Monday, 23 September 2013

Cilip AGM 2013 : Motion of No Confidence in Ed Vaizey

 On Saturday, 21st September, the Cilip Annual General Meeting was held at the recently opened Library of Birmingham. I spoke in support of item 9 on the agenda - the motion of no confidence in Ed Vaizey. It read:

“In view of his failures to enforce the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act, this Annual General Meeting of Cilip has no confidence in Ed Vaizey, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Culture, Media, Communications and Creative Industries, and instructs Council to work with all other interested parties to protect library, information and knowledge services”

The motion was carried. 669 people voted in favour. Less that a third voted against (200) whilst 103 people abstained.

I prepared for debate. I prepared myself for some vocal objections, but was rather surprised that, other than an objection to the wording, and clarification over the spirit of the motion (Were we asking Cilip not to work with Ed Vaizey. No. That was not our intention), there were no objections raised.

I admit to being a little disappointed. The AGM hosted a passionate discussion about the potential name change. And whilst it's nice to have folk nod in agreement and vote it through, I'm aware that not everyone agreed - some disagreed quite vocally on Twitter or via other blogs. And that's OK.  But what a shame that discussion couldn't have been had at the AGM.

I'm not the first to have a strong opinion on Vaizey. I certainly won't be the last. Others have expressed their disappointment much more elegantly that I ever could. (This one, from Gary Green is a particular favourite).

For what it's worth, the text of my speech is below, which was mostly read as written. I've removed identifying information.

"My name is [redacted]. I work for the [Government Agency] in a team called ‘Evidence’ which is a service responsible for creating, finding, managing and sharing data and information. I've previously worked in both public libraries and academic libraries in front-line roles and joined the Library Association shortly before it evolved into Cilip.

I want to start off with a quote from Ed Vaizey, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries. He’s talking here as shadow secretary about plans for 15 libraries to be closed in Wirral back in 2009. Vaizey said:

“Andy Burnham's refusal to take action in the Wirral effectively renders the 1964 Public Libraries Act meaningless. While it is local authorities' responsibility to provide libraries, the Act very clearly lays responsibility for ensuring a good service at the culture secretary's door. If Andy Burnham is not prepared to intervene when library provision is slashed in a local authority such as the Wirral, it is clear that he is ignoring his responsibilities as secretary of state, which in the process renders any sense of libraries being a statutory requirement for local authorities meaningless” [Bookseller]

If you were to swap a few names around, change the name of the library authority under threat then this could easily be the current shadow secretary, talking about Ed Vaizey. In this speech, Vaizey himself makes the point of his own ineffectiveness clearly.

When in opposition, Vaizey, described proposals to close public libraries in areas of deprivation in Wirral as "cost-driven vandalism". You only have to read headlines in Bookseller or take a quick glance at Public Libraries news to see how starkly that contrasts with his words and lack of action as current secretary.

He seems to have little sympathy or time for the libraries that are closing, libraries that are being removed from council responsibility through privatisation or outsourcing, or libraries that are being forced into community hands to run themselves, else live with the guilt that they somehow contributed to the loss of their local library services. That’s before we’ve even stopped to consider the libraries that are clinging on, hollowed out with little left in terms of staff, opening hours or resources.

Vaizey claims he is delighted that libraries continue to thrive, and at the recent select committee enquiry into library closures, he queried the crisis.

Crisis?  What crisis?

All this against a backdrop of closures in Somerset, Gloucester, Lincolnshire, Sheffield, Sunderland, Moray, Herefordshire, Isle of White... It’s not the Secretary of State intervening in these closures. It is the local library campaigners.

According to Public Libraries News, compiled by Ian Anstice, since April 2013, 364 libraries, including mobile services have been closed or transferred out of Local Authority control or are under threat. That’s just in six months. The Library Campaign recently estimated that by 2016 we will have lost almost 1000 libraries.

Vaizey is quick to point to the successes of shiny new libraries, like the very library we are stood in today. But his silences on the closures that loom over the few that have opened, stand in dark contrast. [See: Ed Vaizey’s statements on public libraries]

During the passionate debates around what our professional body should call itself, the one message I heard time and again was: ‘It’s not what the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals is called that matters. It is what it does’.
Cilip is perceived by campaigners to have very little to say about large-scale changes that are happening in our public libraries. We need to change that.

