Friday, 10 October 2014

More about Library Camp 2014

To get some sort of order into my #notcurrentlyinafulltimejob life I have decided to adopt my work schedule of Friday being blog day. Which means that I can shift some of the blog lag that I mentioned last week and here is a fuller account of one of the Library Camp sessions. It was about the possibilities of Public Libraries breaking away from their council and becoming some sort of community interest library. I went to the session because for some months now I have considered that a local council in my area appears to be running down children's library services. There used to be a large team of children's librarians which has dwindled to just a few people trying to cope with lots of little suburban libraries as well as one main city library. I know that they are lucky to have children's specialists, as I found out in the PhD research many library services do not have any children's specialists at all, and my research proved that generally, services with children's specialists achieved a much better service for their under 18's than those who did not. However, I have thought that I could, with a group of children's librarian friends, make a far superior children's library service to the area. The problem with that is two fold, convincing my friends to start a business, and how to find the right sort of business structure to provide enough income not to make a loss. I think I have found out how to do it.

The Library Camp 2014 session was lead by Andy Sinnot about the way that the City of York Libraries split away from the council to become an Industrial Provident Society (like the Co-op) to become Explore York. I got really enthusiastic about what they had achieved and as you can see below I took copious notes, which I now have to interpret into some sort of sense to show my friends. (I realise now why I never managed to type up my lecture notes when I was a student. I think I have a very unique take on Mind Mapping!)

So, making sense of the notes below, York Libraries knew that something had to change and a senior manager supported the decision to become a basically different sort of organisation. The ethos of Explore York is that the library service is not pushed onto volunteers having to fulfil roles, if there is a job to be done, then that is a paid post. Volunteers are used as they should be, as icing on the cake, adding the extra special bits. The IPS (Industrial Provident Society) is owned by the staff (one third of the business) and individual members. It is run by a board of trustees, through a CEO, and there are staff representatives on the board. They have not entirely split away from the council, they have a somewhat symbiotic relationship at the moment. They library buildings are rented from the council, services such as HR and IT are bought back from the council (although that may change in the future). The library sells services back to the council, such as Adult Education classes. But, because they are an independent business they have discovered that their costs have dropped considerably because companies charge them less for things like buying a small bit of carpet. They are also eligible for applying for more funding and as a sort of charity they will be able to reclaim tax expenditure.

All this could not have been achieved without the support of the council, the enthusiasm of the senior manager, important legal advice and most importantly getting the backing of library staff. It will be interesting to watch how the service develops. I am seeing my friends next week, I wonder what they will think about my idea?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Blog Lag: Library Camp 2014 and FLA

Oh dear, this not having a full time job problem seems to be making me very lazy. A few years ago if I attended a conference I would blog about it straight away before I forgot anything, but now I seem to put off the blogging until I have done other tasks on my list list. My excuse for not blogging library camp 2012 straight away is that I had to go to Nottingham early on the following morning (early for a Sunday that is) and talk to librarians of Women's and Feminist Libraries at their regular gathering (FLA). My reason for not blogging about FLA is that I had to finish writing a paper to take to my ex supervisor/colleague/co-author in Loughborough University, and while I was there I managed to pick up some teaching work, then I have had to do some planning, and so on and so on. So, or I really should say Therefore, there were a lots of "so"s in that last sentence, to catch up quickly I am doing a brief blog about both, and I may well do some longer blogs about some individual sessions that I attended in Library Camp 2014.

This year Library Camp went to the distant climes of the north east, Newcastle, (upon Tyne) and it seemed that many of the plucky people from down South couldn't find the pluck to venture on such a hazardous journey, (my apologies to the person who got up at some unearthly hour of the morning to get there, at least you had the pluck) because numbers were distinctly down. However, the delegates that did attend were definitely from the brightest and best because an interesting and stimulating time was had, yet again. The conference format ensures that each year it is different and manges to produce session facilitators who are passionate and interested about the topics they suggest.

