Welsh libraries: “unique … contribution to … community life”

The National Assembly for Wales* Communities, Equality and Local Government committee has published its report today (23rd July 2014) following its inquiry into public libraries in Wales. (Report also available in Welsh.)

The inquiry was interested in a range of matters including Welsh Government policy, legislative frameworks, impact of public sector cuts, alternative models of provision, and the ‘contemporary and community role’ of public libraries.

The committee summarise the evidence presented on each topic, before commenting on “our view” for each matter and drawing up recommendations. This takes up about 40 pages followed by about 60 pages of evidence. I’ve only skim read it so far so will just make some quick comments that stand out to me thus far.

There are 10 recommendations for the Minister for Natural Resources, Culture and Sport, which I paste in below (bold my own emphasis).

  • Recommendation 1. We recommend that the Minister produces and
    publishes an annual report on the state of public libraries in Wales.
  • Recommendation 2. We recommend that the Minister makes arrangements for the central publication of disaggregated data showing the use of public libraries by demographic groups.
  • Recommendation 3. We recommend that the Minister works with partners to develop a contemporary definition of ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library services for local authorities to deliver under the Public Libraries and Museums Act 1964. Such a definition should include the provision of internet access which, we believe, should remain free of charge.
  • Recommendation 4. We recommend that the Minister considers developing a voluntary accreditation scheme for individual libraries in Wales.
  • Recommendation 5. We recommend that the Minister continues to work with local authorities and their partners to identify and promote further opportunities for collaboration and co-location arrangements in the delivery of library services.
  • Recommendation 6. We recommend that the Minister ensures that the necessary ongoing support and guidance is available in order to increase the long-term sustainability of community managed libraries.
  • Recommendation 7. We recommend that the Minister ensures adequate support and guidance continues to be available to local authorities to identify and pursue all available funding opportunities.
  • Recommendation 8. We recommend that, whilst core library services should remain free of charge, the Minister should explore with local authorities all other available options for libraries to raise revenue.
  • Recommendation 9. We recommend that the Minister works with local authorities and partners to promote better the wide range of services provided by public libraries.
  • Recommendation 10. We recommend that the Minister continues to pursue the case for additional funding from the UK Government in recognition of the increasing responsibilities for library staff in Wales in supporting the delivery of digital-by-default welfare reforms.

The committee did not find much appetite for replacing the 1964 Public Libraries Act (para 9) although there is a need to define ‘comprehensive and efficient’. Our Welsh Public Library Standards have sought to do this but without making it a legal definition. I was pleased to read that the committee found that the standards had led to improvements to public libraries in the last decade (para 12).

There are discussions on co-location, community-managed libraries, volunteers and funding and a strong comment on library staff “…in our view, the delivery of library services in Wales should be led by professionals who bring the necessary knowledge and expertise to the role.” (para 108)

I was pleased to read in the report that the findings were positive regarding policy delivery, and the work of CyMAL (phew!).

And finally, the committee’s view on the role of libraries is clear: “Libraries are unique in their contribution to so many areas of community life, including education, health and wellbeing, tackling poverty and social exclusion.” (para 144) (emphasis my own)

What happens next? The committee launched its report today and there was early media coverage on the BBC and WalesOnline. The Minister will respond to the report, and his expert review panel will be considering this report in the preparation of their report into public libraries in Wales. And then we’ll see what happens!

*The NAfW comprises the elected Assembly Members, their committees, working groups, the debates in the Senedd etc. It is separate from the Welsh Goverment which is the Cabinet (Ministers), civil servants etc, and which implements policies and laws in Wales. I work for the Welsh Government and am thus not connected in any way to the creation of the report.

PS Note that the report refers to the Minister for Culture and Sport as it was written before his portfolio changed.

Posted in CyMAL, Governance, Public libraries, Publications, Research, Wales, Welsh Public Library Standards | Leave a comment

It’s not a myth! The summer reading challenge in Wales

Cupcake

(c) Welsh Libraries

Hooray – it’s back! Last week John Griffiths AM, Minister for Natural Resources, Culture and Sport in Wales officially launched the Summer Reading Challenge 2014 at Canton Library in Cardiff.

 

 

(C) Welsh Libraries

(C) Welsh Libraries

Around 60 excited school children joined the Minister to celebrate the start of the new Summer Reading Challenge – this year the theme is Mythical Maze (Chwilfa Chwedlau in Welsh). Some of the library staff dressed up as Mythical creatures for the event – no easy task considering the thermometer way above 20C!