Few people working in public libraries are able to speak out in confidence about what is happening to their service – to their jobs. I read a letter recently from someone in my own local area, where the very library that inspired me to become a librarian is now under threat as plans to turn 1/3 of its space into classrooms for a local school dismiss it’s collections as ‘book storage’.

The passion and despair in that letter moved me to tears. A library worker’s whose voice is silenced because speaking out against changes means speaking out against her employer and all the risks associated with that.

A vote of no confidence in Vaizey, from Cilip members sends a powerful message to government and to those that are working in and campaigning to protect public libraries from further loss. This vote gives Cilip members the chance to drive the agenda. It says we value our public libraries and support our colleagues who work in them. I believe that no matter what our background, or in what kind of library or information service we use our skills, we have a professional obligation to stand together and express a vote of no confidence in Ed Vaizey."

My thanks go to Tom Roper, who encouraged me to get involved, and who was the driver behind much of the work to make it happen. Please do read his blog post on the outcomes of the motion.

Thank you also to everyone who tweeted their support or engaged in debate (whether in agreement or otherwise) and gave me the confidence to stand up and speak. When it's the quiet one's that speak out at AGM, you know there's a problem in Library Land.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Forum for Interlending, Cardiff 2013 :: Day Two :: Tour of Cardiff Library

Day two of the Forum for Inter-lending started with a quick Annual General Meeting, before launching in to a visit to Cardiff Library, which was a short walk from the Maldron Hotel.

The library is instantly impressive, forming part of the St. David's redevelopment in central Cardiff. Opened in 2009 by the Manic Street Preachers, the building won a RIBA award in 2010.

It's hard not to love this library. Six stories of glass and light and colour, it's a purpose built library designed to accommodate the variety of different users. Lots of detail gave this library personality: Bright orange signs clearly indicating a route round the library - along with orange chairs to identify members of staff; a clean, uncluttered look that included dedicated wall space to keep displays to a minimum to increase impact; low level shelving with lots of display features, allowing readers to see across the whole of the library.

Cardiff Library || baby grand piano
The readers were at the heart of this library. Dedicated IT suite, where an Ancestry training session was in progress as we passed; a dedicated space tucked away under the stairs for teen collection, listening pods, individual desks, combined with large study desks, giant chairs dotted around the floors to curl up in and read a book. My personal favourite was the baby grand piano - complete with headphones to allow for individual practice without disturbing other library users. I loved the idea of someone having a 'silent disco' style boogie-woogie on the piano.

The children's library was hidden away on it's own mezzanine floor, visible from the main escalators, but only accessible via it's own staircase. Although smaller than they would have liked, it was a space created to be explored by little hands. Cubby-holes contained hidden collections which were rotated on a regular basis, a curtain created a magical enclosed space for story-time and there were dedicated computer desks that couldn't be used if you were over the age of 16.

What personally struck me whilst I was walking around were the number of staff. We were given the tour by the Children's Librarian who outlined the structure of the staff and the number of specialist staff providing support to readers. Whilst there were self-issue machines, there were no queues to use them, and no staff hanging round to provide support - a very different picture to the self-service set up in Bristol where readers are still acclimatising to the change. Talking to the Children's Librarian, she emphasised that although readers needed support to begin with, most were now happy to use self-service, and it freed staff to do more outreach work in the community. Having worked on a self-issue implementation project at a University over 10 years ago - and remember the trauma of having to empty the book return bin - I admit looking on at the self-return system with a little envy. A complex conveyer-belt system that assigned book to the right floor before being manually transferred to the shelves by staff. I still have some concerns about a library service that forces users to use self-issue in a public library but used in the right way, self-service provides the opportunities to open up access to collections. I'm much more comfortable with the use of self-service in an academic environment where it has more potential when combined with 24 hour access. But that's another issue...

If you're interested in the full set of pictures from the day, along with descriptions, they can be found on Flickr.

I won't be blogging the rest of day two... partly because Jenny Foster has already done a much better job of reflecting on the sessions and collecting tweets from the day... but also because I want to focus on the changes I've made since attending. I'll do that in a separate post shortly.

