Category Archives: Advocacy

DCMS Response to Are you there John, it is me Matt!

On the 17th October I sent an e-mail to the Parliamentary Under Secretary for the DCMS John Glen. You can read it here:
Are you there John it is me Matt!

I have just received a response from a member of the Ministerial Support Team, they appear to have selectively answered parts and ignored other sections of my missive. I have redacted the name of the team member that responded on behalf of John Glen, but you can read the response in full below.

Download (PDF, Unknown)

Are you there John? It is me Matt

I have just written and e-mailed a letter to Parliamentary Under Secretary for the DCMS John Glen. I am hoping to open a dialogue with him to encourage him to be open and supportive of public libraries in the UK.

Full text is below

Dear John

I thought I would write this letter to introduce myself and say hello – hi!

I have been tweeting you over the past few days about Libraries Week and specifically Public Libraries as I believe (and am sure that you feel the same) that they are an integral part of the social fabric of life in the UK. They are one of the oldest public services run by local government still in existence (they have been around for 167 years) seriously, check your change pouch, you may have one of the 50p coins struck to celebrate 150 years of public libraries in 2000.

I wrote a bit about the Public Libraries Act of 1850, well mostly the arguments for and against here: http://teenlibrarian.co.uk/2013/07/03/the-arguments-against-and-for-public-libraries-in-1850/

While the century has changed, many of the arguments are still the same, I am not writing to discuss these but if you are interested I am up for a face to face discussion about public libraries, I can bring my friends who share similar interests to join in and hope that you consider doing the same.

You were very vocal about libraries last week and I am hoping that this will continue now that Libraries Week has passed. It is easy to join in celebrations when everyone is shouting “hurrah”, but when the bunting is taken down and everyone gets on with their jobs I hope you will do the same as Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the DCMS. In this role I am sure you will find supporting Public Libraries easier than many for as you are no doubt aware Public Libraries are a statutory service as enshrined in the Public Libraries and Museums Act of 1964. Amongst the many duties that you have is the one that includes making sure that Local Authorities run a comprehensive and full Library Service this includes

  • have regard to encouraging both adults and children to make full use of the library service (section 7(2)(b))
  • lend books and other printed material free of charge for those who live, work or study in the area (section 8(3)(b))
  •  
    It is the statutory duty of the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to:

  • superintend, and promote the improvement of, the public library service provided by local authorities in England (section 1(1))
  • secure the proper discharge by local authorities of the functions in relation to libraries conferred on them as library authorities
  •  
    I am sure that you already know it backwards but you can read the full act here: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1964/75
     
    I know how busy you must be and how easy it will be for some duties to slip due to the immense pressure many in government must be under, so I want to reassure you that you are not alone. I will be here to chivvy you along if necessary and to support you as you engage with your colleagues in local government to remind them that they are legally obligated to run a library service rather than foisting it off on volunteers, many of whom will do anything to keep the service going – and that really is not fair! I mean I am all for volunteers in libraries assisting staff, but to make them responsible for running a professional service really is beyond the pale! I hope you will have a word with the councils that are doing this!

    This was supposed to be a quick note but I seem to have gone on I do apologise! Anyway, I look forward to hearing from you as to how we can move forward together and give the people of the UK a Library Service we can all celebrate and be proud of!

    Warmest regards

    Matt Imrie

    Why Schools need Librarians

    I have been in my current post as Senior School Librarian for little over six years, for five and a half of those six years I have been badgering the senior leadership team to let me have the Junior School Library as well. Three months ago they relented and said I could take it over and I began making plans to merge them both (but that is a story for another time).

    Jumping back in time three months now, one of the Science Teachers in the Junior School approached me and asked if I had any books on Dinosaurs as the Junior Library had none. I thought that it was odd as if there is one thing that seems to crop up in the interests of small children it is Dinosaurs and any library worth its salt would usually have a few, but anyway I said sure thing and wandered over to 567.9 and put together a pack of books for her.

    Back to last week, while I was moving the Junior Non-Fiction section into the Senior Library I found 20+ books on dinosaurs for all ages.

    There had been a Teaching Assistant that had a part-time role in keeping an eye on the Junior Library putting books on shelves and making sure that it looked tidy but she resigned at the end of the last school year. While she was in the school I spent some time trying to support her in the role by providing posters for displays, books on running a Junior Library and guidance on selecting books to withdraw, sadly she did not have the authority to withdraw stock and was unable to get permission to do so as there was no-one who had definitive oversight over the Library so effectively all she could do was rearrange the chairs and put books on shelves.

