Monday, 27 August 2012

Here Comes the Sun (Briefly)

I spent a lot of this weekend either napping or working on my Chartership portfolio. Not exactly rock and roll but then I'm not as young as I used to be.

In between the sleeping and working I started writing a Week In the Life of a FE Librarian post for this blog. However it's not turned out as I thought and I'm in two minds whether to post it. What I did manage to do, in the very brief period of sunshine on Sunday, was to get out and take some photos.

It was only after I had gathered all my bits together that I realised I had left my SLR at work so armed only with my ipod I went out to make the most of the sunshine. The glare meant I was essentially shooting blind so the resulting pictures are a bit over exposed and lacking depth but a good starting point for other work. Because some of the images weren't brilliant I had a fiddle on iPhoto, something I rarely do nowadays.

 I'm still not sure about the colour photos, I suspect that this might be the last time I work with colour in this context. However I think there is much more to be done with the black and white work once I find the time so watch this space.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Of Books, Bears, Bogeymen and Bibles

Anyone who reads my posts regularly (possibly just my mum) knows I spend I lot of time waffling about e-books. You'll also know that I'm quite the advocate. However something that annoys me are people who think that just because I like e-books I have turned my back on paper and print.

Alright, so I don't often buy printed fiction from bookshops any more, but then I never really did anyway. I always borrowed or bought books second hand or got hand-me-downs from the parents. I still buy (and love to receive) photography and art books and I don't think this will ever change. Yes, there are things you can do with e-books that you can't do with printed but that doesn't make them better, just different. 

This post is a self indulgent look at why I will never totally give up the printed book and which books I can never imagine reading as an e-book. It's also one of the most personal blogs I've ever written. Some people may contend what I have to say here but these are my views and I stand by them. Just like only an e-reader will fit when you have to squeeze 2 weeks of reading material into a Ryan Air luggage allowance, there are also times when only the printed book will do. These are my top three reasons.

1. Books carry memories.
When I was 13 a boy, who would 3 years later become my first boyfriend, gave me Clive Barker's A Thief of Always. I had never read anything like it and I quickly consumed most of Clive Barkers back list, reveling in the mix of bogeymen and sex. God knows what my parents would have thought if they knew what I was reading but to this day I continue to be a huge Barker fan.
The relationship didn't end well, it was never going to really, but I still have that book. Despite it being dog eared and tatty it sits next to my signed edition of Galilee, and I would never consider getting rid of it. It's a little reminder of my teenage self and carries memories that go far beyond the story itself.

Sometimes the memories carried by books are not those of the current owner. I'm currently undertaking research on my hockey club and managed to track down an old minute book to the library at Chetham's in Manchester. When I went to see it my reaction to a mass produced ledger was extraordinary. OK, so technically it isn't a book in the way a novel or a bible is but the principle is the same. That A5 notebook, crammed with history and indecipherable notes, evoked more emotion in me then any word processed document ever could. I bet in 60 years time no one will be sitting in a library crying over our modern digital minutes and agendas.

2. Books can both be, and convey art.
Some books are beautiful in a way that cannot be replicated or digitised, take the Guttenberg Bibles for example. Not only do they represent a technological revolution but they cry out to be touched, scrutinised and poured over. There must be millions of copies, both printed and digital, but non will ever match the originals as objects of beauty. 

This type of classic beauty is often, and sadly, a thing of the past. Yet books continue to be made that are unique, that through either their content or physical form, stand up as works of art in their own right. If you ever doubt this make a visit to the book design library at Manchester Metropolitan University. You won't be disappointed. 

However the thing that I really love about printed books is that even the most mundane novel can be transformed into a thing of beauty when given to someone with the right inspiration. You only have to type book art into google images to see the wealth of creations that have been made from or inspired by books. I'm sure artists will eventually find ways to make art with e-books, there is already plenty of digital art out there. What I don't believe is that it will ever be as beautiful or emotive as work such as the mysterious paper sculptures that have been left by an anonymous artist around Edinburgh. 

3. Some books just have to be, well books.
This last point is easily the most subjective, after all we have no idea what the future of e-books hold. However I am of the opinion that some digital editions can't elect the same emotion and excitement as their print equivalents, purely because their format or content would not transfer successfully. For me this is best illustrated by two books from my childhood.

We all have favourite books as a child, books that stay with us, which we'd buy for our children and grandchildren. My favourites are The Haunted House (Jan Pienkowski) and Trouble for Trumpets. (Peter Dallas-Smith, Illustrations by Peter Cross) While both these books carry fond memories it is more their format and content that means they just wouldn't work in a digital format.

