Tag Archives: Books

Whither libraries?

Too old, too big…too little used?

Article update: 28.10.2017  – A really sound article on the utility of libraries by Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett –  No one needs libraries any more? What rubbish  from The Guardian of Thursday, 26th October, 2017.

In it Cosslet takes to task the political pundit Andre Walker, for his omnipotent vision of the library service in the UK. Namely that no-one visits them anymore and they should all be closed down and the books given to schools.

Is there something Presidential in this decimation of the library service by Twitter?

Rhiannon goes on to thread her story with her use of the public library when young – developing intellectual curiosity, cultural awareness, knowledge of the world and taking up the rich opportunity public libraries offer to graze the landscape of the word, six books at a  time.

We recommend the article to our readers.


Original text: In the Spring of 2015 the Adam Smith Institute published an article entitled ‘The End of Local Authority Libraries‘. As the economic ice age of Osbornian austerity descended upon us, the Press was full of cultural turbulence about the closure and operational rigidity of our national literacy assets.

Although the general  Press attention has diminished, it is telling that the dilution of the library service has continued unabated, albeit with increasingly diminished media currency, as we have been further overwhelmed by matters of political moment in and about Europe, perhaps.

View, print or download the full report here…pdf

Central government, arguably, remains enthusiastic and espouses a positive vison for the library service. The recent report Libraries Deliver: Ambition for Public Libraries in England 2016-2021 from the Libraries Taskforce, is almost entirely upbeat about the half decade ahead. They offer a vision of a multiplicity of supported delivery systems for a local library in section 6.3 of the report.

The website Public Libraries News, in July, declared that now ‘there are at least five hundred libraries that are staffed, if not entirely run by volunteers’. On the one hand, this is a sign, we would argue, that there is profound suport for the local library at grassroots level. But it is also a sign, looking at the plethora of continual changes and negative reviews of library services across the country on the website, that there is no clear, effective and equally profound form of new governance emerging for libraries.

One that, at once taps into localism, yet satisfies the need for an eclectic and near universal access to knowledge and leisure, free at the point of delivery for those who need it most.

The trade union Unison are to hold a National SOS Day on the 19th of October, 2017. Save our Services is designed to show that ‘...libraries are a hub and a haven in our communities. They offer a place for people to work, relax, discover and think.They are a source of local knowledge and history and give everyone access to books, DVDs, music and more, for free or at a very low cost.

But libraries also do a lot more than lend books. Many hold events, anything from story time for children to yoga classes for adults. Library workers help people look for work, advise on using IT, organise talks by authors and so much more‘.

Source: https://www.unison.org.uk/blogs/2017/08/sos-day-17/

The debate, then, continues to have currency. The Adam Smith Institute argued, in its article by Eamonn Butler, that the free market was the solution to the ‘library deficit’ issue, as to be expected. That exemplars of library innovation, in the shape of American organisations such as Library Systems and Services, were to be the saviours of a moribund library market.

However, research shows that the accession of LSSI to the pinnacle of library stewardship has not been entirely successful in the USA. An earlier article in the New York Times shows how both library staff and users, even in the more affluent cities where LSSI has obtained contracts, have been happy to lead protests. Dissenting voices to the ending of  unionised services, diminution of book stocks and antagonism towards the ethics of ‘libraries for profit’.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/27/business/27libraries.html

The City Library, Birmingham

The Butler argument, from the Adam Smith Institute, saw the then new Birmingham City Library building as an example of ossification of service. The £188 million building began to operate on a ‘self-funded’ basis for events, for example, in the context of author events or arts activity. Both previously seen as draws to footfall for the library service. Indeed key activities in a wider cultural obligation for libraries, we would argue.

However, debate about the capital cost of a building in austere times is one thing, but the Institute author’s position somewhat fails to recognise that it is free market policies which have led to the very fiscal landscape that has so diminished the library service.

If a library is battered by exogenous fiscal policy upheaval, it is somewhat unfair to blame the librarian for lack of service, or diversity in activity, surely?

Is there hope for change? We think so.

We were pleased to see that there is widening acceptance by Councils that the community should have control of libraries as a community resource. At the beginning of August, for example, Derby City Council declared for the cessation of control of ten libraries, which will see ‘…the loss of at least 39 library assistants’ jobs and two library managers, of almost 100 staff who work for the authority. Community groups will get £17,500 a year each to fund their own managed libraries until 2022…’

Source: http://www.derbytelegraph.co.uk/news/derby-news/attempt-stop-biggest-ever-shake-265614

What is concerning, in this case, is the timetable and the level of grant in aid ceded to the community organisations in the City, to effectively manage the transfer and creation of a new community organisation to deliver the service.

