On Moaners : An Update

I have a confession to make. The CILIP “Social Media Policy” that was the namesake of my post “On Moaners” I published on 27th of February is not an actual social media policy CILIP adopted. It was a proposed social media policy put to the CILIP board. Who knows what happened to it after that? What I do know is that it was published online and it is the only (and first) thing resembling a social media policy to appear in the searches I conducted. I asked CILIP repeatedly before writing my post what their social media policy was and, if you read that post you will know the CILIPinfo Twitter account never engages with me (there is irony in that account name, right?!), so I used what I had.

My “moaners” post generated a lot of chat on Twitter, mainly from people telling me their experience with CILIP mirrored my own and that getting any advice, support or guidance from the professional body is often met with tumbleweed. The post was also read at the time by senior people of CILIP, some of whom told me I had made no tangible points throughout. Not a one of them mentioned the paper wasn’t CILIP Social Media Policy. It wasn’t until 6th April CILIP tweeted this in response to another person complaining about the “policy”.

style guide  cilip3

to which CILIP got the understandably baffled response….


and then the “Social Media Policy” was taken offline.

The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals does NOT have a social media policy and instead refers to a “style guide“? This cannot be right can it?
Here is the CEO of CILIP a few days later


This is problematic and really concerning given the profession we are speaking of.
Lots of my fellow information professionals raised some noteworthy concerns about the position CILIP  has taken and I think they are too important to get lost on Twitter so I will summarize our conversations and share them with you here just in case CILIP ever do decide to engage with, and take advice, from the very knowledgeable information community

  1. It is concerning that CILIP board was ever presented with a paper that referred to people as moaners and then posted it online. It gives a worrying impression of the attitude within the organisation. I would like to think it does not represent the attitude of many CILIP staff but it is certainly an attitude many of us have felt on the receiving end of. I don’t think any of us expected to see it so clearly written in black and white though.
  2. Sure, the paper had weaknesses but why did CILIP decide it didn’t need a social media policy and that a style guide was an appropriate alternative? At the very least it demonstrates a lack of duty of care for their staff. I tell all my students to ask new employers about their social media policy so they know where they stand if they encounter any problems. We all know of examples where people have fallen foul of social media, right?! We all do! “Think before you post” is a mantra we tell people all the time. People have lost their jobs for not doing so. Not only this but social media policy protects the organisation should anything go wrong.
    Social media policies also manage the expectations of people engaging with a social media account (it is exactly why I asked for sight of the social media policy myself! I thought it may explain why I was being ignored).
    I, and I know many others do too, judge an organisation on its social media presence. If you are there…use it well otherwise you risk looking very unprofessional.
  3. There are two reasons for a professional body to write social media policy. The first, as I discuss above, is to set out guidance and expectations for your own staff within the organisation. The second is to provide a template and guidance for the wider professional community. The British Association for Social Workers policy is one of many examples out there. Many information services are part of a bigger organisation that have their own social media policies their staff are guided by. The University I work for has an overarching one, the library service doesn’t have a separate one. Some information services are not in this position and so need to develop their own. Not everyone working in these services can be experts in writing such policy, so where do they go for guidance?…CILIP. Since uncovering this issue I have had contact from one Librarian who has said the CILIP Social Media Policy proposal paper features on NHS service documentation as guidance for this very reason. Below are bits of the conversation I had with the librarian.
    becca6        becca4

    It is not just me who assumed this policy paper was the stance of CILIP in the absence of anything else. People are actually using the paper in practice! I don’t need to tell you about how this raises all kinds of questions about the information governance and management.

  4. A style guide is NOT the same thing as a social media policy. For this point, I am going to leave you some thoughts of fellow professionals responding to the matter on Twitter…

Jo R          becca1         JoR2


So, the style guide? well….as several people pointed out to CILIP….


Because it is only the dreaded ampersand you need to worry about when using social media, right?


The CILIP account told one tweeter that as they are a very small team and “social media is one of the many hats” they have to wear they cannot respond to every enquiry. I would argue this is the case for the majority of us and it is no excuse. Except for big organisations with a lot of money, who can afford a separate social media team? If you only have the capacity to broadcast and not deal with enquiries then say so in your social media profile and policy. Signpost people to where they can have their enquiries answered. A totally random approach to engagement looks, and is, really unprofessional.

