Category Archives: Libraries

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.


    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.


    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 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 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 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 – 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:

    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

    Phil Bradley Internet Consultant: a New Way of Training

    Training as we know it is broken

    The training market for librarians and information professionals that we’ve known for years is broken. Courses are too expensive, both in terms of the cost of the course, the time out of the office, travel to a course and in some cases, overnight accommodation. Organisations are having their budgets squeezed and top of the list is training. If you are unemployed or a one person bad, you can’t afford it.

    Too much is packed into a day. Since time is limited, its all about throwing information at you, and you don’t have time to digest something or try it out before it’s onto the next thing.

    By the end of the day you’re tired and confused and what should have been a fun day was trying instead. Of course your notes end up in the drawer, despite your best intentions.

    There’s no followup. You make connections with delegates, but never get a chance to get back to them, you lose contact with the trainer, there’s no-where to go if you have extra questions and if you learn something new that would be useful for your course colleagues you can’t get that information to them.

    A training course is a silo. Yes of course there are great courses run by great trainers, but even so, it’s all about that 7 hours. Training in the UK in 2016 is, as the heading says, fundamentally broken, and it needs to change. I want to change it, and I want your help to create an entirely different training map.

    How we can change things?

    I spent a lot of time talking to trainers, attendees and organisers. Everyone wants that face to face networking element; in all of my research this is a key element. So the courses that I’m going to be running will have that – between 2.5 and 3 hours worth, depending on location. You’ll be able to learn, try out new things, explore practical real world issues and connect with colleagues. Yes, I’ll be teaching, but a workshop really will be a workshop.

    That face to face time is going to be supplemented however, in a couple of different ways. First of all, delegates will have access to a wiki, which will provide more information. They will be able to add in their own information, share their own experiences, ask and answer questions and continue that networking process. Secondly, since video streaming is easy to do these days there will be bi-weekly sessions for each training course. Delegates won’t have to book, they can just drop in, ask questions, join in the conversations and continue that networking experience.

    Each course will come with a minimum of 40 online videos that are practically based. Each one will be stand alone, so delegates can chose the one that they want to view when they need it, at a time they need it. Delegates choose when and how they want to continue their education and they will learn what’s necessary in a ‘just in time’ rather than ‘just in case’ situation. Videos will be added to the collection as I create them, so there should always be something new and interesting to look at and to learn. Learning won’t stop just because the course is over – it will be ongoing. Once you have paid for a course you’ll be able to access the materials and all the new information from then on. There will be no extra charges; if I’m creating new material I’m not going to want to limit access to it. So rather than a course lasting 7 hours, it will last a lifetime. (Well, mine until retirement at any rate!)

    So using this flipped classroom model delegates learn what they want, when they want, and how they want. Networking will be ongoing, new information will be made available on a regular basis and delegates can assist colleagues by adding to that pool of information.

    Let’s ensure that delegates are in charge of their training, and let’s make it an ongoing, enjoyable experience!

    All well and good, but what’s the cost?

    My courses will cost £99. There’s no hidden extras, no booking fees, nothing. I can do this because I don’t have overheads in the same way that training companies do. The courses are going to be no frills. You bring your own device (tablet, laptop, even your mobile phone if that’s what you want to use) and all the materials will be made available electronically. The course will cover the entire training period of 2.5 to 3 hours, and if you want drinks or snacks, bring your own! For the cost of the course you will get:

    Face to face training with me as your trainer, but also working with other delegates

    Access to a course wiki with further information

    A minimum of 40 videos online that you can access 24/7

    Any new videos or material will be included – your course fee is for LIFE; you’ll be able to update yourself quickly and easily

    Access to a 1 hour online chat every two weeks. If too many people want to get into the chat, I’ll schedule another one.

    If you really want to get involved, and add new material yourself, and ask/answer questions you can do – the more the delegates can share, the better off everyone will be.

    I decided on a figure of £99 because my research showed that was a price that most people would be able to work with, it’s not out of the reach of people on limited budgets (either personally or organisationally), and it’s enough for me. Obviously I need to learn money to live, but I’m not looking to get rich on the backs of other people.

