Philistines of Croydon

Tim Coates, Britain’s Prime Minister in waiting, will not be surprised to know of this story. My stepdaughter has finished her degree and after a well-earned (self-funded) holiday in Thailand, this week moved to London to look for a job. She’s living in a friend’s flat in Croydon and will be temping while she applies for next year’s round of graduate schemes in her chosen profession. In order to carry out her research for this process, she would like to join her local library. But she can’t get a library card. While she was a student, her official address was ours, because she moved so often that it was safer for her mail to come to our house and for us to redirect it. Hence, she can join Kingston upon Thames library, but that is not near where she now lives. Similarly, she can join the nearest library to Hay on Wye, where her mother lives — but that isn’t a stop on the Northern line. If she were to have utility or local tax bills at her current abode, she could get a library card. But she’s only staying there temporarily until she gains employment and can buy or rent her own place. So she’s stuck.

No wonder the library system is running down and out of users, when it is made so difficult for anyone to join. I would gladly pay the Croydon library a security deposit to the amount they think reasonable in order for Eleanor to have a library card. But their system does not work like that. It is hard enough for young people to live independently and to gain employment these days. Why on Earth are things made needlessly more difficult for them by the very organisations that exist to promote learning and literature, and that should be one of the beacons of any civilised society?

Are there any other views on Public Libraries?

Link: info NeoGnostic: Are there any other views on Public Libraries?.

From Chris Armstrong’s post: "Most readers of iNG will be aware of concerns voiced here in the past about what is happening (or not) to public libraries in the UK. Those same readers cannot fail to be aware of the continuing onslaught from Tim Coates in The Good Library Blog on any body which has any responsibility for public libraries: from CILIP to MLA; from Demos to the (now closing) Laser Foundation.

Now, we have Richard Wallis of library systems producer, Talis weighing in with a reasoned analysis of the state of play so far." [links provided in iNG blog post linked above.]

Chris concludes: "Talis are very committed to libraries (obviously!)… I wonder if that extends to hosting a forum of the great and the good – professional bodies, government, MLA, and the concerned – to work out a way forward that will benefit the public and their libraries?" Good question.

Inter-library loan, new style

The National Research Council Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information and MyiLibrary, the e-book aggregator owned by Ingram Digital Group, have formed a partnership to launch a new service called eBook Loans. The service provides an interlibrary loans model for academic e-books, and includes electronic books from scholarly publishers including Elsevier, Taylor & Francis, Blackwell and Springer.

According to the various press releases, each e-book loan will cost US$25, payable online using a credit card. Users will be given 30 days access to an e-book through a URL received in an e-mail immediately after paying. After 30 days this link expires automatically. Hence libraries will reduce their loan administration and costs of physical couriers.  Publishers should also benefit from this new source of revenue, while users will gain instant access to books that they need. Given the e-format, I think the service would be more useful if it were for academic articles rather than entire books, but if your research involves reading sections of books rather than the whole thing, and your institutional librarian has a credit card or will refund your own for this purpose, not too bad.

Email Britain campaign

Emailbritainlogo Can you believe this? Without any apparent irony, The British Library has started a campaign to collect people’s emails for a digital archive. The ‘Email Britain’ campaign, which will run throughout May, asks the British public to make email history by forwarding a memorable or significant email from their sent mail or inbox, for inclusion in a digital archive that will be stored at the British Library for future generations.

From the BL website: "Email has become the most important communication tool for the 21st century with millions of emails containing rich and diverse content sent in the UK every day* – none of which have been captured and archived on this scale before. The Email Britain collection of real-life emails will provide an important snapshot of British life over email – the good, the bad, the ugly and the amusing – to produce a unique social history catalogue of life and culture in Britain today which can be read and enjoyed by Library visitors for centuries to come."

"To contribute to the Email Britain archive, emailers should go to this link or email directly. Emails should be submitted under one of the following categories in the subject box of the email: Blunders, Life Changing Emails, Complaints, Spam, Love and Romance, Humour, Everyday Emails, News, World Around You, Tales from Abroad."

I think I will spare them my emails, in particular my Spam.

Love books, love libraries

From an email I received today:  "Love Libraries is inviting you to get involved in shaping and planning the future of public libraries. As a valued Love Library Champion, we would love to hear your thoughts on the services that are most important to you, and how libraries could be improved to meet your needs and expectations."

I don’t know what Tim Coates will make of this, but I did the survey, which took less than a minute: said that books are important; libraries should be open for longer hours; and suggested a single library card for any borough or town. If you want to do your bit for books, here is the link to the survey, which is open until 31 May.