This may seem like a minor issue but it isn’t. Social media is where people are. It is where ideas are discussed, experiences shared, networks built. In a contentious piece of research (please apply your critical brains) CILIP recently claimed that Librarians are in the top five of the “most trusted professions”. If the professional body can’t get the basics right then that trust is unfounded. The CEO recently tweeted


There are many things I found problematic about this statement. The view of our profession is shaped more by politics and money than it is by what we say in our every day lives (if only we had that power!) but I would recommend that he applies his own advice to the management of CILIP because every contact, or lack of it, is shaping how professionals view CILIP and therefore its future success. Meanwhile, I am left feeling much like this person…

kp2  KP


p.s. CILIP and Nick Poole were included in all of the twitter conversation posted but have yet to respond.

On “Moaners”

(as referred to in CILIP social media policy…)

The birth of a librarian

When I left University (quite some time ago) with an art degree and no real idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was a bit lost. I could not imagine myself being a “professional” anything.

Then I fell into librarianship. I got a library assistant job in a university library without really knowing what librarians did (yes, I was one of those people who thought it would be really quiet and I might get bored. How wrong I was!). It was only when my manger spotted some potential in me and encouraged me to do an MSc in Librarianship I started to believe I could be a “professional” (I will never forget her asking. I was getting in a dreadful mess with vistafoil at the time!)

I threw myself into my MSc. I loved it. I got a distinction, a student award, papers written, did talks for various groups, got my 1st professional post. I excitedly joined CILIP. I was so proud to be part of a professional body. I could not have been a more willing or enthusiastic advocate. The cynicism I met about CILIP from others who had been in the profession for a long time baffled me. The arguments against chartership baffled me. It was everything being a professional meant to me (yes, really!).

I was undertaking my MSc right when the “global” economic crisis struck


The activist librarian

Drastic public library cuts were set to hit Gloucestershire. Some of the poorest areas were to have their libraries de-funded and were told to run the libraries themselves. I founded a library campaign to try to stop this. “Don’t worry” I said to the public librarians in the service “I am in touch with CILIP and I am sure we will have their support”. The looks on their faces! As if I had just landed from another planet. “I don’t think any of us are even members of CILIP anymore. They abandoned us years ago” was all I heard. They were proven right.

It was around this time that CILIP started getting a lot of criticism from information professionals. CILIP failed to accept invites by the mainstream media to represent librarians in the face of cuts. The self-appointed spokespeople for libraries to be seen in the media were normally well-intentioned authors. CILIP said it could not get involved in “campaigning” because it was a charity not a union. At around this time a new CEO joined CILIP. The new CEO assured me she would “pull her sleeves up” and get stuck in. CILIP would change…..to my dismay this change never happened…except to, um, update their volunteer policy. CILIP were adamant that their role was to quietly lobby behind the scene on the rare times they got thrown a bone by an MP or a civil servant.

Librarian activists and public librarians were really left out in the cold. After repeated disappointment in CILIP I got increasingly disenfranchised and I left. I continued to fight for public libraries through Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries and Voices for the Library. I was not alone in my dismay with CILIP. Lots of people felt the same. Lots of people left. CILIP was in crises. I completely disengaged.

Instead of chartering I did a Postgrad Cert in Higher Education as this was now generally valued more in academic librarianship

The battle-worn librarian

Roll on to 2017/18 and there is another CEO. People keep telling me “CILIP has changed!”. There are a few members of the board appearing in my feed on Twitter being fairly vocal about libraries and library cuts. They are saying the same things we were begging CILIP to say 10 years ago. The same things I, WE, YOU! were saying years ago (I would argue it is rather too little and too late…but still, at least there is some evident will to change).

I had not engaged with CILIP in years but with the new membership structure and a few vocal CILIP voices out there, my ears pricked up. “maybe I should give them a chance” I thought. I would so love to be in a professional body that doesn’t cower in the face of ideological attack, one that is strong and supportive. I would really welcome a professional body that has our back. I seriously considered re-joining.  The only thing that stopped me at the time was that it was coming up to Christmas so I didn’t have the funds.

