Category Archives: Libraries

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.

    Teen Take-Over of Local Libraries

    A Place Free of Judgement by Blast Theory and Tony White

    On 29 October 2016, over the course of 9 hours, teenagers in Worcester, Telford and Cannock will be taking control of their local libraries, and performing live to a worldwide audience. Through a unique project supported by Arts Connect and ASCEL West Midlands, the group have been working with award-winning artists Blast Theory and author Tony White to re-imagine libraries, storytelling and their place in the world. This work will come to life in an ambitious and fun 9-hour takeover of the three libraries, starting in Telford (3pm – 6pm), then Cannock (6pm – 9pm) and ending in Worcester (9pm – midnight).

    The young people involved have been invited to reimagine the role of libraries as cultural centres and explore the power of storytelling. The stories that have been developed from the workshops will be told in three consecutive performances which will be streamed live on http://aplacefreeofjudgement.co.uk from 3pm – midnight Saturday 29 October 2016. This ground breaking project forges a new approach to collaborative arts engagement between artists, teenagers, audiences and local authorities.

    The role of libraries is under scrutiny and this project shows how they are evolving: taking risks to inspire visitors to think differently about the world around them.

    Ju Row Farr, artist with Blast Theory explains: They have driven stories in challenging directions. They are hilarious one minute and moving the next. The teenagers stake out the power of books, stories and libraries in our lives.

    Author Tony White comments: It has been an incredible privilege to work with really inspiring and creative young people in Cannock, Telford, Worcester, and beyond, and I’ve learned a huge amount from all involved. When so many libraries are closing and under threat, I’m glad to have seen again first-hand the vital role that libraries and librarians play for young people today, and to have been reminded of just how important my local library was to me when I was their age. With A Place Free of Judgement, I feel that we are giving something back, and I hope people enjoy it.

    The project is being delivered by a partnership of six library services as part of the ASCEL national membership network. Blast Theory and author Tony White have been in residence in three libraries, one in each local authority area of Staffordshire’s Cannock Library, Telford & Wrekin’s Southwater One and Worcestershire’s St John’s Library. In addition, library services in Solihull, Dudley and Shropshire are working with groups of young people to take part in the project online.

    How to Take Part

    On Saturday 29 October, between 3pm and midnight, anyone can log in to interact with the young people streaming live online at http://aplacefreeofjudgement.co.uk. Unfolding over three consecutive events at libraries, the teenagers will talk to you about personal stories and strange ideas and what they mean to both of you. Together you will make up stories and hide them in amongst the books. And, as the evening builds, a new story by acclaimed author Tony White comes to life with a reading every hour.
    Visitors are invited to come and hear the readings in person on Saturday 29 October:

    • 3.30pm Telford Southwater Library (TF3 4JG)
    • 6.30pm Cannock Library (WS11 1AA)
    • 9.30pm Worcester, St John’s Library (WR2 5AX)

    Visit http://aplacefreeofjudgement.co.uk to book your place.

    The finished book will be published later in the year. If you are interested in receiving a copy, please contact Ju Row Farr – ju@blasttheory.co.uk 01273413455

    But is it a Library?

    looking at buildings, busses, boxes and burros

    and asking the question what makes a library a library?

    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