The Library A to Z launches today #LibraryAtoZ


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, 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

#LibraryAtoZ is 190% funded with one week to go


#LibraryAtoZ is 190% funded with one week to go

Fundraising for the Library A to Z is not yet closed, but with one week to go, it is already 190% funded! On Monday we’d already reached around £2250 with 120+ backers, but The Library Campaign showed their support for the project by becoming the main sponsor and pledged £1,500, which took the total up to almost £3,800! We had hoped that a library focused organisation would pledge, but wasn’t certain that it would happen, so this came as a fantastic surprise and is gratefully appreciated, as is the £2250 that all of the other individual backers have also pledged. This funding means that the full colour book, posters and posters will be produced, along with press packs featuring this material. We still have a week to go and further stretch goals dependent upon the money we raise. I said it would be great earlier in the week if the crowd funding reached £2500, but now I’m really wondering if we can reach £4500, and if we did how much more we could do with this project. A huge thank you to everyone who has generously pledged and promoted this project.

A #LibraryAtoZ #lovelibraries #NLD14 gif


A #LibraryAtoZ #lovelibraries #NLD14 gif

I also wanted to make something a bit more creative for the #LibraryAtoZ, so I made an “I love…” gif taking some of the words that didn’t focus specifically on library services offered, more on people’s reasons for using them. It wasn’t supposed to be something personal to me, but now looking at all the words/phrases as they flit past I can honestly say that at some point along the way this is what libraries have meant to me.

Made with “” and “IMGflip animated gif maker”.

Edinburgh Edge Conference 2012 #Edge2012


At the beginning of March I attended The Edge Conference, hosted by Edinburgh City Council. The conference speakers focused on innovation in library services within the broader context of the community, environment and current economic situation. Many of the speakers were from a library background, but the conference also heard from politicians, technology experts and partner organisations.

Mark Turley (Director of Services for Communities, City of Edinburgh Council) commented on statutory duties for library services and how it was easy to get sucked into focusing on saving money in libraries, rather than focusing on making best use of money available.  He also emphasised the benefits libraries have upon communities, economic development & education/learning, but he also highlighted the fact that libraries need to focus on gathering evidence to support these claims.

Amy Eschleman (Assistant Commissioner, Chicago Public Library) spoke about the Chicago Public Library service and how they used social capital as a method of developing communities.  As an example, she highlighted how the introduction of Near North/Cabrini Green Library in Chicago helped develop a run down area of the city.  They also developed a youth project that engaged middle and high school students (YOUmedia). The project wasn’t just about users consuming information. It was about them creating it too and the project embraced the idea that learning can happen anywhere. The Chicago One Book, One City project saw participants in the YOUmedia project respond to a specific single book in a creative way. They created written, musical, videos and fan-fiction responses to the book. The YOUmedia project shows youth a pathway through libraries that they never knew existed before.  More recently the project participants were asked to design a bus for Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation. Chicago is looking to expand the YOUmedia project to adults – including maker and hack spaces. Amy also recognised that libraries need to emphasise their worth beyond the circulation statistics, and Chicago Public Library Service will be releasing an online toolkit to help with this.

Riccardo Marini (Urbanist) focused on libraries as place making anchors and emphasised the importance of introducing design early on in the building process. He talked about how it is the places that we like that successfully engage the interest of people and allow human exchange to happen. He highlighted the fact that many people draw on their childhood experiences when asked what a library means to them. He saw the interest in Frederick Taylor’s theories of efficiency as the death of a lot of good things, because it moved the focus onto money and away from happiness.  We are often led by accountants focusing on efficiency (rather than creativity), not by the service providers or users. The way services are presented to potential users determines how people feel about those services. We need to present them in the right way- a positive and creative way. The positive effect will ripple out from great projects.

Judith St John (Head of Idea Stores, Tower Hamlets) spoke about the development of their Idea Stores. The council asked for public opinion on library services – 98% of respondents considered libraries important, but wanted more books and I.T. The council wanted to move away from the negative impression that the public had of their services. They wanted to rebrand them and so, Ideas Stores were born. There was more of an emphasis on the retail model in Ideas Stores, but staff felt this was destroying the traditional approach of libraries.  However, since opening Idea Stores use has gone up from 550,000 to 2,200,000 a year.