I went to one about an initiative called "Common Libraries" which are dedicated spaces that have the actives wanted by local people taught by the local people. The trade is in Knowledge, facilities and resources are provided for someone to teach a craft or skill and share it by writing down what how to make something putting a "maker kit" in a "maker box" which is borrowed by someone wanting that knowledge. The prototype is happening in Colchester. Then I found out about Community Interest Companies and Industrial Provident Societies (IPS) because York Library service has split with the city council and has become an IPS. This was very illuminating and shows how a library service can fight back, and the problems that councils have being run as councils (the quotes for supplying new carpet went down significantly after the library was not part of the council). I ran a session myself, trying to define what a librarian is and what a librarian does, so that will be blogged about separately. Finally, I attended a rather un unconferency presentation of "Dawn of the Unread". This is a fascinating concept being done in Nottingham to try to engage children with more reading. It is currently a series of one off online graphic novels about Nottinghamshire literary characters (Such as Byron Clough and DH Lawrence, Vampire Hunter) which have embedded links to other interesting stuff.

Other good things about Library Camp is meeting people who you would otherwise not meet, getting to see familiar faces again and above all the discussion with like minded people, and the hope that libraries will again struggle through the silly imposed cuts.

The FLA meeting was altogether different, just 12 of us, with two ladies from Japan. I was there to talk about Wikipedia Editing and the representation of women on Wikipedia. Women's and Feminist Librarians are very keen to make sure that notable women take their rightful place in history and that more women should edit English Wikipedia, as it appears to be flooded with young white American males (according to the Wikipedia Foundation). I found the gathering very illuminating, I have visited a Women's library, but I did not know about Feminist libraries. Feminist libraries are trying to document the history and development of the Feminist movement, with collections of music, books, images and oral histories.

All in all that was a busy but rewarding weekend, something to record in more depth for my Chartership portfolio. But now the other half is home from work, so I have to leave my trusty laptop and make his dinner! (actually, I am more of a feminist that that, and so is he!)

Friday, 22 August 2014

More about Wikimania 2014, London

Lakeside at the Barbican

I am squashing two days of Wikimania into this blog post, because by this time the events and experiences have merged and blurred because there were so many of them. It was also the weekend, and  being awake, up and about, talking to people, exercising my brain and learning before 11am was quite challenging to the constitution.

Saturday started well with a session of learning to edit. I am not a very proficient Wikipedia editor and the few little articles I have written have been produced with technical help from people better at it than me. Time for me to get this sorted, I decided, so I joined the workshop being run by user Rexx. He was very good, and now I actually have a user page and some more confidence to write something entirely under my own steam. Because I am a librarian, not to mention an author of an academic paper or two, I thought it best to find out more about the latest version of Creative Commons licensing (4.0). I heard two talks on that, both from "The horses mouth", people actively involved in the development and writing the licenses. CC 4.0 is more eclectic, it encompasses the laws of many countries and the wording has become clearer. It is also easier to make attributions to licensed work.

I managed to catch most of Jack Andraka's presentation, I missed the start because I was deep in conversation with a member of the public at the Wikimedia UK stall. Jack is the young man that had an idea of how to develop a test for pancreatic cancer because he had read some science articles that were available for any member of the public to read  through Open Access. Jack was a very engaging young man and a very confident speaker. The surprising thing about him, though, was that he considered himself very ordinary and that young people in America are engaged in inventing new things. He looks up to friend of his who has built a nuclear reactor in his parent's garage. This made me think that there is something very wrong in the British educational system. perhaps we do not have enough faith in the intelligence and creativity of young people?

The high point of Saturday, however, came in the evening when there was a mini version of the Edinburgh Fringe, but in London, with a Wikipedia themed comedy night. The performers were not just excellent comedians, but academics, including Dan Schreiber, a QI writer, Simon Singh, writer and mathematician, Dr Steve Cross of University College London and  others so funny that I have forgotten their names. I found this entertainment particularly interesting because the other half and I attended a stand up comedy workshop earlier in the year, when I started writing a few stand up minutes about being an information scientist. Steve Cross set up academic stand up comedy (called Bright Club), to help spread public engagement with science.
The "Sculpture Court", a peaceful courtyard in the middle of the Barbican just right for blogging

