Tag Archives: education

Get involved in the Library A to Z

At the recent Library Camp East event one of the Voices For The Library team proposed a session to crowd source an A to Z of words that reflected the positive activities and values of libraries, as well as positive representations in books, songs, films and other media. The aim was to highlight that even though books are a core feature of library services, libraries are so much more than this – whether this “so much more” is as a result of the benefits of reading, or beyond this focus. The intention was also to use the A to Z as a way to promote library services. The group was attended by about 20 people from a range of library backgrounds, which was great, because it meant that the full breadth of library services could be covered and it showed common and uncommon activities between, say for example, public and academic libraries. We covered all of the alphabet (with a bit of artistic licence in places), but there is still scope for more words to be added into the Library A to Z. Please feel free to add any as a comment and we’ll then include them in the blog post.

Here’s a list of what the group at Library Camp East came up with on the day, along with some additional contributions. Thanks to all who got involved.

Questions (c) elycefeliz / Flickr. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 licence)

A
archives
access
answers
Alphabetical Order (Alan Ayckbourn play)
advice
art
astronomy
audio books
author events

 

B
Batgirl (is a librarian)
breakout space
breast feeding (space for mothers with babies)
books
Buffy The Vampire Slayer (Giles is a librarian)
borrowing
book club
baby bounce and rhyme
Britannica (encyclopedia)
business information
biographies

C
community
collaboration
childminders
careers
choices
crafts
creation
comics
competitive advantage (for businesses)
coffee (relax with one)
colouring (fun sessions for children)
council services (access to)
carers services
classics
community cohesion
ommunity memory
Council Information
CVs

 

D
Deskset (film)
Elaine Dundy – The Dud Avacado
Day after tomorrow (scene in library)
databases
democracy
discovery
dry (inside, away from foul weather)
dads
diversity
dvds
Dewey
dance
digital literacy

E
entertainment
escape
ebooks
employability
equality
everyone (is welcome)
education
excitement
events
exhibitions
enquiry service
email

 

F
fun
free (to join and free books)
family history
families
films
Facebook (you can access it via our PCs)
fax services
fiction

G
guidance
gallery
Ghostbusters (library scene in the film)
green (eco-friendly book recycling)
graphic novels
Go online
games

H
heritage
history
health
Hermione (always in the library in Harry Potter)
holiday reading
Hollywood librarians film
homework help
hate crime reporting
help
history

I
information
inclusion
internet
inspiration
imagination
information services
information literacy
information commons

J
job searching
journeys (discover new places with a book)

judgement-free

K
knowledge

Kindness

Kinship (finding like-minded people)

key-stage (supporting the curriculum)

L
librarians / library staff
lending
local
local studies
literacy
learning
leisure
languages
literature

M
Margaret Mahy
The mummy (main character is a librarian)
meeting (community)
mums
music
managing directors (build businesses/business support)
mood boosting
make a noise in libraries
mobile libraries
Manic street preachers – “libraries gave us power”
mailing lists
magazines
maps
market research

 

N
networking
noise (discussion/communication/activity)
National Libraries Day
Name of the Rose
newspapers
Neil Gaiman – a great advocate for libraries
non-judgemental
novels
not for profit

O
Octonauts (CBeebies – “To the library!”)
opportunity
outreach
online
open to all
old (and young)

P
partnerships
power
photocopying
printers
paper
photographs

Q
questions
quiet

R
reading
research
resources
relaxing
rhymetime
recommendations
reference books
retirement
reminiscence
romance

 

S
Sshh! (a quiet place to work/study)
silver surfers
students
scanners
space (to think and work)
skills
sharing
safe (place)
summer reading challenge
social media
serendipity
storytime
study
school visits
science
science fiction
spelling
sport
statistics

T
Time travellers wife (works in a library)
trusted
teens
Time machine (original film female character worked in library)
toys
treasure hunts

U
understanding
uplifting
universal
unemployment
unlimited
universal credit (support)
unexpected

V
visually impaired users
values

W
wifi (free)
well-being
wisdom
werewolves (Twilight / teen readers)
warmth

X
xml (web of information; organisation of info online)
x-rated (50 shades of grey etc)
exciting
expression

Y
youth
young adult

Z
‘zines (magazines)
zzzzz (child sleeping after being read bedtime story)

Force of Poetry (c) Artiom Ponkratenko / Flickr (CC BY 2.0 licence)

So, now we have a list and what would be great is if we could get more people involved in doing something creative with this list or a part of it – maybe just a letter, or a single word will inspire you to create something in response. So for example, some of the ideas people have suggested already include:

  • Turn some of this into a visual alphabet that we could share as downloadable posters.
  • Create a library A to Z video.
  • Pull together positive library user stories that cover the full A to Z related to your library, whether that’s public, academic, business, specialist library etc and produce a book of them to be sent to the people in your organisation who aren’t aware of the value of your library service.
  • Create an online photo montage alphabet.
  • Get artists (visual, musical, performance) involved to interpret this Library A to Z in their own unique way.
It would be fantastic if we could encourage libraries and their supporters to take up the challenge, focus on a single letter each and produce something we could pull together in time for National Libraries Day – a day all about celebrating the value of libraries and all the things that make libraries so great and important.
And if you do put something together (which we hope you will) please let us know and share it with us, so we can share it with everyone else too.

