July was a pretty cool month for me personally. As you know from June’s summary, I was pretty hacked off about the coverage on Newsnight about public libraries. What infuriated me further was that there was no authoritative voice putting a strong case for the defence. I truly came away from the experience convinced I could have put a stronger case forward for libraries in the digital age. So, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and have a crack. I was mindful that I was about to put myself out there to be shot down, but I couldn’t just keep quiet and tweet the odd grumble on Twitter. Quite frankly, that is just not my way.
I had noticed that The Guardian were always looking out for articles for their Comment is Free pages on their website, so decided I would have a crack at pitching an idea. Thankfully, they liked my pitch and my subsequent 800 word article and decided to publish it on CiF – much to my shock and pleasure.
Well, the response was amazing. If nothing else it certainly raised my profile amongst others in the library profession. I had all manner of positive messages from people both on Twitter and even people passing on messages of support via my Twitter followers. Amazingly, it was also picked up by a number of bloggers in the US and made it into the American Library Associations’ newsletter. It has also made appearance in numerous presentations related to breaking out of the ‘echo chamber’. I hope I managed to convince at least one person that libraries were vital but, if not, the peer recognition is something that I hold very dear and will do for some time to come. Without doubt, it is probably one of the proudest moments of my life. Although I hope my current activities will top that…..
July also saw a blog post about the hidden secret about libraries, one that even library campaigners ignore – libraries are used more now than ever before. Not only are they being used more, they are increasingly being used in different ways. For some bizarre reason, this little known fact is still overlooked by some campaigners….which makes me wonder why they are failing to talk up the library service and persist in talking it down. In my experience, talking services down only leads to one of two things: closure or privatisation. Unfortunately, it appears increasingly likely that privatisation is on the table for councils up and down the country. Something that should concern library users and campaigners up and down the country.
A couple of quick blogs contributed to the ‘Library Day in a Life’ initiative were also written in July. Hopefully this coming year I will be able to contribute something more substantial as they were rather quiet days this year.
July was also the month I discovered Dropbox for the first time and I can honestly say I have been using it all the time ever since. If you haven’t signed up for it yet I strongly recommend that you give it a go….it’s a fantastic utility.
August saw a flurry of blog posts all around a similar theme: library cuts and the media narrative. Finally at breaking point regarding media mis-representations of the library service (finally? Surely that point was reached months ago!?), I put a post out there suggesting that some form of alternative to the Good Library Blog be established. I had become deeply disappointed that this was seen as the voice of libraries and wanted something to act as an alternative that is more in tune with users and library staff. Lucky for me, some others felt the same……
In other developments, I discovered Flavors.me which I am still a fan of. Flavors allows users to create simple, personalised spaces which aggregate feeds from all your social networks. Of course, it’s not to everyone’s taste, but I rather like the stylish simplicity of it.
August also saw an attempt by Spanish Twitter folk to get libraries (‘biblioteca’ in this case) trending on Twitter. It was a really positive campaign to tweet positive things about libraries to raise awareness of the good things they do. I’m quite keen on the idea of agreeing a date and a time and doing a similar thing myself…with the added advantage of getting US tweeps onboard too!
Well, September may have been a quiet month in terms of my blog, but it was far from quiet in other respects. September saw the establishment of Voices for the Library – a campaign group designed to offer a strong, positive library voice in the face of national library cuts. I have been immensely proud of the campaign and all of those that have stuck with it or joined in. It’s amazing to think how far it has come in such a short space of time. There’s still lots to do, however, and there is a lot of work that needs to be done to raise the profile of the group, the campaign and libraries in general. It has been tough and there have been ups and downs, but nothing too difficult to overcome. There will be many more challenges ahead, but whatever fate throws at us, I remain immensely proud to be involved in the fight.
October was a time of great relief…..finally I had completed my two option modules and was on my way to working on my dissertation. It seemed like the time would never come but here I am, on the final straight. Such an utter relief…but, again, there is still much to do. The coming year is going to be pretty hectic, but I am determined to get that MSc under my belt and move my career on a stage. Just need to manage my distractions and I should be fine…..!