Storyteller Michael Harvey started the event by entertaining the children (and adults!) with some fantastic stories. The Minister then officially launched the Summer Reading Challenge, and spoke about the importance of reading and chatted with the children about their favourite books. There were further speeches from Councillor Sarah Merry, Cardiff Council and Elwyn Jones, Chief Executive of the Welsh Books Council. And then everyone enjoyed some special Mythical Maze cupcakes!

(C) Welsh Libraries

(C) Welsh Libraries

The Reading Agency organises the Summer Reading Challenge throughout the UK, and again the Welsh Government and the Welsh Books Council are supporting this year’s challenge in Wales. They are working with public libraries to sign up thousands of children to the Challenge, helping to encouraging children to choose and read six books over the summer holidays. They can collect stickers and other goodies as they progress and get a special certificate and medal when they complete.

The importance of summer reading for children is seen when they return to school – those who have continued reading over the summer tend not to suffer the ‘summer dip’ in reading and literacy skills when compared to other children who’ve read little or nothing over the six weeks holidays. And, in the longer term, inpsiring a love of reading can lead to long term benefits into adulthood.

(C) Welsh Libraries

(C) Welsh Libraries

Throughout the summer children can log in to the Mythical Maze website to take part in competitions and get book recommendations. And this year a special Mythical Maze app has been created, allowing children to bring the challenge to life. Adults can also interact on the SRC Facebook page.

In Wales, some libraries are also offering adults the chance to enter their own reading challenge, setting a good example to the children and with the chance to win a prize. And other libraries have set up ‘Kids take over the Library’ days - there were great pictures from Denbighshire and Swansea that I saw. Check out your local library to see what’s on offer. And more pics of the SRC launch can be found on the Welsh Libraries Facebook page.

[Guest post kindly written by colleague Jemma Francis who attended the launch.]

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Helping people to access research via libraries

Research articles are not just of interest to students and academics in established educational institutions. There are many serious hobbyists, writers and independent researchers who may have an interest in a particular topic and who wish to access the latest research about it. However, frequently there is either no way to access this research if you are not part of an educational institution or are not willing to pay large sums for single articles. (The debate around open access to publicly-funded research is large and I’m not going to get into that here!)

Scottish, and then Welsh universities, have been working to change this by allowing members of the public ‘walk-in’ access to their libraries. The member of the public can then search (a pre-selected range of databases and journals) for articles of interest. (SCONUL has also issued guidelines on how to set up walk-in access in university libraries.) Initial take-up in Wales has so far been low, although for various reasons there has not been a large promotional drive to highlight the availability of these schemes in the participating institutions.

There may be other reasons for low take-up: how to reach the niche target audience, lack of awareness of what journals are available, restrictions on printing and saving the articles, and perceived barriers of walking into a university.

If we assume that walking into the university library as a member of public is a barrier, the Access to Research scheme now operating in the UK could be the answer. This scheme was trialled in 10 public library services in England in autumn-winter 2013 and was then subsequently opened up to all public library services across the UK with a two year pilot launched in February 2014. The launch generated quite a bit of publicity e.g. in the BBC, Times Higher, and in blogs.

Access is via public library branches, so members of the public are likely to be more comfortable about entering and being there. Searching for the research is via a dedicated website, from any on-site public library computer (i.e. not remote access from home or on the move), and users can search c.8400 journals from around 20 publishers, totaling around 1.5 million articles. (If this sounds a lot, one blog post notes that there are 46.1 million records in Web of Science.) All the major subject areas are covered by this scheme e.g. health, physical and social sciences, business, humanities etc.

Each public library service has to arrange their own access to the website and so far 9 (out of 22) public library services in Wales have done this. Participating libraries/services can be found by checking the Access to Research website. It’s possible to see the list of journals even if your local authority hasn’t got access yet.

Managing Google-search expectations will be an important factor in the scheme’s success. As will marketing and the information literacy skills of users, whether people know exactly what they’re looking for or those conducting general searches e.g. on health conditions. Evidence from the three month pilot found that health and historical searches were the most popular. (As reported in an article in Learned Publishing, freely available from their website).

The article notes that the scheme is a collaboration between publishers and public libraries as one of the recommendations of the Finch report into access to research. This scheme is licensed access and “represents an important milestone on the road of expanding access towards the ultimate objective of full sustainable open access.” (Faulder & Cha). Note that it’s not an open access scheme as the material is licensed and is not freely available.

After creating a system that works effort now needs to be spent in training library staff and users how to use it, and marketing it effectively to the target audience. It is important to note that whilst this scheme improves access to research, it still requires the user to go to a physical building, and, the terms and conditions of the license state that users cannot download the articles in any format. A balanced blog post on the Access to Research scheme highlights its good and bad points and is worth reading.