Henry’s story – Libraries are being sidelined

Returning to a blog post forced upon most of my fellow school compatriots, in this course, I’d like to talk about Libraries. I am currently partaking in the DofE Bronze course, something that I will talk about at a later period, probably after I have completed it, due to my opinions on the true nature of it and perhaps how those comments might be taken in a way not beneficial to my completion of it,  and as part of my volunteering, I am working at a homework club, after school. This is a rather simple task, where I sit there and help children with their homework, and attempting to impart my knowledge to them in an interesting way without them vomiting profusely. But this has brought something back to me; the fact that Libraries are darn useful. I can recall myself, sitting in a library and reading books about Physics and History at the ages of 6 and 7. But Libraries are now an endangered species. They are at risk of cuts by local councils, bottlenecked by old systems and ideals for running the libraries. But as the internet is becoming more and more powerful, libraries are being sidelined. The extra services they provide over the books, such as the homework clubs, or use of the computers are required for some people, and indeed help to flourish people and their skills. But I think that for now, libraries are here to stay – for the sole reason the internet is not fully open. Libraries represent the diversity of knowledge and the freedom of that knowledge currently does not exist fully on the internet. It is possible that if several censorship laws are passed, knowledge previously garnered from the internet would have to be found in a library, a nostalgic experience for many. Thus, I think what has to happen is we use libraries as our backup, for the possible burning of the modern day Library of Alexandria; the hub of knowledge that is the internet. We require an equilibrium between the two. This may simply be the case however in countries with more wealth, but I think that in poorer countries struggling to make the jump, knowledge is what is needed, and the library can provide that. But libraries have to be supplemented by the great hive-mind of the Internet, to allow the extra services and knowledge that the library provides become a small amount compared to what the internet provides, but have enough force to show the governments that Libraries are here to stay.

I write this blogpost inspired by, and hoping to share awareness of National Libraries Day, occuring on the 4th of February. I thoroughly encourage you to spend some time in your library that day, and perhaps help out with spreading this post, and National Libraries Day.

On 2 interesting library related notes, firstly, has anyone seen my hardback copy of Snuff, by Terry Pratchett. And secondly, the library I volunteer at, well I owe them about £1350 in late fees for a book I “borrowed” when I was 5. It was about trains. Yeah…

Henry (direthoughts.com)

Libraries are not free market choice

Writing Public Libraries News, I come across lots of good, and not so good quotes from people.  Recently, I was going to call one blog posting “free market choice” after an unfortunate comment from a Bexley councillor but another quote, that called libraries “weapon of mass instruction“, so beautifully summed up what a library is that it won the game hands down.
The whole point about public libraries, of course, is that they offer the complete opposite of the free market by doing such a wonderful job of “mass instruction”.
When I do junior school class visits – and I do a lot – there is a little bit of fun that sums this up.  I get two children to come up.  One play-acts taking a book from Asda (my town has no bookshops) without paying for it.  As they almost leave, I shout “beep beep beep” and “stop thief!” to general hilarity.  The other play-acts taking a book from the public library without paying for it.  I shout “thank you” and “come back again”.  This is the difference.  One does not pay to take out a book.  One can take out twenty books retailing at perhaps £8 per book for free, as many times as one likes.  The High Street or Amazon alternative is simply not an option for many of the people I deal with.  £160 every three weeks on books?  I think not.
Libraries are not a “free market choice”.  There’d be no free access to books if it was left to the free market.  In a pure market driven economy, one would not be able to read a book without having the means to pay for it.  Believe me, there’s a lot of families who would never buy a book.  A lot of children denied the greatest chance of all life chances: that of a love of books, of a love for literacy and all the advantages that that gives.  Ladies, Gentleman and Councillors from Bexley, it’s the public library or nothing for a lot of the kids when it comes to reading.  The free market would just leave them with nothing.
Ian Anstice

More than just fiction? It’s unbelievable!

Thank you to John Dolan for sending us the following guest post.