Towards the end of October came the announcement from the Publishers Association that ebooks should not be available remotely from libraries but should require users to enter the building and download from a terminal – rather defeating the object of ebooks. I still find it hard to believe that this statement could have been in any way a serious proposition. Not only was it failing to think imaginatively about how to manage ebook delivery in public libraries, it showed a real willingness to give libraries a good kicking whilst they were ‘down’. Quite frankly, it still rankles to this day. Madness.
I also blogged about e-audiobooks, something I had often overlooked in the past. Libraries now offer them as well and they are a superb service for commuters who can listen to books on their commute as well as for mor traditional audiobook users. Another fantastic service and another example of libraries adapting to meet the needs of their users.
Ah November, a serene peaceful month where nothing much happens. Quiet, peaceful, serene, until someone writes a load of guff about it being a good thing that libraries are being closed. Not only guff, but guff backed up without a single, solitary fact. I dread to think what kind of marks I would have got at uni for handing a piece of work of that standard. I think a ‘try again’ would have been the only adequate response. Yes, I am talking about that infamous article in a paper in the north-east. Looking back, it kinda seems silly. This is a broadcaster with very limited reach. No-one down south had even heard of him (hence my provocative, yet also very accurate, title of my blog post).
Of course, there are those that write provocative pieces all the time, designed to provoke a response and, in many ways, this was merely another one to add to the canon of provocative guff. However, as is always the case with guff-jocks (as opposed to ‘shock jocks’), when you call them on their guff they become predictably defensive. Oh, it’s fine for them to talk offensive guff, but when you call them on it you are worse than a guff devil (ok, think that’s enough ‘guff’ references for now…). Oh yes, they play the ‘I can say what I like, screw political correctness’ card for all its worth, they just don’t think it should be used against them. Bless their sensitive souls.
Anyway, the job was done and I think it is fair to say that one guff monster was laid to rest (oops, sorry). It did highlight for me, however, the need to challenge nonsense wherever it rears its head. The influence these people have on their followers (sheep?) is quite immense and they should be challenged and made to justify (if not think about) their statements. It’s not easy, but on the flip side, you’ve just made someone look an utter fool to a worldwide audience (ie Twitter). Some things are worth pursuing.
So, what else happened in November? Well, I was also interested in the growth of agency pricing for ebooks – something that threatens to undermine Amazon’s stranglehold on the ebook market. Whilst I am not overly keen on this method of pricing, the fact that it levels the playing field for ebook platforms is a very good thing and, if there is any justice, Kindle will be forced to accept the ePub format rather than push their proprietary one. Yes, it may well remain a pipe-dream, but it’s my pipe-dream and aim to cling to it for all it’s worth. It’s either that or eternal hope that the Kindle perishes, crushed by its failure to look beyond proprietary formats. Let’s hope for the former, I’m a gentle soul after all.
December – and winter chaos fever has struck the 24hr news networks. It even made an appearance on my blog…struck, as I was, by the way information was being distributed during the travel chaos and how some were excluded from this flow of information, leading to frustration and no little stress. Whilst those on Twitter were able to communicate with various transport companies about their travel arrangements, others were stuck with the odd Tannoy announcements at the airport…..something that is never really satisfactory. It certainly highlighted for me the advantages that the information rich have over the information poor.
I also posted my thoughts on the Wikileaks story….a story that has been dominating the news for what seems like a lifetime. I am of the opinion that this flow of information is a very good thing. And, despite the claims of those wishing to play it all down as nothing more than tittle-tattle, there has been some very interesting stuff coming out of the whistle-blowing organisation.
The Wikileaks story has also opened up another area for discussion however….the increasing clamour from governments and corporations to not only control the Internet, but to establish a two tier system. Couple this with the destruction of the library service (where free Internet access is a given) and we can see the seeds of a deeply ingrained digital divide being established. This should be cause for concern for everyone. A two tier system would virtually ensure that there is one service for the wealthy and another for the poor. This is a very dangerous road to go down and one hopes that we are not too far down the road that we can’t turn back.
And on that note, we come to the end of my blog review of the year. It’s been interesting (if not time-consuming) looking back at my old posts and re-evaluating some of my thoughts at the time (or even just re-affirming in some cases!). 2011 is shaping up to be a very interesting/challenging year. Library closures are increasingly on the agenda and cuts will start to bite deep. That said, library campaigning is getting better and stronger and there is much to be optimistic about in the year ahead. Yes, let’s end on a positive shall we?!