Why I #LoveLibraries and #CaruLlyfrgelloedd

LoveLibrariesAquaIn Wales the #LoveLibraries (or in Welsh #CaruLlyfrgelloedd) campaign has just started (mid Oct 2014). This, mostly social media, campaign is seeking to promote fantastic library services, activities and staff, and also to increase membership by getting existing members to encourage someone else to join.

By using the hashtags, bilingual Twibbon and joining the Thunderclap (yep, the latter two were new to me too, shame on me!) recently, it made me think about why I love libraries. Here’s some of my reasons, in no particular order:

  • access to more books than I could possibly read, ever
  • all types of fiction to suit all tastes
  • friendly, neutral, non-invasive, welcoming spaces, with no hidden agenda
  • lovely helpful, friendly staff
  • free
  • always trying new things
  • socially equalising
  • community information – the place to go to find something out
  • the opportunties – through all that they do.

As I’ve aged (gracefully?), libraries have always been there in my life. As a child and teenager I read voraciously and needed our weekly trip to the library 10 miles away to get enough books to last the week. As a student I’ve used many libraries and found them excellent places to work, although also a source of distraction by people watching! The two times I’ve moved cities/towns in the last 20 years finding the public library was high up on the list of things to do: not only to get my fix of books, but also to find out about what’s going on in the area though local papers, noticeboards etc. These days I have a good natter with some of the staff when I pop in, and have even been known to sometimes visit libraries when on holiday elsewhere. (I hope I’m not alone in doing that, please tell me someone else does it.)

Orange background with text 'caru Llyfrgelloedd'Anyway, if you’re in Wales, or even if you’re not, you can find out more about the #LoveLibraries campaign on the Welsh Libraries website #LoveLibraries page where there’s a database of events taking place during the campaign, and if you’re a member of staff in a library in Wales you can access the briefing document and branded marketing materials from within the staff toolkit. Contact the team in Wrexham (or me) if you have any questions. And check out their Facebook pages in Welsh and English!


Posted in Academic libraries, Events, Health libraries, Libraries Inspire, Marketing, Media, Public libraries, School libraries, Social media & social networking, Wales | 6 Comments

WHELF survey of library access schemes


A good review of access schemes in universities in Wales, which includes reference to public library schemes as well.

Originally posted on WHELF:

WHELF recently carried out a survey to audit library reciprocal access schemes in Wales. The survey was run as part of Strategic Aim 1 of the WHELF Action Plan: Student Experience to assess whether WHELF was meeting its objective to develop partnership access schemes in order to further the student experience and to ascertain what areas need further development in this area. A 10 question survey via SurveyMonkey was distributed and responses were received from eight institutions: Aberystwyth University, Bangor University, Cardiff University, Cardiff Metropolitan University, National Library of Wales, Swansea University, University of South Wales and UWTSD.

The survey results revealed that the most widely used access scheme in Wales is Sconul Access with regional schemes such as Libraries Together and Linc y Gogledd also very popular. Walk in Access Wales, a recent WHELF project that allows the general public to access electronic resources at participating institutions was also…

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New scheme for innovative public library ideas

The Carnegie UK Trust are about (from 1st Sept 2014) to open applications to a new scheme of theirs: the Carnegie Library Lab. This is a three year programme of £200,000 “aimed at fostering leadership and innovation in the public library service.”

“Successful applicants will have the opportunity to take part in an online learning programme and apply for £5,000-£15,000 to develop and implement an innovative idea in their library.” They will help secure mentors to aid in implementing the ideas, help with professional and personal development of the successful applicants and facilitate networking events to build up a cohort of leaders and innovators.

The programme will “create partnerships with up to 15 public libraries to support innovative practice and show that book lending is only one of many services that libraries can deliver.”

Interested? Application forms will be available on the Carnegie UK Trust website from 1 September 2014, but there is already information about what they are looking for on their website. Applications close on 30th Sept so it’s best to get your thinking caps on now. You can also pre-register your interest on their website so that you are alerted when the papers are released.


Posted in Grants, Libraries, Public libraries, UK, Workforce development | Tagged | Leave a comment

TV soaps, libraries and public debate – guest post

Street sign saying Coronation StreetCan soap operas tell us anything meaningful about ourselves and the way we live? Do they document our times? I imagine they aim to, although many of us will dismiss them as fluff. Nevertheless even a casual viewer would note, over the years, their engagement with a range of issues from drug addiction and terminal illness to religious fanaticism. In EastEnders, Dot Cotton’s journey from prejudice to understanding, via her friendships with Colin and especially Mark Fowler is an obvious example. It told us something about how attitudes were changing in the post-HIV world of the 1980s and 90s, and maybe (for some people) helped to change them. I’m not a media critic so I don’t dare go further than that; but I am a librarian, and (ssh) a watcher of soaps, so I have been very interested in the latest story development on Coronation Street.

