Keeping track…

March 30, 2007

So many policy announcements, reviews, plans. And that’s just in one sector. Even in these days of RSS et al., it’s hard to keep track of what’s happening. Unless someone knows of a one-stop-document shop ūüėČ


Public libraries, or the soapbox again

March 30, 2007

Just read the MLA Blueprint. But now Tim Coates tells us it’s a dead letter anyway- that MLA has no role in public libraries. Now they will be managed as part of the government’s community strategy, putting them under the DCLG.

Quoting Tim, ‘PS – This is not the kind of change will be accompanied by a press release! Don’t expect to see it on a Government website. But it is true nevertheless.’ This much seems true. The DCMS website still has all its library ‘what we do’ links.

The Blueprint itself is not particularly inspiring. It is overlong and rather managerial in tone. This is not to deny that some of it is good; it stresses reading and access as the main elements of the ‘core offer’ that public libraries will provide. Whether ‘reading’ in itself is the thing, or access to reading as a way of getting to other things, is a debate for another day. But it’s nice to see a government agency not completely in thrall to ICT.

Where it gets tricky is in the vision of the public library as ‘development agency.’ I support the idea of libraries playing their part in learning, development and community strengthening. But they do this best by being good libraries, not by diluting energies through multi-agency box ticking.

Co-operation is important- I myself have been to talk to public library colleagues about referring people to/from college- but the public library needs to concentrate on its role.

A good library, well-stocked and staffed by committed people, will provide the right context for people to go on to access further services.

As to where libraries should go in the government that too is a debate for another day. But where they go does tell us how government sees libraries- and putting them in Communities shows us they see them as engines for social change…

On politics

March 29, 2007

Just had a quick run through some self-avowed conservative librarians- and for balance some liberal. Both US. Interesting reading. My conclusion is, everyone is an evil, self-serving godless/god ridden heathen/fundamentalist… but I jest.

I describe myself as a liberal/social democrat. In European terms. Mixed economy, avoidance of war where possible, creation of opportunity as the way to deal with poverty etc whilst still providing support. Equal rights. Sensitivity without pandering. Balance and a desire not to confuse certainty with being right, or struggle/conflict/war with always being a positive thing.

In terms of librarianship, it must as a whole be ‘neutral.’ That is not to say discernment be abandoned; collection development is all about the appropriate. However, nothing should be refused solely because it makes us uncomfortable. Or approved because it has that affect on others.

Professional bodies must be careful about making wide political statements, except where they clearly relate to libraries. People should use pressure groups and the like for political protest/action, be it pro-this or anti-that.

Back to the consideration of what libraries are for… I’m off to read MLA‘s Blueprint. Thanks to Michael for the (inadvertent) heads up on this. It’s hard to keep track of all the plans and manifestos in libraryland…

The future

March 29, 2007

Again from Les, an interesting link to a post on the future of libraries. What is most interesting are the ideas in the comments, two of which have been on my mind.

¬†The first is the idea of libraries as places to support production- ‘community publishing.’ The second is the idea that physical books have a place because of their physical nature- the example being children’s books.

Also interesting to me was fleela’s comment, which put me in mind of Wisner’s arguments concerning the atomising effects of computer access in libraries. Perhaps social software and the ability to share your work will counteract that. Perhaps.

Good to see these arguments being advanced in support of the continuation and development of physical libraries and books.

Books, books, books; but is one a ‘blook?’

March 28, 2007

Update- no, one of them isn’t¬†a blook!

Update 2- the review of Walt’s book¬†is here.

Walt Crawford has just issued his book Balanced libraries: thoughts on continuity and change, available from Lulu. It looks like an interesting synthesis of Walt’s writing in Cites and Insights, and chimes with a lot of my views on librarianship. I’ll post a full review when I’ve read it- as a PoD book coming from America, it’ll be¬†a couple of weeks before I get it.

There are several other books on libraries and librarianship out soon.

Facet (CILIP’s publishing arm) have Librarianship: The complete introduction by Gobinda Chowdhury, Paul F Burton, David McMenemy and Alan Poulter due out in September; and The public library by David McMenemy. I shall probably buy a copy of Librarianship and look to borrow a copy of McMenemy’s book.

It’s good to see a wide range of books on basic issues in libraries. It’s fun to read blogs and follow the to’s and fro’s of such an immediate medium, but it’s also good to sit and follow a sustained argument.

I’ll also be ordering some stuff from Chandos it seems.

Freedom of speech; the ‘blogosphere’ and death threats (edit)

March 27, 2007

 This came to me via library2pointzero

¬†I do not know Kathy Sierra- I don’t follow a lot of tech blogs- but the story told here is disturbing. Anonymity certainly lends people fearlessness, but not credence.

Was there a death threat? Reading through the comments, including Joey’s, I am not so sure.

What I am sure of is that there was immoderate language, posturing and self-importance. And a degree of nastiness that, whilst it fell short of actually threatening death, could certainly make someone feel threatened.

And why the hostility? Some of it is from clubbability I’ve no doubt- idiot men preserving areas for themselves. Me, I’m happy to leave tech to whoever can do it and make it work for me.

Clubbability aside, threats of violence¬†are beyond the pale. Using violent metaphors is a tricky area too. There’s a difference between using an¬†‘icon’ ( though since when was a noose a standard icon of criticism) and an (un)thinking use of imagery.

Freedom of speech is not freedom to threaten; especially when that freedom of speech is used to limit the freedom of others. Whatever constitutional rights are granted, they have to be balanced against (i) the safety of others and (ii) the ability of others to exercise the same right

And as for the blogosphere- including the biblioblogosphere- both terms conjure up a rather cosy image of all people together, forging a new way of thinking and being. Well, like good old BBSs, mailing lists and message boards, it isn’t.

I hope and trust that Kathy- and any others so targeted- get support from the law and from blogging companies, where appropriate. If no threat is found, at least it is to be hoped that people will attempt some degree of civility.

And that noone tries to defend this behind tired ‘it’s a joke’ machismo. If Joey et al don’t understand the hurt they seem to have caused, fair enough- they do seem to be making some attempt at putting things right.

Criticism of the seen-to-be pompous is one thing. Merely sneery stuff, well, it’s cheap and easy, and generally pretty pointless.

Anyone for conkers?

Evaluative statements- I got them MCLIP blues

March 22, 2007

How can you sum up your work, evaluatively, in 1000 words? I tell you, I’m not finding it easy. I can describe it in 1000 words, but talk meaningfully about it as well? Tough one.