Category Archives: Libraries

To all the Libraries I’ve Loaned from Before part 1

Kalk Bay Public Library, you were my first Library – the one that set the template of expectations of what a Library should be and offer. Although small, to my young eyes you were a Cathedral of books, with windows set high up on all sides. You gave me my first library cards – three little folded pieces of cardboard with my name and address on them that were taken by the Librarian and kept behind the desk whenever I borrowed books. The books that stay in my mind are the Little Tim picture books by Edward Ardizzone, after all these years – they are the books that solidified my fate as a reader, they are the first books I can remember reading on my own (my parents read them with me but I picked them up again at bedtime and read them on my own), there was also that shark book, I cannot remember the cover, but I coveted it regularly and borrowed it several times to read about sharks from around the world, I was most fascinated by the Wobbegong (or carpet shark) of Australia – it is funny what facts stick with you. I still remember the particular smell that the Library had, furniture polish and the smell of books and the feeling of coolness that enveloped me whenever I walked in to the Library with my Mom and younger brother, after the heat of the day outside it was a welcome feeling. I can also hear the Library windows slamming shut as Librarian used a long pole with a hook to pull them shut – to let us know that it was nearly closing time and we had better choose our books quickly but she never chased us out. That Library is long gone, the building now hosts a community centre but I have not been past it for years.

Kalk Bay Primary School had a tiny Library – it was more a box room stuffed with books than an actual Library – but it counts! The books I remember borrowing were The Adventures of Professor Branestawm, and a science fiction short story collection – the title escapes me but I can still remember parts of some of the stories, one was set on a colony on an alien world that was slowly being eaten by a huge slime monster that was being kept at bay by a laser shield, there was only one ship available and the people had to decide who would survive and who would remain behind to face the monster when the shields failed… gripping stuff!

My second Public Library was in Muizenberg, I remember attending story times on a Thursday when the Librarian (the same one from Kalk Bay) would light a candle and we would sit in silence as she read stories, the extinguishing of the candle was the sign that we could start talking and move around again. Muizenberg Library became ‘my’ Library for years, it introduced me to Douglas Hill’s ColSec books and his fantasy duology Blade of the Poisoner and Master of Fiends. This was also the Library where I discovered Terry Pratchett, I started with Equal Rites and never looked back! I visited Muizenberg Public Library weekly, and spent hours choosing books then sitting in the magazine room reading back issues of Punch Magazine (mostly to find the Agent Orange cartoons by David Haldane).

I spent one year at the Fish Hoek Middle School and spent most of my break and lunch times hiding out in the School Library, I became a part time student librarian but hung out in one of the corners with other kids reading comic books – it was my first introduction to Raymond Briggs, I read his Father Christmas comics which were fun then Gentleman Jim and its sort of sequel When the Wind Blows – it is thanks to that book that I learned how to start worrying and hate the Bomb.

I joined Fish Hoek Public Library in my mid-teens so that I could have a greater range of materials to access for my school work – the joys of growing up in a preWorld Wide Web world! My parents paid for this membership as, at the time, Fish Hoek had its own municipality and if you did not live there you had to pay to access the service. This was the beginning of a Library relationship that lasted many years, it was here that I first started weekend work as, first a shelf packer, then after I started my Library degree they decided that I was trustworthy enough to work on the desk (oh the power!) Once I graduated it was also my first professional Library post, it later transpired that I was an affirmative action employee – the first ever male librarian hired by Fish Hoek municipality (I was the only applicant that all the unions could agree on, which at that time in South Africa was no small thing). It was at Fish Hoek Library that I first read the Duncan & Mallory graphic novels by Robert Asprin, I discovered the Dragonlance books by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis and Watchmen by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

At the time I was also studying at the Cape Technikon (now the Cape Peninsula University of Technology) they had a magnificent Library, apart from the books I needed for my coursework I also borrowed Maus by Art Spiegelman which opened my eyes to the potential comic books have in education and as an art-form.

Special mentions must go to the Grassy Park Public Library that I worked at briefly to cover staff absence – it was here that I discovered (& borrowed) Deathstalker by Simon R Green and became a lifelong fan of his writing and the Hout Bay Public Library where I participated in a temporary staff exchange for a week and discovered ‘zines.

From This American Life: The Room of Requirement

Noooo! Not the one from Harry Potter (although it is named for that) rather this is a podcast from the awesome people at This American Life about Libraries.

Libraries aren’t just for books. They’re often spaces that transform into what you need them to be: a classroom, a cyber café, a place to find answers, a quiet spot to be alone. It’s actually kind of magical. This week, we have stories of people who roam the stacks and find unexpected things that just happen to be exactly what they required. 

You can take a listen here:
https://www.thisamericanlife.org/664/the-room-of-requirement

Library Planet

Founded and edited by Christian Lauersen of Roskilde Libraries and Marie Engberg Eiriksson of Gladsaxe Libraries, Denmark; Library Planet is like a crowdsourced Lonely Planet for libraries of the world, meant to inspire library travelers to open the awesome book that is our world of libraries, cities and countries.