Peter Fleming (Leader of Seven Oaks Council) talked about the experience of localism in his area. At present, Kent County Council are responsible for providing library services, but with the emphasis on localism how much longer will this be the case? Seven Oaks has a mixed economy & is 93% green belt. He emphasised that the assets of local councils are insignificant when compared to those owned by NHS, MOD, SEEDA, etc. He felt that Councils needed to focus on what they’re good at and that partnership working should involve partners they would naturally expect to work with, but if a council is going to run with partnership working it needed to have clear visions and the passion to go with that idea.

Let There Be Light by 0olong

Let There Be Light (c) 0olong/Flickr

Alison Todd (Children 1st Charity) discussed the role that libraries have in protecting children. Libraries are recognised by children as safe places. Partnership working could be developed between children’s services and libraries, including information workshops for parents and carers. She saw a place for private sector involvement in the delivery of child protection services eg. Sponsorship of workshops. Criminal Record Bureau (C.R.B.) checks were necessary, but their implementation needs to be improved.

David Lee (Leader of Wokingham Council) talked about Wokingham’s plans for commissioning services from the private sector (including their public libraries), as a response to reduced funding from Central Government.

Annie Mauger (Chief Executive,  Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals) focused on the current situation regarding libraries in the UK and how librarians are developing their advocacy skills in these uncertain times. She highlighted that the emphasis in the media is still on library closures, but as Fiona McLeod (MSP) said, “Library closures are not the real threat – it’s the slow erosion of opening hours, staffing & resources…” In some cases cuts in library services are up to 37% and there is an increasing divide between those who “have” access to services provided through their own means and those who don’t. It is those who don’t have access who are being targetted by the current round of cuts. CILIP are currently revising the professional body of knowledge and this should help show where the librarians role is heading. CILIP’s Simon Edwards will also be visiting library schools to talk about future skills & curriculum that will be needed.

Derrick McCourt (Director Scotland, Wales and UK Local government at Microsoft) highlighted the digital gap among small and medium-sized Scottish enterprises. He also wondered if those who don’t read books might also not be digitally connected.

Christopher Platt (Director of Collections & Operations, New York Public Libraries) spoke about the current E-book/library situation and how libraries  have a role to play, despite the fact that many publishers feel we don’t. We need to highlight to publishers that libraries have a huge number of hits on our sites. For example, NYPL e-stock circulation is the 3rd highest issue branch. Users love the fact that NYPL are Kindle enabled and Amazon friendly, but publishers don’t. The library service wants the library site to be New Yorker’s intellectual home – the first place people come to look for a book, whether they borrow it or go on to buy it.

Lester Madden (Augmented Planet) demonstrated the use of augmented reality – a system that combines computer generated graphics with the real world. Common examples of augmented reality are enabled via geo-location; tag markers; and markerless technology. Uses of augmented reality include providing value-added information and promotional material. There are a number of services freely available that can help non-programmers develop augmented reality applications (for example Junaio).

Karen Reece (Capita) talked about providing library services in the cloud and reminded us that many library services are already in cloud. For example, Librarything, social networking, E-books, online catalogues.

Jim Thompson (Digital & Information Service Manager, Edinburgh) talked about virtual developments in Edinburgh’s library service. Their latest offering is Our Town Stories“, a site that displays Edinburgh’s history on a map in stories and images. It takes on the idea of user generated content by allowing users to add their own stories to the site.

Thoughts about the conference

It was particularly interesting to hear about innovation in library services that didn’t focus solely on technology. There often seems to be an assumption that technology is the answer to most problems, but many of the speakers at the conference showed us that the physical space and the people involved are just as important. If Riccardo Marini is right when he says that people formulate their ideas about libraries based upon experiences they had during their childhood, then, to keep them interested, we also need to focus on ensuring that they have positive memories of libraries all through their lives. We need to ensure that our libraries develop with our users.