Sunday started with the media, Bill Thompson of the BBC talking about the rise of social media and citizen journalism, although he started with a phrase suitable for the Wikipedia themed comedy night "Freedom's just another word for something left to edit". Bill explained that professional journalists used to be the people who wrote the first draft of history, but now people using social media, twitter, blogs, etc, have taken their place. This means that professional journalist now have to be in advance of the bloggers, making the 0th draft of history, A new model of journalism is emerging, a sort of collaborative joint account of the world's events. He compared the concepts and premise of the BBC as being similar to Wikipedia, there is no advertising and education is a major remit of both. Both serve the public interest and he stated that he considers the BBC archive of broadcast programmes being part of the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) community. The speech seemed to flow from one concept to another, but I think Bill's overall meaning was that the BBC is concerned with the free and open flow of knowledge, be it journalistic reporting over events, or of more educative and cultural programmes; science documentaries, well scripted drama's, promenade concerts, etc. and this is what Wikipedia is also concerned with.

The final  talk that I attended on Sunday was one about the worth of  face to face editing sessions. This was a panel discussion that appeared to be lead by a Wikimedia Foundation researcher who had found a great deal of difficulty getting Wikipedia editing trainers to report the sessions that they gave and to evaluate the impact of the sessions. Money is being spent on these sessions and it seems that most of the people who attend these sessions do not go on to becoming an editor, so is it worth doing? Some of the trained trainers in the room made the point that at least some more articles had been written or improved, which is always a bonus, that at least people know how to edit, and gaining more long term editors is not necessarily the point of doing the training. Other individuals said that they often show people how to edit Wikipedia in a less formal surroundings, because someone has noticed what they are doing on their laptops and want to know what to do. I used the analogy that the discussion was like educated people in the 6th century saying that they do not know why they bother to train boys to use quills and vellum to write and illustrate because few of them end up being monks and writing a decent illustrated manuscript. Meaning that it is the stimulation of literacy is important and that knowing how to do something does not mean that someone wants to do it all the time, or to a high degree of proficiency.

So, what I think about the conference as whole? I thought that the community village was a great opportunity to find out what is going on in different parts of the world, with Wikipedia chapters and with open access organisations as a whole. I thought the discussions interesting and thought provoking, and being the sort of person who considers that information and knowledge should be as free as the air that we breathe I felt inspired by the people who are fighting hard to make it that way. I also found it exciting that it was a gathering of people from all over the world who had come together peacefully with a common interest and made me hope that even in troubled times World Peace may just be a possibility.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Day two of Wikimania,

The second day of Wikimania found me working at the Wikimedia UK stall in the Community Village. This was a selection of stalls where the various Wikipedia “chapters” from around the world, the different projects of Wikipedia and allied open source organisations had a chance to sit, give away food, such as stroopwaffles, and talk to people about what they do. This Community Village was situated at one of the main entrances to the Barbican Centre and was in an area open to the public. This meant that there were many people looking at the stalls who knew little about Wikipedia and then could find out a great deal more. I spoke to a number of people who wanted to know more about Wikipedia, about editing and about the activities of the Wikimedia UK, such as the woman who had just come to drop off her library book who entered a lively debate between me and a young man form America who couldn't understand the difference between England and Britain or the librarian from the Feminist library wanting a woman to teach a group to edit Wikipedia; an interesting opportunity to improve the representation of notable women in Wikipedia. As well as giving out information, leaflets and free beer mats, I was able to listen to some of the talks. These are two that caught my attention.

 Andy Mabbett outlined his work of recording the voices of living people who have articles in Wikipedia and adding the recorded voice as a small roughly 10 second sound clip. The purpose is to have a historic record of their voice and a canonical pronunciation of their name. He advised that it is important to keep the message neutral, eg not let them say “hello Wikipedia” so that the recording can be used in other places. Andy needs some help in doing it because locating the people is difficult. So if you know a person with a Wikipedia article could you record their voice for Wikipedia? There is a page of instructions on how to do it Techies amongst you will understand this, but I don’t, apparently you must use an ogg or flack file, not Mp3. Some people in the hackathon are working on a website to record and add things to the relevant article in order to make it easier.

