Thursday, 5 April 2012

Public Libraries

Following on from my last blog post, I visited my local Central Library, meeting up with some ex work colleagues from my distant days when I worked for the public library service.  While it was just great to talk about libraries for a few hours (I do feel very alone sometimes being a solo professional librarian in my workplace), I also gained a great insight into how public libraries are transforming their services so as to cater for the technological age, whilst still maintaining their core function, that of lending books which I am so pleased about.  I am writing this blog post during the first week of the Easter holidays; a week in which I have read picture books to my daughter on our Ipad, downloaded e-books onto my Kindle, searched the Internet countless times every day, read the Times every day on the Times app AND visited my local library, borrowing eight books for the family which is a sure sign that libraries and technology can co-exist quite happily.  However, I digress.....

Once we had discussed the current national situation re public libraries, we moved onto to e-resources, looking at the Cyberlibrary (access to hundreds of websites  chosen by librarians and libraries across the south west) and then specifically the online reference tools, available with your library card.  Having agreed to disagree on my personal bugbear, that of schools not being able to have an institution library account to access the online reference information; I acknowledge why footfall is important, especially in the current climate for public libraries, whilst she concedes that she can see how hard it is to encourage students to individually use their public library, we move onto to discussing the migration of many printed sources into e-format.  We mention Encyclopedia Britannica and how it stands up against Wikipedia; both of us are continuing with Britannica for another year to ascertain use before making a decision to continue subscribing.  I am shown unique sources such as the Oxford Digital Reference Shelf including the OE of British Literature, Children's Literature, Maritime History and Theatre and Performance which can be accessed alongside Theory Test Pro, Find My Past and Ancestry Library Edition; the last two being very well used indeed.  My understanding on Ask a Librarian is updated to learn about the Enquire Service; a national service with central libraries across the country each having 4 shifts of 4 hours each every fortnight with online access through the Enquire Qwidget.

Our discussion moved onto ebooks with the public library service here yet to take the final leap re ebooks.  We looked at a neighbouring service's e-book provision with Overdrive and discussed such difficulties as Overdrive not being compatible with Kindle in the UK, and vagaries of publishers such as Harper Collins (26 loans per e-book)and Penguin not allowing any of their e-titles to be purchased by libraries.  My colleague also mentioned a particular missapprehension amongst library users in that they do not realise that a e-book cannot be loaned to two people at once, just like the printed version.  I am going to focus on e-books in more depth in a later blog post, reflecting on the work of librarians such as Nicola McNee (trialling Overdrive in her school library) and Buffy Hamilton's work with Kindles and Nooks in the US and tying into my own initial trials and experiences with e-books. 

We finished the visit with a tour around the Central Library which was of immense interest to me who had worked there for five years before.  I loved the redesign of the Reference Library (still a PATLIB) to include the PCs and quiet reading room adjacent to the Map room, but it was the Lending Library with its reading room, new Children's library, self issue facilities and Enquire pods which made me quite wistful.  I also loved the brand new meeting room (which was once the Local Studies Stack).  As we looked around, I was also interested to hear about the staffing restructure of the previous year which saw all Library Customer Service Assistants (?) having to reapply for their posts and a new initiative in that front line staff in the Central Library moved around the building, gaining valuable experience in both lending and reference services; a move which I applaud as I well remember my difficulties in gaining experience outside of the lending library.  An even more recent restructure has seen the public library service move under the auspices of Leisure and Tourism within the council.

I already follow the Library Service on Twitter and Flickr and look forward to hearing how it continues to develop and enhance its provision in the 21st century.  It will also be interesting to see how the public library service can complement and enhance the service offered by the school LRC.

Getting out of the LRC

Over the past few weeks I have had two opportunities to get out of the LRC and as there may be some people in my college who will say 'but you are never in there', perhaps I should have entitled it 'Getting out of school'.  However as this blog was set up primarily to follow my chartership which after all is about my professional development as a see the link I hope. Having said that, it is hard to get out of school full stop and because of your daily commitments to students, it should be hard as they are the reason we have a job.  However I have found it harder to get out for reasons relating to my chartership.  Despite having a supportive Vice Principal as my line manager who has positively encouraged my chartership, being a solo professional librarian in the college has its drawbacks as I have found it quite difficult in particular to justify visits to other library organisations.  Perhaps I should explain where this has come from.

A few weeks ago, I met up with my mentor (my mentor now lives in London on a full time basis, so meetings between us only take place when she is down here on a visit home, with most of the mentor/mentee relationship taking place via e-mail and Twitter).  When I met with my mentor back at Christmas, I was tasked with the next step of pulling together 4/5 bits of evidence to support each of the four criteria (see a previous blog post).  Criteria 1-3 proved relatively straightforward - I had plenty of evidence to show (1) organisational and service evaluation, (2) training and professional development and (3) project management.  I knew before I met up with my mentor that it would be critera number 4 where my issues would lie, hence the title of my blog.

My mentor acknowledged my growing (albeit at a very slow pace) participation with the new CILIP SW group (see previous post) and the evidence demonstrating my understanding of national issues relating to libraries (see a previous post for an email sent to my MP on Library Lobby Day) and suggested that I also reflect on some of the ideas and information gained as a result of following particular blogs, using the example of Bethanar's blog which recently encouraged me to write to my MP and some of the CILIP Communities Blogs (I am now a CILIP blogger as well).  However, she was not so sure about whether the work I do with Careers SW (formerly Connexions) on delivering information, advice and guidance would come under this critera (I argued it on the basis that there are many librarians employed in Career Libraries etc).  As a result, she was quick to encourage me to begin to make further links with libraries in other sectors, suggesting the corporate or legal sector as something completely different and introducing me to a librarian in this area, @tinamreynolds, with whom I am hoping to make some links with soon and when I tentatively broached the subject of it being difficult to get out of school, my mentor suggested that a transcript of a telephone conversation would work just as well as evidence.  

All in all a productive meeting (yet again) with my mentor, although I do find it hard to maintain the momentum and enthusiam I always feel after meeting with her.  Michael  Martin of Michael's Quals Blog recently said ( on 26th March) that there were no excuses when it came to chartering.  My response was that it is so hard when you are a solo librarian, to which Michael replied that we have to remember that "as well as benefiting our employers, reflecting well on our profession, we're doing this for ourselves"  I think I need to remember this more, especially as my mentor has set a deadline date of the 31st August for submission.