My Library By Right petition

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CILIP recently launched a new campaign (My Library By Right) in defence of public libraries. Full details of the campaign can be found on CILIP’s site, including details of how you can get support it. One of the key and very easy things you can do is sign the petition calling for MP John Whittingdale (current Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport) to “act now to protect my statutory rights to a quality public library service”, and also ask family and friends to sign it too. If you need to persuade them of the value of public libraries try this.

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Library A to Z : Crowd-sourced advocacy presentation for CILIP Cymru Wales 2015

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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.

1.

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.

2.

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

3.

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.

4.

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.

5.

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

6.

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.

7.

  • 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.

8.

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

9.

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.

10.

  • 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.

11.

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.

12.

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

13.

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.

What I did for National Libraries Day 2015

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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

The Library A to Z launches today #LibraryAtoZ

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It’s just over a year since the Library A to Z was first put down on paper – a list of words that reflected the wide range of library services and positive outcomes those services generated. I wrote about it here. Since then, after teaming up with Andrew Walsh to run a crowd-funding project to expand on the original idea and turn it into something more than just a list of words, a set of great promotional and advocacy materials has been produced, including fantastic illustrations by Josh Filhol, posters, cards and a book emphasising the message of the the Library A to Z. The book features a chapter written on behalf on Voices for the Library, along with library users quotes taken from the Voices for the Library site. The Voices team are very pleased that these quotes are being shared outside of our site, as they will help spread the important message that libraries remain relevant in the 21st century.

The Library A to Z is now officially ready to launch and it wouldn’t have been possible without a large number of people helping it reach this point. This includes those who helped create the original list of A to Z words; the 155 financial backers (including major sponsor The Library Campaign); everyone who has shown their support in promoting the A to Z and encouraging people to get involved; the Voices for the Library team; Josh who created the fantastic illustrations that are the centre piece of the A to Z; Aidan who helped with the poster design; and most importantly Andy, who has put in so much hard work from the original discussion we had at Library Camp last year up until the launch.

Even though the materials created by this project have been available for anyone to freely download for a few weeks from the new site at http://libraryatoz.org, the Library A to Z is officially launched this week (17th November).

To highlight the intentions for the launch take a look at the beginning of the book chapter. It leads with:

Over the past few years we have witnessed severe cuts in library service budgets resulting in the reduction of services, most notably by closures, shorter opening hours, staff cuts and the replacement of library staff with typically unsustainable and fragmented volunteer-run services. Cuts are often made in the name of austerity measures, yet in austere times libraries are of particular importance to the disadvantaged in our communities.

For many people the word “library” conjures up images of books and not much more. Although books remain a core feature and are beneficial in many more ways than commonly understood, libraries have a much wider and more significant reach than books alone.

For these reasons politicians at both local and national level (including leading ministers in Government) will be receiving copies of the Library A to Z book and other campaign materials during launch week. The intention is to show them that properly funded and professionally run library services help transform society in many ways, including the improvement of literacy and reading skills, enabling access to digital services, supporting economic growth, promoting wellbeing and education.

Supporters of library services have also been encouraged to send copies of the Library A to Z book and other A to Z materials to their local politicians and media to help spread the message.

At this stage around 90 books have been sent out to politicians and media organisations.

As well as using the materials in this context, the intention is also to encourage library services and their supporters to use them for promotional purposes. For example, editable posters have been created for each letter, so that local information can be added to them. As I have mentioned earlier all of these materials – book, posters, cards, illustrations – are available for you to download and re-use for free.

Whether we are encouraging support from politicians and policy makers or using the materials for promotions in libraries the message remains the same – libraries have so much to offer that most people aren’t aware of. This is a great opportunity for you to let them know.

The launch is being promoted to national and local news and media organisations to raise the profile of libraries. Social media is also being used during the launch to spread the word about the Library A to Z. The hashtag is #LibraryAtoZ.

It would be great if we could encourage you to help spread the message about the Library A to Z during this launch week in whatever way you can.

(Originally posted on www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk)

The Purpose of a Library?

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I read this blog post (Accepting Criticism) by Carl Clayton earlier, which was focused on recent responses to an author’s criticism of libraries.

The following is the response I posted on Carl’s blog. As I said at the end of my response, it’s more of a comment on a side issue raised by his post.

The thought that keeps popping into my head (and this post has caused it pop up again) is that library staff and/or campaginers don’t have a common agreement around the purpose of public libraries. I’m not talking about a divide between library staff or campaigners, by the way. As you’ve highlighted, some people will argue that libraries should be places of learning and steer clear of popular fiction? Other people will suggest that ebooks don’t have a place in libraries and that we should continue to focus on the printed book. Super central libraries are the focus for some people and others see the benefits of more smaller libraries focusing on a local communities specific needs. Should we be building on technology as much as we are? Should we be trying to re-define the purpose of the library, or is the current core-purpose of the library sufficient and people just need reminding of it? Should libraries be places where content is created, or should they solely be for accessing content? Should we try to be more like bookshops? I imagine (from conversations I’ve had, speakers I’ve heard and articles and blog posts I’ve read) there are plenty who would argue for/against each of these ideas, and I wonder that while we have such a wide range of ideas amongst us how we can move on with some sort of agreed purpose for public libraries?

I suppose this comment is more of an aside to your blog post, but as those thoughts popped into my head again whilst reading it, I thought I’d share.

Reblogged: Society of Chief Librarian’s Stakeholder Meeting

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Society of Chief Librarian’s Stakeholder Meeting

Ian Anstice (Public Libraries News & Voices For The Library) published minutes of a meeting he and other campaigners attended with S.C.L. yesterday. It’s good news that S.C.L. have decided to hold these meetings with campaigners and that they are intending to run more, and it sounds like there are some positive plans ahead. However, a few thoughts that popped into my head after reading these minutes…

“the SCL is not an incorporated organisation and so cannot make its own statements. It is, literally, a collective of individuals who provide their time voluntarily.”

But the SCL have provided comment in the past on aspects of public libraries. Is the issue more about not being able to say certain things in its statements?

“It is not the role of the SCL to advise the Secretary of State but are available if they are asked.”

Alternatively, a pro-active approach could help direct the Secretary of State’s thoughts to developing public library services, rather than assisting in their demise.

Campaigners asked why the SCL did not agitate for a return to national library standards. The response was that the SCL “pick the fights we can win”.

Would they give in even if it was the most important fight for public libraries?

BBC News Report On Cost Of Somerset Library Legal Case

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Interesting that the following news item headline focuses on the cost of the legal challenge to the council, but the most important point – the key changes it led to – is a footnote at the end:

As a result of the court ruling, 11 libraries kept their funding, four mobile libraries were reinstated and the opening hours at 23 libraries were lengthened.”

BBC News – Library legal case costs Somerset council £200k.