Qatar launches mobile library to promote reading among children

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Qatar launches mobile library to promote reading among children

I thought this article about the introduction of a children’s mobile library service in Qatar was interesting, especially the emphasis that Qatar’s Culture, Arts & Heritage Minister puts on the value of reading.

“… the ministry was keen on supporting projects that would develop abilities and talents, but singled out reading as a development of great value that the community must instill in children at an early age to help build a generation of enlightened intellectuals.”

“… the significance of the project will be obvious when children grow up and see that their creative work had reached the community.”

“… such projects will allow Qatar to have thousands of writers whose innovations were started when they were young.”

CILIP Volunteer Policy & Job Substitution: Letter to CILIP Update

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I’ve just written this letter to CILIP Update regarding the current CILIP volunteer policy and its tie-in with job substitution. I was hoping to also add it to the comments section of the CILIP Council blog ( http://communities.cilip.org.uk/blogs/council/archive/2012/04/09/cilip-council-26th-march-2012.aspx ), where I had originally posted some other comments on the situation, but the website will not let me add it, so I have posted it on CILIP forums and here instead.

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Dear editor,

After seeing that the organisation’s current volunteer policy statement had been discussed at the March 2012 CILIP Council meeting, I read “CILIP’s Policy on the Use of Volunteers in Public Libraries: A Review”, which I believe informed the discussion on policy during the meeting.


This raised serious concerns in me about CILIP’s stance on job substitution, particularly when I read the following quotes:

“Job substitution – This goes to the heart of the problem. For many the use of volunteers should only ever be supplementary to the skills and expertise of paid staff and never in replacement. This is a traditional trade union view and is also reflected in the previous Library Association/CILIP statement on the use of volunteers. However Council agreed at its meeting in February 2010 that this policy was too rigid and failed to reflect present day realities where significant expenditure reductions had to be made.”

“The second paragraph of the current volunteers statement endeavours to ensure a continuing professional presence that is sufficient “to ensure the direction, development and quality of the service provided” but not to be constrained by a rigid no job substitution policy.”

“Whereas volunteers could be seen as extending and enriching the service in the past now they have become important in maintaining and sustaining a service that would be otherwise unfeasible.
18. However a return to the policy of no job substitution would be regarded by many as unrealistic and also risk excluding the Institute from meaningful debate and discussion over the future shape and delivery of the public library service in England especially.” 


However, after an email discussion with Mark Taylor (CILIP Director of External Relations) I now believe the organisation is opposed to job substitution. I say “believe” because the response I received did not actually say explicitly “CILIP is opposed to job substitution”, but it did imply that it was.

Based on this assumption, I would like to propose that the CILIP volunteer policy be updated to state that the organisation is against job substitution. It would clarify CILIP policy, leave it less open to misinterpretation and provide reassurance to members of the organisation.

I feel it really needs a statement like this in the policy, especially as the report I took the above quotes from had such a focus on the issues around job substitution. ie It:

(1) Highlights that job substitution is a major concern of its members.
(2) Mentions job substitution frequently.
(3) Was used to inform the current policy on volunteers.

As so much discussion was spent on the issue of job substitution as a precursor to agreeing the policy, surely it is worth including a short and simple statement in the final policy to clearly show that CILIP is against it.

Regards,

Gary Green

(Technical Librarian, Surrey)  

Radio 4: Start The Week: The Digital Future (7 May 2012)

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In this episode of Andrew Marr’s “Start the week” radio programme, he spoke to a number of guests about how technology might impact on us in the future, raising issues such as:

  • How we can retain control of our interaction with the digital world.
  • Ethics of technology.
  • Inequality of digital access.
  • How technology has changed social interaction.
  • Augmented reality.
  • The changing value of games.
  • The idea that digital experiences may be more successful when presenting them as a “physical simple imminent experience” rather than a “complex informational one”.
  • Users seen as livestock – being coralled by those who control technology.
  • New technology developments.
  • The suggestion that most of society is not prepared for things that are just around the corner (some already here).
  • Who controls technology and what would happen if leadership changed in Microsoft, Apple or Google to a more traditional corporate style?

