Author Archives: JoRichardson

Cambridge Library Enterprise Centre

Concerns have been raised with Voices about upcoming library cuts in Cambridgeshire especially about plans for the Central Library;

“Councillors are set to discuss proposals to create an enterprise and innovation centre in Cambridge Central Library at the next Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee on 17 March. In January the Committee endorsed plans to develop a new strategy for the future of our Library Service in order to meet tough financial savings. Part of this work involves us working with others to increase support for people to build skills and employment whilst encouraging local economic growth. Proposals are being put forward to change the third floor of Central Library, enabling the service to develop an income whilst supporting employment prospects and small local businesses.”

We’ve been told that this proposal will actually mean that the third floor of the Central Library will be subletted and will become a ‘Library Enterprise Centre’. The Regus Group, a multinational corporation that lets office space in prime locations for profit, has been mentioned which fits neatly with this recent article:

“Regus said yesterday it planned to bridge the gap between higher education and working life by launching offices in universities and public libraries.” [Source: CityAM]

There are also concerns about the affordability of this office space for small local businesses, loss of stock, loss of affordable community meeting space used by reading groups etc and the loss a popular cafe much loved by older library users. There is a feeling that these changes will have a detrimental impact on the library being perceived as a true community space. Concerns have also been raised with us about transparency and lack of consultation before protracted negotiations with Regus and the councillors’ decision.

For more information and background see;

Cambridgeshire County Council – Enterprise centre proposals set to be discussed

Cambridgeshire County Council – Cambridge Library Enterprise Centre

Cambridgeshire County Council – Highways and Community Infrastructure Committee – 17th March 2015. Please note the document titled ‘Report’ under item 5 Cambridge Library Enterprise Centre.

Cambridgeshire County Council – Library Services : developing our approach for the future

On the people who use libraries

A library users blogs his discovery of his local library and the people who use them.

The idea to start using the library came to me when it started to turn cold. I had been studying from home but was finding it increasingly difficult to concentrate as the temperature started to fall in the September and October months. Sticking to my self-enforced rule of no heating before 5pm and putting on another layer of clothing becoming no longer practical I had no choice but to relocate my operation. With the promise of free electricity, heating and access to free newspapers I packed up my books and sandwich bag pencil case and headed to the book house.

I pull out a chair and take a place at one of the desks. I unpack my things with the precision a doctor lays out their tools before surgery. Paper check, pen check….after ten minutes I glance up to find out what kind of company I’m in. The characters I see before me are not who I was expecting to see down the local Library.

Two old women sitting together, elbows touching, reading from the same page, occasionally remarking on what they have just read; a bearded man with a red/black chequered laundry bag one side of him and a sleeping bag the other, busies himself taking various books from the shelves; replacing them with another stack once his interest has been satisfied ; various elderly gentleman dotted around the room leisurely leaf through the pages of the paper they have loyally read for years; a small group congregates in a circle in front of the large print section and talk away the hours and most intriguingly a young black man with a sleeping bag stands over unattended papers and mumbles and chatters to himself in a language I don’t recognise. I get the impression that none of them probably even own a library card.

Over the coming months I saw these same faces and many more again and again. It was apparent that for many people the library was the only place they had left to go and the only place where they might not be alone. I watched a man walk by, stopping to aimlessly turn the pages of a paper left open on the desk before moving off in another direction, in the hope there was some place else he had to be. Another patron tips a book back on the base of its spine with their fore finger, gives it a quick cursory look and pushes it back into its slot. At the end of one particular day a short stocky man with a back pack enters and starts to straighten the place up and is quite obviously upset at the way people have abandoned the papers and magazines sprayed across the tables, and the chairs which have now escaped from under their desks darting off in all directions. He is not an employee and I never see him again.

