Category Archives: Libraries

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

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.

Recognising the Importance of School Libraries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Save our Libraries Caitlin’s Moranifesto

Once Upon a Time in the Future…

library cartoon x

A General Moan about Library stuff

When I saw that Ed Vaizey was the poster boy for the 2016 National Libraries Day I wondered briefly if he had had a Road to Damascus type conversion and thrown his weight behind the Save Libraries Campaigns.

Sadly no, I did post a flippant tweet (see below) that has become one of the most popular things I have said online for ages.

I understand that CILIP has to work with the Tory Party in Government (PIG) and needs to keep lines of communication open since Vaizey is now speaking to them again after the vote of no confidence against him in 2013 but it does leave a bit of a bad taste in the mouth.

Over the years CILIP appears to have made a habit of saying and (not) doing things that have upset a lot of members, former members and those librarians that have never joined. I have been a member of CILIP for well over a decade – since I came to the UK in fact and have been a relatively loyal supporter (although not completely uncritical) and have had discussions and arguments with friends and colleagues trying to see the positives in things that CILIP has done.

I will state for the record that I am currently on the CILIP Youth Libraries Group (YLG) London Committee as the Carnegie & Kate Greenaway Medals Judging panel representative. Now the CILIP CKG Awards is an example of something brilliant that CILIP has run for donkeys years, as is the YLG and many of the other excellent Special Interest Groups that find a home in CILIP.

I have faith in Dawn Finch the new president of CILIP, but I do not know if one person will be enough to change things. That being said I do think that the new CEO Nicholas Poole has also been doing well!

2016 is probably going to be the year in which I decide to stay in CILIP or chuck it in and become a Library dissident.

My mood was not helped by this news:

Considering that I used to work in some of the Libraries on offer and worked with some amazing people in Enfield it was more depressing than these bits of news generally are.

Also what is up with Banks getting their claws into library users? Part of me thinks Barclays with their Digital Eagles is doing it to improve their frankly crappy image, as well as hook vulnerable people that do not know how to use computers or the internet. Plus why are is the UKSCL supporting Halifax and their Digital Friends scheme? I am not even going to mention the risk of internet banking on public computers, so there you go.

On the plus side this coming Saturday is National Libraries Day (thank you Alan Gibbons) and I have heard nothing this year about library staff members being prevented from celebrating it.

The Mind’s Treasure Chest

A long, long (ish) time ago I was a student librarian in the School of Education at the Cape Technikon (now the Cape Peninsula University of Technology). It was during the second year of my studies that one of my favourite lecturers (Dr Liz van Aswegen) showed my class a video called The Mind’s Treasure Chest

Released in 1991, THE MIND’S TREASURE CHEST is a feature length educational comedy that teaches students to think for themselves. This film is a marriage between a Hollywood movie and an educational video. It’s about libraries, research, and information. It’s about history and hypothesizing. It’s about thinking for yourself.

Distributed in five countries, it won a multitude of awards, including Best Film for Grades 7 – 12 at the National Educational Film and Video Festival.

For Kennedy buffs, the film features a number of sequences that dramatize the history of the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Parts of it are a bit dated, for example I do not think that many (or any) school libraries still use microfiche readers; catalogues are computerised and the internet is now available on broadband rather than a limited dial up service.

You may be able to show it to your students as part of their library induction or get them to spot the ways that school library usage has changed (and indeed, remained the same) but if not it is still an entertaining and educational film for Librarians to watch and reminisce on how things used to be done.

The Minds Treasure Chest

Making use of Limited Display Space

My School Library, while being a classically beautiful and retro (in appearance) library space while at the same time managing to be fairly modern in offering a relevant, 21st Century service is rather limited in display space, owing to nearly every available wall being covered in bookshelves.

In December of 2015 I decided to turn my storage cupboard (one of the few usable forward-facing flat spaces) into a display board, which you can see on the left alongside my beautiful grandmother clock.

The other flat spaces are between the windows, but use of this space is tricky due to the ban on anything sticky being attached to painted walls. To get round this, I attached poster paper to the window frames on each side to create a semi-permanent display advertising the library clubs that I run on a weekly basis

Has anyone else had to get round limited display space in inventive ways? If yes I would be interested in hearing how this was accomplished.