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Summary – 8th March: Library Activism

1. Have you been involved in any library activism?

  • Website for Friends of local branch library group
  • No – because so far there are no cuts in local public library service (but would get involved if there were)
  • Worked with students (in US academic library). Worked with campus diversity and social justice groups: connecting people with resources on issues they felt were important campus-wide
  • Local authority library workers can’t speak out: but other professionals can speak out without immediate accusation of self interest e.g. nurses, teachers
  • Disappointed in the lack of protests from the general public about the general state of some of our libraries – e.g. messy shelves as no time to shelve

2. Aside from marching what else can we do, and are they effective?

  • Campaign - anything that gets attention (media, public) for your cause is good
  • Use Twitter to build influential contacts, especially in the media. They are all out there waiting!
  • Target school kids & teens! They are the library users of tomoro, we need them on board to secure a future for libraries
  • Create events aimed at youth so they grow up with libraries being a major part of their lives they can’t do without (what happened to CILIP Start with the Child programme?)
  • BabyBounce/Storytime, “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man for life”
  • We need services for younger people, too.  Services for 11-14s often get “lost”
  • Reaching out to teens and kids is good, but not sure what will be left by time they’re old enough to vote!
  • Work with young people i.e. DoE volunteers 6th formers doing enrichment activities
  • The point is to reach people at all ages. Don’t just reallocate staff; have staff dedicated to young people’s services
  • On retirement as academic librarian became chair of local Friends group: speak to parish councils and write for parish magazines re public libraries
  • Activism doesn’t have to be national, local can often have a big impact on service users.
  • What became of the WI petition which garnered 17,000 + signatures bit.ly/oSYuEJ
  • Testimonials and petitions – it seems politicians don’t want to listen to people saying libraries are important

3. Are you going to the 13th March London Rally, how are you preparing for it?

  • Going [to the rally] for @whlibraries#lovelibraries #savelibraries. Hoping to lobby MP
  • I’m not attending any rallies, I am helping with library camps. Get togethers for staff to meet and swap ideas
  • Library camps are a great step, but how to inspire demoralized staff to attend/find time for them
  • I will be going to the library rally! I’d be good to meet up with fellow tweeters
  • I’ve never been to a rally before, but I feel like if I don’t do something to show my support, can’t cry when it goes
  • I can’t go to the library rally, as I am currently in the US! Otherwise I would be there for sure

4. If a million people marching in London failed to stop the war with Iraq, what does it take to directly affect government policy?

  • The advantage over the Iraq war protests is that opposition to library closures truly cuts across political lines
  • But ‘library’ can mean opposite things for different supporters: for a lot it’s still a quiet place with books, none of that fandangly technology DVDs taking up space
  • The failure of one is irrelevant. We try or we give in. Need to engage, debate and argue our case persuasively
  • The public loves its’ libraries, even if they don’t use them. We need to harness this, get them to use libraries
  • The issue is not how we get people to use libraries but how we integrate services with public education & access, and also how we provide outreach so that libraries are where people see them/need them
  • Need more plans of actions for individual libraries, as well as a forum/demonstration that brings them all together. For example, no library closures where I worked, but significant staff cuts that hugely damaged the service. But didn’t know how to fight back

5. What action could we take that might make politicians fear for their parliamentary seats?

  • 50+ age group very important politically and to libraries. Surely we can find support there?
  • Difficult to argue with councillors about library cuts when they have no budget from central government

5.a. Why do the libraries not have a single national presence? Does the fact we speak as individual authorities diminish our voice?

  • Central control might be damaging to services individually tailored to specific groups, but it does seem to diminish solidarity, even awareness of what is going on in different authorities
  •  I think I’d like to see library workers have a single presence, but libraries remain under local control
  • Until recently there was MLA, which of course was central (if not necessarily effective)
  • Scandinavian countries have a national library system. The public can borrow from any library.
  • Localism better for public libraries since funded by councils, and perhaps in future by districts
  • We need both local and national activism. At the moment activism is almost, solely localised
  • It might make a huge difference to be able to “attack”/collaborate on both fronts

6. What are the ethics of motivating volunteers in sectors being cut?

  • Volunteers keeping libraries open in evening or offering story time doing jobs paid staff used to
  • How would you feel about volunteers in other areas of local government, if it could bring your council tax down?
  • Who’s coordinating the volunteers? That’s a huge task in itself, likely requiring at least one paid post (possibly more)
  • Looks as if Friends group may be coordinating volunteers – OK if you have time and experience
  • Would be open to volunteer-run services only if they are effective & implemented by those working in service
  • Problem with many volunteer schemes: they seem to be set in place by those unfamiliar with spec. service demands
  • I volunteer for delivery of books to housebound but that service is not offered by paid staff
  • The main concern is if volunteers leave. If someone’s coordinating, programme has longevity. If not, service dies
  • Better that library service coordinates volunteers and have job descriptions, CRB checks and line managers (as opposed to Friends of Library group).
  • I’m a volunteer at a museum, however I go in when I like, I’m under no obliged hours, and museum doesn’t depend on me to run!
  • There is room for volunteers and it’s a good way to pick up experience, but SHOULD NOT be used to replace paid staff completely

7. Is there a quantifiable economic argument for keeping public branch libraries open?

  • If you use the library, it’s incredible value for money (a few pence for all that service!).
  • If you don’t use the library, other arguments can still be made (i.e. quality of life for others = quality for you) but that isn’t really an economic argument. (However I suspect there are many that can be made.)

