I'm an academic librarian, working in the UK Higher Educational sector, supporting academics and students. Prior to this, I was a researcher, working with social and learning technologies.
My interests include the application of emerging and traditional technologies, research support in libraries, learning spaces, evidence-based practice and the professional development of library and information workers.
You can find out more about more about me from the links to the left. Note that the views expressed on this website/blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other individual or organisation.
July 1st, 2011
Following up on my blog post last January, today I met with my local Conservative MP, Anna Soubry, to discuss public libraries. While the library cuts in Nottinghamshire have long ago been enshrined in policy, I still felt it was worth meeting with her to discuss public libraries in general, and the wider national picture. Here’s some of what we discussed:
Our local situation
Nottinghamshire have cut opening hours at many branches, and generally we were in agreement that their approach to cuts were not particularly strategic, and their solutions not particularly imaginative; i.e. reducing opening hours and cutting book budgets, rather than thinking about how best to serve their communities and looking at alternative revenue sources. MPs can only make recommendations to councils, but it’s good that she would encourage ours to take a different tack.
Changes to library services
As a trained lawyer, Anna was keen that volunteers did not replace professionals, so we were generally on the same page here. I also made her aware of some of the issues around charging for library services, and the (profession-wide) suspicion that charging for internet access or non-paper books (both have happened in local authorities) set a dangerous precedent which might eventually lead to charging for e-books, if not traditional book loans.
The national situation
Anna was quite interested in The modernisation review of public libraries, which I’ve found immensely informative. She did offer to raise a question about what happened to this report in parliament, but as Ed Vaizey seems to have ruled out implementing any of the ideas in the report, I suspect that there’s little that can be done. It’s a shame, because many of the recommendations in the report are small, but only seem implementable at a national scale.
As the Nottinghamshire Public Libraries service is not one where intervention on the grounds of the statutory duty seems appropriate, there’s not a huge amount to be done at this stage (apparently MPs are expected to only raise questions about issues that affect their own constituency) but it’s good to have made contact and raised awareness of the issues we’re facing, and I’d encourage others to do the same with their MP. I’ve urged Anna to get in touch with me if she has any questions, or would like further information on libraries in general, so I’m hoping there’ll be some follow-up.
February 7th, 2011
Read-in-ers at Beeston Library
I went down to my local library in Beeston this weekend with a couple of friends to participate in the read-in protest taking place, addressing the cuts to public libraries taking place in Nottinghamshire (we’ve been spared closures but book budgets and opening hours have been slashed).
There were several readings about books and libraries, organised by local independent publisher Five Leaves Publications, which were lovely, and a bigger crowd than I’ve ever seen packed in to the library. My only regret was that the services libraries provide other than books were given a back seat for the day, but I guess having a single clear message is a valuable stance for this kind of event.
Once the readings were over, we were encouraged to take away as many books as we could – I managed a paltry seven of my 24 book allowance, but couldn’t face carrying any more back to my house (we were on foot and it’s over a mile!) despite bringing my sturdiest librarian bag for the occasion.
I thought my haul was a great illustration of the diversity of public library stock: two fantasy novels, one collection of short stories, a travel guide for my summer holiday, a book on knitting, the music to the first season of Glee, and the graphic novel Tamara Drewe (on which the film was based) all of which I genuinely wanted to read. Hopefully I can carry them back in shifts!
There’s still plenty of opportunity to get involved if you weren’t able to attend a read-in or other protest last weekend: why not check out the CILIP guide to Save Our Libraries Day for ideas?
January 27th, 2011
This is a copy of a letter I sent to my Conservative MP Anna Soubry. I wanted to share as I think this is a crucial issue (yes, even though I’m not a public librarian myself!) The government cuts are harming so many of our national treasures, and the public library service is one very close to my heart.
Dear Anna Soubry,
I’m writing to you about the threats to public libraries in Nottinghamshire. Recent news has revealed some small changes to the massive cuts proposed to the library service: a 50% cut in the book budget rather than a 75% cut and some smaller libraries no longer reduced to an 8 hour week http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-nottinghamshire-12277741. For an educational service which supports exactly those people educational services usually fail, these small concessions are good news, but cold comfort given the extent of the cuts going ahead.
As a librarian myself, I work in the academic sector with students and academic staff. Before I decided to go and work in academic libraries, I’ll admit I hadn’t stepped in a public library for years, although I loved them as a child. But as I studied for my postgraduate qualification in librarianship, I learnt more about the services that libraries offer – reading groups, community events, vital internet access for those who can’t afford their own connection. I found my interest revitalised. I joined my public library again.
By the time I moved to Beeston this September I was a born again public library user: joining the local library and heading down to pick up my first armful of books made me feel like I was truly a part of the community. I’ll be joining that community in our library in Beeston on the 5th February, at just one of a number of read-ins taking place across the country demonstrating the value of library services to the communities they serve.
If you’re wondering exactly what you, as an MP, can do, I’m sure you’ve been contacted by CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, with their guidelines on the questions MPs should ask about local library cuts and closures. In case it fell by the wayside, they’re available at http://www.cilip.org.uk/get-involved/advocacy/public-libraries/Pages/goodlibraries.aspx – they’re well worth reading.
PS. I’m posting this on my personal library blog at www.chuukaku.com/blog as I think it’s important for this issue to gain as much exposure as possible. Please do let me know if you would like me to share any response in that forum.