 

I recoil when people say libraries are “more than just books” but let’s paraphrase that; libraries are also more than just fiction. Around a third of books borrowed are non-fiction. Many meet familiar needs in gardening or cookery; even more on all conceivable themes, history – local and everything else – politics, philosophy, science, travel, arts, health, life, the world ………

Children’s reading shifts as they grow. Little ones love stories; that’s a given. Later there is more of a mix. Research by Birmingham Libraries showed that children reached the tipping point around 8-9 years when hobbies and homework drew them closer to non-fiction. Young people urgently need info’- not just study but for their diverse and pressured personal and social lives.

Libraries are where you read newspapers – today’s local, back copies, foreign papers, national dailies, e-papers. Why should people only read one paper? They’re all political; only in a good library can you test one view against another … and in several languages and from different countries.

Free internet drew new audiences; not passive, watching “audiences” but people finding out, fascinated by facts, ideas and opinion; people wanting to disagree. Teachers would be less worried about Wikipedia if we were raised as critical readers – learners – not taught that someone else is always right, so “just cut and paste”.

The library is often cited as a community (village, city centre, whatever) meeting place. Activities in libraries bring alive the knowledge and ideas that are on the pages of the non-fiction book or the internet screen; from health to local history; from childcare to costume. At Birmingham some of our best events were with authors like Robert Winston, Betty Boothroyd, Tony Benn, Kate Adie, Ranulph Fiennes, Melvyn Bragg, Brian Keenan and, of course, Terry Deary ….

Marx and Engels studied and, surely, shared their thinking in the (open to the public) library of Manchester’s Chethams Music School http://tgr.ph/kfshR. In Birmingham, George Dawson, opening the 1879 Central Library, said the “a great library contains the diary of the human race” (Long live biography!).

The web, online reference works and e-books anticipate reflect the library of today. Now amazing stuff can be had virtually as well as in every walk-in library. As ever, the library seeks and provides. E-resources are too unaffordable for most; a library’s info service is without compare; knowledge collections critical and free computers crucial. There’s nowhere else!

So what do we need now? Four thoughts to begin:

  • More promotion of the information and learning roles of all libraries
  • Accreditation mechanism for learning in libraries
  • Acknowledgement of the librarian’s skills in information research
  • Advocate-leaders in learning, education, health, science, arts, politics, business

 

John Dolan OBE

10 November 2011

I am here for the learning revolution

I am here for the learning revolution (c) Bill Moseley

The views expressed in guest blog posts are those of individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of  Voices for the Library.

On the other side of the counter at Winsford Library

We received the following blog post from Hannah Bailey (UNISON Assistant National Officer) about her recent visit to Winsford Library.

Like many people, some of my earliest memories are of visiting the library with my parents and siblings (Bawtry library in Doncaster, now sadly facing the axe, was our local). From these visits I harboured a childhood ambition to be a librarian – I think it was the satisfying clunk of the stamp that did it. So my work at UNISON on the libraries campaign has been the next best thing, but despite spending large chunks of my work days thinking and writing about libraries, it occurred to me that I had only ever been on the ‘other side’ of the counter. Shouldn’t I really get out there and see what working in the library service is really all about? Ian Anstice kindly stepped in and agreed to let me shadow him and his staff for a day at Winsford library in Cheshire. Emailing to make arrangements beforehand, Ian politely laughed at request to see what a ‘typical day’ in a library was like – no such thing as a typical day he assured me…..

An early train journey and bus ride meant I arrived at the library just after opening time on a sunny Thursday morning, the last week of the school summer holidays. Ian and I are in regular email contact, but have never met in person; however I clocked him straightaway putting out posters to advertise the library’s coffee and cake morning that day. Getting inside the library there were already a steady stream of people coming in, many to take advantage of the cakes on offer (I duly sampled a raspberry crumble muffin) whilst returning items and using the PCs.

The coffee morning is run regularly by friends of the library, who all volunteer their time to take part in fundraising activities and events. The positive relationship between staff and volunteers was clear, and it was also clear that they were providing a supplementary service that staff would be unable to undertake alongside their daily duties. Complementing staff and playing a role, but not replacing them. This has always been UNISON’s view and it was good to see it working in practice. Later that day, Ian discussed with the treasurer of the friends group how the funds were looking and the possibility of buying some new furniture for the children’s library – clearly their effort is having an impact.

First activity of the day was story time for the under fives, with a (mostly!) captive audience of twenty or so youngsters and a selection of parents and grandparents. Not for the last time that day I was reminded of the pleasure of being read to, something which seems to stop as soon as you leave school, but I will always love. Rounding off with a selection of nursery rhymes (including requests from the floor) story time was a reminder not only of how pleasurable reading is, but also the importance of starting young with literacy – it really is never too early and libraries play a huge part in getting families and kids into reading, which stays with them for life.