Sadly, before I could get my wallet out, my mind has changed. Here are the reasons

I and my campaign group largely won our library fight and saved some of the libraries in the poorest neighbourhoods. I wasn’t naive enough to think this was the end though and have been keeping my eye on the County Council ever since. I was right to do so. Recently the authority decided they were going to start charging non-members for internet usage. I was concerned about how this would impact on the most vulnerable of society. I challenged them. I got the usual non-responses and they refused to answer my very valid questions. “I need some back-up” I thought “maybe CILIP can back up my concerns…can adopt a supportive stance based on sensible arguments and policy”. “Now CILIP have changed maybe I won’t be fighting on my own anymore”. I tweeted the CILIP official account asking if they had a view. I didn’t expect an immediate response.

I didn’t get any response! (I got a random irrelevant link to ACE funding grants or something tweeted at me and then quickly deleted!). I asked again. Nothing. Weeks passed. Nothing. So I grumbled out loud on Twitter. Suddenly up popped the CEO of CILIP and other board members telling me “CILIP has changed” “CILIP has changed”  “be the change you want to see”. With that I bristled.

  • In the past 10 years I got more changed outside of CILIP than I ever could have within it
  • I have campaigned so hard and for so long. I am shattered. I am disillusioned. Sometimes, just sometimes, I DON’T WANT TO BE THE VOICE. I don’t want it to have to come from me. If CILIP really has changed, show it! I needed some support from them. In return they may then get it from me.

My heart sank to my toes. I used to hear the same “change it yourself” lines in 2010

I was told this particular incident was an oversight, a one off, “CILIP has changed”, “CILIP has changed”. Meanwhile the official CILIP account continued sitting there in stony silence. I suggested CILIP review its social media policy and explained that some sort of response, be it sign-posting to useful resources, a letter to the council asking for more information, anything would have been welcome. Just being ignored when out here trying to advocate for public libraries is utterly demoralising.

Roll on several weeks. A well-known author publically states on Twitter that, unlike academic or specialist libraries, public libraries don’t need paid trained staff. I asked the CILIP twitter account for a response……silence… (it did actually respond to the author, which I did not see but I was pointed to it by other librarians on Twitter. The account just failed to engage directly with me). Meanwhile CEO Nick Poole responded with the hyperbole

‘There isn’t one. We don’t have the staff, nor would it be productive for us to respond to every misapprehension about professional librarians on twitter. We do respond wherever there is a formal implication. In this case, she had already had a robust response from the community’

Just think about that for a minute. The CEO of  the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, the organisation that is supposed to  “provide unity through shared values and advocate on behalf of the information professions” saying “there isn’t [a response]” to a well known author stating that paid, trained public library staff are not needed.  This wasn’t ‘every misapprehension’ this was a renowned author with a large audience. Perhaps ‘the community’, the usual suspects, shouldn’t have to do it all alone for a change.

I start to get a bit paranoid. Why is this professional body official account not engaging with me? Is it because of bad practice (any serious organisation worth its salt knows that to use social media to just broadcast is bad practice, right?).  So I had a look at CILIP social media policy and I saw the words “some people just simply enjoy having a moan” (yes really!) and it got me thinking

It worries me when language like this is used as it can, and has, been used to silence critical voices (incidentally that is also how the local authority implementing the cuts in Glos referred to library campaigners).  It was also an accusation thrown by CILIP at critical voices back in 2010.

I could easily write you a list of us that probably feature on their moaners list. They would be the people who voraciously defend librarians and libraries, challenge policy and perception. They are those who have stuck their heads above the parapet. In many ways, the recent desperate wails of “we are different” have vindicated these “moaners”. I take some comfort in knowing that the reason CILIP is so desperate to convince everyone that it has “changed” is because the very same “moaners” back in 2010 were correct. (or maybe the coffers were getting a bit dry).

I appreciate that many of CILIP staff are dedicated to making it better but, I am sorry, individuals tweeting into the echo-chamber isn’t enough for me. Engagement should not be about finding vocal or responsive board members on Twitter in the absence of the official account even bothering to acknowledge you took the time to ask a question.

I have decided CILIP have not changed enough for me to re-join yet and I don’t know that there is anyone as disappointed by this as me. I desperately yearned for some solidarity but my initial efforts to reach out have left me feeling exactly as I have for years, the lone voice in Gloucestershire speaking out against worrying policy change in public libraries. (I still don’t have a response from Gloucestershire County Council)

A few weeks ago CEO Nick Poole tweeted

“One takehome from my recent question to the #Libraries Minister was that we need to activate non-#librarians via Friends Groups to engage local MP’s and ensure local people are making the library a ‘doorstep issue’. Is anyone out there doing this already?”

Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries and several people (who are probably on the blacklist) have been doing exactly this for years. Pretty successfully too.

I pointed this out but judging from the silence in response I don’t think CILIP feels it has any lessons to learn from us.

To really move forward, instead of dismissing people as “moaners”, CILIP must pay heed to its critics. Those of us who have been fighting a very demoralising fight out here in their absence over the last ten years need them to do better. It may seem like a small thing but it could start by getting the basics like social media right.

I know that fear of being labelled a “moaner” stops people from speaking out but, though never acknowledged, these very same “moaners” are often those who instigate change.

What to say? We can’t even look after our own libraries!

I was pleased to be asked to speak about my MSc dissertation at the New Professionals event being held at University of the West of England tomorrow evening. My MSc dissertation was about libraries and international development. It investigates the role libraries and librarians have to play in furthering international development. I won’t bore you with all the details of my findings here in this post but you can have a read of the dissertation if you are interested as I have published it on my blog.

I am writing this post as I am rather surprised to be totally stumped regarding what I am going to say about my dissertation in the talk. I have been invited to speak about it at several events in the past and have never encountered this problem.

When I undertook the research for the dissertation in 2008, although it was only a few years ago, things were very different. It was just when the economic crash was happening. The fallout and impact of which I never could have imagined.

As I was writing up the findings of my research I started to feel the tremors of what was to come. This was largely instigated by the publishing of the KPMG report in 2010 which, with no references to support it, advocated the idea that just anyone could run a library (aka Community Libraries).  The discussions I had with people on twitter and with people within the profession about the state of librarianship and the way we are represented (or, more to the point are not!) and the impact this would have on library services in the wake of this report, raised alarm bells.

You will be wondering what this has to do with my dissertation? Well, to summarise my findings

Libraries, whilst in an ideal position to help developing countries to meet their educational targets, increase literacy and challenge poverty, are often being set up by well-meaning charities with no experience of running libraries, stock selection and management, reader development, service evaluation…or the many other essential skills librarians are trained in. As a result these libraries are falling short in their ability to contribute to global priorities for human development. In my conclusion I advocate the employment of librarians by international aid agencies and argue that it is a false economy to set up libraries if they do not meet the needs of the people using them.

So, whilst I was writing up my dissertation, KPMG wrote their report advocating the idea that volunteers with no experience should run our public libraries in the UK. As many who know me will be aware, once I finished my dissertation, this prompted me to Co-found advocacy group Voices for the Library and campaign group Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries.

Since this time tens if not hundreds of our libraries have been handed, or are due to be handed to volunteers to run. Therefore, it seems rather naive of me to stand up in front of librarianship students and new professionals tomorrow to advocate the role of librarians in international development when we cannot even prove our worth in our own country. This makes me very sad and really stumped as to what I really should be saying tomorrow.

If you are wondering why I am so down on the idea of a library being run by noone but a few well-meaning but ill-experienced volunteers then perhaps read my research and consider what we are doing to our libraries here.

Owen Jones wrote a piece for the Independent stating that “Mission, belief and passion have been stripped from politics” and it struck a chord with me as I fear that this is the case for our profession too.

Instead of feeling excited about the important role librarians can play internationally, as I was when I first wrote up my dissertation, it has made me feel rather despairing because we can’t even look after our own libraries.

CILIP and “job substitution” : library staff and service users are left standing alone

I was recently alerted to the fact that CILIP had  stated in the April 2012 edition of UPDATE magazine that “there are around 21,500 volunteers in libraries, each working for an average of just 31 hours per year, doing the equivalent work of 341 full time posts.”

I was keen to get the figures as I think it really demonstrates how a volunteer run or staffed library service is not the most efficient way to go, despite providing unwaged labour.  There were no references in the magazine as to where these figures were from, which is surprising considering it was published by the professional body (but that is another matter), so I did a bit of digging and found they originate from this document: https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B9r-dNr4kPL0WGJHcUZMeThEQXc

Having spent a lot of my time campaigning against volunteer run libraries, where skilled library staff are being replaced with volunteers (labeled as “job substitution” in CILIPs report), and arguing the value of properly paid and trained library staff, I was rather alarmed by what I read.  Gary Green’s letter to CILIP regarding this matter highlights the concerns so I will not repeat them here. Please read Gary’s letter before reading further.

