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!)