Meanwhile on the counter, a constant stream of people were coming in and out, putting paid to the rumour that nobody uses libraries anymore. Remember earlier this year when John Redwood MP made some startlingly ill-informed comments about libraries after a brief visit to one? Anyone deeming themselves worthy of comment needs to spend at least a day in a library before drawing any conclusions. After all, a visit to an uncharacteristically quiet supermarket at 10pm wouldn’t lead one to conclude that modern retail as we know it is dead would it?

Mid-morning behind the counter was of the highlights of the day for me – a young man aged no more than about 12 came in on his own to return a stack of books he’d read during his recent holiday. Checking the books back in, Ian reminded him he had a few more out and did he want to renew them while he was here? He agreed, telling Ian that he was halfway through one of them, ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’. Settling his small fine, he then left. This is the kind of kid we’re supposed to believe aren’t interested in reading anymore, too busy playing computer games or hanging round the streets making a nuisance of themselves. I was truly heartened by this – and you can bet if it’s happening in Winsford, it’s happening at libraries all over the UK.

Ecological Consequences by J. Star

Ecological Consequences (c) J. Star / Flickr

Books returned over the course of the morning soon started to stack up behind the counter, so any spare time was spent by staff re-shelving items ready to be borrowed again. All the while the eight or so PC’s in the library were constantly occupied by a range of different people, from teenagers checking the latest updates on Facebook to people printing off e-tickets for impending holidays. While the volunteers packed the cakes and coffee away, members of the Mid-Cheshire Camera Club were busy mounting a small exhibition of their work near the entrance. The works are for sale, and as of one the members filled out the council’s insurance form, he explained to me that the library is the last open exhibition space available in the town centre to groups such as theirs.

An open building – it sounds obvious but it’s what libraries are all about. Still it was one of the points that struck me on several occasions as the day went by. Whilst downstairs the children’s library was buzzing and noisy, upstairs in the reference area there was an altogether quieter and calmer feel. I was told there is one man comes in every day without fail to read the newspaper for an hour at lunchtime. Then there were the groups of teenagers, in town and looking for something to do, drifting in and out. One man spent most of the day in the library, helping out the volunteers in the morning and staying for the afternoon. The library for him is a safe space, a place where he is welcomed and not judged.

After lunch I was invited along to join the RELISH group – read, listen, share – which is a reading group for people with mental health issues. There are seven regular attendees to this group, which staff told me was a real achievement. People who are ill and may already have chaotic lives drift in and out of groups like this. But here you have seven people who attend week in, week out, to read together and discuss the books. Everyone who feels comfortable takes a turn to read aloud, and after a few pages a member of staff poses questions to get the conversation going. It sounds simple enough, but seeing it in practice and the impact it has is powerful stuff.

Later in the afternoon there was some respite for staff on the counter to undertake other tasks. This was when I was introduced to the mysterious ‘back office’. Many critics argue that too much is spent on the ‘back office’ and that this should be cut in favour of the frontline. This obviously varies from area to area, however what was clear is that a varied selection of books don’t magically appear on the shelves, nor do titles which are seldom borrowed grow legs and walk off, making room for more popular titles. It all happens in the mysterious ‘back office’. And contrary to what some people believe, new books appear on the shelves every week in your average library. So for those who bemoan that the latest titles aren’t available, perhaps you should get down to your local library or hop online and find out. I’m guessing you’ll be surprised.

Winsford library is open until 7.30pm on Thursday evenings, the day I was there. Ian told me how later on in the day is when there is most potential for trouble, with the town centre emptying of shoppers and bored teenagers hanging around. Again the library is open to all – staff work on the presumption that people know how to behave, and only if someone is causing offence or disturbance to someone else will they intervene. But it does happen, and staff are often at the receiving end of anti-social behaviour. Not exactly the picture of a sleepy library in a leafy suburb that some would paint, but the reality nonetheless. It’s bad enough that paid staff have to endure such incidents, but would you volunteer to put yourself in this position?

So if I had to sum up my day in the library in a few points, what would I say? After spending the day working alongside a friendly and committed staff team, it was clear to me that:

  1. Libraries are busy, vibrant community spaces open to people from all walks of life
  2. Reading for pleasure is alive and kicking – you’re never too young or too old
  3. Libraries are about books, and the knowledge, comfort and power words give you

It all sounds fairly obvious, but the impact of savage cuts on local authorities seems to mean that many people want to trivialise the importance of libraries and library staff in order to justify their decisions. Anyone who disagrees with the three points above really should go and spend an hour or two at their local library and see if it changes their mind.

 

The views expressed in guest blog posts are those of individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of  Voices for the Library

The situation in Northern Ireland

We received the following guest post from John Kelly regarding the public libraries situation in Northern Ireland.