The conference also affirmed the idea that a library service is so much more than just providing a building with a sign over the door saying “Library”. It is just as much about the people involved and how they interact with services provided. The context you put any service in (whether it’s a library service or not) has an effect upon how people relate to it. As Judith St John said, “People make places, more than buildings & roads.”

Despite all of these great ideas about innovation and service development, we need to remember that innovation often comes at a price, and in the current climate of cuts to public library service budgets we need to ask how (and if) these innovations should be funded? Well, as Mark Turley said, public libraries benefit individuals, the community and economy, but we need to ensure we are able to measure their impact and have the evidence readily available to present to people who might question their value. Hopefully Chicago’s online toolkit will help us measure this impact. Riccardo Marini also highlighted that if we give the accountants the final say in funding our library services we may well end up with more efficient library services, but they will be so uninspiring that people won’t want to use them. So, we need to invest in providing inspiring services. During the conference Liz McGettigan (Edinburgh Libraries and Information Manager) also suggested that as public libraries have done so much for the UK over the years, isn’t it about time Central Government acknowledged this and did something for libraries in return? ie support public libraries and help them achieve their potential.

I really enjoyed attending the conference. Having heard from a wide range of speakers with perspectives outside of my own experience it’s given me a greater understanding of libraries’ role in a broader context and has also given me a few ideas that I hope I will have the chance to develop in my own library service.

Carry A Poem Launch by chrisdonia

Carry A Poem Launch (c) chrisdonia/Flickr

My National Libraries Day Out #NLD12 #Librarithon #LoveLibraries


Yesterday was National Libraries Day in the UK – a celebration of libraries – not just public, but also academic, specialist, business, health, schools, etc… all libraries!

I was hoping to celebrate in the week building up to today by taking part in my own librarithon – ie visit as many different interesting libraries as possible. This was inspired by Zoe Toft who, along with her children, took part in her own charity librarithon last year. In the end, due to the fact that I had to complete a major project in work and had a major meeting to prepare for and attend, the librarithon didn’t happen. 😦 Oh well!

Instead I took part in a mini-librarithon today in London with a couple of other librarians – @usernametaken10 and @misshelved – who fancied exploring a few new places. The aim wasn’t to take in as many libraries as possible just for the sake of visiting them. We decided to visit the Dickens & the Supernatural exhibition at The British Library, two new libraries in Dalston and Canada Water and an ‘Idea store’ in Whitechapel, which was running an author event.

As we were in London, and as it’s a national library, The British Library seemed like a really good place to start. I’ve visited this library a few times. Every time I’ve been there it’s to visit an exhibition.  Exhibitions in a library are a great way to provide focus on information/resources held by the library that might have otherwise been hidden away – hidden away in terms of location, and in Dickens case, hidden away in his body of work. He’s probably more widely known for fiction that touches on social history, rather than the supernatural. Exhibitions such as this get  potential readers thinking about the author in a different way. It was quite a small exhibition – took us about 20 minutes to look at it – but it was interesting to find out about how his early childhood and the people in it influenced him. He was sceptical about ghosts and the paranormal, but that didn’t stop him from writing classic ghost stories, such as The Signalman.

Book sculpture at Dalston C.L.R. James Library

Book sculpture at Dalston C.L.R. James Library

Next, we took the bus over to Dalston and wandered around the newly built C.L.R. James Library. This public area was spread over one and a half floors, broken up into glass partitioned walls. The local archives and history service was situated above it. I thought the use of the foyer area was interesting – a place for those who just want to dash in and out, to make a quick choice from a limited set of popular books. Even though I couldn’t borrow them (as I not a member of that library service), I did spot a couple of graphic novels that interested me. It made me think, “I wish we had a national library card and I could borrow this book this book right now.” Hopefully my local library will stock them. *Goes off to check the catalogue* Yes, I’ve found one of them! (Mike Carey / God Save The Queen)

Then we took the train to Canada Water Library. Again, this is another brand new library and has great views overlooking Canada Water itself. The building itself is pretty funky – as @misshelved said, on the outside it looks like a Jawa Sand crawler.

Canada Water Library

Canada Water Library or Jawa Sand Crawler?