The black man has a smell that says he has no home. He wears the same teal coloured woollen sweater, grey trousers and worn out black leather shoes every day. He appears and disappears; I wonder if he lives behind one of the book cases. Each time I see him I think this is the day he will do something crazy, however his behaviour never gets more out of hand than occasionally breaking the quiet with some stifled laughter at something he has just read or talking to himself. On the days he joins me at my table I begin to imagine a relationship starting between us; my Robert Downey JR to his Jamie Fox, like in the film ‘The Soloist’. Talking to this mysterious man, I learn he is a brilliant man but cannot read English. Setting my own studies aside we agree to meet at the library every day at 11am and we go through the alphabet and he learns to read and write English and I nurture his talents and buy him food and find him a place to stay but he is an illegal and cannot stay and……of course I can’t even get up the nerve to say, ‘hi’ and I keep my head down until I am certain he has gone again. I am gobsmacked one morning when I see a man walk by and say hello to him and without looking up from what he is reading in perfect English, he quickly says ‘hello’ back.

With the government still on its austerity drive, many of our public services have now had their budgets cut and many of our libraries have fallen victim to these cuts and forced to close or be community run by volunteers to keep them going. 493 libraries (411 buildings and 82 mobiles) are currently reported as either likely to be closed or passed to volunteers since 1/4/13 (source: When a library does close apart from losing a rich resource to the community where you can do anything from check out a book to register a birth or death, I wonder where those people who depend on the library go; where else provides a warm and safe environment that asks for nothing in return? A place where people go to meet and socialise, not just learn. I think this is what troubles me most.

I only realised just how important the library is to some people’s lives when I started to use it regularly and saw for myself the vital service it provides.

When researching libraries I found this quote which summed up perfectly what I see when I am there:

‘Libraries will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no libraries’ – Anne Herbert.

Paul Register, School Librarian, Sheffield

Paul Register, School Librarian

Paul Register, School Librarian

How do! My name is Paul Register and I am a school librarian. I have a degree in English Studies from Sheffield Hallam University but no formal librarianship qualification. I’ve never needed one in the past and don’t intend to change that situation in the future. What I do have though is 13 years experience working in school libraries, first at Oakwood School in Rotherham, South Yorkshire and now at Ecclesfield School in my beloved hometown of Sheffield.

Being a male in this profession is novelty enough but I am more well known for my specialism, which is comics and graphic novels. This specialism has led to my creating the Stan Lee Excelsior Award, the only nationwide book award for graphic novels where teenagers decide the winner. We are just entering the award’s fourth year and it has grown from strength to strength. Initially conceived as a ‘guest section’ in the 2010 Sheffield Children’s Book Awards, it stood on its own two feet the following year. Starting life as a Sheffield-only award in 2011, it quickly caught the attention of other schools from across the UK and was expanded to the whole nation in 2012. In 2014 there will be a record number of schools taking part – 160 from England, Wales, Scotland and both parts of Ireland. For full details on the award and how it works, please visit If you would like to get your school involved, registration will stay open for the rest of December and January. All you need is £75 to buy in a set of the shortlisted books and a load of enthusiastic kids.
The new shortlist for 2014 will be announced on Friday 6th December and discussion of this shortlist will form a large part of my week with Voices For The Library. I am happy to discuss any aspects of using comics, graphic novels and manga in a school library setting as well. Outside of work, I really am just as much of a geek as I am at work! And proud of it.
Paul usually tweets as @ExcelsiorAward

Linda Coombs, Librarian, Tresham College, Northamptonshire

Linda Coombs, Tresham College

Linda Coombs, Tresham College

Hi, my name is Linda and I’ll be taking over the Voices for the Library twitter account next week.  I’d like to give you a quick flavour of who I am and what I do…

I am in my first post as a qualified librarian, and I really love it! I finished my MA at Sheffield in 2012 and moved to Kettering to take this job.  Before that I lived in London where I commuted to a school in Guildford for my graduate traineeship, then worked for a charity for a year.  I decided to become a librarian while I was at UCL studying ancient history, I spent all my time in the beautiful main library, and wanted to spend my working life in places like that.

I work at Tresham College in Northamptonshire.  Tresham is a HE and FE college which has three main sites, in Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough, I am the campus librarian for the largest of these in Kettering.  As such my job is really varied, from teaching, managing the twitter account (@TreshamLRC), receiving and cataloguing stock and supporting the four library assistants.   We currently have a few projects which I’m working on; preparations for the Six Book Challenge, shelf marking the whole of the library and conducting our annual LRC learner survey.  I am also working towards Chartership slowly but surely.