CILIP’s response to concerns raised by members about this document are reproduced on the Public Libraries News website.  I think the response did nothing to clarify the situation as it just does not square at all with the changes to CILIP’s volunteer policy.

As Gary’s letter points out, CILIP changed their policy on volunteers in 2010 (although this seems to be news to many) as it was felt to be too rigid. Despite Mark Taylor claiming that “CILIP objects to job substitution” and that they are opposed to volunteer RUN libraries, their policy no longer specifically says they are opposed to “job substitution”. Opposition to volunteer run libraries and opposition to “job substitution” are not one and the same. The fact is that they no longer have a clear stance. Their policy now really does not mean much to me. In my view, it is a woolly keep-every-one-happy-and-possibly-confused policy. It is entirely open to interpretation which is consequently to the detriment of the profession.

Public Library News suggests that CILIP do not want to “dis-communicate” volunteer run libraries (I think he might mean libraries staffed with volunteers as CILIP have said they are against volunteer run libraries), however their weak and vague stance on “job substitution” will dis-communicate their current members who are being made redundant due to the “job substitutions”.

Personally I am totally against “job substitution”. If you need a volunteer to do a job then the post is not redundant, if it is not redundant, do not sack someone then get someone to do it for nothing….only to then spend money training a volunteer when you have placed a trained member of staff on the dole queue. I disagree with the conclusion made by Public Libraries News.  It is not “understandable” for CILIP to be anything other than opposed to ”job substitution”.  For a professional body to take a weak position regarding the replacement of its members by untrained volunteers is totally unacceptable.

I await the response to Gary’s letter with interest and I sincerely hope CILIP do not reply with fluff and politicking. Now is the time for a confident and clear stance that sends a strong message to both the membership and librarians in general.

It concerns me that I have heard some liken the “job substitution” situation to unpaid interns looking for experience in order to get on to the job ladder. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the gravity of the situation. Communities are being told “run your own library or lose it”. Library users who do not want to lose this resource are reluctantly agreeing to do this. This is not a situation where an enthusiastic person wants to get into a career but one in which entire skilled and dedicated workforces are being replaced with volunteers who would rather have a professionally run service with trained staff.

It is also disappointing that CILIP has taken up the mantra “cuts have to be made…great depression.. blah blah blah…so we have to accept volunteer libraries and our members being replaced”. I strongly believe that this is wrong. They should be demonstrating the worth of libraries and librarians not simply rolling over and repeating this rhetoric. CILIP’s current attitude undermines those of us who HAVE been arguing the value of librarians and skilled staff and pointing out that, in times of recession, libraries are needed most.  If the professional body does not have enough faith and balls to stand up and shout this then I am starting to wonder if I should have bothered. As one library campaigner put it:

“It would be peculiar if library users value librarians more than CILIP”

This is how it looks to all of us library users who have been campaigning to retain trained library staff. It has been utterly soul destroying to see that the only people standing up for public librarians are us campaigners and service users, and we are being ignored.

I am not a member of CILIP. It concerns me greatly that none of the CILIP members I have spoken to knew about this discussion or the change in policy and were only alerted to it by my rantings. We are currently experiencing the biggest upheaval of the library service the profession has ever seen, an upheaval which will change the nature of CILIP and its current/potential membership, yet only a very few people seem aware of this. Librarians and library staff need a strong voice now more than they ever have. Currently it feels like no one at all is on our side apart from service users, even at the highest levels. If it still has not quite sunk in yet then I strongly suggest you read this.

Update :

I have since seen a blog post and a letter from two senior members of CILIP on this issue which repeat the mantra “in times such as these…” and “volunteer libraries are better than nothing”. The letter reads,

“CILIP Council members are honestly facing a dilemma about their professional feelings and those of our members and at the same time, the good of a community who may lose all library provision unless volunteers are part of the equation.”

This is beyond disappointing. This “volunteers are better than nothing” line is dangerous, unwise, shortsighted and simplistic. Where is the evidence that what will be left will indeed be better than nothing? It is an untested experiment. The floodgates are being opened. In times like these you have to stand firm because when the damage has been done  there will be no going back. When an inch is given a mile WILL and IS being taken. The attitude that is emerging from CILIP plays straight into the hands of the politicians who are making draconian cuts.

