The #LibraryAtoZ project has more free greeting cards to distribute. So, at this time of year it would be a great opportunity to send them as an extra special festive greeting to your local library funders etc and remind them of why we love our libraries. Or maybe you’d like to use them in another way to spread the message about the value of public libraries. That’s fine too.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
- 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.
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
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.
- 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 realise I’m slow in getting round to sharing my thoughts on the recent Independent Library Report for England, which was presented by William Sieghart (and panel) to DCMS just before Christmas 2014, but here they are. I’m not going to do a run down of what the report contains. Instead I’m sharing what I feel are the positive/negative aspects of it. The actions and recommendations in the report are broken down into actions by central government, local government and a task force formed as part of those recommendations.
- Central government – Positives
- Asked to provide funding for updated digital network and services (including extending access to services) and staff training.
- Establish a task force made up of library organisations and partners to provide leadership.
- Establish PLR for ebooks loaned off-site.
- Recognition of the need to sell benefits of libraries to leaders within local and central government, especially those outside of the library arena – a step towards obtaining funding from other central government departments in recognition of what libraries do to support other government initiatives.
- Central government – Negatives
- Funding needs to be provided for core services too, not just the digital aspects of it.
- There’s too much emphasis on free wi-fi and digital aspects. It also needs to address other aspects of libraries that need support.
- There’s no mention of reintroducing library standards or improving library legislation and the 1964 Act.
- Task force – Positives
- By recommending that this task force is set up it is recognition that there was a leadership void and something is needed to fill it.
- Hopefully this will provide a more balanced leadership/partnership that can focus on the full range of services provided by libraries.
- A digital network for libraries could provide a cohesive national service, as well as increased range of digital services & resources nationwide.
- It will hopefully move the e-book lending situation forward.
- Will provide a focus to develop skills of the library workforce.
- Reporting (and accountable?) to both central and local government.
- Tasked with increasing visibility of libraries ie better promotion, marketing.
- Recommends consultation with users to develop library services. Lack of user consultation in the past has led to ill-feeling and in some cases judicial reviews.
- Taskforce – Negatives
- The tasks it has been assigned are too narrow and will only address some of the problems that libraries are facing.
- No guidance has been given about how the library workforce should be developed.
- Recommendations leave the door open to an increase in volunteer run libraries, which is at odds with developing the library workforce.
- It will only be providing temporary leadership for 3 to 4 years, with only short-term aims and no long-term strategy or plan for the development of leadership.
- Is this the right way to provide leadership and strategy, or would a single permanent body with a wide-ranging perspective on public libraries be better placed to achieve this?
- Local government – Positives
- Establishing a task force which could be used to provide cohesion/consistency to library services by sharing best practice and new ideas.
- Opens up scope for library users to have a greater say in what happens in/to their library service.
- Even though it acknowledges that volunteer libraries are an option it does say that they aren’t necessarily the best option.
- Local government – Negatives
- No mention of necessary funding from local government.
- Recommendations about library governance leaves open governance models that aren’t necessarily in the best interest of libraries or their users.
- All of the actions/recommendations give no real acknowledgement that libraries have a great many services, resources and benefits to offer, beyond the idea that it would be beneficial to improve the digital network. What about literacy, community, educational, outreach benefits? Hopefully having such a wide range of partners involved in the task force will ensure that these other aspects of library services aren’t forgotten.
- The report illustrates the true value/benefits of libraries, but the focus on digital services to support these benefits shouldn’t be the sole way to support them. This should be clearly acknowledged in the report’s recommendations and actions.
- On one hand the report talks about the benefits of cohesiveness and consistency of services provided by national initiatives, but on the other suggests that different governance models for libraries are acceptable and that local authorities have the responsibility to decide what is “comprehensive and efficient” in their local area. Local authorities cannot agree on this, so how will consistency of service be achieved in England?