Monthly Archives: July 2016

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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

Teen Librarian Monthly July 2016

Download (PDF, 526KB)

SP4RX by Wren McDonald

Are you on the hunt for a grimy, tech-noir thriller?

If the answer is yes then SP4RX is definitely the graphic novel for you!

It has been years since I last delved into the Cyberpunk realm and SP4RX was a brilliant reintroduction to the genre that did not disappoint!

Written and drawn by Wren McDonald, SP4RX reads as the love-child between William Gibson’s Sprawl trilogy and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.

Epic in scope yet incredibly personal in nature, the story focuses of Sp4rx, a hacker hired to steal a macguffin from a corporation and ends up as a rather less than willing recruit in a battle to save humanity from their evil corporate overlords.
With echoes of (the original) Robocop using periodic news updates to provide necessary background information without resorting to infodumps and underscoring the humanity of artificial intelligence reminiscent of CHAPPiE, SP4RX is a brilliant graphic novel aimed at older readers.

Nobrow has been consistently publishing excellent graphic novels and with SP4RX this run continues!

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (& illustrated by Chris Riddell)

Like many people of my generation I first encountered Neverwhere on video (thanks Shaun) – the story and concepts were excellent, some of the visual effects were a bit ropey but all in all it was a fantastic and fantastical introduction to London Below and for many years afterwards there were rumours of a sequel (not counting How the Marquis Got His Coat Back) and a big budget remake – but these have not yet materialised but I live in hope!

I discovered the book several years later, not having realised that Neil Gaiman had actually written one and it was exquisite (thank you local library)! It was only after coming to the UK and attending a talk by Neil that I discovered the existence of the author’s preferred edition which was even better.

Now in the year of the 20th anniversary of the broadcasting and publication of Neverwhere I have discovered how you can make a book that was already pretty much perfect even better – add the illustrations by Chris Riddell. In all honesty I already knew that Chris and Neil’s work go together like peanut butter and strawberry jam, their collaboration is akin to alchemy – two Masters of their Art combining talents to create a literary philosopher’s stone, I mean look at the CILIP Kate Greenaway winning The Sleeper and the Spindle as another shining example!

If you have never read Neverwhere then shame on you – get you hence to a library or bookshop and remedy this immediately! I am also incredibly jealous as you will be experiencing the wonders and terrors of London Below for the first time which is truly an unforgettable experience.


and if you have already read Neverwhere pick up this edition as it is the author’s preferred text and you may not have read that one yet; but if you have then get it for Chris Riddell’s artwork, as this will enrich your life and reading experience immeasurably!

Go on do it now! The Marquis is waiting!

Plagiarism Revisited

In 2014 I created a powerpoint for my students on plagiarism, using the example of Shia LeBoeuf and Daniel Clowes. You can see it here:

It has been on e of the most popular resources on my site.

Since then there have been a number of other examples featuring people in the public eye that have come to light.

The most recent being Melania Trump being accused of plagiarising Michelle Obama’s speech:

Beyonce has also faced several charges of plagiarism during her career:

Azealia Banks has also accused Zayn Malik of plagiarism as well as providing an example of how not to behave on social media, she has since also accused Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift of the same:

Using people in the public eye is a good way of engaging with students who may otherwise not show much interest in library lessons. I will just say as a word of caution that Azealia Banks has has used racially charged language – particularly against Zayn Malik so it may be worth making sure that any links used will not cause a backlash against the library due to language.

Some Random Thoughts about Libraries

How many libraries that remain in local authority hands still have actual librarians running or working in them?

Public Libraries in the UK are a service arm of Local Authorities although one that has traditionally been left alone to do what they do until cuts are required then librarians are usually the first to go (most expensive staff) and more recently entire buildings and the staff that run them are cut loose.

When I worked in public libraries the majority of libraries that I worked in had a library manager (the rationale being to free librarians to do development, & outreach work & handle reference requests). I can remember one library where, after a restructuring, the Library Manager became the Customer Services Manager (CSM) and Library Assistants became Customer Services Officers (CSO) – I have not heard or seen this mentioned in library discussions (but I may be wrong), this ties in to a neoliberal view of turning library users into ‘customers’ rather than borrowers/patrons.

