Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Lobby for Libraries - My MP's response

Having sent my email to my MP (see previous post), I was initially pleased to find a response in my inbox only a few hours later, however upon reading it I realised that it hadn't been sent from my MP, but someone else who I can only assume works for her, and the response was not exactly what I had hoped.

Thank you for writing to (name of MP) regarding the provision of libraries in the country. Libraries are a matter for local Councils and here in Cornwall - Cornwall Council.

Cornwall Council have been very innovative in their work with libraries including integrating libraries and one stop shops and strong use of volunteers. Cornwall Library service is committed to ensuring that provision is sustainable and meets the needs of customers in the County.

Cornwall Council did give a presentation to the Committee in Parliament of the work they have carried out. The report is available on the Parliament website:

With regard to the EDM Sheryll is keen to at least see some reform to the current EDM system which is currently incredibly costly to the taxpayer and very ineffectual. Like many MPs Sheryll does not sign any EDMs.

“there is very little prospect of EDMs being debated” Source: Parliament website

The costs associated with early day motions in financial year 2009/2010 were approximately £1,000,000. Most of this cost was accounted for by the printing and publication of early day motions, amendments to them, and names added to them, under the House's contract with TSO. This is the direct cost and does not include the cost to the taxpayer of MPs staff time dealing with the lobbying.

Money which I am sure you would agree would be better spent on Libraries, amongst other things.

I hope this explains the position.

To say I am disappointed is a little bit understated really.  I have never in my life written to any MP and naively believed that they were there to listen to their constituents.  The response quite neatly places the issue of libraries at the door of my council (of course I am aware that Cornwall Council is responsible for libraries - my email quite clearly stated that I am a regular user of them as well as being a professional member of CILIP).  My request to support the Early Day Motion was quite neatly sidestepped into a whole other political issue and I disagree about my council being innovative in their use of libraries, especially their use of volunteers; a use which I pointed out in my email meant that the next generation of library users will miss out on people who are 'professional, independent information brokers who can also deputise as therapist, counsellor, play leader, teacher and friend'.

Very disappointed with my MP and her office and I will be looking closely at the report which Cornwall Libraries made to Parliament.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Lobby for Libraries - 13th March 2012

Since I cannot attend the Parliamentary Lobby for Libraries on 13th March, I was inspired by Bethanar's letter to her MP which she added to her blog last week.  Subsequently I have just e-mailed the following to my MP:

You may or may not be aware that on Tuesday 13th March, the coalition organisation  'Speak Up For Libraries’ has organised a Parliamentary lobby and rally. Following Ed Vaizey’s evidence session to the select committee inquiry into library closures, a rally will then take place from 12.00 noon at Central Hall with the lobby of Parliament beginning at 2.30pm.  As I am unable to participate in this event, I am writing to ask you to sign Early Day motion 2817, Speak Up For Libraries.  The Speak Up for Libraries’ organisation comprises the Women’s Institute, Unison, Campaign for the Book, Chartered Institute of Information Professionals (of which I am a member) and Voices for the Library, all of whom believe wholeheartedly believe that libraries are at the very heart of our communities, including schools.

As a professionally qualified Librarian, living in Liskeard and working in a secondary school in Plymouth, I cannot express enough my anger and disappointment over the proposed plans to close up to 400 libraries across the country.  This will deprive people of an essential resource which offers them free access to the rich world of fiction transporting them to places which some can only dream about, non-fiction to help them solve any problem they may encounter (as Will Smith says in his video ‘The Key to Life is Running and Reading’, there have been millions of people who have lived before us and there is not a single problem that cannot be solved by reading a book) and Internet access to reach dozens of support services including local government, NHS Direct and Citizens Advice Bureau (a third of UK homes do not have access to the Internet).  In addition hundreds of library staff will be made redundant who will then be in no position to act as professional, independent information brokers who can also deputise as therapist, counsellor, play leader, teacher and friend.  As an example, the Mayor of a northern council has only last week refused to accept a majority vote by his councillors to halt the closure of 14 libraries, instead choosing to hand them over to volunteers.  As a mother of a five year old girl, I love our trips to Liskeard Library and I despair of the argument made recently by a councillor in a south east county who suggested that libraries were no longer needed as books are now so cheap.  My initial response to that is that they don’t come any cheaper than free at your local public or school library and even from the point of view of a comfortably financial family (and yes, I know how lucky we are), I still view free books available at my local library as an heaven sent opportunity.
And it is not only public libraries which are under threat.  School libraries are closing across the countries, book stock dispersed to departments and dedicated library staff made redundant, therefore depriving students of a neutral, non-judgmental information service because that is what a librarian is; not a book stamper. During a two week period, the library at the school where I work, issued no less than 825 books!  This is an incredible amount in a secondary school which serves an area in which some of the lowest socio-economic families live.  However the Principal is a firm advocacy of the school library, setting aside appropriate levels of funding each year to ensure students have unfettered access to a wide range of fiction books so as to inculcate a reading for pleasure culture, extensive range of non-fiction books, PCs with Internet access and DVDs with Ipads and Kindles to both educate and entertain as well as professional library staff to advise, guide, share, teach and laugh.  I always allow myself a wry smile when I consider the fact that prison libraries are statutory whereas school libraries are not.

Libraries should be at the heart of our communities, but the government is allowing this heart to be ripped out.  Please sign the Early Day motion 2817, Speak Up For Libraries and pledge your support in Parliament for libraries both in Cornwall and throughout the country.
Please support Lobby for Libraries anyway you can: http://www.speakupforlibraries.org/

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Who else is out there?