I’m sure many people were disappointed but hardly surprised at the news the funding request to renovate and restore the interior of the Central Library was turned down in accord with the Northern Ireland Assembly budget cuts. It recently had seen it’s exterior restored to it’s former glory at a cost of £1m, so the likelihood of a further £20m was slim if not to say unlikely. To be fair the situation in Northern Ireland isn’t as bad as what is happening in the rest of the UK, but it is my opinion that closure  and cutbacks in the Library should be resisted and opposed regardless of the numbers being quoted.

Currently we are waiting to hear about the proposed closure of 10 rural libraries, to many that may not seem like  much,especially considering earlier this year speculation had the figure set at 30.  Also some would argue if people are not using them, then prudent thinking in these austere times would be to close them, save the money and channel it into the remaining libraries. However anybody who is affected by the cuts, know this will not be the case. Libraries will be expected to perform to the same standard and maintain themselves without any extra money. Irene Knox the Chief Executive of Libraries NI said “We’re obviously disappointed, but we still believe that this building and the tremendous resources that are in it are very important not just to Belfast but to Northern Ireland as a whole. So we are continuing to pursue our plans looking at other possibilities, other potential sources of funding.”

There is a perceived general apathy towards the libraries, and this is what the Government in Westminster is using to defend their decisions. However in Northern Ireland we are faced with the unusual position that the official line is an admission that Library usage is on the rise. So obviously the official line from Libraries NI  needed to look at other areas to determine their cuts. So it become more about whether the libraries could deliver a 21st Century service. And it would seem that out of 99 branch libraries throughout Northern Ireland  44 were deemed viable, 21 were deemed viable but would need some refurbishment or newbuilds. Added with the 10 marked out as unviable, this comes to a grand total of 75, leaving a further 24 libraries that were evaluated but don’t seem to be showing up on the Official Report from the 17th February of this year.

Also concerns are being raised that the Dept of Arts & Leisure stipulation relating to the figure of  85% of the population should live within two miles of either fixed or mobile library provision. These concerns seemed to be focussed on the future of the library in Draperstown and it’s suspected closure and relocation to neighbouring Maghera, however it is claimed this will produce a figure of 100% living outside the 2 mile radius. However the official line is that the rural libraries are not being targeted as soft options.

The situation as it stands and Dr David Elliot Chairperson of Libraries NI is keen to make the point that no formal decision has been made yet, the process is continuing and it’s being actively encouraged to be an open process with as much feedback from the public as possible .Irene Knox claims they have listened and will keep listening, but ultimately she states “At the end of the day, the board will make those decisions”.

For some people the issue of  closure of the libraries is an emotive one, a vitally important part of modern society and particularly with regard to Northern Ireland. To quote the data.gov.uk site  “The services provided by public libraries are capable of giving positive outcomes for a wide variety of enquiries and purposes, including promoting community cohesion, education and well-being”. Something DCAL and Libraries NI need to keep at the forefront of their decision making process.

http://archive.niassembly.gov.uk/record/committees2010/CAL/110217_BriefingfromLibrariesNI.htm

http://data.gov.uk/dataset/ni-009-use-of-public-libraries

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-14763933

 

The views expressed in guest blog posts are those of individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect those of  Voices for the Library

Report of the Inquiry into Overcoming the Barriers to Literacy

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Education has just published a “Report of the Inquiry into Overcoming the Barriers to Literacy.”

As literacy and libraries go hand in hand it is encouraging to see so much emphasis on the value of libraries within the report.

In defining the context of the inquiry it was indicated that “a poverty of trained librarians” was a factor contributing to low levels of literacy. At the same time you should also say that in the current climate, a lack of posts for trained librarians is also a factor. It’s no good having trained librarians if they are not employed in a role where their skills can be used.

Here are the main points made in the report regarding libraries.

“The right of citizens to visit a library and have access to a range of free reading material must be made overt and funding made available. Evidence shows that libraries both in schools and in the community have a positive effect on reading, yet many are disappearing because of financial constraints”

“The active encouragement of reading for pleasure should be a core part of every child’s curriculum entitlement because extensive reading and exposure to a wide range of texts make a huge contribution to students’ educational achievement. This is why libraries are so important to the development of a reading culture – both those in schools and those in the community.”

“Participants in the Inquiry praised the work of Sure Start Centres where parents and their children could come to improve parenting skills, address social issues and receive informal literacy help. The aims of these Sure Start programmes are to (1) increase the numbers of parents/carers reading with their children; (2) increase library membership amongst 0-4 year-olds and their parents/carers; (3) ensure that 100% of children have access to good quality play and learning; and (4) reduce the number of children who need specialist speech and language support by the time they start school.”

