I’d assumed that public libraries were something that would be the same here as in England, but that’s not the case. It’s not so much the practical details, as the underlying philosophy. Firstly there is a membership charge for those over 18 (~£50 a year). Then the standard loan period is for weeks, which can be extended by a further two weeks and if you want the book longer than that there is a weekly charge (~£1). So not an overdue fine, but a charge for keeping a book longer. In practice I’m sure it works the same, but mentally completely different. And a difference I want expecting!
Last week I was one of the presenters at Internet Librarian International doing a short introduction to bibliometrics as a career option for librarians. The session my talk was in was a bit short of time so we all finished our presentations and then the moderator said there was one minute for questions before we broke for lunch – needless to say there weren’t many questions asked! Which made it quite difficult to judge how I had come across. I was very pleased to see that there were numerous tweets from people during my talk, and a number of people came up to me during the rest of the conference to ask questions and follow up on some of the things I’d said. Needless to say my favourite tweet was the following (although given the other presentations I saw I am truly humbled that they thought this!):
I really enjoyed the conference and it was refreshing for it to be cross-sectoral. I think this is the first event I’ve been to in my professional career that explicitly encompasses the different types of librarian – generally I’ve been to either academic librarian events or ones aimed at researchers. I think the conference organisers could do more to encourage discussion between the different groups, but I really appreciated the diversity of experiences.
I also managed to time my trip to London to coincide with my little boy being ill so I was well out of the way while he was throwing up over his Daddy 🙂 all feeling better now though and fingers crossed neither of us get it!
Last week I read a post from Martin Weller about the REF and it chimed with various thoughts I’ve been having over the last year or so about how research is funded in UK Universities. The current process seems to be incredibly bureaucratic and I agree with Martin that it doesn’t provide value, although I don’t think that his suggestion would work.
There are two parts to the Research Council UK funding to Universities:
- An institutional grant calculated by the quality of research for each of the submitted researchers at that institution, which is assessed every five years or so in the research assessment exercise (RAE)/research excellence framework (REF).
- Grants for specific projects that individual researchers apply for and the best are then funded.
Whilst there have been suggestions to automate the analysis for the REF (as Martin suggests) this has been really controversial as there is no agreed standard for success and different subject areas have different norms, which could lead to all sorts of playing the system at the edges of each subject. So given that this has been being discussed for some time now for the REF, and yet that will continue to require a small group of people to look at all the submissions, I don’t think that this is a viable option.
Nowhere else in the world (at least that I am aware of) requires this sort of process in order to allocate basic research funding to their Universities. Wouldn’t it be much simpler just to provide each institution with an amount per researcher and then use the money that is saved from not having to go through this process to increase the amount available for grants?
Early last year I spent a lot of time writing a book chapter on some work I had done a few years previously integrating information literacy into the Social Work Degree offered by MPOW. I co-wrote this with one of of the people from the Faculty I’d worked on this with and it has now been published. It’s really nice to finally have the book in my hands and see my name in print, although it’s a bit disappointing that it’s paperback and not hardback. The whole book is about collaborations between libraries and faculties, so each chapter is co-written by a librarian and an academic.
It was a really interesting experience for me to write something that long with another person. We both have very different styles of writing and of working, and yet what we’ve come out with (I think) has the best of both. It flows nicely and brings in both our points of view.
It was a challenge to do as we had set headings to cover within the chapter that we couldn’t change or re-order. So we had to tell the story of what we’d done within the framework that was given to us. They weren’t the headings that we would have chosen and so we had to decide fairly early on how we would split what we wanted to say between the different sections – in fact as we went on we moved some things around so that it was in a more logical order and didn’t repeat things too much.
The book isn’t yet published in the UK, but is due to come out soon, so I have copies on order to give round my family as they have no choice but to read it! Anyway, I’m really glad to have done it and I’ve only found one mistake so far!
When libraries were first set up information was scarce – printed books were expensive and rare. Libraries were often created by philanthropists for the public good, or by governments to help the general population find out about stuff. Librarians were there to help make knowledge available to everyone by enabling sharing.
Now, with the explosion of the internet, “everything is online” and the amount of information available to all those with internet access is vast. This means that libraries and librarians are now more about helping people find the right piece of information, and being able to discriminate between what’s available, rather than controlling who can access what when.
Libraries are still gateways to trusted quality information, but the relationships between them and the information available is being transformed. What hasn’t changed to reflect this is the attitudes of those who don’t use them – libraries are still seen as being about books.
I don’t think the internet is the death knell of libraries – there will continue to be a role for specialists who can guide others through the vast swathes of information available to what they need. They may not continue to be called libraries, and not all of the current libraries will survive, but this service will continue in one form or another.The danger is more that if this isn’t seen to be what libraries of the future are about then someone else will start to offer this service.