Going back to the perennial discussion/argument that “not everyone who works in a library is a librarian” I have recently begun to wonder when is a librarian not a librarian? If a qualified Librarian is hired as say a CSM or CSO are they still a Librarian? On the inside maybe, but the badge that they wear says differently and although they are working in a Library the nature of the job they do may be substantially different to the work a Librarian would do – at least this is what I have witnessed while working in public libraries.

It is a similar thought for schools – with so many School Libraries having become Learning Resource Centres and being run by LRC Managers doing Librarian work but with a different hat on.

Librarians have been under threat in the UK for a long time; during discussions with colleagues over the past few years several have brought up the cuts in the 1980’s and ‘90’s and how the numbers of specialist public librarians dropped precipitously. Over the last five years specialisms have been eroded further with a number of local authorities doing away with children’s librarians and having only general purpose library staff covering everything from children’s activities to senior book groups.

Lastly I am currently wondering if a library run by a local authority with no actual Librarians is still a library; the argument against volunteer run libraries is that without professional staff can they still be called libraries? I think a discussion needs to be had with regard to libraries run entirely by CSMs and staffed by CSOs, in the past there were a number of whom that I worked alongside that were proud not to be Librarians and were able to, in their own words “work anywhere within the council if required”.

It is a worry of mine that in time public libraries will become generic council services that have a few books and computers with for profit organisations plugging what they offer into so-called community services.

Diverse Books in School Libraries Survey

An MA student at Oxford Brookes University is conducting research into the provision of diverse books in school libraries and would like your help. If you could fill out this short survey (and share it with any friends or colleagues who might have missed it) that would be very much appreciated!

Geis: a Matter of Life & Death

The chief matriarch is dying. Drawing her last breath, she declares a contest: let fate decide the one worthy to rule. Fifty souls are summoned in the night; fifty souls bound to the same fate. But this is no ordinary trial… And so begins the first task.

The first thing I learned was how to pronounce Geis – it is ‘Gesh’ in case you couldn’t wait to pick up the book!

It is a Gaelic word for taboo or curse (that I knew). When a geis is placed upon you, it is like a spell that cannot be broken and certain rules must be obeyed. you might be prohibited form calling upon the aid of wolves, for example, or breaking into someone’s kitchen. If you ignore or break a geis, the consequences are dire.

But a geis is always broken.

As soon as it is spoken or written, your fate is set.

The first thing I realised when I opened the book was that I already know Alexis Deacon’s work, he was nominated for the Kate Greenaway Medal for his illustration of Jim’s Lion and he wrote the award-winning picture book I am Henry Finch.

I was not sure what to expect when I picked it up, possibly an enjoyable fantasy romp through a fantasy world based on Celtic myth.

I was right about the fantasy world – but my God, this story is dark – beautifully illustrated, but utterly merciless! The protagonist is the Kite Lord’s daughter, a young girl who finds herself out of place amongst the high lords and ladies of the chieftain’s court, who are summoned and scattered to find a suitable soul to replace the chief. The desires and humanity of the characters are laid bare as they face the temptation of ultimate power, and as was once said – no good deed goes unpunished!

It is the first part of an epic trilogy – get this book now, trust me I am a librarian!

How to Survive in the North

A brilliant graphic novel written and illustrated by Luke Healy:

Weaving together the true life historical expeditions of Ada Blackjack and Robert Bartlett with a contemporary fictional story. How to Survive in the North is a unique and visual narrative journey that shows the strength it takes to survive in even the harshest conditions – whether that be struggling for survival in the Arctic in the 1900s or surviving a mid-life crisis in the present day.

I finished this book with the impression that Vilhjalmur Stefansson was at best criminally inept and worst culpable for the death of the men he abandoned on two expeditions in the Arctic Circle.

Simply and beautifully illustrated it contains a wealth of history that made me research the histories of the characters once I had finished it. I love Luke Healey’s artwork and the changing colours to denote the different expeditions and the contemporary story is an excellent idea! The isolation of each of the characters throughout the book is the thread that binds the narratives together and the choices they make to survive and stay sane in the face of fraying relationships and loneliness makes the stories as gripping as they are tragic!

As with other Nobrow titles, How to Survive in the North is beautifully crafted and makes a bookshelf look better just by being on it!