"Your response will form part of a consultation, led by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) on the future role of the modern public library. The results will be available later in the year on the Love Libraries website."

Library of Congress blog

The Library of Congress has just celebrated its 207th birthday with its first-ever public blog. The Library of Congress has long been a pioneer and leading provider of online content, with a website that makes 22 million digital items available at the click of a mouse and receives 5 billion hits per year. The LOC’s blogger is Matt Raymond, director of communications. He’s already picked up on the Dilbert pointy-headed boss’s blog, which has been making me smile for the past few days. There is lots of serious stuff there too, I write hastily.

Tim Coates calls a spade a spade

Link: Publishing News – News Home Page – Batt to stand down at MLA.

" CHRIS BATT IS to stand down from his post as Chief Executive of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council at the end of this year. Batt took up the post in December 2003, overseeing library reforms such as the ‘Framework for the Future’ document outlining long-term strategy for the service………. One of Batt’s most vocal critics, library campaigner Tim Coates, has said the vacancy now creates a great opportunity for the service. “It is a chance to put things right and take a different and better path which addresses what the public wants. Batt led the move to reduce the number of books in libraries and, along with an expected reshuffle by Gordon Brown later this year, it could mean a clean slate and a much needed fresh approach.”  "

As regular readers know, Petrona’s longstanding advice to Tony Blair, when he decides to quit,  is to hand the country over to Tim Coates, and not to Gordon Brown or anyone else. But if for some unknown reason he doesn’t take up that sensible suggestion, this latest news might put another idea into his head. 

On the purpose of public libraries

In a post On the Purpose of Public Libraries, Annoyed Librarian vents her spleen at a "typically excited" attempt to attract teenagers into a local library via provision of video games. So should libraries try any attempt to get people in through the door by any means (even to the extent of providing strippers, as one droll commenter suggests), in the "strange assumption" that they’ll stick around to read, and to be informed and educated, as is the core mission of a library? As Annoyed states:

It seems to me that public libraries no longer have any coherent and compelling mission. They just want to get more people to use them somehow, anyhow. They just want to be all things to all people. Of course it can’t be done, and what might happen is that they fail to do even what they could do well. The goal is just to get bums on seats, and if the libraries are filled to capacity with gaming teens or whomever, then that sad goal will have been accomplished. The new mission of public libraries: bums on seats, luv! It certainly makes me proud to be a librarian.

There is, inevitably, a healthy discussion in the comments in the attempt to find a modern library mission statement. One can read plenty of news about various depressing initiatives in the UK — turning libraries into "ideas centres" and so on — at the excellent Tim Coates’ (future Prime Minister of the UK) Good Library Blog. Tim’s blog is replete with sensible plans for how to run a library service, largely and tragically being ignored as far as I can tell.

Librarians’ life on Earth

Dave Lull sent me a link to a YouTube posting, so because it was from Dave I went nervously to check it out even though I usually steer well clear of this teenager (in my mind) zone. The video Dave refers to is called March of the Librarians . When I realised it featured the Seattle 2007 librarians’ convention, I steeled myself and turned on the volume to hear the commentary, as I was convinced Dave was going to be in it, and I didn’t want to miss him if so. Unfortunately, despite plenty of bearded characters, he was not singled out, so I don’t know if any of them was him. My curiosity unsatisfied, I switched my volume back to silent, and can only hope that, if he was there, he did not fall victim to a "vendor". If you are more interested in what librarians, rather than penguins, get up to in their natural habitat, then check out the video. I can promise that it is all very soothing.

A blog is born

Announcing the birth of a new blog: Reference@ Duluth. This is a very special blog, because although it is not actually Dave Lull’s blog, it is run by colleagues of his  as representatives of the References and Services division of the Duluth (Minnesota) library — so I am wondering how much longer Dave’s blogospheric activities will be limited to being a "delightful cross pollinator" and owner of a tribute blog.

So far, the categories are Duluth history (rather an alarming proportion of lynchings);  "notable Duluthians" (so far only one but a nice one); and resources (the genealogical meta-database Ancestry). Rock on, Duluth librarians.

A footnote: I know from experience at work that it is hard to make a link out of a string with an "@" sign, because the string wants to turn into an email address. So maybe its name will change to ReferenceATDuluth — as I wish could happen to websites like and so on. (See, it has tried to turn itself into an email address!) What I did to make the link to Reference@Duluth is to make the link without the @ and add the @ in later. Any better ideas?