Thinking about some of the less positive elements of the scheme, I was really interested to read from Ken Chad* about two other websites that provide free access to research, outside of library walls. These are CORE and BASE. Ken asks if any public libraries have incorporated these free services into their offering, including integration with their online catalogues. I can’t answer that and have made only a cursory search of these search portals but they seem really great and can be used at any time, by anyone.

In short, the Access to Research scheme may be over-riding the university walk-in access schemes, but, the free and open search portals seem to be one step ahead again.

*Ken has also written an article on Access to Research where he makes very good points about this initative, and the freely available websites, being important springboards to enhance the learning link with public libraries.

 

Posted in Academic libraries, Digital things, Libraries, Online resources, Public libraries, Research, UK, Wales | Tagged | 2 Comments

Speaking volumes about impact: Libraries and wellbeing

A new handy, colourful and concise leaflet has been produced showing the impact of public libraries on four aspects of wellbeing: culture, communities, learning and economic.

Produced by the Carnegie UK Trust the folded pamphlet (“Speaking volumes“) captures excellent examples of libraries having an impact in these four areas, and is backed up by databases of hundreds of references from libraries in the UK and Ireland. The databases and the publication are on their website and the pamphlet, can be downloaded and printed as a poster or as a folded pamphlet (from A3 to A5).

There is also an accompanying blog post on “Why libraries are good for you”.

For those interested in what libraries do, or involved with the planning or promotion of libraries, or for those interested in researching the impact of libraries, this leaflet will be really useful.

Posted in Communication, Impact/Value, Libraries, Marketing, Public libraries, Publications, Research, UK | Tagged | Leave a comment

Welsh librarian wins Law Librarian of the Year Award 2014

alysontyler:

Well done to Lillian from Aberystwyth University for winning this UK award.

Originally posted on WHELF:

Many congratulations to Lillian Stevenson, Subject Librarian for Law and Academic Services Manager at Aberystwyth University on being awarded the WILDY BIALL (British and Irish Association of Law Librarians) Law Librarian of the Year Award 2014.

Speaking at the award ceremony Jas Breslin, President of BIALL, said:
“The Wildy BIALL Law Librarian of the Year Award is our chance to reward an outstanding Law Librarian. This year’s winner is an academic law librarian who has volunteered on both BIALL Committees and on
Council. She has been an exemplary ambassador for BIALL on many occasions, and we thank her for this contribution to our organisation.
More impressive is just how highly this person is regarded and esteemed by her academic colleagues in her law school. The respect she holds there is
immense. Through her competence and hard work, she has developed an excellent working relationship with faculty colleagues, which many academic…

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Call for evidence: Welsh public libraries review

Person holding tin can with string going from base

(Image free from Gratisography)

The expert panel undertaking the review of public libraries in Wales on behalf of the Minister for Culture and Sport have just issued a call for written evidence. Further details about the review and how to submit evidence is available online on the CyMAL division web pages.

 

The panel has invited responses to the following questions:

  • What services should public libraries provide in the future to meet the changing needs of the people of Wales?
  • What should be the roles and functions of the public library workforce in the future?
  • How can libraries in Wales work together in the future to offer an efficient and effective library service on a local, regional and national basis?
  • Do we require a new legislative framework and/or delivery model for public library services in Wales?

The panel will produce a report for the Minister later in the year. A full public consultation on the report and its recommendations will then follow. Terms of reference and how to respond are on the web pages. Deadline: 20 June 2014.

Note: “If you have contributed to the National Assembly of Wales’ Communities Equality and Local Government Committee inquiry into public libraries, and your response is available on the inquiry website, you do not need to resubmit it for this review.”

Posted in Consultations, CyMAL, Libraries, Public libraries, Wales | Tagged | 5 Comments

Peter Keelan: Welsh Librarian of the Year!

alysontyler:

The winnner of the 2014 CILIP Cymru Wales librarian of the year. Sue Thomas of the Public Health Library won the category for public services.

More information about both candidates and their work can now be found on the CILIP Cymru Wales website, along with a nice photo of them both.

Originally posted on WHELF:

Congratulations to Peter Keelan of Cardiff University on being named last week as the Welsh Librarian of the Year at the CILIP Cymru Wales annual conference. Again this year, there were excellent stories to be told about all the nominees and  they all are thoroughly deserving in having a position in the shortlist. Peter won the Academic Library category and went on to win the overall Welsh Librarian of the Year title.

Peter is Head of Special Collections and Archives (SCOLAR) at Cardiff and you can see some of their rich and interesting work on the SCOLAR blog or on their website. Take some time to trawl through the range of digital material, there are some great images and stories being told.

Peter is well known and respected around the world of special collections and archives and is a thoroughly deserving winner of this award.

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