Visit Library Planet here: Library Planet

If you want to share your library or libraries you have loved then you can contribute to Library Planet here: https://libraryplanet.net/contribute/

Public Libraries, the Home Office, UKSCL (now Libraries Connected), visas, CILIP and Me

43 days ago The Society of Chief Librarians (now a charity known as Libraries Connected) posted a tweet about their assisted digital contract deal with the UK Home Office.

This came as a huge surprise to almost everybody in the UK Library world, from CILIP down to Library Workers on the front-lines of public library services.

I took it upon myself to request further information from the Home Office and sent them this e-mail:

Public Libraries & Visas and Immigration

editor@teenlibrarian.co.uk 18/05/18 (17:16:48 BST)click to expand contents

(G)ood afternoon

I have just discovered that the Home Office is working with a number of UK Public Libraries to offer assistance with Visas and Immigration.

I have a number of questions, namely:

  • How will this work practically (& ethically)?
  • Will library staff be given training in helping people needing assistance?
  • What safeguards are being put in place to safeguard sensitive information?
  • Will people coming in for assistance be given the privacy they need to discuss their immigration and visa requirements or will they be assisted in the library itself?
  • Will this service be limited to Libraries that still fall under the local authority or will it also be made available in volunteer-run libraries?
  • Will Home Office staff be on hand to assist with information if required?
  • Is the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals involved in any way?
  • If it is, how is the Home Office working with them?
  • If it is not, why has the UK’s Library & Information Association been excluded?
  • Were they (CILIP) offered the chance to become involved?

I look forward to hearing from you in due course!

Sincerely
Matt Imrie
Editor: TeenLibrarian

I received a response tellming me that my message had been logged and that they aimed to provide a response within 20 working days.

From: Public Enquiries (CD) <Public.Enquiries@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk> Date: Fri, May 18, 2018 at 5:16 PM
Subject: Home Office Automated Response
To: “editor@teenlibrarian.co.uk” <editor@teenlibrarian.co.uk>

Thank you for contacting the Home Office.

Your message has been logged.

We aim to provide a response within 20 working days.

**********************************************************************
This email and any files transmitted with it are private and intended
solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed.
If you have received this email in error please return it to the address
it came from telling them it is not for you and then delete it from your
system.
This email message has been swept for computer viruses.

**********************************************************************

**********************************************************************

This was 30 working days ago. I have been patient, knowing that in my previous correspondences with government departments that replies can sometimes be a bit late or bang on the 20 days limit.

I have been poking around while I have been waiting, and did you know that Ayub Khan MBE the current CILIP President, was on the SCL Board during this time as Digital Offer lead (source: http://goscl.com/scl-welcomes-new-board-of-trustees/)

I have a question for CILIP here: a few years ago I was considering putting myself forward as a candidate for the Presidency, I had just finished my time as CKG judge and was stepping down from the YLG London Committee. I ended up not going for it as due to my workplace commitments felt that I would not be able to fulfil the role properly.

I did however do my due diligence and read up on all the requirements for being President, and one of them being is that the person taking the post is not supposed to chair special interest groups or do anything that may show bias towards another organisation. Mr Khan was a trustee of SCL (and is still a trustee for Libraries Connected) and their Digital Offer lead – how was it that the President could have been involved with an organisation and not informed CILIP as to what they were planning with regard to the Home Office and the digital service contract?

Is this not in contravention of one of the requirements of the presidency?

Earlier today CILIP published this clarification on the role of CILIP Board members and Presidential team

Coda: If anyone from the Home Office reads this – I would still really like a response to my email, thank you!

Cape Librarian Magazine

Download (PDF, 7.42MB)

Do Librarians Hate Volunteers?

I write this as I have been noticing an increase in accusations of hatred made against Librarians by Volunteer Library organisations recently, I have had this charge levelled against myself and several of my peers and friends have experienced this as well.

so in answer to the question Do Librarians Hate Volunteers?

The short answer: No!

The longer answer:

Volunteers have formed an essential part of the library ecosystem for years now, working alongside librarians and library workers, volunteers assist with programmes that would be difficult if not impossible to run without their involvement. Library staff appreciate the work done by volunteers in libraries and continue to do so.

Where librarians and activists have a problem is local authorities off-loading library provision on community volunteers as this is cheating the people they work for, as public libraries are a statutory service and are paid for through taxes – basically volunteers are forced into running for a service they have already paid for and while some volunteer libraries still fall under the aegis of the local authority and are able to give the library users access to online information provision and catalogue use, many others do not -effectively robbing the people in the library catchment area of a service they already pay for.

Volunteer libraries also create what amounts to a postcode lottery, depriving poorer communities of a library as many people are already making a choice between eating or the heating often cannot stretch themselves to volunteering.

We do not want to close any libraries but once a public library has been cut off from the local authority and handed over to volunteer organisations it is lost, as once austerity is done there is little chance that councils will have the will to reopen libraries or take back ones they have already given away.