(Ed: this is a guest post from Dr Anoush Simon, lecturer in the Department of Information Studies at Aberystwyth University. I’m afraid to say I haven’t watched Corrie myself.)

The geography of Weatherfield has been extended. It transpires that they have a local library. I admit I’ve only been watching Coronation Street since my student days in Manchester, but I don’t think the library has been mentioned very much before, or if so, only obliquely. No matter – the council want to close it down and it’s time for a campaign! This is facilitated by the recent arrival of a new character, tough-talking librarian Yasmeen Nazir. She quickly puts paid to Roy Cropper’s well-meaning petition, arguing that the council will only respond to direct action – in this case, a sit-in at the library on the day it closes. I won’t digress here on the glory of the interactions between Roy, Yasmeen, Emily, Mary and young Craig as they struggle to get comfortable on the wooden seats and worry about the overnight security of Mary’s motor home (Corrie fans will already know this), but the upshot is that emails to a local councillor and the threat of a social media campaign secures the library a stay of execution. The celebrations are short-lived however as our heroes soon hear that the library is on fire, no doubt an act of revenge against their campaigning.

1960 television

Image CC by James Vaughan on Flickr. TV from 1960. Coronation St started in the same year.

The admittedly unlikely torching of the public library following Roy and Yasmeen’s victory (they earned the right to appeal the closure) means that I’ve been deprived of a courtroom-style drama involving people quoting from the 1964 Act. But it was clearly a device to get us to the story’s mother-lode, which is that the café Roy’s Rolls is to double up as a community library! This is fantastic on many levels. It’s a testament to the much-missed character Hayley Cropper and her campaigning spirit. It’s a reflection of what is actually happening in many communities right now. And it gives an opportunity for one of the best characters that any soap has ever created, to meditate on the joy of reading, the value of free access to information, the power that comes from knowledge and (fingers crossed), CILIP’s Statement on Intellectual Freedom, Access to Information and Censorship… Okay, maybe not that last bit. But Roy has, I think, met his intellectual match in Yasmeen, whose cries of “[I am] an experienced, fully qualified Librarian” and “it was a vocation!” must have warmed the heart of at least a few qualified, graduate, chartered, passionate and committed librarians. I’m looking forward to more banter as the community library/café/Salon develops. Maintaining a voluntary library is a huge and legally-complex challenge, and if any characters can carry off an extended discussion on copyright and the PLR, it’s these two.

As a lecturer, one of the subjects I am interested in is the idea of information ‘poverty’ and the digital divide: the impact on individuals, communities and indeed countries of not having easy access to high quality information (and ideally, a support structure to help us in our information-seeking). These days, this inevitably includes access to the Internet and the burgeoning range of information sources available there. A case in point is government information. This is increasingly available primarily online, and the UK Government’s Digital Strategy aspires to ‘digital by default’ i.e. everyone who needs to apply for welfare benefits or other types of support, does so online. This is fine if you have fast and easy access to the Internet and already use it all the time; it’s very easy to think that everyone has this.  But research from Citizen’s Advice Scotland indicates that their clients, the very people who may need to access these benefits, are also those most likely to have restricted or low levels of Internet access, experience and confidence – certainly lower than the general population. And as our fictional librarian in Coronation Street points out, “families with no money are being punished!”

The UK Government has identified libraries as one source of support for those who are having trouble navigating the job seeking and benefits application form jungle; how realistic this is in the context of the cuts and closures highlighted on the Public Libraries News website, remains to be seen – although we know that libraries are already doing good work in this regard (and have been for many years). There are many such examples in Wales, where I’m based, where libraries are engaged with Communities 2.0 and other partners to offer digital days, ICT training, information and digital skills training, literacy skills and many other types of support.

My main point is this: the huge problems facing our public libraries (and indeed the local authorities who have to make these difficult decisions), the potential threat to, or actual closure of, small community libraries, and the devastating impact on communities or individuals that may result, is actually being talked about in a prime-time TV soap – still one of the most watched programmes on UK television. I’m pretty sure this hasn’t happened before (but will be happy to stand corrected).

It brings the issue into popular focus, and helps to underline the value of libraries to communities for a whole range of reasons. In the course of 4 or 5 episodes we’ve had reference to the library as a safe space, a community space, a place to do homework, provider of books and information for the socially excluded, a bridge for the digital divide, a repository of social history, and memories of a lifetime of use. I do know it’s just a story, and it’s not going to change the world – but it’s there, it’s being acknowledged (and being so, acknowledges all those who are fighting for libraries), and it gives me heart.

