Library Day In The Life, Round 7, 25-31 July 2011

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This post was written as part of the “Library Day In The Life” project.

“The Library Day in the Life Project is a semi-annual event coordinated by Bobbi Newman of Librarian by Day. Twice a year librarians, library staff and library students from all over the globe share a day (or week) in their life through blog posts, photos, video and Twitter updates.”

In my day job I’m a Technical Librarian for a public library service in the UK. This mainly involves looking after the catalogue (I don’t tend to do much cataloguing these days, as that’s the responsibility of my assistant) and investigating possible uses of Web2.0 and Library2.0 services. I also wear another hat, as I’m a member of the Voices For The Library (VFTL) national campaign group, which was formed almost a year ago to address concerns about severe cuts local council’s were making to library services.

Gorillaz Mug

The Gorillaz coffee mug that contains the coffee that keeps me going in work!

25 July

I had the morning off, so during this time I responded to a few emails from fellow campaigners in Voices For The Library team. Following this I did a bit of tweeting for the Voices twitter account (@ukpling). Generally I do this a couple of times a day. I use Google News UK to identify relevant articles for tweeting and I also look for items to retweet from other library campaigners.

Got to work and checked my emails.

Then I read through some configuration/styling notes for new public catalogue we will be using from the end of 2011. (We’ll go through them during a meeting tomorrow.)

Briefly discussed forthcoming meeting with cataloguer about the use of Interest Categories on our stock. Surrey has used Interest Categories in conjunction with Dewey classification over the past 20+ years and we are looking at how we can improve on them. The meeting will also involve members of the stock team.

I also caught up with emails about our e-book service and the area in general. I was part of the original project group that helped set the e-book service up, from the cataloguing perspective. My initial involvement was limited, but it looks like I’ll be having more involvement in this project in the future.

I subscribe to a number of email lists for libraries and had a quick scan through the emails they generate. One discussion thread relevant to my role was the “Digital Economy Act”.

Had a quick look at the new version of Whichbook.net,  to investigate if we can make use of it in some way. Maybe its ability to share with Facebook would be useful in some way? I really like the way you search using this catalogue. Always gives me something new to read when I’ve tried it in the past.

Caught up on some Voices For The Library discussions when I got home.

26 July 2011

Another morning off again. Sent out a few news tweets for Voices For The Library/@ukpling.

Picked up copy of “Surrey Downs” magazine on the way out of the flat. It included an article about plans for Surrey Library Service.

Went to lobby outside County Hall about changes to library services. About 80 campaigners were in attendance. Unfortunately I could only stay for about 40 minutes.

Library campaigners lobby outside County Hall

Library campaigners lobby outside County Hall

Went to meeting about the styling/configuration of our new public catalogue.
Following this I went to the local library to finish typing up minutes for a meeting I’d attended on the previous Friday with colleagues who manage the stock and coordinate events and promotions.

Signed up for the Librarycamp event, which is being held in Birmingham in October. Really looking forward to going, especially as I will get to meet so many people there that I’ve only ever spoken to on Twitter. 🙂

Got home and wrote an update for my blog about the situation in Surrey Libraries. I also caught up with a few VFTL discussions.

27 July 2011

I worked on creating a paper.li newspaper for my public library service. Paper.li is a link aggregator that produces a page of related items either daily or weekly.  I’ve created paper.li’s for other topics eg. Save libraries and charities. I just find it a useful way of presenting articles, blog posts, photos, videos etc that have been tweeted around a specific theme. It saves people trawling back through a lot of people’s tweets to catch up on the news. I’ll also be running a workshop at some point with my team covering paper.li.

I also investigated the intricacies of Google+; why it’s important and how it can be used for current awareness, discussion and work, etc. I’ll also be running a workshop on this with the team. I like Google+, but I’m not sure how it will affect my use of other social network sites.

Did a bit of tweeting for VFTL.

28 July

Mostly checked emails and responded.

We currently use Internet Explorer 7 in work, which isn’t compatible with some of the newer whizzier websites. This means I have to download Google Chrome instead to use them. So, I downloaded Google Chrome and took a look at Storify.com. Storify allows you to combine Flickr, Twitter, links, videos, text into a narrative format. My library service ran a Children’s Book Festival earlier this year and I tried to put something together to cover this.

Watched a webcast of the Cabinet meeting held on Tuesday, which contained a discussion about the library service.

More VFTL tweets and discussions when I get home.

29 July

Sat in the park on a lovely sunny morning and put together a VFTL blog post about the new Portsmouth library on my laptop.

Blogging in the sun

Blogging in the sun

Checked emails in work and responded to a list discussion from a librarian in another local authority about Library apps.

I took the time to read (some of it anyway) and discuss the Localism Bill. I feel I need to play a part in these discussions, not only to know what is going on, but to hopefully influence it in some small way and so I can be prepared for the future and the effects this may have on library services.