Libraries are an economical and efficient resource. In Gloucestershire, the library service budget used to be (before the massive cuts and libraries were earmarked for volunteers) just 1.4% of the county councils overall budget and had 3 million visits a year (not including online visits!). The draconian cuts will cripple the library service but will save the county council very little. This is an ideological change and not one that is being made due to financial necessity. It is an ideology which, it seems, CILIP is sadly being sucked into.

The letter I refer to above finishes with

“The enemy is ignorance of the value and the importance of library services to a literate, healthy and prosperous society, and that is the enemy that we are trying to combat.”

What I see coming out of CILIP is far from “combating” this ignorance. On the contrary, it is bowing down to, and perpetuating it. Given that our libraries are being downgraded because politicians clearly do not value the library services enough to retain skilled, paid library staff and are replacing them with anyone who wants to have a go….all I can say is “Oh CILIP, with friends like these…..” 😦

I had hoped CILIP would come out and show that I had mis-interpreted the situation.  Senior members of CILIP were once cheering my campaigning on, allbeit behind the scenes. My campaigning which argued volunteer libraries is not the way to go! I don’t think it is too dramatic to say I feel more than a little, um, betrayed, as I am sure will a lot of the library workforce. One of the reasons I left was because I don’t really identify with the organisation anymore. This confirms I made the right decision.

UPDATE 19/06/12

It would appear that CILIP have realised that the letter and blog post referred to above were far from enough to appease concerns and have agreed to review their policy. I await the outcome with interest. It is a shame it came to this and I am left wondering why they ever changed it in the first place…. now if only they would change their “cuts have to be made and volunteer staffed libraries are inevitable” outlook and would concentrate on advocating libraries and the profession instead.

Thank you to everyone who voiced their concerns on this issue. Having seen the reaction on Twitter and the many comments on this and other blog posts I know that a lot of you did. If we don’t speak up in defense of our profession and the service we provide then we can’t complain when others talk us down and see fit to replace us with unpaid and untrained labour.

Update 02/07/2012

In response to the outcry at the watering down their volunteer policy, CILIP have revised their policy.

“We do not believe that volunteers should undertake core service delivery or be asked to replace the specialised roles of staff who work in libraries.”

“CILIP is opposed to job substitution where paid professional and support roles are directly replaced with either volunteers or untrained administrative posts to save money. This applies to all library and information services in every sector”

This stronger stance is a very welcome move.

See here for more information about the updated policy.

Hey Academic Librarians! What training, if any, do you offer to academic staff?

A staff development programme, focused around Quality and Academic Standards, is being designed at my University. It is mainly for academic staff but all staff are welcome to attend. Having recently completed a Post-grad teaching qualification, I am particularly keen to attend courses such as “A Showcase of Flexible Ways to Teach and Support Learning”, “The Role of Students in Quality Assurance”, “Curriculum Design in Higher Education” and Assessment Workshops, among others. I think they will give me the opportunity to apply new skills and knowledge to my professional practice and will help me to understand the work and pressures on my academic colleges better.

Having seen the draft programme of events, it occurred to me that our Libraries and Information Services department did not feature in the design or delivery of the training, nor were we listed among the staff teams who would find the training “particularly appropriate”.

I felt we were missing an opportunity here. The resources we provide and the information skills we work hard to foster are central to providing quality and to improving academic standards. We teach skills that enable students to study effectively and skills which prepare them for their working lives. Employability, whether we like it or not, is now a central strand in higher education agenda. We have a lot to offer and contribute to this strand.

I voiced my observations to my boss, suggesting that our involvement in the programme would also be an ideal opportunity to raise the profile of Library and Information Services to academic staff and other departments….he agreed, as did the programme organizers. Now I have been tasked with coming up with some suitable courses and I have been invited to deliver some of them (when will I learn to keep my mouth shut!)

So far we have suggestions for (These are our very early ideas)

The development of reading lists (with some focus on how to avoid breaches of copyright legislation)

How to promote and use online resources

Library Use and Academic Achievement 

Information Skills and Employability  – My aim with this is to try to encourage academics to embed information skills into their curriculum more and to encourage them to use our skills to help them. I hope to do this by firmly placing these skills into the context of the university’s teaching and learning strategy and overall aims.