(If you missed the episodes, or have never watched Corrie, you can catch up online on ITVplayer, for 30 days. The best episodes are the 30th July and 1st Aug – but there’s mention of it for the week before that too.)

Posted in Challenges, Communication, England, Libraries, Media, UK, Wales | Tagged , | 9 Comments

50 years of the Public Libraries Act 1964

[Guest post by Hywel James, Gwynedd, and he kindly wrote it it in Welsh too]

Birthday cakeThe chief librarians in Wales celebrated recently. What did they have to celebrate, you may ask, in the middle of planning drastic cuts in spending and closing some libraries? Well, on a break from a busy agenda with items discussing the development and improvement of services, we took the opportunity to share cake and remember fifty years since the passing of the Public Libraries Act 1964. This Act established the modern statutory library service, which it is the duty of each local authority to provide, and that gives everyone in Wales the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from its use.

As a child of the sixties I remember especially a new public library building which came in the wake of this important Act: the new concrete and glass Holyhead library. I was there at the opening, with the Secretary of State of Wales at the time, Cledwyn Hughes, opening the library in his hometown and mine. Here my life was opened to the treasures of literature of a high standard – the pleasure of following the story of Tolkien’s Hobbit and excitement of reading T. Llew Jones novels – and getting valuable help with my homework whilst at school and college – my debt to that library is great.

As it was in the period of a Labour government that this first golden age of public libraries took place, it was necessary to remind myself that the 1964 Act was the product of a Conservative government. After years of debate mainly during the years of Harold Macmillan’s leadership, the Act was passed. It is no coincidence I suspect that Macmillan himself was an enthusiastic reader – his favourite author was Jane Austen by the way – and of course he was the heir to a company of Scottish descent that became one of the world’s major publishers. It is strange to think in the present climate that we owe a debt to the Tory party for the Act to establish the ‘comprehensive and efficient’ library services!

People and cake

Picture: Anita Thomas (Pembrokeshire) and Steve Hardman (Swansea) both born in 1964 with Ann Jones (Monmouthshire) Chair SCL Wales, and Hywel James (Gwynedd) – who bought the cake !

While visiting the new libraries at Prestatyn and Caerphilly recently I was struck by the same excitement I felt as a child in Holyhead, to see new multi-purpose libraries attracting a host of new users. The lean period is ahead of us but we have survived bleak decades. Our strength as a public service is that review after review, case study after case study and our everyday experience shows the great value of libraries to people’s lives. This solid evidence will ensure future Welsh public libraries continue to serve, with free access for all, for the next fifty years.

[Ed: You may also be interested in reading four other responses to the significant date on the Voices for the Library website, by Prof Charles Oppenheim, David McMenemy, Bob Usherwood, and Dr Steve Davies.)

Posted in Governance, Libraries, Public libraries, Wales | 3 Comments

Fancy being a student again?

Girl writing in a diary

Image CC from Pic Jumbo

Are you working in a Welsh library service and looking to improve your qualifications? You may be eligible for a workforce development bursary to help you improve your skills. Bursaries are available for vocational qualifications (Level 2, the old ‘NVQ’) up to Level 7 (Masters) and include the Foundation Degree and its conversion to a BSc and the PDA in ICTL (Professional Development Award in ICT in Libraries). Or you may be thinking about a leadership qualification.

More information about the workforce bursaries is available on the CyMAL grant webpage – read the workforce development document. Information about course providers is in the document, but in Wales we are very fortunate to have three excellent institutions offering a range of appropriate qualifications: Coleg Llandrillo (under Grwp Llandrillo Menai), Glyndwr University, and Aberystwyth University. (Other course providers in the UK may also be appropriate.) Most courses will start in September, so get looking and planning!

You may wish to look at the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base of CILIP, which maps the essential skills for library and information  professionals.

These bursaries are part of the workforce strand of the Libraries Inspire strategy, the Welsh Government’s strategy for libraries 2012-16. The funding allocated to this each year is finite, so once it’s gone it’s gone.

If you have any queries get in touch the workforce adviser Velma Hather – contact details are in the document.

CyMAL also runs a cross-sector (i.e. museums, archives and libraries) free training programme. Upcoming courses and dates are listed on the training pages of the CyMAL website. Some of these may be of interest to library staff in Wales.


Posted in Careers, CILIP, CyMAL, Grants, Libraries, Libraries Inspire, Wales, Workforce development | Leave a comment

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.) Watch a YouTube video of the chair of the report speaking at the launch.

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