this challenge to the data mashup community.

Come up with a creative data mashup that makes use of these tweet archives for the ‘MarDixon Voices For The Library Data Mashup Challenge’.

The end result can be anything you like, as long as you use the following archive.

This archive is available as an RSS feed, HTML, or Excel file.

So, are you up for spreading the word about library goodness into the big wide world in the form of a data mashup? Come on, I know there are people out there up for the challenge. Use your mashup talents to create something around a cause that is so high profile right now. Prize is a £60 Amazon voucher.

Any contributions can be added as a link to this post.

Thanks & good luck.

The closing date for entries is 1st March 2011. Announcement of winner will be made on 8th March 2011 at the next Mashed Libraries event.