Professional discourse regarding teaching and training tends to focus on the service we provide for students  so I am really interested to find out what teaching sessions my peers are delivering at other institutions, to academic staff, which enhance the quality of teaching and learning and academic standards.  I would love to hear your thoughts/ideas/experiences.

Library Camp Pub Chat Dilemma : volunteering, would you?

After a long and exciting day at Library Camp a few of us went to the pub.  A conversation took place that I have been mulling over ever since.  We were discussing the threat of “volunteer run libraries” and what it means for the library and information profession. Someone asked, “if you were currently unemployed and there was a community run library being launched near you, would you volunteer to help keep it open whilst job hunting?”

The dilemma :

Volunteers will take the jobs of paid and trained staff – how could you be part of that? Also, WE ARE WORTH IT we deserve pay for the skills and knowledge that we work hard to attain and develop.


The library will close if it is not taken over by volunteers. If you think it important that people have access to a good quality library service then surely this should come first? How can you stand by and let a community lose their library – you obviously do not think them that important? It also might be good to have on your CV.

I am interested to hear

What would you do and why?

What advice should our professional bodies be giving to members?

Library Camp – Convincing Politicians that Libraries Improve Literacy

On Saturday 8th October I went to Birmingham for Library Camp – the “unconference” about libraries. It was ace. I met lots of people I know from Twitter for the first time in the flesh and I made lots of new friends.

One of the sessions I attended during the day was a session about how we can convince politicians that libraries improve literacy. Jennifer Yellin wrote a good report of the session here .

Having spent over a year campaigning to save libraries in Gloucestershire for Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries and working with advocacy group Voices for the Library, which was primarily set up to change the dialogue about public libraries as the positive stories and the views of librarians and library users rarely seemed to be given any consideration, I am exhausted. I have tried everything I can to advocate and campaign for libraries but I have felt rather isolated and ignored by the decision makers. I was hoping that this session would provide me with some more ideas, the magic statistics, the message that those in power could not possibly ignore.  This did not happen. What did happen was that it seemed to generally be agreed that there are the statistics, the evidence out there, but what there is not is someone with clout to deliver that message. It was down to us, the voters. I left dismayed because this has not been working for me.

I know colleagues who work in public libraries who are not allowed to promote the positive things that public libraries do as this may lead to increased usage, increased demand on resources, and would ultimately make the cutting of libraries a more uncomfortable option for the politicians. More people would notice when services stopped being provided.

The cuts in Gloucestershire have been hugely unpopular. We residents have done all we can to make politicians aware of this and the damaging impact their cuts will have. Just look at the Friends of Gloucestershire website and you can see that there was little else we could have done, yet we have been ignored. Voices for the Library have been working hard to change the national dialogue and have had some success, but as a geographically spread out group of volunteers, mostly with full time jobs and other commitments, there is only so much we can do. We do not have the clout needed.

I came away feeling like I and my fellow campaigners really are alone in this. A realisation that has been dawning on me for the last year but which really hit home in that session.

I had told myself I would not go to any sessions about public libraries as I have been consumed with campaigning and felt the need to go to cross sector sessions to broaden my horizons but I went to this one as I got the impression I would get the answers. I guess this was too much to expect though because if we had the answers we would not be in this situation in the first place.

Activism, Advocacy and Professional Identity

Oxford English Dictionary [online]

Activism : the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.

Advocacy : public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy: his outspoken advocacy of the agreement has won no friends

Collins English Dictionary [online]

Activist  n a person who works energetically to achieve political or social goals,    ◇ n activism

Advocacy n active support of a cause or course of action,

I am an academic librarian and a public library activist

I have been thinking a lot about the definitions of activism and advocacy, two words I have noticed being used interchangeably in my network of library and information professionals recently and it is bothering me. They do overlap but they are also distinctly different.