I have given this blog the rather strange title of 'who else is out there', simply because this is how I often feel.  Working in a school and being the only professional librarian there means I have become rather an insular figure in the world of libraries as inevitably I have become more focused on the world of education than libraries.  That is not to say I am aware of the very well known fight across the country to save our public libraries and I 'follow' many of the 'leaders' of this crusade on Twitter as well as keeping up to date with Voices for the Library, but my understanding of the work of libraries in other sectors had been out of date and considering that the fourth criteria for Chartership is to show that you have ''a breadth of professional knowledge and understanding of the wider professional context'' page 11 in Building Your Postfolio; the CILIP Guide, this was an area I looked to develop.

Over the past few months, I have been drawn into the merger of the three CILIP branch groups in the southwest; CILIP SW, and the Career Development branches of Cornwall and Devon and the Westcountry as a result of attending a library meet up, arranged via Twitter.  As a result my links with other professionals took a huge leap forward as the person who had arranged the meet up is now my mentor (see a previous blog post for details of why I had to change my mentor) and the previous chair of Devon & Cornwall CDG, the Information Services Librarian for Plymouth Libraries with whom I am meeting in a few weeks, librarians from the two local Higher Education Institutions and a Library Manager from Cornwall.  As a result of this meet up, I found myself a committee member of the new group piloting the merger of the previous three south west CILIP groups.

The new group mission was published in October 2011 and stated that the aim was to have a more cohesive group so that members would have access to CPD and have their say in how the group should be run.  My initial concern was that the group will cover a large area which may mean that some people may begin to feel a little isolated from the main three towns of the area, Exeter, Bristol and Bournemouth.  As I am based in Plymouth, the three main town aspectm made my raise my eyebrows and I acknowledge another member's plaint that even Exeter is a long way from deepest Cornwall.  However there will always be some form of travel incurred for most CPD and getting to Exeter is ok for me.  I applaud the sub sections of Goal 2, especially the idea of a conference for the region (getting everybody under one roof for a day is always a good idea), relevant and affordable courses and and opportunities to visit other libraries in the region.  The other main contribution for members would be Chartership support  including preparing for chartership and portfolio building courses etc.  I also applauded the point of being able to communicate using new technologies as much of my personal CPD is now done via Twitter with even email obselete when you can send someone a direct message on Twitter to arrange a meeting as I have recently done.

As a result, I received an invitiation to the first committee meeting of the new group on 15th February which unfortunately meant I couldn't attend as it was half term and I was away! Once again the downside of being quite isolated within the educational sector as I don't know if school holidays were taken into consideration and indeed it was interesting to note that some of the other school staff on the committee also sent their apologies.  However I received the minutes and was particularly interested to find that several librarians I follow on Twitter are also committee members; one of the things you can protect on Twitter is your location so I was pleased to find that I already 'knew' other people which made me feel less isolated.  The mission statement was discussed as was the need for a regional group as CILIP HQ can be quite remote sometimes; it must be difficult for any body representing all of the UK to be everywhere at once and I was pleased to see that the need to support and network with general members was highlighted as was a move to see how the special interest groups in the southwest could be supported as well.  Then other element I was pleased to read was the events update.  It can be hard to get out of schools sometime - issues of cover etc, but I am definitely going to try for the Library Camp at Exeter and the AGM, also at Exeter and the chance to hear Phil Bradley hopefully!

The lobby for Parliament on the 13th March was mentioned under AOB and members urged to support this.  The aim is to get as many people as possible lobbying their MP under the right to meet with your MP as one of their constituents and to explain how you personally are being affected by the cuts in library services, informing them of what is happening to libraries in your area and how their constituents are being affected and to take your concerns to the Government. The lobby is being organised by the coalition organisation 'Speak Up for Libraries' including UKpling, CILIP, WI, Campaign for the Book and Unison.  There will also be a rally showing the many 'faces' of the library which will take place after Ed Vaizey gives evidence to the select committee on library closures.

All in all, I now feel slightly less isolated then before.

Friday, 2 March 2012

The Big Book Review

We recently ran a book blogging competition at my school, using My Big Campus (an online environment offered by Lightspeed Systems) which offers blogging facilities, chat, groups, messaging, assignment setting and which has been in use here for about a year now and has come to replace our VLE.  The initial premise was to encourage students to read, but report on their favourite (or not so favourite reads) using Web 2.0 technology which is a big focus across the school.  All students at Key Stage 3 and 4 were made members of the Big Book review which meant that everytime additions were made to the blogs or discussions and responses made, EVERY student in the school received an email alert making it a truly whole school venture. The prize was a massive £150 cash, donated by the Principal, with the idea that we wanted a big impact! with six highly commendeds receiving book vouchers.  The winner was judged on the following:
  1. The quality of the blog content
  2. The discussions are open to other My Big Campus members around the world and the number of positive comments each discussion receives will be taken into consideration
  3. Grammar and punctuation
All entrants had to submit a minimum of three blog entries, but these could be all based on the same book, but focusing on different chapters for instance as as the last thing we wanted was to put off those students who may read at a slower pace.  The competition was launched on 23rd January with the winner being announced yesterday, World Book Day.  To add a national and international feel, our Learning Technology Manager promoted the Big Book Review as part of the Lightspeed stand at Bett 2012, encouraging other school users of My Big Campus in Britain and the USA to also comment and exchange views on the book blogs as well.

Improving literacy and promoting whole school reading is a continuous process here at the school, but one which can now be combined with our other focus, that of engaging students' learning using Web 2.0.  We plan to run another Big Book Review, offering separate cash prizes at Key Stage 3, 4 and 5.  I am so proud of all students who participated; not only those who actually blogged, but to all those who posted discussions and responses to the original blogs as well.