I booked myself onto CILIP library advocacy event in September.

Stumbled across an article about e-libraries on the Conservative Home site and commented on it, highlighting the fact that public library services need to be seen as a whole and physical libraries shouldn’t suffer because e-libraries services are being developed.

Had my monthly 1-to-1 with my line manager. In this we discussed how my work was progressing; priorities; plans; projects.

Went home and umm…. caught up on a couple of VFTL discussions.

30-31 July

The only library related work I’ll probably do over the weekend is a few VFTL tweets and emails… unless anything major happens – which is always a possibility.

I’ll also be preparing for a local campaign meeting on Tuesday night. Possibly a long day on Tuesday, as I didn’t get home until midnight after the last meeting! If you see me asleep on the train around this time on Tuesday, please wake me up so I don’t miss my stop. Thanks. 🙂

Surrey Libraries Campaigners Lobby At County Hall

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Issues surrounding Surrey County Council plans for the future of the library service have been raised at County Hall twice in the past two weeks.

Last week (19 July 2011) a motion was raised by Councillor Eber Kington at the Council meeting (2hr 35mins), requesting that “the Council Leader and Cabinet… halt the current plans of removing staff from the selected libraries until the ongoing audit into this study is fully completed and the detailed results are made available for discussion”. The motion was rejected by the Council.

Alan Gibbons at Surrey County Hall

Alan Gibbons at Surrey County Hall

Today, a lobby was held outside County Hall. At a rough estimate there were about 80 people in attendance. Many were from the 11 libraries that will be affected by the changes, but there were also campaign supporters from other local libraries. They gathered before the Cabinet meeting began, in the hope that members of the Council in attendance would take note of campaigners concerns. A number of speakers, including local library users/campaigners, UNISON representatives and author and campaigner Alan Gibbons spoke passionately about the need for libraries on both a local and national scale.

During the Cabinet meeting today another question was raised by a member of the public, regarding concerns about the current proposals for the library service. Again, their concerns were rejected by Surrey County Council Cabinet.

Library Campaigners at Surrey County Hall

Library Campaigners at Surrey County Hall

Libraries: A Brand You Can Trust

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“Libraries will continue to be a brand people can trust.”

(Coventry Telegraph: Library jobs could go in £2m budget cuts)

This quote, taken from a Warwickshire County Council report, just popped the simple thought into my head, “If libraries are a trusted brand, then why don’t more people use them?”

I’m not insinuating in this question that they aren’t trusted – I believe they are.

I believe they’re trusted by people who don’t even use them.

I believe that if people thought about what a library could offer them they’d use them more.

Maybe the problem is that many people don’t automatically think “Library!” when they should.

But why don’t they think like this?

Don’t they know what libraries are all about?

Is this caused by a lack of marketing?

Is it caused by a lack of branding?

A brand you can trust… but maybe a brand too many people no longer understand!?

Library Closures: Not Saving Money… Displacing It

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“No one wants to see libraries cut and I understand that Devon County Council are in tough financial times. However, it is foolish to see this as an economy. If you reduce access to literacy you will end up paying for it in the future in terms of, for example, extra adult education – it’s not saving money, it’s displacing it.”

(Nick Arnold, Chair of the Friends of Appledore Library group)

Proposed Motion to Halt Changes to Surrey Library Service

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Residents in Surrey have sent an open letter to all councillors in the county, questioning the validity of the study proposing the closure of some libraries.

Issues of concern around the study include wrong and inconsistent figures, incorrect rankings of some libraries, incorrect proximity measurements (ie distance between libraries), illogical comparisons, lack of consideration of specific issues relevant to particular libraries, and calculation errors. (Further details here)

The letter asks the council to “stop the closure threat to our village libraries.”

Key comments made in the letter are:

  • Eleven libraries were selected for closure, even though some of these libraries were  “cost effective”
  • “Larger and declining libraries were deliberately excluded by the use of biased criteria.”
  • The study “does not address cost savings adequately and even fails to properly consider priority areas”
  • The decision about which libraries are to be selected (if any) should only be carried out once an internal audit and separate Information Commissioner’s Office audit has been carried out.
  • The need to fit in with the Big Society plan and save money in Surrey exists, but spreading “savings across all libraries will answer both these objectives and will not damage Surrey’s villages.”
  • “these savings are trivial when compared to Surrey’s budget and the harm which will be done to community life.”
  • Surrey should follow the example of other counties such as Gloucestershire, North Yorkshire and Dorset, who have rethought their plans following residents protests.
  • “We must build on the strengths we have in flourishing libraries, rather than gambling on untried and ill-thought out methods.”
  • The value of technology and volunteers in libraries is understood, but professional staff must also be part of the solution to “co-ordinate these volunteers and ensure sustainability.”
  • “We must ensure that our libraries can continue with their vital services to all Surrey residents – and especially to the vulnerable young and elderly.”
Alongside this, the following motion has been presented to the County Council for discussion on 19th July 2011.