Activism does involve advocacy, i.e. speaking out on behalf of an idea, organisation or person so that they are viewed positively, which in turn can influence policy and social outcomes, but it also goes further than this. Activism can be messy. It opens you up to controversy and sometimes vitriolic reactions (which is the thing that surprised me the most when campaigning for libraries…everyone loves libraries right? WRONG!). Activism is about politics and ethics, social outcomes and shaping the future – the aim is not just to promote services and influence change but to be the change. It needs a lot of time and effort and you are often in it for the long-haul. I believe that my need to get involved as an activist stems from a lack of advocacy of public libraries in the past. If we had been promoting them and raising their profile all along we would not be in the mess we are in now. To me advocacy is what you should be doing all the time, activism is what you  do after you say “enough is enough, I am not going to stand by and watch this happen any more”

I consider my involvement in campaign groups Voices for the Library and Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries to be activism (of which advocacy is a feature).  In my day job I am involved in advocacy.  As a librarian you have to be involved in advocacy and if you are not then you are in the wrong job. I promote our services and skills to stakeholders and advocate the service wherever possible.  Not only is this important so that staff and students know who we are and what we do but also so that we are viewed as important by the decision makers at the  University.  However, I certainly am not an “activist” at work and I certainly would not engage in the kind of activities I have for my activism role. Advocacy is gentle coaxing and stroking (please do not take that literally, I do not want anyone to get arrested!) whereas activism is “vigorous”, sometimes loud, and sometimes controversial. If you are talking about activism now is not the time for coaxing and stroking. It is time for rolling your sleeves up, getting stuck in and taking action. I cannot understand why there is anyone in the profession who is not doing so in such times.

I have gained such a lot from being an activist. It is often stressful and can be soul destroying but it has also led to the formation of many new friendships and networks, exchanges of ideas across sectors (which can only strengthen the profession as a whole), lots of experience of working with the local and the national press, learning about the workings of local and national government, public speaking, chairing meetings, people management, event planning and  management, problem solving, team working, quick thinking, communicating with celebrities and public figures and collaborating with national organisations, to name a few. The most important thing though I think is that it has allowed me get out there and speak with hundreds of library users and non-users to find out what they think a library service should look like, why libraries are (or aren’t) important to them and to advocate what libraries are and could be. I have watched aghast as a library authority disenfranchised, dis-empowered and alienated it’s service users and have seen how NOT to do things. In response I have helped give local people a voice and a platform. I also watched aghast as central government ignored the concerns and views of library users and in response I have helped to provide a much needed national platform for library staff and users and for public library advocacy, with the aim of influencing policy and social outcomes.

I have always been careful to keep my working life and my activist roles separate. However, I hope that my experiences as an activist has had a positive affect on my professional working life. I have certainly learnt how important advocacy is and try to engage in it at every opportunity. I now feel confident  in my abilities to tactfully and effectively manage (sometimes difficult) people. The campaigning press releases  and blog posts I have written have improved my written communication and promotional skills. I can manage large meetings, enthuse people and encourage them. I now have plenty of evidence for my CV that I am dedicated to the profession and I see it as a vocation and not just a means of paying the bills. What employer would not see that as a positive thing? Probably one I would not be looking to work for. I have spent many hours of my own time campaigning for libraries and attending library related events (all whilst also managing to complete a postgraduate certificate for teaching in higher education in order to progress my career in academic librarianship). I do not do this begrudgingly but because  I love libraries and what they stand for. Many of the skills and knowledge I have gained from my activism I would not have had the opportunity to gain in my day job but many of them are skills and experiences that will stand me in good stead for more senior roles in academic librarianship.

I am not telling people what to do and I do not wish to preach but I do hope that all of the recent emphasis on and discussions about “activism” I have seen moves beyond mere discussion. Perhaps this blog post will help you decide whether or not activism is something you want to be involved in (advocacy is compulsory by the way!). I do hope it does. I am a firm believer that it is better to say “I did my best” than it is to say “I stood by and did nothing” If you are in any doubt as to whether or not you can make a difference below is an extract from an email we received from a public library user the other day about Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries:

“I hope you realise how much what you are doing means to so many people in Gloucestershire and beyond. Not just in terms of defending our libraries but, in these times of cuts, cynicism, self-interest and soulless pursuit of wealth, by providing a much-needed reminder to all of us that within our communities there are courageous, public spirited and selfless people ready to stand up for what they believe”

I would very much like to hear what you think advocacy and activism mean and how being an activist has impacted on your professional development.

CPD23 Course Blog.

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The Librarian and Rome : Rules for The University of Gloucestershire Library c.1943

The Archivist at The University of Gloucestershire showed me these rules for the library she found in the Archives Collection dated c.1943 and gave me permission to post them here. The Library at the time was named “Rome” and the institution was then called St Paul’s Teacher Training College. I love them and wanted to share them with you. How times have changed! If you click on the images you should be able to zoom in to the text.