    It turned out that although there was a rudimentary system in place to keep similar books together it had not been adhered to and there were books everywhere (but not in a good way)

    A School Library need a Librarian to:

  • Keep the collection in good order to make it easier for students and staff to find and use information
  • To make sure that old and outdated materials are withdrawn and replaced
  • To work with staff making sure that non-fiction resources are available for curriculum support
  • To be on hand to ensure the library is open for students before school, after school and during break times
  • To put together book boxes and information packs to support teaching staff during lessons
  • Guide students in developing a love of reading
  • Keep track of items on loan
  • Elevate a room full of books from a repository to a living and vital part of the school
  • Without a full-time or even part-time Librarian the collection will stagnate as there will be no-one to coordinate stock refreshing and while departments may purchase books for the library or donate old stock there will be no-one on hand to make sure that unsuitable materials end up on the shelves
     
    The above list contains just a few of the reasons why Librarians are more than just a luxury for schools. If you would like to others please feel free to do so in the comments field below

  • Facts matter: push back against Misinformation now!

    Following on from the awesome My Library by Right badge in 2016, the brilliant people at CILIP have released a Facts matter badge for this year.


    2017 appears to be the year that the Truth has finally gotten its boots on and tightly laced!

    Wearing a nifty badge is all well and good, but we as professionals need to be active and start pushing back against the lies, omissions, misinformation and alternative facts that appear to have become de riguer in the modern world.

    It is a massive task and if at first it seems daunting it is good to remember that we are not alone in facing this challenge.

    If you want to join up and organise, the Radical Librarians Collective is a brilliant group to get involved with:

    the Radical Librarians Collective aims to offer a space to challenge, to provoke, to improve and develop the communications between like-minded radicals, to galvanise our collective solidarity against the marketisation of libraries and the removal of our agency to our working worlds and beyond.

    If you are not sure where to begin, the Que(e)ry Librarians have started a resource list for libraries and library workers that wish to actively resist the spread of falsehood:

    #LibrariesResist Resource List

    It is a work in progress but is already fairly extensive, of particular interest is the Fake News, Propaganda, Fact Checking, Media Literacy subsection, but everything is worth reading and sharing. I would recommend checking back regularly for updates.

    Also worth reading is Information Literacy Won’t Save Us; or, Fight Fascism, Don’t Create A LibGuide by Ian Clarke

    If you are a member of CILIP it is a good idea to get involved with the Special Interest Groups as a committee member, even if you arejust a regular member you can start start lobbying your regional committee to take up active involvement where appropriate to educate group members about so-called ‘alternative facts’.

    For those library folk reading this that are not members of CILIP it may be time to revisit your reasons that prevented you form joining or inspired you to let your membership lapse as it may be that these have changed as the organisation has changed and is more energised in working for all library & information professionals across the UK.

    You can collect a Facts matter badge from CILIP HQ from next week.

    Read the Vote

    When it comes to politics and Libraries I have always skirted around the edges, although my sympathies lie firmly on the left I did not want to align this site too closely with any particular side of the political divide as I know librarians on the left and right that use the site and did not want to alienate either.

    Like many people on the left and centre I have been shaken by political developments across the world and the rightward lurch currently occuring in western democracies. I have decided to be more open with my political views and become more politically active where possible.

    Libraries, are intensely political – no matter what has been said about them being apolitical; any institution that exists to uplift all parts of society is inherently democratic and intensely liberal – no matter the political leanings of the council or staff.

    With that in mind I would like to suggest that Librarians and Library Staff step in whenever there are local or national elections and get the public to

    Read the Vote!

    This idea was sparked by reading about Rock the Vote a movement that has, since the 1990s, fused pop culture, music, art & technology to fulfil its mission of building long-term youth political power.

    Libraries are perfectly placed to provide plain English (or first language of choice) information on all sides of the political discussion, that includes Public Libraries, School Libraries, University and College Libraries and any others that provide a service. The idea is not to push a partisan agenda but provide the information and context required for voters to make an informed choice when it comes to electing officials or making other nation-shaking choices (the Brexit vote for example).

    This can be run on a local level with Local Government elections and on a national level with mid-term and national elections.

    At present this is just a nebulous idea and I would like to hear suggestions on how this could be made a reality or if it is even feasible. Please feel free to make your views known in the comments below.