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Forum for Interlending, Cardiff 2013 :: Day One :: Copyright, BLDSS, Scan & Deliver, Bookmark Your Library

I've always had a soft spot for inter-library lending and document supply. Back in 2002, my first full time job in a large university was sole responsibility for ILLs in a campus library. I'd sought the role after starting off in an acquisitions post, so inter-lending felt like I was dealing with another side of the same coin - providing access to an ever-increasing pool of information. At it's peak, I was ordering between 900 and 1500 items a month. I had a good relationship with other ILL folk both in my own institution and across other libraries. A tight-knit community that was willing to share resources and ideas. My proudest moment was being given a copy of a student's thesis. At the front, he'd thanked me for helping him to obtain the materials he's needed for his history Phd. And only I knew the written thanks were partially because I'd quietly allowed him to go over his limit of 100 items per year. Just a little.

I always felt the job gave me a grounding in searching bibliographic databases, understanding sources of information, designing user-friendly processes and deciphering academics scrawly handwritten request forms. I was part of a group that tested and implemented a self-service scheme for academics, enabling them direct access to materials from the British Library via British Library Direct. The service was trialled and then scrapped, but at the time it felt innovative and slightly dangerous. What if the academics went on a wild spending spree?

Ten years later, I'm now in a government library that works very differently from most libraries. Eight years ago, our National Library and Information Service was dismantled in favour of a central library service. The Information Services Unit was born. Serving an internal working population of 13000, we delivered books from our Document Delivery Centre through the post, and provided access to journals, technical reports and legislation, online. Whilst we still purchased books, our focus changed from purchasing items 'just in case' to 'just in time' with customer-led acquisition policies.

Following a Government Review of our department, we found the library service under review, and our staff numbers reduced from 16 down to four. Our print library was digitised. We no longer purchased books. Customers have a choice between purchasing items from our bookshop, or requesting a short-term loan which we arrange via the British Library.

After spending 5 years as a Knowledge Manager and Information Specialist, I found myself returning to a role that included inter-lending. My role was to revamp our inter-lending processes, implementing BLDSS and move towards making our inter-lending self-service. I've almost come full-circle.

Like many others, I've been waiting a while for BLDSS to come online. I attended the BLDSS roadshow, back in October 2011 at the British Library, anticipating it would come online in February 2012. It finally launched over a year later. So having someone from BLDSS was my main motivation for attending Interlend, along with needing to catch up on developments in Copyright.

I found I got a lot more out of it that that. Talking to people about their own processes gave me a sense of relief in some ways - we weren't the only one's with outdated processes that needed a kick up the backside to land with a thud in the 21st Century! It gave me the head space to think about what we did, how we did it - and how we could make improvements. So I've left inspired and feeling brave enough to make a few radical changes.

Professor Charles Oppenheim - Developments in Copyright Law

Day one kicked off with a key-note speech from the ever-entertaining Professor Charles Oppenheim. Who deserves an award for making something that could be really dry so darn entertaining. He announced it was his last conference speech, as he is now retiring. And although librarians across the land will mourn, I wonder if Cliff Richard will breath a sigh of relief?

Prof Oppenheim gave an overview of the Hargreaves Review and what this would mean for libraries. In a week where we've seen a lot of activity around intellectual property legislation, there were lots of notes for me to make. But the welcome news was that there might finally be an end to forcing library users to fill out paper copies of Copyright Declaration Forms, as the UK government finally catches up with the reality of electronic signatures and accepts an on-line form or email.

Kate Ebdom & Joanne Cox - British Library Document Supply

Kate provided an overview of inter-lending over the past few years, highlighting the need for change at the British Library as lending has declined from 4 million requests at it's peak in 2000 down to just 1 million in 2012. I found this decline in use surprising as I thought more libraries were moving to a 'just in time' philosophy of supplying materials to their readers. But a Jisc report published in May 2013 outlined the impact of changes in reader behaviour: Readers favour items that are available for immediate download. Document Delivery comes low on the list of options for items they do not have access to. 

RLUK UK Survey of Academics 2012
For digital libraries like mine, hidden on an intranet, attempting to make the library visible via Google or Wikipedia using innovative techniques (as outlined by Aaron Tay) isn't really an option. But perhaps if we gave our researchers direct access to the British Library, we might be able to have a greater impact? This is what the new British Library Document Supply Service offers.