It is important for areas that have community-groups that support libraries to resist governmental moves to close libraries as this sends the message that the amateurisation of the service is not a viable solution, a number of councils in the face of sustained campaigning have retained their libraries.

There is also concern about the long-term sustainability of volunteer-run libraries, this is not a criticism but rather a serious question as to what will happen after five or 10 years of constant fund-raising and soliciting donations which may lead to giving fatigue this also dovetails with my previous point about communities being double-charged for a service they have already paid for.

Libraries and the Concept of Safe Spaces

The term ‘safe space’ means different things to different people, to those that have an interest in online privacy Libraries may not be considered safe spaces due to local authority filters that block certain sites and key words and also have the ability to monitor what people get up to online; the security and privacy of Library patrons borrowing records is also not secure.

Libraries that host police services can feel unsafe to communities and individuals that have experienced police brutality. Unstaffed/self-service libraries can be unsafe if staff are not on hand to moderate what can be threatening behaviour to other library patrons. Sometimes library staff behaviour can make patrons feel uncomfortable due to prejudices and preconceptions that exist within all individuals.

On the flip side, for parents with young children the library can be a safe place to go for story times and contact with other parents & families who have children of a similar age. For latchkey kids the library can be a safe place to wait if their parents/carers are working late; libraries that offer homework clubs can also provide assistance for them while they do their homework. For people at risk of bullying and abuse the Library can be a safe haven.

There is no one size fits all descriptor for safe spaces, and while it is true that Libraries cannot be said to be ‘safe spaces’ they can be made safer fo rall users. To achieve this, Library staff need to work with the community to identify what practices within the service that make them feel unsafe and change or eliminate them as much as possible while amplifying those practices that provide safety and security for patrons.

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

  • My Concerns with Book Lender

    I saw a tweet by Barbara Band last night that got my hackles up:

    I started mentally composing this post then fell asleep as it was rather late and woke up this morning still annoyed. I feel (as do many of my colleagues) that this service is not necessarily a bad thing for areas that do not have Schools Library Services or possibly for schools that lack professional input into their library but the way they are going about belittling the work of librarians and teachers is really beyond the pale, I know of no professionals that would put out-of-date materials into a collection just to have something, we are better than that

    Upon closer inspection, Book Lender is currently aimed at Primary Schools – this is a smart business move as Primary School Libraries are often run without a professional librarian and sometimes with limited teacher input.

    Once this service has become established it is only a matter of time until it is extended to secondary schools which may put even more librarian jobs at risk, as with school budgets becoming ever tighter and the offer of targeted stock to fit in with lesson plans, head teachers may well decide that a professional librarian is a luxury that can be done away with.

    It also appears that BookLender is a business run by Carillion, a company that is making inroads into running public library services for a number of local authorities. In the past Carillion has been criticised for running a blacklist against unionised workers, and colleagues who have worked in libraries taken over by this company have mentioned less than satisfactory working conditions.

    Carillion were also in the running to take over my local authority’s library service but last I heard they had pulled out.

    The privatisation of public library services has long been a major concern of mine and now corporate tentacles winding their way into school library services is widening my concern.

    #5thNovDemo

    At noon on the 5th November I joined friends, colleagues and around 2500 other fellow believers in Museums, Galleries and a comprehensive, fully-staffed Library service outside the British Library on a march through London.

    It was amazing – I saw so many people I have known for years but seldom see in real life (and that was just the Librarians). Amongst the library supporters was Alan Gibbons who had a pivotal role in organising everyone, acting as master of ceremonies and making sure that speakers got to the megaphone; Lord Bird the cross-bench peer also made an appearance and gave a rousing and moving speech about the cost of closing libraries, his words are still echoing in my head two days later, Michael Rosen was his normal fiery self and Chris Riddell current Children’s Laureate spoke as well and apparently drew as he walked. Philip Ardagh loomed imposingly like a giant, bearded Moai statue and spoke as he usually does incredibly eloquently.

    #5thNovDemo

    There were so many people I know online in attendance – most of whom I only found out about after the event which is a shame as I love meeting people that I have only know via e-mail or twitter.

    I joined my fellow School Librarians bringing up the rear of the march, the whole event was impeccably organised and run by Unison shop stewards. The Metropolitan Police were also in attendance and kept a low profile throughout making sure that traffic kept its distance and otherwise acting unobtrusively.

    One of the most heartening things of the march was the fantastic level of public support, from drivers hooting and waving and people on the side-lines applauding as we walked past.

    This is the first time since the anti-austerity March for a Difference march I 2011 that I have been able to get out and stand up for libraries and I have missed it!

    Ian Clark one of the founders of Voices for the Library & The Radical Librarians Collective put together a short video of the day here:

    The march was peaceful, professional and ran like a dream and I would like to thank everyone who marched and those that provided moral support from near and far!

    Regional marches are being organised to keep the momentum moving.