Inside Canada Water Library

Inside Canada Water Library (c) usernametaken10/Flickr

Inside the library there’s a coffee shop and quick choice section (like Dalston Library’s foyer). A set of stairs in the centre of the ground floor leads up to the main part of the library, housing the children’s library, computers and fiction. Up another set of stairs is the non-fiction section on a balcony area that over looks the rest of the library. It goes all the way around the library and up here they also have study spaces and meeting rooms. I’m not sure whether “a day in the life” of the library as shown here is actually how it is, but I could imagine spending a couple of hours a week in there just relaxing and browsing/thinking if I lived closer to it – it’s got a pretty relaxed positive feel to it.

Finally, @usernametaken10 and I headed to Whitechapel and visited the Idea Store there. It’s a few years old and is based over a number of floors (4, I think). Our aim was to go to a free author event (Austerity Writes Back) which was on for an hour and a half. We only managed to catch the end of the event (last 20 minutes or so), but what I saw/heard was really interesting, especially as some of its focus was the austerity cuts and protest. That’s sort of why National Libraries Day exists (on the back of Save Our Libraries protest day last year) and is also relevant to Voices For The Library activities. One of the authors (and publisher) Bobby Nayyar made a comment that made sense to me about the current state of affairs with the economy. It was along the lines that there’s nothing wrong with businesses making a profit, but some businesses seem focused on making an obscene amount of profit and do not understand the social impact this may have on the world around them. I also want to mention that while I was mooching around the Idea Store I spotted on the end of a shelf a biography of Andrew Carnegie. It made me smile to think that, as a philanthropist who funded so many libraries, he has a lot to be thanked for on National Libraries Day.

Andrew Carnegie book

I wonder how Andrew Carnegie would have felt today about library cuts?

I really enjoyed today’s little adventure as part of National Libraries Day. On top of visiting a handful of libraries (old and new), I had a laugh and mulled over a few library related ideas with @usernametaken10 and @misshelved. I also got to explore parts of London I’ve never been to before, and I listened to a few authors talk about their books and how they were inspired.

As I sit here writing this, I also wonder if anyone using any of those four libraries I visited today was struck by some great revolutionary or genius idea that will change the world forever? It would be great to say I was in THAT LIBRARY at THAT PRECISE MOMENT when it happened… and you may well laugh, but it could happen, because that’s the sort of thing that goes on inside the minds of people who use libraries. 🙂

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

My Library Mojo Has Been Flushed Down The Bog


I’ve been reading a few blog posts about how to keep your library mojo and re-energise it when it’s left you… and at the moment I feel I really need to read those sort of articles, because I’ve been hit by thoughts which seems to spiral around:

  • “What the F is going on?”
  • “What am I doing?”
  • “I’m tired and I want to go back to bed.”

I’d like to contribute to the “Keeping your library mojo intact” debate…

My words of wisdom are…

Do it before you get to the age where you are:

  • Making those funny sighing noises when you bend over.
  • Struggling to get out of the bath.
  • Snoozing on the sofa a little bit more than you used to.

I’m not saying anyone at that age is not going to have any mojo, but at the moment I don’t and I’m guilty of all 3 points above. So, in the true spirit of making the evidence fit the conclusion, this is why I believe my library mojo has been drained awaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay.

Or maybe I’m just:

  • Disheartened by a lack of support for libraries
  • Sick of the shit going on around public libraries
  • Sick of the lack of leadership in all quarters
  • Sick of toss-pots who think they know about libraries when they haven’t used one for years
  • Sick of having to fight for libraries as one of the little people, when the people who have much more power do…

“F’ ALL!”

At the moment all this frustration is making me want to take an Incredible Hulk stance


Incredible Hulk

(c) Kiwanja / Flickr

And if anyone posts a comment here giving the usual crap about how:

  • You can buy books cheaply from Amazon
  • Everyone has the internet at home
  • You can just Google it
  • You can get it all on e-books
  • Why do you need librarians?
  • etc, etc, etc

They will be told to…


An unprofessional attitude, I know, but I can’t really see many other people higher up actually fighting for professional staff anyway! I can hear them talking about it, but that’s about it!

Yours grumpily….

NB: This is probably just a blip in my library mojo.