Posts Tagged ‘librarians’

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?


Why I am excited at Paul Sturges being awarded an OBE for services to libraries in Britain and overseas

This is just a quick post to comment on the news that Paul Sturges has been awarded an OBE for services to libraries in Britain and overseas. Congratulations Mr Sturges!  

I carried out qualitative research in Malawi for my MSc dissertation and I cannot begin to describe how daunting this seemed before I set off. I would lie awake thinking “am I being overambitious,why didn’t I pick something easier?!!”  the panic set in many times….then lo! I discovered Sturges and Chimseu’s (1996) Qualitative Research in Information Studies: A Malawian Study. Education for Information 14 (2), pp. 117-127.  A paper written about a small-scale qualitative study that they carried out in Monkey Bay (completely by coincidence it was undertaken in the town right next to the rural village I was carrying out my research in) that told me my project WAS achievable and positively encouraged my approach.
The authors had observed that the quantitative approach dominated postgraduate research in information studies and that the qualitative approach, revealing the whys and hows, was lacking. They suggested that:

“it may tend to seem too (..) time-consuming an exercise for the more practical concerns of the majority of those interested in information studies. Thus the qualitative approach is probably more saleable to PhD students who have more time, and more need to show an impressive rationale for their methodological choices”

So the pair decided to undertake a MSc sized qualitative research project in Malawi

“with a subsidiary aim of testing the proposition that while qualitative research is not absolutely simple, and does place considerable demands on the researcher, it can produce valuable results in a way that is particularly swift and direct. Furthermore, it was intended to show that this could be done even in conditions that present inbuilt difficulties arising from cultural, linguistic, political and economic conditions”

which they duly did and found that

 “with good preparation, willingness to improvise, a determination to listen to what people say, and think about it carefully, then a rapid qualitative study can not only be effective, but much more rewarding than sitting waiting for responses to a postal questionnaire to arrive. Having tested a qualitative approach under difficult conditions, and found that it can indeed provide valuable research results, the authors feel able to offer to students and colleagues a wholehearted endorsement based on experience ”

….and a few minutes after discovering this paper I had a team of cheerleaders in my head going “You can do it!! in fact you HAVE to do it!!”  and I very successfully did so . Sturges and Chimseu were right and I thank them for giving me the confidence to do it. In moments of panic I thought of this paper. This paper was all the more important to me as qualitative research on international librarianship, especially in MSc sized projects is thin on the ground so I welcomed all of the guidance I could get my little mits on!

This is award is really great news in a time when libraries, particularly public libraries are being scrutinised and challenged in the press and in parliament. I confess I do not know very much about all of this OBE business but it does suggest to me that someone important, somewhere thinks libraries and access to information is important and this is something we can really use to prove our worth – more needs to be made of it.

I am particularly pleased about the “overseas”  bit of the award. I am always going on to anyone who cares to listen that librarians have a massive role to play in international development and in the agendas of development organisations and that we should be banging their doors down…I hope they will take note of this recognition Sturges has received…..and seek out our expertise!

Sturges and Chimseu’s (1996) Qualitative Research in Information Studies: A Malawian Study. Education for Information 14 (2), pp. 117-127.

last nights Newsnight

So, my initial thoughts on last nights Newsnight “Do libraries have a Future” debate. Firstly where was CILIP and where were the librarians? It was Maragret Hodge and Alex Gibbons a “library campaigner” who took part in the discussion. Whilst it is great there are “library campaigners”, it seems bizarre to me that there was no sign of anyone from the professional body there to advocate libraries. Gibbons got some positive comments in there, for example, he thinks that libraries are more important now than ever but he also seemed to think that librarians stamp and issues books, stating that self-service machines should free up the librarians from this work to “get out and meet the public”. I feel like I am forever repeating to people “librarians do not just stamp and issue books all day” my work has been undone! 

Secondly, does Labour have some kind of deal with Starbucks?

A missed opportunity I say. What about all the other work libraires do beyond books?

My research trip to Malawi – The Warm Heart of Africa

Here is a wee video I made of my research trip to Malawi. Make sure you have the sound turned up…there is some amazing singing on it that I recorded at the schools end-of-term celebrations. 🙂

For my Library and Information Management MSc dissertation, I went to a primary school in rural Malawi, to which a British NGO had donated a library of western materials that were no longer wanted in the UK. I spent  three weeks interviewing the teachers and the library assistant. My  intention was to investigate library aid from the recipients perspective.

I have been invited to do a presentation about my work at Bath University on April 26th,  for the AULIC staff development group. Anyone going to that?

Although I have not made a start on it yet, I plan to discuss the success and suitability of a Western-donated school library in furthering the aims of literacy and reader development in  Malawi. The contribution that library and information professionals can make to international development agendas will also be discussed with particular reference to the Millennium Development Goals.

When I first got interested in this subject and started my literature review, I discovered that although there was a lot of discussion  in this area,  it largely come from desk research. First-hand, qualitative data is very thin on the ground.

To address the chronic education resource shortage, Western books are often sent to sub-Saharan African countries at great expense, with little or no needs analysis or in-depth review of the service after the  books have been installed. These book donation models are often criticized in the literature but I really wanted to find out what the recipients of these donations thought because their voices were distinctly lacking.

Participatory approaches to the planning and evaluation of projects are not new in international development but we in the library world do not appear to use them when attempting to support developing countries. I think this is a shame as we could learn so much.

The trip was an amazing experience that really highlighted the important role libraries and librarians could play in international development, if only NGO’s and development agencies see fit to consult us….we really should be banging their doors down!! I went to CILIP’s International Library and Information Group’s annual general meeting last month where CILIP’s president Biddy Fisher delivered a talk on how librarians can help to deliver the Millenium Development Goals. It was great to hear this being discussed but the goals were agreed upon in 2000…..the targets set for 2015. Are we too late?

Anyone interested in my findings just let me know, I would be happy to let you read them – you may find some surprises!

Anyone about to embark on a Library Masters dissertation and not sure what to research? I highly recommend taking the plunge and conducting research overseas. When else will you have this chance? If you need any tips or advice – again, just let me know.

Anyone out there reading this who works in international development and needs a knowledgable, motivated, librarian. cooooeeeeee! gi’us a job 🙂