It’s well worth listening to, particularly with its focus upon the social impact of technology. One of the key things I picked up from it, was the idea that there are just as many opportunities for the individual to take control of their own experience in the digital world as there are opportunities for others to lead us down a path they want us to go.

CILIP ILIG Informal: Library Aid To Developing Countries

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CILIP’s International Library and Information Group ran an informal session a few weeks ago, in which Johanna Anderson discussed the research she had undertaken for her Library and Information Management MSc: ‘Library Aid to Developing Countries: A case study investigating how a Western literary library model is integrated into a Sub-Saharan African oral culture within the Malawian primary education system’.

The research was undertaken in situ at a primary school in Malawi and was based around a library set up by a UK charity in the school. Following on from the United Nations Millennium Development Goal of universal primary education, Malawi had already made primary education free to all children. The uptake of school places had increased so dramatically that it was felt libraries could be introduced as a way to ease the pressure on the education system. Donations of books from the UK were the main method of providing stock for the library and no experienced library staff were involved in the setting up or running of the library.

Johanna discussed the background to her research and the key areas she’d focused on:

  • The role reading had to play in Malawi culture (one with a predominantly oral tradition, rather than written).
  • How relevant the stock was to its users (level of readership, subject coverage, English language stock).
  • How the library stock was used and the impact it had on the community (people who could read shared information with others; it taught people about the world outside of Malawi; infrastructures needed to be put in place to support & develop the library).
  • How reader development was supported (focus was mainly on sharing information in books, with little focus on reader enjoyment).

It was really interesting to hear about library services from such a different angle, specifically one based in a non-western developing country with a culture that traditionally focused on oral communication, rather than the written word.

Books introduced a change in the way communication occurred in Malawi – information used to flow from the elders to the children, but now it also flows from from the literate (often school children) to the non-literate. It shows that resources people have access to change the way they interact and communicate with each other. This isn’t just the case for developing countries, but also for any community who has access to new methods of communication. For example, witness how the internet and, more recently, social media has changed the way people communicate, obtain and share information.

Johanna’s research and the discussion around it during the event highlighted the fact that a library is so much more than a room full of donated books. For a library to be successful it needs the infrastructure to support it – where the library is housed, systems used, trained library staff. The library discussed in Johanna’s case study didn’t seem to have this infrastructure in place. It made me wonder whether irrelevant donated books could instead be converted into a means of supporting the infrastructure of the library that was there? eg sell the books in the UK and help pay for training for the library assistant, a more suitable home for the library, put in place systems that ensures the best use is made of the resources. I also wondered if librarians on secondment/sabbatical from the UK to libraries in developing countries could be a good way to help develop the infrastructure around libraries? In some ways it might be of benefit to both the libraries in developing countries and UK librarians – it might get librarians to think about their core skills – get them back to basics – think about the purpose of libraries/librarians and make them re-evaluate their own role in UK libraries. Some critics suggest that public libraries in the UK have lost their way. By going back to grass roots and a situation where their core/basic skills need to be used might be a way for them to re-evaluate what their role is. For example, as a technical librarian a lot of my focus is aimed at the technology side of things. I wonder how much of the librarian focus I’ve lost whilst pursuing this particular technology path and how much of it I could regain if I had the opportunity to get back to focusing on the core skills and knowledge?

Johanna’s dissertation highlighted the fact that where, in the past, books/the written word might have been seen as alien to a culture founded on oral tradition, people in Malawi now associated books with knowledge, power, prestige and wealth. Many of these associations also tie in with the fight against poverty. The Malawi Government also acknowledged the importance of literacy and put strategies in place to encourage it – resulting in increased literacy levels. It seems ironic that a Government in a developing country can recognise the importance of literacy and put measures in place to ensure it’s supported, but at the same time our own Government is happy to encourage the whittling away of our public library service.

As I say, the event and discussion generated around it was really interesting. If you want to find out more about Johanna’s research her full dissertation can be found here.