“Evaluations of Bookstart programmes in 2009 indicated that parents were strongly supportive of reading with babies and toddlers and generally read frequently with their children. Longitudinal evidence suggested marked improvement in book sharing frequency after receiving the packs for ‘less active’ reading families (those that reported having relatively few children’s books in the home and read with their child less than once a day). Three months after receiving a Bookstart pack these ‘less active’ reading families reported significantly increased reading frequency, stronger parental interest in reading with their child and higher levels of library membership. Early intervention initiatives such as Sure Start Centres and Bookstart should be guaranteed funding over a period of time.”

 

:-) Celebrate your library (c) carlin33/Flickr

Theme 7 Specifically focused on protecting library provision…

“It was felt by all groups in this Inquiry that the lack of a coherent support for school libraries and their proven impact early in children’s education is a huge anomaly. Although it is clear that libraries are not the single answer to improving literacy, they are an important resource for supporting a school’s literacy teaching and learning.

The concern is that students without school libraries will not have access to a wide range of learning and reading resources to support their learning. A good library and, crucially, a good librarian, can be a real benefit to a school and attainment.

For example, the

School Library Commission Report, which surveyed 17,000 students, found that there was a very strong relationship between reading attainment and school library use. Young people who read below the expected level for their age were almost twice more likely to say that they are not a school library user. Conversely, those who read at or above the expected level were nearly three times more likely to say that they are school library users.”

“Many children have no books at home and such a culture will not encourage reading. Libraries are essential to provide free and open access to a wide variety of reading materials. Economic constraints are forcing some of these to close and for schools to limit their library facilities and this can only be a barrier to successful literacy for learners of all ages.”

“The Publishers Association reports that purchases of school library books have declined by 40% since 2002. The Secretary of State has said that children should be reading up to 50 books a year and that successful schools give a high profile to reading for pleasure, but current policy seems to operate against this.”

“Throughout the Inquiry, the School Library Association and several literacy associations highlighted the importance of books and reading materials of all kinds, including new technological developments.”

“Libraries must be central to literacy development, and must be appropriately resourced.”

So, the key observations can be summarised as:

  • Funding must be made available for free reading material and access to it via both school and public libraries.
  • Both school and public libraries are important because they provide a broad range of reading materials, which improves literacy and this in turn improves educational achievement.
  • Surestart and Bookstart schemes have a positive impact on library use.
  • School library services supported by a good librarian have a positive impact on literacy levels.
  • The current ethos of reducing funding for school and public libraries clearly goes against the idea of improving literacy.

We really hope this report, clearly highlighting the value of libraries and backed up by the opinions of experts in literacy and all Government parties, has a positive impact on securing the future of library provision in the UK.

Measuring the value of public libraries

VftL are delighted to present a blog post from newest team member Christine.

Methods for measuring the value of public libraries: a literature review

In today’s climate of accountability, a better understanding of the value of public libraries is becoming essential to preserving and encouraging public and private investment (Imholz and Arns, 2007, p.12).

In the UK competition for public funding has always been fierce and the newly elected coalition government have made it clear that cuts in public spending over the next few years are inevitable.    Public libraries will be re-evaluated alongside services provided by health, education, defence, transport, broadcasting, culture and the arts sectors.  There is an urgent need to adopt methods that enable the sector to appropriately communicate its value to a variety of audiences.

The research project…

Last year the Library and Information Research Group awarded me their first Scan Award to produce a comprehensive review of existing quantitative and qualitative evaluation methodologies for demonstrating the value of public libraries in the UK.   The findings of my research have been published as an article in their Journal.  This article presents an overview of current methods for measuring performance, discusses quantitative and qualitative methods to determine economic and social value, identifies examples of successful studies; and introduces methods from the non-profit sector which could prove useful in the future.  Although not exhaustive, the research is extensive and introduces a range of methodologies from the UK, USA, Australia and Canada.  It also identifies potential methodologies currently used in the non-profit, environmental and commercial sector.

Findings…

At the start of this review it became clear that a limited amount of public library valuation studies have been carried out in the UK in recent years.  Although several academic researchers had published journal articles and reports on the topic there has been little in the way of groundbreaking research since Bob Usherwood carried out his Social Impact Audits a decade ago.  While it is possible that some local authorities may be working in isolation to implement bespoke evaluation methodologies it has been difficult to uncover examples of best practice in the UK.  Therefore, it was necessary to expand the research into the broader areas of economics, sociology and psychology.  This enabled a more thorough understanding of the increase in evaluations, incentives, benchmarking, objective setting, accountability; and social and economic auditing.