8. What role do you think that central government should have in local authority library policy?

  • I like the idea of there being national communication, but any type of national agenda/control worry me because part of a vibrant library is its response to a specific local community. That’s harder to meet with national agenda
  • Central government should ensure local authorities do not ignore their duties or run down lib service
  • Hard when it seems to be central government who wants to see everything dismantled and privatised. Not holding my breath
  • The question was what central government should do rather than what the current government is doing – Ed Vaizey and Jeremy Hunt should be reminded of their job
  • MLA standards – but what now that MLA is gone?
  • National standards sound good, but I worry libraries will have to cope with demands unreasonable to their specific service
  • There are currently no standards of any kind. Up to the Secretary of State to uphold “comprehensive + efficient” service but no definition.

Summary: Thursday 7th July 2011 – LIS and Library School Activism

What Was Discussed?

  1. What library issues are you most concerned about?
  2. What campaigns have you heard about? How did you hear about them?
  3. Are you involved in any campaigns?
  4. What library activism is going on at your institution?
  5. What limitations/barriers have you come across to getting involved? How have they been overcome?
  6. Do you have any ideas for campaigns?
  7. Would you like to collaborate with others? If so, how?
  8. Would you be interested in taking part in a shared online campaigning site for UK library schools?
  9. What would you like the topic of the next #UKlibchat to be?

Results and Actions

  1. Current concerns:
  • privatisation in UK public libraries, neutrality and democratic accountability (mentioned by five participants)
  • library advocacy
  • user education and information literacy awareness esp. school children and students (mentioned by seven participants)
  • access to electronic reference resources and the digital divide
  • school libraries’ statutory status (mentioned by two participants)
  • NHS IT modernisation
  • Information access
  • Library closures: building closing and cuts to services not publicised e.g. reduced opening hours, staff, community services & ICT (mentioned by four participants)
  • Public libraries’ social and educational value not widely appreciated. Merging of services (mentioned by three participants).
  • Slow uptake of Open Access publishing – especially in health sector (mentioned by four participants).
  • eBooks and IT modernisation in public libraries (mentioned by three participants)

Four participants voiced a general feeling of concern. Raising awareness of issues needed. One participant said that Save Libraries day was successful at doing this. But following up public library use was a problem – participants cited geographical location, stock and opening hours. eBooks suggested as solution.

2.    High level of awareness – 2 “too many to tweet” comments. Campaigns mentioned: Friends of Gloucester Libraries (7); Doncaster (2); Croydon (1); Voices for the Library/@ukpling (6); @publiclibnews (2); International Right To Research (1); Bookseller (1). One participant mention lack of publicity about Liverpool and Manchester consultations. Awareness through social media – Facebook and Twitter. Twitter used to organise Save Libraries events. One participant mentioned lack of info about local campaign – another role of non-twitter use in campaigns. Three participants mentioned limits of TV and traditional press versus Twitter; one cited Paul Hamlyn library example. One voiced a possible campaign Twitter – another an online – echo-chamber. One participants said she finds out more through Facebook, friends and university than Twitter. Two suggested writing to local papers.

3.    Two participants felt position as local librarians would be a conflict of interest in getting involved in local campaigns. Two participants mentioned that campaigns mainly done by library users and academic librarians. One participant will encourage people he knows to use their libraries – arguing little actions would help as well as taking part in major campaigns. Two participants volunteered at libraries to support. Potential benefits/disadvantages of volunteering discussed (i.e. possibly taking jobs away from people). One has joined @ukpling. One gave a speech to WI. One added comments to online articles. One participant setting up own campaign – inspired by @ukpling. One participant put a poster up on parish council noticeboard. Four mention Save Libraries day. One attended a read in.

4.    One participant mentioned perceived levels activism in library schools differ. One mention distance learning a challenge to activism – another suggested focusing on local campaigns instead. Three mentioned lack of links between all schools – another participant volunteered in capacity as CDG NPSO to disseminate information. One mentioned lack of organised action in library school. Three suggested activism could be part of library school – as curricular or extracurricular.

5.    Felt lack of expertise/confidence, pressure of sudden public profile, sense of juniority,    unsure what’s going on where and how to join in, time commitment, no support structure, geography, conflict of interest.
One participant suggested an advocacy network to share load – e.g. letter writing like political campaigns. Practising soundbites recommended by one participant. Talking about worries during #uklibchat helped one participant feel less isolated in concerns. Participants suggested using VLEs/Google Docs to share information. Factsheets such as CILIP’s Campaigning Toolkit: http://www.cilip.org.uk/get-involved/campaigning-toolkit/pages/default.aspx and Voices for the Library’s http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/wordpress/?p=780 & http://www.voicesforthelibrary.org.uk/wordpress/?page_id=959 cited. http://librarycampaign.org.uk/mw/index.php/LocalGroups another useful resource.

6.    One call for another Save Libraries day in 2012 – another said National Libraries Day instituted: http://www.cilip.org.uk/news-media/pages/news110526.aspx. One worried attention fizzles out after such a day. Four participants suggested solidarity in using and promoting others’ libraries – a culture of “mutual appreciation and awareness of resources”. Four wanted more discussions with public librarians. Two are working on a political performance piece. Others intrigued!

7.    Unconference suggested (by six participants). Job exchanges between sectors supported – perhaps at regional level. One wants more links between library schools, another between sectors. Participants suggested this could be done by more regional meet ups (“@johnrdolan #uklibchat. CILIP has regional groups; the Career Development groups. they could help. CILIP WM recently canvassed for topics. Contact your region.” @cilipwm offered support), shared student forums and conferences. One put the call out for campaign help from Northumbria & N Herts people. One called for greater participation of public librarians as consultants in campaigns.

8.    Yes, but some participants worried about membership cut off when people graduate. Wiki/tumblr with handover docs suggested. Invited to send suggestions to LISDREaM (network of LIS researchers).

9.    Next #uklibchat topic: possibly library marketing/promotion. And following up of actions proposed. Other suggestions welcome – a Google Doc shall be created nearer the provisional date of 21st July.

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