More positively again, Bury Council this month have approved a new community asset transfer plan. ‘The new policy means applications from groups to buy community assets from the council will be considered against ‘key tests’ designed to ensure a deal which is best for the council and residents‘. The landscape of community opportunity grows!

Source: http://www.thisislancashire.co.uk/news/15439093.New_policy_hopes_to_make_it_easier_for_groups_to_take_ownership_of_council_buildings/

However, it is entirely possible, we would argue, to imagine the creation of community libraries as Social Enterprises, where the not for profit governance model delivers a mix of volunteer and employee led services, bolstered by an admixture of social business services to support and maintain the core library provision.

A community cafe, a learning centre, a gardening or horticultural project…the list could easily be imaginatively extended by a dynamic, active community. The whole focused upon the creation of ‘…a place for people to work, relax, discover and think‘, to remind us of the Unison observation.

If the trade union are having an SOS Day, why do we not start a new think-tank movement, LASER – Libraries as Social Enterprise Renewal.

Write to conversationsEAST if you are interested in social enterprise, passionate about libraries and learning and keen to develop governance-sound, community led, not for profit library buildings.

We’ll publish a web site, host a meeting and give the idea traction?


Additional narrative – 20.08.2017

Read more here…

We have just come across a recent article in Wired by Susan Crawford, where she argues for a resurgence in phiilanthropy to revitalise the library service.

In the text, in response to a recent tweet by Jeff Bezos asking for suggestions about a new shape for his giving, she argues for an Amazon/Bezos programme of giving to libraries.

Developing Jeff Bezos’s current long term view of his ‘social investments’ towards, arguably, a philanthropic delivery that would cater for the short and the long term. Mr. Bezos describes his search for a new intitiative ‘…to help people in the here and now’. Our new library programme, as described, would do that, but also cater for the long term too.

Namely a series of Amazon Memorial Libraries, or Bezos Community Cultural Centres, would benefit the communities they were placed in, but they would also create new readers and enhance human capital in the hinterland of their sites, as well as delivering a major philosophical boost to the image of Amazon as a socially beneficial company.

You can read Susan Crawford’s piece on the pages of Wired here.

We understand Jeff Bezos reads every email sent directly to him. We’ll write to Mr. Bezos and make a suggestion supporting a new philanthropic venture into the British library landscape, and explore the models that might be created.

We would argue that history has been kind to the Carnegie model of library establishment, why should not future generations look as kindly upon Jeff Bezos?

Watch this space for an update, even if we don’t get a reply!


Useful links to accompany this article:

Library over-watch!

http://www.publiclibrariesnews.com/

Use it or lose it! – The Guardian

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/aug/16/library-use-in-england-fell-dramatically-over-last-decade-figures-show

City Library Birmingham: Image by Gareth Williams - Creative Commons

Send to Kindle

British Art at Yale – a discovery…

Following on from our recent article on book binding in Barcelona, we seem unable to escape our thematic journey on-line towards the bound artefact.

As booksellers and literacy project specialists we are especially interested in the concept of the book as a seasonal highlight, as to be expected at this time of year. The conversationsEast team were very pleased to see book-binding as part of the programme of the recent Chelmsford Ideas Festival for instance.

This month we were pleased to discover the web pages of the refreshed and rebuilt Yale Center for British Art. Remarkable in that such a concentration of artefacts, academic depth and insight into our native art history should exist in Chapel Street, New Haven, Connecticut.

The opening lecture for the Centre, post-renovation, was Artistic Bookbinding in the Twenty-First Century, delivered by the American book historian and conservator James Reid-Cunningham. See more below…

The lecture, The Poet of Them All, concentrates on a remarkable collection of Shakespeare editions in miniature from the holdings of the Yale Centre and in concert with collectors Neale and Margaret Albert.

The richness, skill and indeed, even fun, of such collections is beautifully captured in the Reid-Cunningham lecture. The expressive art and craft skill of the binder in the twenty first century is also visually well expressed in the discourse. In an age of electronics it is sometimes easy to forget the power, even magic, generated by the carefully crafted, masterfully bound book. Whatever its size.