I've already embraced BLDSS as an online ordering system. We were previously ordering Explore. Even after 8 years, I still can't remember the password for our account. So for me, I found BLDSS easy to access, simple to order from, ammend and track. I'm still waiting for Get It For Me and Find It For Me to come online, (Although, can anyone remember which service is which?) and hoping that the few glitches we've noticed can be ironed out. My next step is to start rolling this out as a way for our researchers to access the materials they need. There's one big flaw in the plan : Copyright Declaration Forms. The need to obtain a signed, paper copy of a form in an environment where we are based online, with no physical access to a library, serving a working population of 12000 people across England is a huge problem, and seriously slows down our turnaround time from request through to delivery. 

Kate and Jo's presentation gave me a few things to think about in terms of what I want to see from BLDSS in the future (Ability to manage requests to the British Library independently of any other tracking systems), and a few more improvements to look forward to, including a DRM wrapper for Secure Electronic Delivery that doesn't need to be installed separately.

Carol Giles - University of Exeter: a fully integrated service

With a choice of two sessions after lunch, I chose to attend this one over Helen Bader's session on music inter-lending as it seemed more relevant to my interests. I admit, I was expecting something a little more revolutionary than what was offered. But the session highlighted the complex political and logistical issues that are still faced by University's attempting to implement a seamless library document delivery service for their readers. Certainly, Carol's presentation highlighted the ongoing issues library workers have with being able to have direct access to IT support that understands their needs.

James Shaw - Scan and Deliver: a new service from Bodleian libraries

And now for some Adam and the Ants. In Lego. Well I had this little earworm in my head for the rest of the day, so I thought I'd pass it on... and lets face it. It beats Cliff Richard EVERY TIME.

So James sneaked in something that isn't technically inter-library lending, but there were so many applications to inter-lending that we forgave him. Bodleian Libraries developed the Scan & Deliver service as a solution to the problem of off-site storage being some 40 miles away from the Library in Swindon. The service is an electronic document delivery service that provides copies of book chapters or articles held in the off-site storage facility, an alternative way of accessing the collection and having to wait for the item to be physically delivered to their home library. The service looked like it was seamlessly integrated in to the library catalogue, making it popular with the students. James outlined the results from a focus group about expectations for the service: They wanted it to be free; They wanted whole copies of books to be delivered; They wanted a fast turnaround. So the University had to work hard to manage expectations of the service and to ensure that it complied with legislative provisions around supplying copies. 

Currently, the service is only offered to Bodleian Libraries card holders, and specifically only for items held off-site. But it was easy to wonder what impact this model might have if it were extended to supply documents to other libraries? Could this be a viable rival to the British Library Document Supply Service?

Elisabeth Robinson - Collaboration and Cooperation: an OCLC update

Elisabeth kicked off the session two Cliff Richard quotes shoehorned in along with a Torchwood reference. But with a focus on raising awareness of FAB libraries, it was surely a missed opportunity for a Thunderbirds reference? With a quick trot through the history of inter-lending and a look at some seriously retro methods of obtaining catalogue information, Elisabeth outlined her background in public libraries and inter-lending before looking at how OCLC continued to connect libraries and their resources world-wide.

For library users in the UK, how easy was it for them to find their local library? Wales offered Library Wales, Scotland offered their own regional version, as did Ireland. But there was a gap, with no collaborative library portal for England.

Bookmark Your Library aimed to fill that gap. Aimed at people who might not necessarily think of using libraries as their first port of call, it launched in March 2013 with a piece of research that caused controversy among library campaigners as it hit the headlines with a 'Use them or lose them' statement. Continuing with the publicity, Elisabeth landed in The Sun a few days later with another survey on the most common books owned. Through local radio interviews alone, she reached over 4 million people talking about books and libraries. A pretty impressive feat that any library campaigner would be proud of.

WorldCat will be well-known to most library workers involved in Inter-Library Loans. A tool to enable libraries to locate the nearest available location for a sought-after resource, it's a key resource in most ILL practitioners tool-kit, but with a heavy emphasis on US libraries. Set to change shape to become WorldShare with a new interface that recognises that ILL staff like pretty pictures of book covers too.

Day one of the conference ended with a plenary and question-answer sessions aimed at British Library and Charles Oppenheim. I left with a notebook full of things to think about and ways to improve my own service.

Day two will be blogged in a separate post. Phew!

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Motivation for Chartership

In the last few weeks, I've started to host 'Chartership Chats' on Twitter. A topic that seems to keep coming up is motivation for completing Chartership.