Overall, the research has revealed that quantitative evaluations produce valuable statistical data and can effectively estimate the financial outputs of public libraries, thus enabling a greater understanding of economic value.  Yet their scope is limited as they fail to recognise service outcomes such as the impact that the public library has on the lives of individuals and communities.  Therefore, in order to gain a greater understanding of the social value of public libraries we must consider adopting qualitative evaluation methodologies.  However, it is unrealistic to expect to be able to measure social value with as much confidence as we do economic value because as a methodology it is still underdeveloped.  As Tuan (2008, p.7) points out, methods for evaluating economic value have been around for centuries, whereas methods for measuring social value have only been around for three or so decades.  Also, as there is no official ‘social auditing body’ that promotes uniformity in social value creation methodologies and no defined infrastructure for assessing social value, “measuring and/or estimating social value will continue to be practiced more like an isolated art form than widespread science(Tuan, 2008, p.7).  This is of relevance to the public library sector where our ability to produce social value is considered by some to be one of our greatest commodities.   Perhaps the greatest challenge with regards measuring the value of public libraries is that:

There is no litmus test for value because defining value in the context of libraries is complex, individual stakeholders are unique, performance measurement is essentially spatial, and operating in an environment that is neither causal nor predictive creates complications (Cram, 1999, p. 1).

 

Ideas for the future…
Although this review has revealed that there is no perfect methodology for measuring the value of public libraries, there are many possibilities.  Methodologies exist to evaluate the full range of services that public libraries deliver and we are seeing a number of emerging methodologies for assessing the impact of digital services and access to ICT.  The challenge for those tasked with evaluating outputs and outcomes, therefore, is to find the methodology that best fits their project and the objectives of their research.  Therefore, it is recommended that the public library sector work together to create a comprehensive methodology which encourages use of common measures, language and practices for collecting and analysing data.  Implementation of a standard methodology could enable the sector to communicate the true value of public libraries to the UK economy and society as a whole.

Access to Christine’s full article is available here.

References

Bryson, J., Usherwood, B. and Streatfield, D. (2002).  Social Impact Audit for the South West Museums Libraries and Archives Council.  Centre for the Public Library in the Information Society.  Department of Information Studies, The University of Sheffield. [SWMLAC Report].

Cram, J. (1999).  Six impossible things before breakfast”: a multidimensional approach to measuring the value of libraries. In: Proceedings of the 3rd Northumbria International Conference on Performance Measurement in Libraries and Information Services 1999, Newcastle upon Tyne 2000.

Imholz, S., & Arns, J. W. (2007). Worth Their Weight: An assessment of the evolving field of library valuation. Americans for Libraries Council. http://www.ala.org/research/sites/ala.org.research/files/content/librarystats/worththeirweight.pdf

Linley, R and Usherwood, B. (1998).  New Measures for the New Library: A Social Audit of Public Libraries.  Centre for the Public Library in the Information Society.  Department of Information Studies, The University of Sheffield.  [British Library Research and Innovation Centre Report 89].  http://www.sheffield.ac.uk/is/research/centres/cplis/research/index.html/.
Tuan, Melinda T. Measuring and/or Estimating Social Value Creation: Insights into Eight Integrated Cost Approaches, Final Paper 12.15.08. Publication. Seattle: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, 2008. http://www.gatesfoundation.org/learning/Documents/WWL-report-measuring-estimating-social-value-creation.pdf/.

 

Christine’s full article is available here http://www.lirg.org.uk/lir/ojs/index.php/lir/article/view/469/494.

 

Bio

Christine Rooney-Browne is an Arts and Humanities funded PhD student based at the University of Strathclyde in Scotland.  She passionately believes in the potential of public libraries to educate, challenge and inspire and is currently investigating the social value of public libraries. Her research interests encompass public library evaluation, social auditing, and the nature of public library services in the twenty-first century.  Christine also has extensive experience in marketing, having worked both in the public and private sector.

 

 

‘Prime services of civilisation in an increasingly barbaric age’ – Richard’s story

We measure civilisations by what survives of them.

Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce

After the Holocaust, after genocide, the acts of destruction and barbarism remembered most clearly, despised most deeply are book burnings. In our collective memory they are inextricably linked with intolerance, persecution and massacre.

At the age of fourteen, I moved back to England after having lived in Germany for eleven years and was placed in all the bottom sets at my new school because I spoke strangely, because I exhibited none of the arts of social interaction my school mates had acquired. But I wanted to be educated. I had read Homer and Swift in German – why couldn’t I be allowed to use that knowledge now?