    Thank you

    It is not just about the Books!

    This has been said by many readers and librarians over the years and it seriously bugs me that it needs to be repeated time and time again until it sinks in, but:

    Libraries are not just about books!

    They never have been.

    I grew up in a preWWW world, when I was a child (& teenager) I went to the library on a weekly basis, first with my mum and little brother and as I grew older I went on my own, to find books to read for pleasure as well as books to help with homework, assignments and some just to improve my knowledge of the world around me (and sharks – I really loved sharks). I also had access to magazines and newspapers from around the world.

    A day seldom seems to go by without hearing or seeing an ignorant statement from someone in a position of power and authority or in the comments section of a major newspaper saying that Libraries are past their sell-by date because everything is on the internet (it isn’t) and everyone can afford to buy books (they can’t)!

    From their very beginnings, public libraries have been about equality of access to information, learning resources and, yes, reading for pleasure.

    If all Libraries did was act as a storehouse of books then it is possible that I would agree with many commentators who say they are no longer fit for purpose, but many of them are ignorant of the services that libraries do provide.

    Fortunately Dr Lauren Smith has compiled a brilliant list of the work undertaken by Librarians and Library Workers across the UK:

    https://laurensmith.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/what-do-public-librarians-and-library-staff-do/

    As Librarians, Library Workers, Library Lovers and Campaigners we need to win over the hearts and minds of library detractors as well as those that have the power to influence the future of the service, specifically new libraries minister Rob Wilson. His open letter to colleagues about Libraries makes interesting reading:

    Rob Wilson open letter

    Recognising the Importance of School Libraries

    School Libraries have always had a special place in my heart (sandwiched between the pulmonary and aortic valves). For most of my school life they were a safe space and refuge from the bullying that I was subject to due to not being a sporty, outgoing sort of person and I had not figured how to stand up for myself until years later.

    The secondary schools I attended had teacher-librarians, who, apart from occasionally shouting at students who were making a noise, generally left us to our own devices, lurking amongst the shelves reading.

    Having been a school librarian for five years (this month) I still cannot understand why school libraries are not statutory, and have not been able to find an answer that satisfies me in any way.
    CILIP has recently been more visibly active in the national conversation on libraries and their latest move in beginning an inquiry into developing a quality mark for school libraries is a move in the right direction to get senior management people in schools to recognise the value and importance of school libraries.
    Quality marks have been around for a long while and I would guess that most people (in the UK) are aware that they show an organisation has been measured against set standards and has been recognised for offering a competent service.

    A nationally recognised and agreed-upon set of standards against which school librarians can compare the service they offer is a move that is long-overdue.

    It is fairly self-evident that not all schools are the same and thus the requirements they may have for a library service will differ from school to school but the underlying needs of teachers and students will be similar enough for set standards.
    At present the inquiry is being run to determine the feasibility of such a scheme and shows that rather than acting unilaterally, CILIP is actively seeking out the views of school librarians, to include us in the decision that will ultimately affect all of us. I know two of the librarians involved, and rather than out of touch outsiders, they are professionals in good standing with years of experience in working in schools.

    There is a fundamental misunderstanding of what libraries are and what they do amongst many people who do not use them regularly. They are looked upon as store rooms of books, with out of touch staff who patrol their territory mercilessly shushing anyone who attempts to talk above a funereal whisper. This view is sometimes held by members of senior leadership teams in schools who do not know what modern school libraries can offer to schools (there are also many SLTs who actively support and encourage school library use) and a quality mark will go some way to embedding the idea that libraries should be an integral part of all schools in the consciousness of SLTs.

    In isolation I do not think that a quality mark will change ingrained misconceptions about school libraries but I do think that it is an important first step in celebrating what many school libraries already are and what they all can be!

    Crowdsourcing an Updated Library Advocacy Resource

    The Carnegie UK Trust is looking for public librarians to tell them about the activities that public library or library service run.

    They are updating their Speaking Volumes resource databases and need feedback from any and all librarians working in public libraries in thr UK.

    For full details and to find out more follow this link:

    http://www.carnegieuktrust.org.uk/changing-minds/knowledge—culture/the-future-of-libraries/speaking-volumes

    make impact carnegie
     
    The Carnegie UK Trust works to improve the lives of people throughout the UK and Ireland, by changing minds through influencing policy, and by changing lives through innovative practice and partnership work.