There is much to enjoy across the whole of the Yale Center for British Art. Research at the Yale Center benefits from concurrent funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, encouraging a wide programme of lectures, study and talks to disseminate the findings of the Center. As you would expect from such a world centre of excellence.

We particularly liked the Center’s new education programme Visual Literacy: Rethinking the Role of the Arts in Education. Using the great visual resources the Center holds to create interest in and higher utility in reading. Art becomes the book, becomes the writer!

See the trailer for the work below…

Visual Literacy: Rethinking the Role of Arts in Education from cyra levenson on Vimeo.

Giving  books is a great idea over the festive holidays, getting the family into an art gallery or museum is even better. We visited Seven Stories in Newcastle earlier in 2016, so we know you can achieve the same ‘Yale’ effect without a visit to Connecticut.

Unless you travel on-line that is? Happy Christmas to our readers.

Article sign off image

Send to Kindle

The automatic librarian…

Our small journal produces a lot of data. We generate twitter feeds, meta-tags and article categories…on and on. Does it have a use?

One thing we do at conversationsEAST every month is to run our Twitter generated content through a Knight Lab application called BookRX. (Part of the conversationsEAST team day job is to be booksellers and publishers, so the findings can be used to plan thematic content for our literacy projects, for example…Ed).

For our journal it can serve the same function, offering insights into subjects that can be useful as leaders to content ideas, or to see if the profile of our readers is on the trend we believe we are following.

BookRX works like this…

it analyzes your tweets (the words, Twitter usernames, and hashtags you use) and compares them to terms that are correlated with book categories.

… it is a book recommendation app at heart. The results can be interesting. We publish below this months analysis of our journal Twitter feed. We have featured the lead book in three categories; Science and Technology, Politics and Social Sciences and Business.

The Mobile Wave - are we immersed already?
The Mobile Wave – are we immersed already?

‘In the tradition of international best-sellers, Future Shock and Megatrends, Michael J. Saylor, CEO of MicroStrategy, brings The Mobile Wave, a ground-breaking analysis of the impact of mobile intelligence-the fifth wave of computer technology.

The Mobile Wave argues that the changes brought by mobile computing are so big and widespread that it’s impossible for us to see it all, even though we are all immersed in it’.

The Mobile Wave by Michael Saylor  You can buy this book from Amazon.co.uk here

 

 

Panarchy cover imageThe book examines theories (models) of how systems (those of humans, nature, and combined human natural systems) function, and attempts to understand those theories and how they can help researchers develop effective institutions and policies for environmental management.

The fundamental question this book asks is whether or not it is possible to get beyond seeing environment as a sub-component of social systems, and society as a sub-component of ecological systems, that is, to understand human-environment interactions as their own unique system

Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems by Lance H. Gunderson (Editor), C. S. Holling (Editor)  Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk here

Just Listen cover image‘The first make-or-break step in persuading anyone to do any thing is getting them to hear you out. Whether the person is a harried colleague, a stressed-out client, or an insecure spouse, things will go from bad to worse if you can’t break through emotional barricades.

Drawing on his experience as a psychiatrist, business consultant, and coach, and backed by the latest scientific research, author Mark Goulston shares simple but power ful techniques readers can use to really get through to people—whether they’re coworkers, friends, strangers, or enemies’.

Getting through is a fine art but a critical one.

Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone by Mark Goulston M.D. (Author), Keith Ferrazzi (Foreword). Buy this book from Amazon.co.uk

Did BookRX get the feel of our readership right? The acid test for us is does the machine generated selection have an appropriate ‘RSA feel’ to it? We think it does, providing sources that are appropriately defined through the prism of our journal content.

The app also generates selections for sports and fitness, as well as a fiction list. These are a little more difficult to empathise with, although we may publish future lists as book recommendations of regular interest for Fellows, particularly as the volume of our Twitter traffic grows.

One charitable application for the technology, we can think of, is to use the Knight Lab service to generate book lists for on-line sale as a fund-raising initiative. Taking the guess work out of list building for your audience?

Editors Note:

BookRx was created by Shawn O’Banion and Larry Birnbaum and designed by Jeremy Gilbert and Sarah Adler at Northwestern University’s Knight Lab, with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the National Science Foundation

Northwestern University Knight Lab advances news media innovation and education. Developing ideas from experimentation through adoption, the Lab makes technology that aims to help make information meaningful and promotes quality storytelling on the Internet.

cropped-conversationsEASTbanner2.jpg

 

Send to Kindle