What I did for National Libraries Day 2015


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

BBC News Report On Cost Of Somerset Library Legal Case


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 ÂŁ200k.

Updated CILIP Volunteers In Public Libraries Policy


Today CILIP published their revised volunteer policy for public libraries. The decision to revise it was made after concerns were raised by members of the library profession (including myself) about the existing policy.

The back story to this change is written up in the following posts.

CILIP Volunteer Policy & Job Substitution: Letter to CILIP Update (16th May 2012)

Response To My Letter Re. CILIP Volunteer Policy (6th June 2012)

Further Discussions About CILIP’s Volunteer Policy (18th June 2012)

The wording of the new policy is as follows:

Use of volunteers in public libraries

 In 2012 CILIP Council agreed the following policy statement on the use of volunteers in public libraries. 

CILIP believes that society benefits from the contribution that trained and skilled library, information and knowledge workers make to developing and delivering services. We do not believe that volunteers should undertake core service delivery or be asked to replace the specialised roles of staff who work in libraries.

Volunteers have long supported and provided highly valuable additional support, working alongside qualified and paid staff, and they should be acknowledged and valued for this role. They should also be given appropriate role descriptions, training and management.

CILIP is opposed to job substitution where paid professional and support roles are directly replaced with either volunteers or untrained administrative posts to save money. This applies to all library and information services in every sector.

If this happens services will suffer and will be unsustainable. What remains would be a library service unable to serve the community comprehensively, support people’s information needs or provide everyone with the opportunity for learning and development.

CILIP will not assist in recruiting or training volunteers who will be used to substitute the role of qualified, trained and paid library and information workers. 

We acknowledge the difficult times that we live in, but now more than ever, high quality information services are vital to people’s lives, and local communities, learners, workers and businesses need the support of a trained and skilled workforce to thrive.

Date of policy: June 2012

Policy to be reviewed: June 2014

I’m very pleased with the revised policy. It acknowledges the support role of volunteers, but it also puts it in the context of how this is a support role and should not be used either as a replacement for trained staff providing core public library services, or as a cost saving exercise. In fact, it goes a step further by including “untrained administrative posts” alongside volunteers in this context – a statement which could prevent some library services from considering this route too. It emphasises that it will not assist in the development of roles that fall under this this banner.

At the same time as emphasising these areas it is also good news that the policy has expanded on the reasons why it is important to have library services provided by “trained and skilled library, information and knowledge workers”.

I also think it’s important to highlight that, in relation to its opposition to job substitution, the policy also states:

“This applies to all library and information services in every sector.” 

In doing this, CILIP emphasises that this is not acceptable in any situation and demonstrates its support for the profession across the board.

Not only does the new volunteer policy set out CILIP’s stance in line with advocacy work it has previously mentioned, but it also provides a policy with more substance. The original policy (from 2010) was too vague and brief – it didn’t clearly define CILIP’s position and left gaps that could allow library service providers to misinterpret it in a way that went against the spirit of the policy. This vagueness and brevity was a major cause of concern.

However, it’s reassuring to see that CILIP has taken note of these concerns, that the issues previously raised have been addressed and I hope that it will help ensure that public library users receive the professionally run library services they deserve.

Thanks From A Public Librarian To Anyone Who Said No To Library Cuts #savelibraries


This year has been a bit of a bummer in some ways in the world of public libraries, mostly caused by the threatened closure or handing over of libraries to volunteers, by local authorities. Lots of people have been working on fighting against the cuts.

Scores of friends of libraries and campaign groups have formed all over the country, taking on Ed Vaizey and Jeremy Hunt’s roles as superintendents of their own local library services – standing up and saying “No!”, whilst Mr Hunt and Mr Vaizey (who both have some kind of Government responsibility for libraries) do very little.

Ed Vaizey's Unused Sheriff Badge

Ed Vaizey's Unused Sheriff Badge (c) ggstopflat/Flickr

People are fighting the cuts in so many ways…

  • As part of an organised campaign or friends group.
  • By signing the Women’s Institute libraries petition. (15,798 online signatures so far. Come on, we need more signatures than this!)
  • By signing local petitions.
  • Writing newspaper articles or blog posts to highlight what’s going on.
  • Commenting upon newspaper articles or blog posts about the cuts.
  • Responding to library consultations.
  • Local Councillors voting against decisions to cut in their areas.
  • Anyone who has spoken to friends, families or strangers to highlight what’s going on.
  • Anyone whose taken note of someone who’s spoken to them about UK public library cuts.
  • Sharing a web link or a news article about the cuts.
  • Running library events as a way to highlight the message.
  • New and existing library users who have found out that libraries are of more use to them than they realised and are making use of them in new ways.

Any of these actions make me realise that I (and other library service colleagues around the country) are valued. It’s a thought that gives me a smile, despite having to watch the battle between those who want hack away at library services and those who want to save them.

This post was triggered by a thought I had after reading the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries open letter addressed to Ed Vaizey. This letter  highlighted concerns about his inaction over the past year regarding public library cuts and asked for people to support and sign the letter too.