The Haunted House is a delicate pop up book quite unlike the Spot and Ball picture books usually made for children. In fact my dad used to keep this one on a high shelf so being allowed to read it was an event which only made it even more special. It was dark and creepy and fun and it really wouldn't have worked as an e-book, even one with added content and special effects. 

The second is a beautifully book illustrated by Peter Cross (He later made the Harbottle greeting cards) It's very hard to get hold of nowadays but if you do come across a copy at a reasonable price - buy it. The plot is simple; good bear/hamster type animals versus evil bear/hamster type animals. But the pictures are beautiful and intricate, full of quirky little sub plots and incidents. Even better throughout the book there are a couple of dozen hidden faces for you to find, something you don't discover until the end. As a family we spent hours searching through the pages for those hidden faces. I just can't imagine my family huddling round a computer screen in the same way.

I suppose what I'm trying to show with this blog is that while e-books may represent the future of publishing, loving one doesn't necessarily mean you can't love the other. Printed and digital books fulfill different needs for different people and just like the record and the MP3 player can continue to exist in the same space. Yes, in the not to distant future one may be considered to be retro and quaint. But, hey, who doesn't like a bit of retro. 

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Flower Power (Read, Reuse, Recycle)

I've been recycling our withdrawn books again. In this case just the one book, aptly titled, Essence of Creativity. It's one of the many business books we've withdrawn recently and given the serendipity of the title I couldn't help but have a play. In case you are interested I used these instructions from Origami Fun.

Making the flowers was actually quite a challenge, the paper is good quality and so difficult to fold repeatedly. The smaller ones especially were difficult to form which is why some of them have fewer petals than others. It's easy to fold the 'petals' back on themselves to hide them if you find the full eight won't fit.

I'm pleased with the flowers themselves but not sure about the context of the photographs. I missed out on the good weather yesterday but when it improves I think I might experiment in a more natural environment. I also have some colourful flowers created from an old recipe book which I also need to come up with a context for. Initially I was thinking of using the library again but I think they need a more monotone environment to make them really stand out.

Response to CILIP E-Book Policy

I spent a very enjoyable hour yesterday eating lemon meringue ice cream while sitting in a field and reading CILIP's policy document on e-books and e-lending. Sometimes it's nice just to be outside in the sunshine and luckily I have plenty of fields to choose from.

I love the amount of press e-books are getting at the moment and the publishing of this document (two in fact, there are long and short versions) is a statement in itself that the subject is being taken seriously. However at the same time the policy  briefing (I read the full version) made me a bit cross. One page in and I started wishing I'd brought a red pen with me. However I'm going to be constructive, obviously CILIP has put the documentation out for comment for a reason.

I was disappointed that more wasn't made of the convergence of the academic and public  models. E-book delivery is developing rapidly. While it was once true that the academic models favored online reading and the public demanded downloads increasingly we are seeing hybrid systems that deliver both. Touched on briefly in the policy I believe that this convergence will eventually take us to a single model for all types of e-books regardless of sector. For current examples see Ebrary's Apps  and Overdrive's browser based READ Platform, both companies that while mainly associated with one sector/delivery method are increasingly working across both. 
In terms of the policy my point is that this convergence is happening now and while some aspects of academic and public e-lending will remain fundamentally different  the delivery platform will not. Increasingly suppliers are working with both academic and public sectors and it makes economic sense to develop platforms that can be used across both. Rather than looking back at what has always been done we need to make sure that we are looking  forward and paying attention to the cutting edge of e-book delivery. I don't believe the policy does this as it stands. 

As a user of Dawson Era I was also disappointed not to see it's purchase/subscription offer listed in the appendix. (Page 17, part 2) In fact I think more investigation needs to go into this list as it seems a bit incomplete. In terms of the Dawson model, books are purchased with a number of credits and each use (download or online) deducts a set amount of these credits. Once the credits run down to zero you have to buy another copy. While I'll admit to be being bias about Dawson Era I do believe that this credit system offers a more sustainable way of lending e-books for both libraries and the publisher/rights holder. It's more flexible than the 26 loans per copy license favored by some publishers and allows credit to be set individually for each book giving publishers a number of different options when it comes to setting prices.

In more general terms I agree with the policy and what it stands for. I have, as ever, my own comment on some subjects that I've outlined below but in general it provides a good overview of the current situation. It also outlines some developments I wasn't aware of, for example the EBLIDA e-book campaign. This in particular highlights that e-books are bigger than individual services, bigger really than individual countries. Their very nature means they have to be a global concern and as such need to be addressed at a global level. An EBLIDA campaign is a step towards this, as is the recent commitment from WLIC '12 that the IFLA will work together internationally on e-books. 