I was desperate to learn French, to be the best in French. So, every day, after school, I went to Doncaster Central Library, took the previous day’s copy of Le Monde from its shelf, sat down at a large, rectangular, melamine-topped table and read. On Day One, I understood less than a third of what I read; by the end of the year, I understood most of it (and fell in love into the bargain, with a girl whose name I never found out, who visited the library every day, too). I went on to study German, French and Linguistics at the University of Cambridge, and to spend time in one of the greatest libraries in the world, the University Library.

When, in 2006, we moved from Norway into this tiny village of Stradbroke in Suffolk, we were immensely grateful for the service provided by the library here, to help our children (and us) to become reacquainted with the English language. We are heavy users of our library, one of many libraries threatened with closure by Suffolk County Council. Much of the research for Dead Men, my debut novel to be published in 2012, would have been impossible without the support of the professionals running Stradbroke Library,

We all have the right to educate ourselves. The government has a statutory obligation to allow us to educate ourselves through the provision of a public libraries service. To devise a strategy which forces local councils to close library services is an abdication of responsibility and common sense, and a malicious attack on our rights as individuals, fuelled, to no small extent I surmise, by high-Tory squirism and the desire to suppress the development and free speech of individuals critical of the status quo.

I support the Voices for the Library campaign, because public libraries, especially rural ones, are the only way for many people to access knowledge, to access the Internet to inform themselves, to apply for jobs, to be a part of the world outside; the only way for older people to get hold of affordable, large print books, and to continue to be enveloped by human warmth and friendships they may not find at home, and, in turn, to keep their minds and bodies active for longer without having to find refuge in the (also underfunded) NHS. They are prime services of civilisation in an increasingly barbaric age.

Richard Pierce was born in Doncaster in 1960, and lived in Germany for 11 years to 1974. Educated at St. John’s College, Cambridge, he is administrator and trustee for three grant-making charities. His debut novel Dead Men will be published by a major UK publisher in 2012. He is married, has four children, a cat, a Triumph Spitfire, a collection of epees, and thousands of books he’s still trying to find space for (in addition to all the books he borrows from Stradbroke Library). His web site is www.tettig.com, and can be found on twitter as @tettig.

Will library closures leave children behind?

Over the weekend, startling statistics came to light that once more gives lie to the argument that libraries are no longer required in the digital age.  A report in The Observer, citing the e-Learning Foundation, argued that one million children will receive lower grades than their peers due to a lack of internet access at home.  The report refers to research that states that ‘1.2 million teenagers log on to revision pages every week and those using online resources were on average likely to attain a grade higher in exams’.

By New Jersey Library Association on Flickr

The report goes on to state:

The charity cites BBC research in which more than 100 students used the BBC Bitesize revision materials before their GCSE examination. The children were found to have achieved a grade lift compared to those who did not use the online revision guides. The BBC study says: “This is compared to factors such as teacher influence, which was found to produce no significant difference.”

It is clear that a high proportion of children are seriously disadvantaged as a result of a widening digital divide.  As with the 9 million adults who have never accessed the internet before, these children are largely forgotten by those that are privileged to own a computer and an internet connection.  An entire generation is being left behind and their existence is barely acknowledged.

For many of these children, there is a way out: their local public library.  Libraries provide a safe environment for children and, most importantly, provide them access to the resources that are otherwise denied them.  The provision of a free internet connection offers an opportunity for many children to keep up with their peers.  Alongside a wealth of reference books and the assistance of trained staff, the provision of a computer terminal for children to access a host of online resources is vital.  The library offers them the best chance they have of ensuring they are not left behind.

The support of trained and qualified library staff is also crucial. Professional staff are able to ensure that not only are the appropriate materials available online (as well as off-line) but that children can access them safely and securely.  Furthermore, the provision of homework clubs supported by trained staff helps to bridge the gap between those that have access to a wide range of resources at home and those who do not.  In short, the library is an equitable source of high quality educational and learning resources for all children and young people, regardless of the wealth or status of their parents.

Despite ensuring the disadvantaged aren’t left behind, public libraries are still being threatened with closure across the country.  Not only public libraries, but also school libraries, leaving one million children further disadvantaged.  According to The Observer, a study by BESA (the trade association for the educational supply industry) has revealed that:

“…due to budgetary pressures, schools plan to spend around 8% less on the provision of computers to pupils this year. Critics claim this will negatively affect after-school IT sessions, vital to those without the internet at home.

Only 60% of the 246 primary schools and 188 secondary schools surveyed said they were able to maintain their current spending. Yet nearly a third of schools will make extensive use of home access to the curriculum through the internet.

The belief that libraries are no longer required when ‘everyone’ has an internet connection is one of the driving forces behind proposed closures.  Such misinformation is endangering the economic prosperity of an entire generation.  Continue along the path of library closures and we will ensure that one million children will be left behind to satisfy those that hold the purse strings.  Is that a price worth paying?