Zillah Watson of the BBC, found out what Andy was doing, because she was working with the research section of the world service radio archive. Amongst other things they have worked out how to identify individual speakers from their voice, automatically. They wanted a library of voices, sample and clips, so they have added them to Wikipedia. This is the first time the BBC has released files from their programs with an open licence. In consequence the project has added new articles of people to Wikipedia that had the voices, but not the articles, as well as adding voices to existing articles. The BBC project is still running.

The idea of keeping someone's voice for posterity appears to be a means to give an emotional depth and reality to the life a person. The human hearing seems to pick up so many nuances, and just from a few voice snippets people in the future may think things like, "Jimmy Wales sounds like a good guy" or "Stephen Fry sounds really friendly".

Peter Murray-Rust is a Doctor of Chemistry working in Cambridge University who has been a Wikipedia editor for many years and is a passionate advocate for Open Access, Open Data and open science in general. He believes that Wikipedia is the future of science and is currently entering into a collaboration with WikiData. He has been running a project to find a means of machine reading PDF files, and that is because he wants to extract facts from scientific papers, which unfortunately are published as PDFs. His project has managed to do this, and Peter has chosen to add the data generated this way to WikiData. I think that it is a significant breakthrough to be able to machine read PDFs, that would make searching the content of things on the internet so much easier. More can be read on the project website  

In the evening I met up with the other half, sorry, I haven't mentioned that he was also there, in fact he is the real Wikipedia editor in out household, I only dabble, and as he had arranged to go out for a drink with some other editors that he either knew, or that he had stumbled upon during the day, and I wanted to see the ceramic poppies outside the Tower of London commemorating the start of WW1,(  we led off an expedition of various nationalities, including Dutch and Australian, to the Tower, stopping at a Pizza Express for food and drink on the way back.


Saturday, 9 August 2014

Wikimania 2014, now in London

Can you imagine a tropical paradise in the centre of a Metropolis, a place of exotic plants, water and laptops?... Laptops? what are they doing there? Well, that is the scene that I have just encountered at the Conservatory of  the Barbican Centre in London at Wikimania, the phenomena that is the annual global celebration of the Wikipedia community.

It started Friday and I am attending as a Wikimedia UK volunteer, helping out at the Community Village where there are stalls from the various Wikimedia chapters from over the world. I will be sending out a few blogs about the event over the next few days. The opening ceremony last night had a few speakers, Ed Saperia who was the initiator and motivator for bringing Wikimania to London; Jon Davies, the Chief Executive for Wikimedia UK, the body who organised the event together with the Wikipedia Foundation; Lila Tretikov the new CEO of the Wikipedia Foundation and of course, Jimmy Wales himself. They set the scene of why Wikimania came to London, how it has been organised, and they all emphasised the power of Wikipedia.

Jimmy Wales endeared the crowd by telling us that Wikimania is a gathering of  "A bunch of geeks like us…" who together are making Wikipedia "as good as well possibly can be". There was an emphasis of  the Wikipedia opposition of “right to be forgotten”, as introduced by European legislation against Google and the statement that Wikipedia hardly ever has been asked to take down articles about people because generally they are fair and accurate articles. The point about this issue that was not stated is that search engines such are Google are indiscriminate about the things that appear there, but there are so many levels of editing and moderation, that a certain amount of censorship of articles occur before they are generally read. For example, if an editor wrote something slanderous about an individual, or added something spiteful, untrue or exaggerated, then the general rules of proving the veracity of the article apply and these statements will be removed. On the other hand, if an individual has a chequered past that they do not wish to be exposed it will be perfectly legal to add facts about their previous life to Wikipedia it can be done in an objective manner. Jimmy believes that Wikipedia is really really powerful and should have an influence on open policies.

The most thought provoking keynote speech, however, was Salil Shetty Secretary General of Amnesty International, who talked about their principles and the similarity in the main tenets of  Amnesty International and Wikipedia. Amnesty International was started in the 1961 by Peter Benenson, a British lawyer to campaign for the human rights of individuals. They are carrying on fights against the death penalty and torture across the globe. They do not take money from governments or corporations so that they can preserve their impartiality. Members are from Europe and N America, and Amnesty international know that they need more in India and S Africa, the developing world. Therefore, staff are moving out to these other world.  It is  mainly a letter writing organisation but it has started to use modern technology to help detect where there are problems in the world, for example,  a panic button app for those under threat; satellite imaging to look at prison camp development and oil spills, so that they can give independent evidence of in humanities. 