“This Council notes with concern the large number of serious and significant errors which have now been admitted by the team who prepared the library Public Value Review study.

This Council further notes that the study used to identify 11 libraries:

i.            failed to accurately identify the least effective libraries.

ii.            was heavily biased in favour of larger libraries.

iii.            has never been audited in order to confirm its veracity.

This Council therefore calls upon the Council Leader and Cabinet to halt the current plans of removing staff from the selected libraries until the ongoing audit into this study is fully completed and the detailed results are made available for discussion.

It is now known that the PVR study:

  • has admitted errors in at least 10 libraries – in some cases more than one error.
  •  threatens to close half of the only eight thriving libraries in Surrey.
  • failed to properly compensate Merstham library for its priority status.
  • nonsensically compares visitors at one library (eg Bagshot) with visitors at libraries (eg Woking) which are over 30 times as large.
  • as already been criticised for its errors, criteria and methodology by an independent statistician.

Continuing with the current plans could do unjustified and irreparable harm to the community life at eleven villages in Surrey.

Surrey County Council will be known as the County which does not consult, could not get its sums right and was not even willing to stop – even when it knew it was wrong.”

(Original text here)

A lobby will also take place outside County Hall in Kingston on 26th July at 1pm. (Further details here)

Report of the Inquiry into Overcoming the Barriers to Literacy

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The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Education has just published a “Report of the Inquiry into Overcoming the Barriers to Literacy.”

As literacy and libraries go hand in hand it is encouraging to see so much emphasis on the value of libraries within the report.

In defining the context of the inquiry it was indicated that “a poverty of trained librarians” was a factor contributing to low levels of literacy. At the same time you should also say that in the current climate, a lack of posts for trained librarians is also a factor. It’s no good having trained librarians if they are not employed in a role where their skills can be used.

Here are the main points made in the report regarding libraries.

“The right of citizens to visit a library and have access to a range of free reading material must be made overt and funding made available. Evidence shows that libraries both in schools and in the community have a positive effect on reading, yet many are disappearing because of financial constraints”

“The active encouragement of reading for pleasure should be a core part of every child’s curriculum entitlement because extensive reading and exposure to a wide range of texts make a huge contribution to students’ educational achievement. This is why libraries are so important to the development of a reading culture – both those in schools and those in the community.”

“Participants in the Inquiry praised the work of Sure Start Centres where parents and their children could come to improve parenting skills, address social issues and receive informal literacy help. The aims of these Sure Start programmes are to (1) increase the numbers of parents/carers reading with their children; (2) increase library membership amongst 0-4 year-olds and their parents/carers; (3) ensure that 100% of children have access to good quality play and learning; and (4) reduce the number of children who need specialist speech and language support by the time they start school.”

“Evaluations of Bookstart programmes in 2009 indicated that parents were strongly supportive of reading with babies and toddlers and generally read frequently with their children. Longitudinal evidence suggested marked improvement in book sharing frequency after receiving the packs for ‘less active’ reading families (those that reported having relatively few children’s books in the home and read with their child less than once a day). Three months after receiving a Bookstart pack these ‘less active’ reading families reported significantly increased reading frequency, stronger parental interest in reading with their child and higher levels of library membership. Early intervention initiatives such as Sure Start Centres and Bookstart should be guaranteed funding over a period of time.”

Theme 7 Specifically focused on protecting library provision…

“It was felt by all groups in this Inquiry that the lack of a coherent support for school libraries and their proven impact early in children’s education is a huge anomaly. Although it is clear that libraries are not the single answer to improving literacy, they are an important resource for supporting a school’s literacy teaching and learning.

The concern is that students without school libraries will not have access to a wide range of learning and reading resources to support their learning. A good library and, crucially, a good librarian, can be a real benefit to a school and attainment.

For example, the

School Library Commission Report, which surveyed 17,000 students, found that there was a very strong relationship between reading attainment and school library use. Young people who read below the expected level for their age were almost twice more likely to say that they are not a school library user. Conversely, those who read at or above the expected level were nearly three times more likely to say that they are school library users.”

“Many children have no books at home and such a culture will not encourage reading. Libraries are essential to provide free and open access to a wide variety of reading materials. Economic constraints are forcing some of these to close and for schools to limit their library facilities and this can only be a barrier to successful literacy for learners of all ages.”

“The Publishers Association reports that purchases of school library books have declined by 40% since 2002. The Secretary of State has said that children should be reading up to 50 books a year and that successful schools give a high profile to reading for pleasure, but current policy seems to operate against this.”