Strictly speaking, I'm not actually doing 'Chartership'. I'm working on Aclip Certification with my eye firmly on Chartership. It's part of a long-term goal. And it has been for a few years. Despite the fact that neither Cilip, library qualifications or Chartership are recognised by my workplace. As far as they are concerned, I have the skills and knowledge I need to do the job. The fact I'm an 'information professional' is neither here nor there.

I'm holding my hands up here. That degree thing? I didn't quite make it. The rest of life took over and I found myself having to quit Aberystwyth just before I started the dissertation. But it didn't matter to my employer. It still doesn't matter to my employer. So why am I doing it?

I've wanted to be a librarian ever since I was a child. The library was one of my favourite places to be. Whether that was the local library (currently celebrating 80 years), my school library and later on, my college library. But it took me until my mid-20's to realise that I could actually work in one.

Having to leave my studies at Aberystwyth was devastating. But in around 2006 my line manager became a Cilip Mentor, supporting people through Chartership and Aclip. She encouraged me to sign up to Aclip, along with a few of my colleagues. I was reluctant. I didn't want to do Aclip. I wanted the degree. I figured Aclip would do until until I actually managed to make that happen.

Fast forward several years later, and I still haven't completed it. And I'm driving myself nuts in the process. It hangs around my neck, weighing me down. A process which should be fairly straight forward, but seems like a labyrinth of twists and turns, and I'm never quite sure I'm heading in the right direction. On my way down the long straight corridors, the rest of life calls out to me to distract me. I'm a volunteer at Voices for the Library. I organise the @VoicesLibrary rotation curation project. I'm a governor at my child's school. A single parent to a child with special needs and help to care for an elderly grandparent with dementia. And yet... and yet... it's still not a good enough excuse to justify the amount of head space I've given Aclip and Chartership without actually handing anything in. (Although don't even get me started on this blog post by Michael Martin. I still can't read it without wanting to throw stuff!)

Part of it is fear. I've been doing it for so long, that now anything I have to hand in has to be super-amazing to justify the amount of time I've spent on it. I still feel like I'm faking it by calling myself a 'librarian', even though the job I do would be recognised as a professional role.

So I decided to think about this a little differently. I used to be a big believer in 'creating your own reality' and making things happen. I had notebooks as a child filled with pictures of things I wanted to do, wanted to be, books I wanted to read, pictures I found inspiring. Anyone that wandered into my downstairs loo of my first house would be met with four walls covered with postcards and pictures sent to me by friends, photographs of beautiful places I'd visited, child's drawings, letters from my mum, pages torn from magazines of Ani Di Franco, along with a huge poster of the Fairy Fellers Masterstroke. Visitors would come out 30 minutes later, apologising for taking so long in there. It was a place to dream, a place to wonder, and a place where I remembered all the things I wanted to do. When I moved into a house on my own, I recreated the space over my desk - a more natural place to put it as this is where I work.

My 'memory wall'
  I spend a lot of time looking at this wall. And something occurred to me. There was a huge difference between the scrap books I created as a child - which focussed on my future, and what I wanted... and the board I had created as an adult, which only reflected my past. Looking at this wall, you'll spot lots of things that are important to me. Faeries. My child. My Godmother. Reminders of adventures with my beautiful Croatian friend. Brian May. My family. There is only a teeny, tiny reference to libraries. A tiny little red badge which says 'Reference is cool'. But what I want for my future? My librarian dreams? They aren't represented.

So, I decided to 'pin my way' to my future. There's a lot written by life coaches and mentors about the ability to visualise what you want. 'Mood boards' are credited with boosting well-being, increasing happiness, and providing motivation. I've been playing around with Pinterest recently as a way of increasing awareness of @VoicesLibrary and Voices for the Library. How about I create a board to visualise completing Chartership, consider what my dream job looks like, and provide a little library motivation? There's something powerful about a collection of images, and I'm a big fan of playing tricks on the brain to fool it in to behaving differently.

I've started a board. I think I need to get better at positive motivation, rather than hitting myself with a stick...

But I thought it was worth a go. Either that, or I've just created another way to procrastinate from actually completing Aclip. But think of all those beautifully organised bookcases I can pin. Whoops....

In case that isn't enough, I'm making my goal to complete Aclip public. I'm going to print this out in colourful letters and add it to my wall. All chivving welcomed!

My Aclip goal :: It is 31st October and I have handed in my Aclip Portfolio. 


What's your goal? And what's stopping you getting there? You know... apart from you.