Here I am at the Wikimedia UK stall, holding a Welsh flag with Robin from the Welsh Wicipedia.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Looking at my collection of Bookmobile and Children's Mobile Library Alerts

It may seem that I have totally abandoned children's mobile libraries and have switched camp to Open Access, and certainly the Full Time Job gets in the way of doing just what I want to do, but amongst the intellectual bother of writing papers, applying for permanent jobs and not getting them and keeping OpenDOAR ( as up to date as I can, I am still gathering as much information as I can about children's mobile libraries. Here is a link to an article in an American local paper about a mobile library that was axed and has been re-instated. Strictly it is a general bookmobile, but the staff comment about the importance of reaching out to children, amongst other groups that are hard to get into a static library. The staff feel that running the library is worthwhile if it gets children reading.

Here is another example of an American bookmobile bringing books, excitement and literature and literacy to children as this Author/Attorney remembers.

It does make me wonder whether she would just be an attorney if she had not had her imagination stretched by the visit of the bookmobile.

Just for good measure today, here is a link to another blog about the potted history of bookmobiles across America. I have added it here as somewhere safe to keep it!

I will write some more posts when I have finished trudging through my accumulation of alerts and picked out the best ones.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Library Camp 2013

Yet again another amazing experience at Library Camp. This is the third national Library Camp that I have attended and each time I have come home full of enthusiasm and hope for the profession, re-energised and glad to be a librarian. Each time is different, with people coming up with a huge variety of subjects to discuss. This morning the first session started with two children's stories and we swapped suggestions for good stories to read aloud at story-times. We talked about using picture books to help older but less secure readers to enjoy and practice their reading skills. We also thought about the stories that help children with emotional literacy. It was a session that could have gone on for hours.

I was facilitating the next one, and I wanted to publicise that open access repositories are a source of available information and data that anyone can read and use. As it turned out the people who came to the session were well aware of repositories and it turned into an interesting and illuminating discussion about getting the information onto repositories in the first place and the problems associated with young researchers wanting to make their work open, but there eventually being and establishment barrier that prevents it happening.

Lunch was great, provided mainly by the un-delegates (well, if it and un-conference than we must be un-delegates!) This year, "Cake camp" was accompanied by "Snack camp" , with savory items. I took along some home baked Pizza. I think that the concept of pizza always tasting better the morning after must be totally true. I baked the Pizza last night and by the time I got to the snack table, it had all vanished! After lunch I attended a session about digitisation because I wanted to find out more about the process and how hard or easy it is. Once again we had an in-depth conversation not merely about the process, but the consequences of putting work and images on line, and the problems of machines trying to convert characters into text.

I then diverted slightly by going to the session about the future of Cilip, and managed to say a lot of stuff, which I thought was thought provoking and interesting but seemed to give the impression that I had a negative attitude. Maybe I should have kept quiet. One phrase stayed with me, from one of the other un-delegates: "Industry Standard", and I think that Cilip as a relatively young incarnation of two older old organisations, is still trying to work out the clear cut, modern, professional weight that it should have. Finally, I went to the last session to listen, and find out about what open source software there is that can deal with library stuff, and learnt about various programmes, software and devises. There is also a rather wonderful device called Library box, which is like a portable server which you can load up with all sorts of wonderful e-documents and take it around with you for other people to access, like WiFi.

I do have two regrets, once again there were clashes of sessions going on, especially at the same time as I was doing mine, and I missed some topics that I would have loved to have attended. The other was that this year's Library Camp was in the brand new shiney Library of Birmingham, and I was so intent on the sessions and networking that I didn't get a chance to have a good look around it, or take any photos. I am a big fan of Library Camp, and the Un-conference style, it really demonstrates the intelligence, enthusiasm and range of people who work in all sorts of library sectors. Can I book for Library Camp 2014 now?