Outside of work, I spend my time walking and, playing computer games, and of course reading (The Count of Monte Cristo at the moment).  In the photo I’m jumping up and down on a frozen pool, my hair swung in front of my face (I’m not a bearded lady, honest).  There is also an equally exciting photo of the LRC, which had a revamp last summer.

My personal account is @LVCoombs and I’ll also be at Library Camp this Saturday, so come and say hello if you’re there.

I’m happy to go where the mood takes us in terms of topics for discussion, but some thoughts I had centre on corporate twitter accounts, noise levels, and HE level provision in colleges.

Kathryn Butler, Librarian, Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

Hello, I’m Kathryn Butler and I’m a Librarian at Norfolk & Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. NSFT is a mental health Trust and the library provides services to all staff who work here. I’ve worked at NSFT for about a year now, having relocated from Leicester.

My job is quite varied and I love working with health information; it’s so diverse and a great opportunity to make an impact on patient care. Mental health in itself is a fascinating area, and rightly starting to gain more coverage. Hopefully by tweeting this week I’ll help to raise its profile too.

Besides NHS libraries, I’ve worked in academic and government libraries as well as at a research institute. I also completed my MSc in Information & Library Management at Loughborough in 2008. I’m a CILIP member and just finalising my portfolio for Chartership, so I may tweet about that as well.

Outside of work I’m a bit of an avid reader, as well as playing badminton and enjoying hill walking (not too many hills in Norfolk though)!

Finally, think I’d better add a disclaimer: all views expressed here are my own and not those of my employer.

Kathryn usually tweets as @katbutler1

Elena Morris, School Library Manager, Bourne Community College

Hi, I’m Elena and I’ll be taking over the @VoicesLibrary Twitter account this week.

Elena Morris, School Library Manager, Bourne Community College

Elena Morris, School Library Manager, Bourne Community College

I started working in libraries at the age of seventeen, as a Library Assistant in Brighton & Hove Library Service. I kept on there with casual work while I went to the University of Winchester to study Performance Management, and kept up the book theme while at uni as a bookshop assistant at P&G Wells university bookshop.

I met two people while at uni who would change the way I approached my career forever. Number one was a woman called Jenni Morley while working at Mile Oak library during the summer holidays, who took me under her wing and taught me how to create displays, cover new books and take pride in my work by taking on as many responsibilities as I could. Number two was my manager at P&G Wells, David Simpkin, who also wrote, directed and starred in a community pantomime every December. He asked me to stage manage the production two years running, and that is where I discovered my love of working with children and young people.

During my third year of university, I realised that while I wanted to work in theatre, I only wanted to work on community projects. Unfortunately, it’s incredibly difficult to earn a living wage if you only work unpaid, so I needed another option.

I moved around in the library service after finishing uni, working as a Baby Boogie session leader, Study Support worker, Library Officer and Children’s Centre Administrator, and found that the aspect of my work I enjoyed the most was my work with children and young people. I applied for a Secondary PGCE in English but got turned away due to my lack of English degree, but there was still no doubt in my mind that I wanted to work in an environment that had both children and young people and literature. So when a job came up at Bourne Community College for a School Library Manager post, I desperately wanted it. It was like a switch flicked in my mind, and I realised that English Teacher wouldn’t have suited me, it was School Librarian that was my ideal job.

I got the job and started here in April of this year and I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed a job more. Every day is different and brings up different challenges. I get to decide my own day-to-day schedule so I can mix in the admin and tidying with more exciting jobs like implementing our Accelerated Reader scheme, or designing an induction process for the new Year 7s. But consistently the part of my job I enjoy the most is the interaction with the students – recommending books to read, watching intense chess matches, working with student librarians, and teaching students how they can use the library to become more successful independent learners. It fills me with joy to see them becoming more curious about the world around them every day.

I’m going to use the Twitter account this week to discuss key issues in school libraries, think about the transition from public to school library worker, meet some interesting people and have some good debates!

