Thursday, 13 January 2011

Diversity, activism and Googlopoly... #libnews digest number 2

This week stories on diversity in libraries, activism against cuts, and the British Library go mobile...


I thought I'd take a look at some of the stories of diverse activities going on in libraries that have been in the press this week. It's a stark counterpoint to the doom and gloom to think about just how many groups are catered for. The first is about council information services being offered from libraries. Library staff are well used to helping people to use information - I like this story because it shows how libraries can actually save councils a bit of money whilst retaining services. This example from Worcester of information for working families demonstrates how libraries help the economy - providing the support for people to balance work and family life is especially important in these times! And libraries are not just diverse in terms of the services they offer but also in how they're delivered. The Ask A Librarian online enquiry service is a fantastic example of this, but I'm not sure public libraries get the credit they deserve for this kind of service. Why phone 118 or use that new text a question service when there's this for free? And speaking of "free", there's a great piece on Comment Is Free this week by John Harris about the range of stuff that goes on in libraries and how taking them away will affect communities. Encouraging creativity and expression are other ways that libraries offer something for everyone, for example songwriting clubs and encouraging writers of fiction. Maybe this explains why writers are so keen to help save libraries. Which leads me nicely on to...


There's some sterling activism being done to prevent cuts by groups like Voices For The Library and Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries (who have collected an amazing 10,000 signature petition!). Public Libraries News is gaining publicity with important work to map library closures. But also people from outside the library profession are getting involved. A number of authors have spoken out against cuts, for example Philip Pullman and Colin Dexter in Oxfordshire are raising arguments about the importance of reading in our society and the role that libraries play in that. North Yorkshire author Mike Pannett asks questions about councillors salaries with relation to where the cuts should be made. I think most telling stories for me though were about people like Julian Fellows and Peter Hitchens adding their voice in support of libraries. I personally cannot abide Peter Hitchens but I think it's very revealing when even tory peer's and Mail On Sunday authors can see that these cuts are wrong! And it's not just writers... even Coronation Street actors are getting in on the act. For every library cut there seems to be a library campaign. So perhaps this weeks news digest is a positive one? I'll close this bit with this campaign in Stony Stratford to clean the library out of books. I think this is a great way to show the depth of community support from real people for libraries.


Finally this week, a couple of very different digitisation stories caught my eye. Firstly, the British Library have gone mobile with their "Treasures" app for iPhone and Android. This make some of their digitisation projects (like Beowulf, Jane Austen or original Beatles lyrics) available on your mobile. I might even be tempted to shell out some cash to buy this app!

On the flip side, this story in the Guardian raises concerns about Google's seemingly growing monopoly on digitising our cultural heritage. "Can Europe afford to be inactive and wait, or leave it to one or more private players to digitise our common cultural heritage? Our answer is a resounding 'no',". Hmm. That's all for now.

1 comment:

  1. Can I point out that the UK has a population of just under 62 million (young and old everyone uses the library), and prior to the cuts 4500 libraries. The Conservatives are happy to see a quarter of those closed. That by no means is a strategy for culture, knowledge and information.

    China's national library is actually undertaking the scanning of its book collection. I've long maintained that the libraries should do any book scanning to be done.