    Locations and onsite?

    I’m starting with 2 days of courses in London, but that’s simply because it’s easier for me. The courses will be held at a central London location within a few minutes walk of Euston. However, if you’re not within easy reach of London I’m happy to come to you. I’’m happy to hold courses in Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, York, Exeter, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Dublin – anywhere that I can get a training suite for a reasonable price for the day. If you have a training venue that you can make available to me for no or reduced costs, then I’m happy to have you and some of your colleagues on the course as well.

    If you want an on-site day I can do that as well. I’m happy to come to you, and can set up specific resources tailored to your organisation if necessary. I’ll train as many staff as you want, and we can work together on a price that works for us both.

    Dates for the course are October 7th and November 18th 2016.

    The courses.

    There are going to be two courses initially, with more to follow.

    Apps for Librarians will look at a variety of different apps that information professionals can use in their daily work. It will cover browsers, search engines, productivity tools, scanning apps, creating multimedia resources, guiding tools, reference and news apps. Although I’ll be using an iOS device, the course will also work if you use Android apps. At the end of the course – well, there won’t be an ‘end of the course’, because it will be ongoing. Delegates will be able to explore these tools, work together, try things out, and learn practical things to help them in their jobs.

    Advanced search for Librarians will cover exactly what you would expect. How to search the internet quickly and effectively using both Google and a variety of other search engines. Delegates will learn how to get the best out of Google, and will also have an opportunity to explore other search engines. Videos in the series will look at ways to do other advanced searches, such as reverse image look up, in-depth data mining, and in-depth looks at many different search engines.

    On October 7th, the courses will be

    08.30 – 11.00 Advanced search for Librarians
    11.30 – 14.00 Apps for Librarians
    14.30 – 17.00 Advanced search for Librarians

    On November 18th the courses will be

    08.30 – 11.00 Apps for Librarians
    11.30 – 14.00 Advanced search for Librarians
    14.30 – 17.00 Apps for Librarians

    I’ve arranged the courses this way to allow the maximum amount of flexibility. If you are an early bird, come to a course first thing in the morning. If you want to schedule a course over the lunch period, try the middle of the day, and if you prefer to leave work early, go for the last course of the day. Of course, if you want to attend more than one course, you’re most welcome!

    Any Questions?

    Is it really £99? Yes. I’m keeping it simple. No booking fee, no hidden extras, that’s it. I can do this because other than paying for the venue hire, equipment hire and my travel expenses, the fee comes to me; it’s what I live on! Unlike companies or other organisations that use the money to pay lots of staff, or use it to help keep their coffers filled; by cutting out the ‘middle man’ I can offer the course at what I think is a fair fee.

    You mentioned for life?

    Yes, you pay your fee, and you can access the materials for as long as you want. I’ll be adding new material, updating older videos and so on anyway, since that’s a job I have to do. Consequently, if I’m already doing it, why should I ask for more money. You come on the course and you’ll never need to go on another one, and you’ll be able to keep fully up to date with what’s going on. Of course the ‘for life’ is my life, or rather ‘until I retire’ but that gets a little long winded!

    Can I get a discount if I book two courses?

    Well no. I’m keeping the costs as low as I possibly can do as it is, and there’s no real room for wiggle. Don’t forget that as well as the face to face element, you’ll have access to the videos, the wiki, you can pop into the online chats when you want, AND you’ll never pay any more, so I think that’s a good deal.

    When will you run the online chat sessions?

    I hope to do so every other week, for about an hour, and will advertise this on the wiki. If more people want to attend than seems sensible, I’ll arrange another one.

    When can I book?

    I’ll start taking bookings when I have created all the videos and done the wikis for the courses. I’ll take bookings via a ticketing resource, PayPal, BACS or cheque if you prefer.

    Can you keep me up to date?

    Sure – send me an email to or add a comment, or follow me on Twitter @philbradley as I’ll be putting updates on there as well