Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Some musings on E-Books (amongst other things) from 4 years ago!

While looking through some old work I came across this article I wrote after attending the Public Libraries Conference on a sponsored place  in 2008. I'll admit I wasn't as clued up on new technology as I am now but wow, have we come a long way since then. It was originally intended for Update but I don't think it ever got published. Can't imagine why.

" The day when public libraries worry over their choice of e book format (Sony Reader, Kindle, ibok?) may seem very remote to some. But this was just one of many forward thinking topics at this years PLA conference in Liverpool. Personally I jumped on the ‘not in the next ten years’ band wagon but having  given the subject a bit of thought it is easy to see James Bond style ‘ this book will self destruct in 14 days’  loans being common place in under a decade. After all, 20 years ago few would have fully predicted the impact of the internet on library services or the role that mobile devices play in our everyday lives. Who are we, a generation of (in the main) digital immigrants, to second guess what the public, with it’s ever increasing demographic of digital natives, will expect from their libraries.

Pursuing new formats will invariable mean choices which may or may not take us further from our traditional role of libraries. An e-book is, after all, still a book, that sacred object at the core of all library services.  Yet its existence as an electronic object takes us further from the idea of a library as a physical place and closer to the idea of a virtual entity.
"This idea of choices, or at least the consequences of choices, leads me to the second most tangible thing I brought away from this years PLA conference. In the current climate some choices are harder than others and it was obvious that many services had hard decisions to make. However what we saw at PLA  was a showcase of all the positive outcomes that have resulted  from people making the right decisions. Schemes that had services working with banks to improve numeracy in children, volunteer schemes to engage asylum seekers and true community engagement to determine how best a refurbishment of a local library might benefit it’s local residents showed positive outcomes that complimented rather than challenged reading as the central role of the library service.
While it was natural that services should want to celebrate their achievements I wasn’t the only one who commented that many speakers steered clear of more controversial issues. Some might say this is only to be expected given the presence of those people with the power to make decisions. Who after all wants to rock the boat when there is so much good to talk about ? But who would have thought it possible to present on public private partnerships without touching on that omnipresent, and high contentional,  entity – the coffee chain. Obviously by its very nature this was never going to be a conference that challenged the establishment, after all it was the establishment that was present.
 Yet while the reviews were encouraging  one has to wonder whether they will have any real impact when those responsible struggle even to decide on the benchmarks or have little real power when it comes to influencing hard up councils making spending cuts."

Monday, 23 July 2012

PLR Raises It's Head Again.

After being away for a couple of weeks, literally cut off from Twitter and the internet, it was nice to return to this Guardian article picking up on the PLR / volunteer libraries issue and also featuring library campaigner Johanna Anderson. (Admit briefly) I don't think it's the best article I've ever read, it seems a bit disjointed, but it got my brain cells ticking again after nearly two weeks of sun, sea and tequilla!

A lot more could have been said about the issues surrounding volunteer libraries, I'm sure Johanna had plenty to say that was edited out. I have several problems with the trend, some personal -  seeing experienced ex-colleagues made redundant and replaced with volunteers is soul destroying - but also many more professional ones:
  • I believe strongly that there is no substitute for trained, paid staff, both peri-professional and professional and that as result services and stock quality will ultimately suffer.
  • I believe by expecting volunteers to run what are essentially small businesses you are asking for legal and financial issues. (Budgets, FOI and child protection being just a few) 
  • After working closely with the Citizens Advice Bureau, an organisation that relies heavily on volunteers, I have seen first hand just how patchy this service can become when said volunteers decide they have other commitments or just want to go on holiday. 
This said the meat of the article is specifically about PLR payments. Although I rarely agree with the DCMS I can see their point in the final paragraph, in brief saying that the volunteer run libraries will not alter PRL payments. If we assume that the volunteer community libraries will have a similar lending profile to those council run libraries used for the PLR sample then removing them from the PLR calculations will not alter the payments received by individual authors. I made a similar point in a previous blog post about PLR and elending.
This of course assumes that the lending profile will remain similar to that in libraries where book selection is carried out by professionals and where there is a requirement to maintain a "healthy" stock covering a wide range of subject areas. I personally think it is much more likely that where volunteers are purchasing stock it will become biased towards certain areas. I also can't help but wonder if the DCMS, in the future, will use the reduction of council run libraries as another excuse to cut the overall PLR budget which would ultimately reduce payments to authors.

More worryingly is the question of copyright infringement raised by the article and the Society of Authors. The SoA are questioning whether these "Big Society" libraries are allowed to lend books at all. If they are not covered by the blanket agreement of the PLR it would be up to individual authors to give permission for their books to be lent at individual libraries- surely a difficult and unwieldy process for the most well run of libraries to manage. If the claim is upheld, as far as I can determine, it means that these Big Society libraries will be operating illegally.
I'm sure this story will unfold, hopefully with someone actually taking the legal action threatened by the SoA. It's not that I want these volunteer libraries to fail, doing so would leave some communities with no library service at all.  But it needs to be understood that libraries have been run by paid, professional staff for years for a reason, that councils cannot expect to maintain the same level of service without professional leadership or by replacing paid front line staff with volunteers.  As with other action taken by library campaigners it also demonstrates just how poorly thought through the volunteer libraries have been in some areas. Councils have made fast,  ill informed decisions to slash budgets without investigating all the ramifications of their actions, actions which it seems, may not be entirely legal.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Chartership Chat 3rd July

Tuesday's Chartership Chat had been arranged at short notice and it had no specific topic. However as normal there were plenty of people participating, some through the whole hour and some popping in and out as other commitments allowed. We even had someone from the US. 
In summary the points covered were:

  • Our expected completion dates and our current progress. Many people commented that they were struggling to fit in Chartership with it being conference season and other commitments such as courses / projects. 
  • The value of Chartership in CPD and how regularly updating PPDP can help keep you focused on your goals.
  • The different methods people were using for recording progress and communicating with mentor - Word, Wikis, Email, Google Docs, Dropbox and PB works
  • Doing CDP23 in connection to Chartership and whether people follow the 23 weeks religiously or just dip in and out. It was commented that cpd23 could be used to show reflective practice (blog) and demonstrating use of new technology but that some people felt it was difficult to do both.
  • The value of local meet ups with other people doing Chartership, even if they are informal events.
  • A side topic on whether employers supported Chartership by offering increments (no one did!) and whether it was required for jobs.
I've been following the Chartership Chats almost since they began and although I haven't made every one I always find them a real motivator. It was no coincidence that my first participation also coincided with my Twitter debut as the chats were the main reason that I signed up.
The Chartership Chats demonstrate why you should be on Twitter. I don't know most of the people who participate in the chats and in some cases I will probably never meet them. Many come from different sectors to my own.  However I always learn something new, get some practical ideas and most importantly get a virtual kick up the back side to get some work done. It's a great opportunity to see how other people are attacking Chartership. Outside of the chats I continue to learn and share ideas with the people who participate.

If you are doing Chartership and aren't engaging with the profession on Twitter I really think you need to rethink your stance. Conferences and email lists can only be so current, Twitter is about the here and now and will enhance any experience, whether real or virtual - try searching CILIPARLG12 on Twitter of you want to see an example.