My personal Twitter account is @BookForts and I also have just started a blog at where I would love to continue the discussions started on the Twitter account, and I will also use it as a dumping ground for resources I’ve found useful or things I’ve created to help school librarians.

Dave Little, Library Services Manager, Shrewsbury & Teleford Health Libraries

Library team at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital

Library team at Royal Shrewsbury Hospital

This is a shot of me surrounded by some of my team at the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital (RSH) where we supply library services for students from KeeleUniversity, StaffordshireUniversity and staff in the Shropshire health community. The building is only about 6 years old and most of the computers are on the Staffs Uni network, so our users don’t have the frustrations of NHS computers (unlike my staff who are still on XP, Office 2003 and IE7).

Princess Royal Hospital, Telford (PRH)

Princess Royal Hospital, Telford (PRH)


I also manage another team at Princess Royal Hospital, Telford (PRH). The library here is within the hospital and will shortly be reconfigured as part of a project to increase clinical ward space.




Internal view of library showing tub chairs grouped around a small table, shelves in the background.

Internal view of library

Akin to a swan, everything works fairly smoothly, whilst underneath we are badgering away to conquer the challenges of a very complex funding model (which is even worse since the demise of ring-fencing for NHS library services) and the limitations/frustrations of IT. Despite the much predicted demise of libraries, we are still seeing increased use and April was our busiest month since we opened.

The Old Librarian

Maybe that should be “mature”, but it does feel like I’ve been around libraries for ever. I have had jobs outside the profession and I might mention these during the week (I used to manage a bar on the Isle of Mull). However, my first library job was in 1979 at the British Library in Boston Spa. We weren’t called “librarians”, in fact the “librarians” were quite snotty about us, but we were essential. In my first week, Maggie Thatcher became Prime Minister and there was a cheer from the ladies working the photocopiers and I thought “Oh dear, this might be a mistake”. Anyway life continued with the distinction that we were possibly the only thing that wasn’t closed down or sold off.

Anyway, I gratefully absorbed the training that BLDSC offered as a foundation to greater things. I went on to work in a commercial library (healthcare and pharmaceuticals), a government library (MOD Research Agency), a metropolitan library service (Leeds and its 56 libraries), a county library service (Cornwall, the most beautiful and wettest place I have ever known) and two NHS libraries (Milton Keynes and now Shrewsbury & Telford). In between all these libraries, I was also the first Director of the Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds and Theatre Manager at Hereford Hospital (the one with lasers and scalpels rather than actors, although there was always a lot of drama).

3M self issue service

Technology in the library.

I might be old, but I still have my head in the blue sky. I am always looking at how we can make use of emerging technology. We have purchased iPads and other “alternative platforms” so that we can ensure our staff know how to assist our users and also that our services work in the places our users want them to. Our website works everywhere except IE6.

We’ve just replaced our very old self-service machine with a new one. It’ll be great once we iron out a couple of issues, such as taking money… I’m sure that 3M and OCLC will sort it (did I say that I’m an optimist, an endangered species in the NHS).

Last week we did a presentation on using Twitter for our Workforce Directorate Away(half)day. It went really well and prompted a lot of discussion even though the # and @ keys wouldn’t work on the keyboard, which made it a bit of a challenge!

Dave usually tweets as @davethebird

Penelope Dunn, Learning Resource Specialist, Rotherham College of Art & Technology

Why I support libraries…

Penelope Dunn, Learning Resource Specialist, Rotherham College of Art & Technology

Penelope Dunn, Learning Resource Specialist, Rotherham College of Art & Technology

I went to a primary school where we would have story time for the last 15 minutes of everyday and I think this helped foster my love of books and reading – the school library (although small & unstaffed) was a gateway to all the stories our teachers read to us and more. It provided mainly fiction (and reading level) books but I still found something new and interesting every time I visited.

As I got older and I began to borrow books from friends and family I used the library service less for getting access to book and more for other activities – I can remember going to the public library for summer holiday club – my favourite memory is learning about space and making rockets! The public library truly is a unique and constantly evolving resource and I think Neil Gaiman summed up the closure of public libraries perfectly, in his Reading Agency lecture last week: “it is the equivalent of stopping vaccination programmes.” Libraries (particularly public) allow service users to open doors that may have previously been shut to them.