To round up my views on a few subjects without embarking on an essay:
  • The rapid advances in technology over the past few decade means that legislations, such as PLR, copyright and the 1964 Act are no longer fit purpose. Amendments must be made (and enforced!)  to protect rights holders and allow libraries to continue with their business. To achieve this the government will have to be part of the conversation, however........
  • short of creating a national depository of e-books there is little the government can bring to the table when it comes to finding a resolution between authors, publishers and libraries. You may say that I am naive but e-books are business, not politics. A solution must be determined by market forces and financial feasibility otherwise it won't be sustainable. 
  • While libraries may have to compromise on some issues I believe strongly that a charge for e-books is a charge for a core library service and is not acceptable. However I also understand that there is precedent for charging in public libraries, for example audio books. Hard pressed public libraries need new sources of income and while I don't condone charging I would rather see it for e-books than services such as internet access. Of course in academic libraries charging shouldn't even be considered as students are already paying for the resources in the form of tuition fees. 
  • Forcing patrons to physically visit libraries to borrow e-books is likely to be a deciding nail in the coffin for library e-book services. We might as well give up now. While there is precedent in some academic licenses the trend has been for libraries to move away from on site only access in favor of remote. Arguments of protecting footfall only demonstrates a blinkered and out dated view of what constitutes a library 'visit.' Ultimately there will be to many other, more convenient ways, to purchase or borrow e-books, either legally or illegally, that patrons will turn to if they are forced make a physical visit. I bought a Sony E-Reader because it allowed me to borrow books from my library. If I had to go to the library to do this I'd just buy a Kindle instead.
Lastly I would like to comment on something not raised in the policy but touched on in CILIP's Communities Information and Advice Blog. It raises the feasibility of regional, or even a single national, depositories of e-books for public library users. Although some might argue for a single system I can't help but think that we need a number of different ones to encourage innovative design and use. With library consortia already established across the country I would place my vote for regional catalogues of e-books, large enough to have significant spending power while still being able to tailor purchases to their communities. Many consortia are going down this route for their LMS and acquisition services so an extension to e-books would be natural.

To round up I'll say that the important bit is what comes next, how we use the policy and how we move forward. When it comes to future proofing our library services e-books are a big deal. What ever happens we need to make sure we get it right.

And in case anyone is interested the lemon meringue ice cream came from Fearnley's on Scout Road in Bolton. It's really very good if you are in the area.

Friday, 3 August 2012

23 Things - Signing Off

I've been posting updates to my original 23 Things blog entry as comments. I'd like to say they were regular but that wouldn't be entirely truthful.
I've reached a point where doing 23 Things as well as Chartership has become a real struggle. I've also found that I've already done many things on the list or intend to do them as part of my PPDP. With some, as in the case with Week 6, (organising) I have  found solutions which better suit my need, for example Skydrive.
For example:
Things I have already done some of:

Week 5 - (18th July) Online Networks / Real Life Networks
  • Thing 6: Online networks (LinkedIn, Facebook, LISNPN, LATNetwork, CILIP Communities) 
  • Thing 7: National/Regional groups, Special interest groups and looking outside the library sphere
Week 7 - (1st August) Librarianship training options 
  • Thing 10: Graduate traineeships, Masters degrees, Chartership, Accreditation
  • Thing 11: Mentoring
Week 11 - (29th August) Getting involved
  • Thing 15: Attending, presenting at and organising seminars, conferences and other events
  • Thing 16: Advocacy, speaking up for the profession and getting published.
Week 16 - (3rd October) Promoting yourself in job applications and at interview
  • Thing 21: How to identify your strengths, how to capitalise on your interests, how to write something eyecatching that meets job specs. 
  • Thing 22: Volunteering to get experience 

The only Thing left that I really have a great deal of interest/passion about is Thing 20 which explores a day in the life of a library. Maybe this is cheating, maybe I should invest the time to complete the 23 Things fully. However I feel that I have to focus myself on Chartership and use the limited time I have available to me to make progression with this. I am trying to do to much (not just in terms of my CPD - I am also training for a half marathon in September) 
Therefore I have decided to call a halt to my very slow progress with 23 Things. The exception with this will be that I will attempt over the next few weeks to do a diary entry for one day per week at work on the blog. I might even submit something to CILIP for Update depending on how it turns out.

So that's me signing off from 23 Things... Maybe see you again next year when I hopefully will be Chartered.