I looked at that letter yesterday to see who had signed it and, as a public librarian, I was genuinely touched by the number and wide range of people who had signed it and left comments in support of public libraries and their staff.

After reading that letter I realised that as a public librarian I hadn’t said thank you for a long time for the support people are giving public libraries during this tough time. I know some people are putting so much effort in that it’s basically like having a second job!

So… thank you to everyone and anyone, wherever you are, who has said “No” to public library cuts over the past year or so. It’s the nicest Christmas present you could have given me. 🙂 You really don’t know how much I appreciate it.

22 11 11 whodunnit indeed

22 11 11 whodunnit indeed (c) Kikishua/Flickr

#ili2011 “Library Campaigning With A Virtual Voice” Presentation With Notes


The following is an outline of the presentation I gave about Voices For The Library’s use of social media and online tools to develop campaigning methods at “Internet Librarian International 2011” last week.

Slide 1

We are a national campaign group highlighting the value of UK public libraries

Talking about how social media and online tools formed the group and how we have used them in our campaign

Slide 2

We have 3 main online presences – website; Twitter; Facebook

Slide 3

Why did we form?

In Mid 2010 there was an increased threat of library funding cuts leading to library closures and reductions in service. (Currently 430+ public libraries are under threat – out of a total network of 4600+)

People were questioning the relevance of libraries and librarians – common misconceptions included… you can find everything on Google; books can bought cheaply from Amazon; everyone has the internet; all books are available as e-books

Slide 4

Many people in the profession were talking about the situation on library discussion lists and Twitter

This included a group of us (about 7of us) on Twitter, who decided we wanted to do something pro-active, rather than just talk about it.

Slide 5

We did it very quickly – from intending to do something to setting up site/blog with content; Twitter & Facebook accounts took us 2 weeks.

We didn’t have to meet in real life to do this – it all happened online.

Most of us in the group hadn’t met in real life before and many of us didn’t meet in real life for a good few months after the campaign had been running.

Slide 6

Online presence wasn’t the only important thing, but it was the quickest way to organise and had the widest reach

Wanted to support local campaigners

Wanted to ensure we talked to others offline ie library users/campaigners; media

Slide 7

We are doing this voluntarily outside our day jobs and need to do it as cheaply (free) as possible and within limits of time outside work.

Lots of the online tools we use are free and easy to use

Slide 8

Social media tools we use for informing others – our site/blog; Twitter; Facebook; Tumblr; paper.li; Flickr; Foursquare

Provide guidance for campaigners

Comment on national situation

Positive library user stories

Links to news articles, other campaigners sites, retweet other campaigners tweets

Slide 9

Social media tools we use to find out what is happening – Google and Yahoo news; other peoples blogs; Government sites; Facebook; delicious; Twitter; email

Slide 10

Tools we use to discuss the situation – our website/blog; Facebook; Twitter; email; comment on other peoples blogs & news articles; forums

Talk to anyone with a part to play in the situation – library users; campaigners; journalists; politicians; library detractors

Slide 11

Social media tools for behind the scenes – Twapperkeeper; Twitterfeed; Packrati.us; delicious; Google maps (Ian Anstice/Public libraries news); If This Then That; Yahoo pipes; Pbworks wiki; chatzy

Use to discuss, meet, store, share, re-use information

Slide 12

In summer 2010 started archiving tweets containing keywords around saving libraries eg. #save libraries, #love libraries, ’I love libraries’ –  as a way to give a positive morale boost – can retweet them.

In January 2011 @mardixon tweeted the tweet on this slide and responses to it caused the #save libraries hash tag to trend worldwide. We got involved by promoting the tweet and retweeting responses  by others.

It helped promote the value of libraries and highlight library cuts in the UK.

Most of the quotes on the slides in this presentation are taken from Twitter in response to this tweet sent out by @mardixon

#savelibraries archive now contains 53,000+ tweets.

Slide 13

Not just VFTL campaign using social media – other local campaigns do too.

They also have blogs/sites; Twitter; Facebook accounts

Not just about online presence, but they too recognise online presence has wide reach and can get your message across the world

Slide 14

We use a wide range of tools to pull together info from many places and pass on information to others

We experiment to see what works well and what doesn’t

Slide 15

We thought about how the information flows and interconnects – where possible we try to automate and re-use information eg. Feed blog posts to Twitter and Facebook; Facebook to Twitter; Flickr to Twitter/Facebook; Twitter to paper.li; etc

Slide 16

Not sure how much of a difference our activities have made, but I like to think it’s made some difference

Maybe it’s made people more aware of the situation – library users; journalists; politicians

Maybe it’s inspired people to campaign in their area

Maybe it’s helped to stop some closures/cuts

Maybe it’s made people realise the value of public libraries

Slide 17

What next?

Last week we jointly ran a conference with The Library Campaign with the aim of bringing campaigners from across the UK together to discuss a way forward

Clear that campaigners want to work more closely together with other campaigners in the UK

Plans for rally in the near future

We’ll continue trying to save libraries in the UK!

Surrey Libraries Campaigners Lobby At County Hall


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

Library Closures: Not Saving Money… Displacing It


“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)