“Throughout the Inquiry, the School Library Association and several literacy associations highlighted the importance of books and reading materials of all kinds, including new technological developments.”

“Libraries must be central to literacy development, and must be appropriately resourced.”

There’s no need for me to comment on these points, but in summary I’ll just state the obvious for those local authorities who don’t understand the importance of decent library provision…

  • Funding must be made available for free reading material and access to it via both school and public libraries.
  • Both school and public libraries are important because they provide a broad range of reading materials, which improves literacy and this in turn improves educational achievement.
  • Surestart and Bookstart schemes have a positive impact on library use.
  • School library services supported by a good librarian have a positive impact on literacy levels.
  • The current ethos of reducing funding for school and public libraries clearly goes against the idea of improving literacy.

Hopefully this report, backed up by the opinions of experts in literacy and all Government parties, will help secure the future of library provision in the UK.

New Improved Paper.li Lets You Manage Your Papers

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Since setting up a paper.li newspaper earlier this year for Voices For The Library, I’ve been experimenting with it some more.
In case you don’t know, paper.li creates an online newspaper, bringing together links pulled out of tweets or Facebook accounts, based upon searches you set up.
It acts as an aggregator of information, keeps a permanent record of links in a single place that have been tweeted around a particular subject area, or by specific Twitter users. Once aggregated the paper.li newspaper can automatically be tweeted daily or weekly from an account and an archive of previous “editions” of your paper.li is also available.
It doesn’t work well if you’re just pulling in links from disparate lists of Twitter accounts. So many of these Twitter accounts don’t have a single subject focus, so irrelevant links can be pulled out. This may be fine if you’ve set up the paper.li account for yourself, as a way to quickly scan links your Twitter friends may have tweeted, but your Twitter followers may not be interested in these links at all.
I know some people get irritated by having paper.li tweets appear in their Twitter stream because of this reason. The links appear to be a random collection of unrelated items, with no central theme bringing them together. Here’s an example of what I’d consider to be an unsuccessful paper.li in this respect.
Extra Loud paperli

Extra Loud Library Voices paper.li

The key to a successful paper.li is down to the way it’s set up and how it’s managed. It does seem to work best with specific subject/topic information if you can pull links in from a limited set of Twitter users who specifically focus on a particular subjects and nothing else (corporate/business accounts work best for this, rather than personal accounts) or a range of unique keywords.
I’ve created a number of newspapers using paper.li
Many of them are focused upon libraries (but with different angles) and a couple are charity related. They each have a specific focus and through trial and error I worked out the best way to pull a range of relevant links from Twitter (& Facebook) together. Often the method/set up was pretty straightforward and hung on a range of unique/ limited keywords.
The “Love Libraries! Save Libraries!” newspaper is the most complicated and this was only possible because paper.li have recently improved the functions of the service. It used to only allow a single method of searching for links in each paper, but now allows a combination of 5 searches in each paper. They include keyword, user, list of users, hashtags, facebook keywords. It makes it so much more flexible.
If you’ve ever set up an automated system in the hope that that it will be 100% accurate, you will know that this doesn’t always work. Automated systems do pull through the ocassional miss-hit and incorrect link. Up until now paper.li has been completely automated, but they have now updated their service, so that users can have greater control over the links that are published.
Users can now edit their paper once it has been compiled. They can:
  • Delete articles that aren’t relevant.
  • Move more relevant articles to the top of paper to highlight them as key stories/links/news items.
  • Add an editorial comment – useful for letting readers know what subject coverage is in your paper.li, or maybe you want to point readers to specific websites related to your paper.
  • Click on “i” that appears under an article it shows other paper.li users that have picked up this article and also other Twitter users that have mentioned this article in a tweet. This is extremely useful for identifying other Twitter users interested in the same subjects/topics as you.
  • Click on Twitter user associated with a link in your paper.li and interact with them as you would via Twitter. ie retweet, reply, follow, etc.
  • Add a background image to your paper.li

All of these features enable users to present a much more relevant/tailored paper.

The relevance of a paper.li paper also not only depends on where/how you pull the links in, but also where that information is displayed and presented. For example, the “Voices For The Library” and “Extra Loud Library Voices” are tweeted via my own personal Twitter account and via the @ukpling account. Having it tweeted via @ukpling generates much more interest than if it’s tweeted from my account. The key is to be able to tweet the information from an account the links relate to.  eg Barnardos, Visual Disability Charities, Surrey Libraries. Tweeting from the Surrey Libraries account won’t be a problem, but it would be so much better if I could arrange for Barnardos, etc to tweet the charity links related to their aims.

The new functions paper.li has added have made the service so much more useable, but the best paper.li’s will still be the ones that people put in the effort to set up and manage correctly.