Libraries later went on to provide me with the academic resources needed to complete my higher education and without the university libraries I would not have passed any of my courses.

Just in my 20 years use of libraries they have changed immensely, they are always willing to adapt and embrace new technologies; however they are still, too often, tarred with the “libraries are redundant” brush. Quite often the people, who think the age of libraries is over, do not even know where there local library is, let alone know what services it offers. To be honest, I do not use the public library service as much as I used too (I mainly use the online resources rather than print) but I still believe it is a cornerstone of society and I would hate for it to be lost to those who rely upon it.

For me, libraries have primarily been about education and reading for pleasure however, having worked in three different branches of the education sector (secondary, HE & now FE) I now fully understand there is an endless remit of activities for libraries. Supporting education and development is the primary focus but quite often I find myself having a pastoral and motivational role. No matter what job you have a in a library you are never just the one who stamps the books. Whether it is the profession’s culture or just the nature of those who choose to work in libraries but they (we) are always happy to help in any way they (we) can, even if the query is beyond the obvious remit. The learning centres at RCAT are often a haven for students struggling with college or home life – it is a neutral and welcoming space that allows them to complete their studies as well as nurturing their ambition and self-belief.

I wanted to tweet as @voiceslibrary for a week to raise the profile of FE libraries, sometimes they can be forgotten and I wanted to share some of the challenges we face and the ways we are trying to overcome them.

Penelope usually tweets as @lady_PGD

Stephen Miller, Community Outreach Officer, Wordsworth Trust

Stephen Miller, Dove CottageMy name is Stephen Miller and I am the Community Outreach Officer for the Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere, Cumbria.  The Wordsworth Trust is a charitable organisation established in 1891 to preserve Dove Cottage, where William Wordsworth lived and wrote many of his greatest poems.  The Trust has evolved over many years and now includes a museum, archive and library devoted to William Wordsworth and Romanticism housing over 65,000 items.

I am looking forward to tweeting for @VoicesLibrary to show how I use the special collections we hold to engage with a range of audiences.  I hope to show the benefits of libraries working closely with their communities in new and innovative ways.

Prior to my current role I have worked as a Library Assistant and Local Studies Librarian for a large county council for over three years.  I have no formal library qualification.

I hope you enjoy my tweets and please get in touch!  All views expressed are my own.

Stephen usually tweets as @stemiller84

Isla Boag. PhD student, University of Strathcylde

I’m a recently qualified librarian and PhD student at the University of Strathclyde. My research topic is information seeking behaviour following the development of a disability in adult life. I’m also co-administrator for the disability rights project @EverydayAbleism, which aims to create a safe space where all aspects of disability can be discussed.

I’m passionate about making information accessible to disabled people. Almost 12 million people in the UK live with a disability (Ofcom). However this group are statistically less likely to visit a library, compared to non-disabled people (DWP). What do you think librarians could do to change this?

Disabled people encounter numerous barriers to accessing information. To take one example, disabled people are disproportionately affected by the digital divide: fifty-five percent of disabled people in the UK have home Internet access, compared to 83% for non-disabled people (Ofcom 2013). This is closely linked to the high levels of poverty experienced by the disabled: 19% of individuals in families with at least one disabled member live in relative income poverty (DWP). Other barriers include: the unavailability of information in accessible formats.

I’m particularly interested in the role public libraries, working in conjunction with the voluntary sector, could play in co-ordinating information required by disabled people. Disability gives rise to a wide range of critical information needs: information relating to accessible transport; benefits; career counselling; employment law; and health, to name just a few.  At present this information is very compartmentalized and there is little co-ordination between the numerous agencies which supply it.

I would love to hear about any facilities or programmes you have in your library for disabled patrons. What do you think libraries could do to better support & empower this marginalized group?

Department for Work and Pensions (2013) Disability facts and figures, Available from:

Ofcom (2013) Available from: Disabled consumers’ ownership of communication services