Advocacy etc

I must be mad, but I thought I’d give my perspective on the whole advocacy discussion that blew up today. I should be chilling but the discussion was fascinating on so many levels I couldn’t help myself. This will, no doubt, be less eloquent than other blog posts on the topic but, of course, I ain’t gonna let that stop me!

To be honest, I was a bit surprised by how things blew up. As far as I could see, most of the people who were upset about the discussion do advocate. For me, advocacy can mean going out and telling your users what a great service you provide (marketing) or it can be simply providing the best service your users could ask for (which requires a certain amount of activity on your part – in the sense of seeking to find out what your user wants). In terms of the latter, the old maxim often used in retail applies: a dissatisfied customer will tell 8-10 people of their bad experience (that’s a drum that is pounded loud and clear in retail). It therefore follows that, should you provide good service, those customers will act as proxy advocates for you – telling other people about the great service you provided. So, you may not have engaged in advocacy per se, but you have sewn a very powerful seed.

Let’s face it, corporations gave up a long time ago in simply shouting slogans at people and thinking that was enough to ‘advocate’ their products. Things have become much more sophisticated. Top companies know that the peer groups are the most powerful advocates you can have. It is one reason why a lot of current business thinking has moved away from top-down authoritarian structures and developed nice cosy environments that keep the employees happy and, subsequently, speak positively about their employer when they are with family and friends. The change in management culture is not due to a sense of entitlement towards employees, it is one part of a carefully constructed marketing strategy.

In the age of social media, this ‘casual’ advocacy has become more important. People tweet about products and things they are doing and that has a much bigger impact on people than an advert on the TV. Of course, this doesn’t work for everyone in your peer group, but you can be assured that your message will influence someone. Essentially, almost every public act is an act of advocacy (because you are doing it ‘publicly’ and we are simple creatures, easily influenced!). One might argue that buying a certain brand in the supermarket counts as ‘advocacy’ (the act of buying being, after all, an endorsement or support for a particular brand). Therefore the creation of proxy advocates is, in my view, very much central to any marketing strategy.

And I guess this is where I find difficulty with those who are up in arms about the recent discussions. As far as I can see, if you are committed to excellent standards of service in your library, you are an advocate (creating proxies). If you have ‘librarian’ on your Twitter bio and have ever tweeted about libraries, librarians or related issues, you are an advocate. If you tell your friend with an e-reader “hey, did you know you can get free ebooks at the library?”, you are an advocate. If you work in a private library and make your colleagues’ jobs easier by providing an effectively (and efficiently – it is the private sector after all!) run library, you are an advocate for that service (you are justifying its existence by making the company more efficient). Essentially, pretty much everyone on Twitter who works in a library is an advocate.

Activism is something I engage in (in a rather lazy fashion to be fair). It means writing to the council, chucking in FoI’s, writing about the problems facing libraries, trying to drum up support in the local community by highlighting the cuts and the impact they will have. Now, that is not for everyone and only a fool would suggest that everyone should engage in it. It’s hard work and saps away your free time. I wish everyone was an activist (that is the nature of my own political views) but hey, we live in the UK and us Brits aren’t known for it! But much as I would like everyone to do it, I know some can’t or unable to. I don’t hold it against them (I hold it against our society in general…kidding!). We make our own choices in this life and it is not for me to tell people whether they should act or not. If you feel you cannot be an activist, fine. If you don’t want to give up your spare time fighting councillors and local politicians, fine. But advocacy? Well, keep on doing what you are doing!

Additional

I should add that the Code of Professional Practice for Library and Information Professionals states the following:

C: Responsibilities to Colleagues and the Information Community

The personal conduct of information professionals at work should promote the profession in the best possible manner at all times. Members should therefore:

1. Act in ways that promote the profession positively, both to their colleagues and to the public at large.

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5.7 million households do not have an internet connection

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Libraries can help address digital inequality (image c/o splorp on Flickr)

Yesterday the Office of National Statistics released its latest Internet access – households and individuals report.  Once again it demonstrated something that is often overlooked, there is a sizeable proportion of the population that do not have an internet connection.  According to the statistics, although the percentage of households with an internet connection has grown to 77% (up 4% on last year), there are still an amazing 5.7 million households in the UK without internet access.  Other top line statistics from the report:

  • 45 per cent of Internet users used a mobile phone to connect to the Internet
  • 6 million people accessed the Internet over their mobile phone for the first time in the previous 12 months
  • The use of wireless hotspots almost doubled in the last 12 months to 4.9 million users
  • 21 per cent of Internet users did not believe their skills were sufficient to protect their personal data
  • 77 per cent of households had Internet access
  • 50% of those without internet say they do not need it
  • 40% say that the equipment is too expensive or they do not believe they have the skills required

…many children are being left behind

The last three points are particularly crucial.  Households without internet would mean, in many cases, families without internet connections.  This is particularly concerning as it has been demonstrated that children’s performance at school can be affected by their inability to make use of an internet connection.  Whilst the report doesn’t provide statistics on family households without internet access, it is not beyond reason to conclude that there are a great many families included within that 5.7 million households figure.  And, consequently, a great many children who are potentially being left behind by their ‘connected’ peers.  The consequences of this disparity are fairly clear.

The final two points are also concerning and provide a stark reminder of what damage would be done by large-scale library closures.  Libraries can play a massive role in addressing these issues.  Trained, professional library staff can help to support inexperienced users to find their way around the internet and gain the confidence to take full advantage of what it offers.  It has been demonstrated in repeated studies that people using the internet are economically better off (££) and, at a time of such economic difficulty, this is more important now than ever.

…public libraries are crucial to reducing digital inequality

Furthermore, the provision of free internet access in public libraries is absolutely crucial to reducing digital inequality and ensuring that a sizeable proportion of the population are not left behind.  Close public libraries and remove the only point of free internet access and you create a society of digitally excluded, those left to flounder as they do not have the finances or skills to keep up with the digitally advanced.  It is not enough to simply provide these people with computers and hope that will resolve the inequality.  Who will provide the support and the training?  Public libraries are still the best way to ensure that the digital revolution does not further isolate the disadvantaged from society and ensure that no-one is left behind.

One further point on this issue that perhaps ought to be made, in terms of libraries/librarians themselves rather than the people who use them.  It is worth noting that neither the Guardian or the BBC made any reference to public libraries offering free internet access, nor did they mention the impact library closures could have on those that are digitally excluded.  You may argue that the point isn’t directly relevant to those particular articles.  Maybe not.  However, it is worth remembering that although there have been plenty of positive shifts in the coverage of libraries in the past year, commentators still do not see libraries as a solution to modern-day problems.  For library advocacy to have any real success, this has to change.  Because if people of influence cannot see the role libraries can and should play in addressing contemporary concerns, there is little hope for the future of the library service and the profession.

Libraries must be the future – for the good of democracy

Is two tier information access inevitable? Image c/o Julian Sebastian on Flickr

If there is one thing you can rely on when reading an online article about libraries, it is that someone will suggest that the internet has made libraries and, by extension, librarians, irrelevant.  It is not just amateur commentators though even representatives from established think tanks perpetuate this belief.  The fact that 9 million people have never even accessed the internet is a minor inconvenience.  But still this belief persists.  Ironically (given that librarians are considered ‘past it’) it is those that utilise these arguments who are behind the curve and refuse to recognise the very nature of the internet.

The argument used by the ‘internet trumps libraries’ brigade relies on something that we know full well is not representative of the internet we have all grown to love (and hate?).  Since the mid-90s, the internet has frequently changed.  The internet of today is quite different from that preceding the dotcom crash.   It is not a static medium.  Who would have thought just 5 years ago that a large proportion of the population would be happy to share their personal details freely and openly?

…the internet is not static and is subject to change.

The assumption made by many when discussing library closures is that the internet will remain static, forever acting as a source of free and open information.  But, of course, the internet is not static and is subject to change.  And who is the biggest driver of this change?  Corporations.  Unfortunately for the corporate world the level of competition on the internet is inhibiting their ability to make profit.  However, moves are afoot to change this, shifting the balance of power from the individual to corporations.

Take the issue of net neutrality for example.  Ed Vaizey has been less than enthusiastic in his support of net neutrality.  In a speech delivered towards the end of last year, Vaizey stated that:

“Content and service providers should have the ability to innovate and, most importantly, to reach end users … This could include the evolution of a two-sided market where consumers and content providers could choose to pay for differing levels of quality of service.”

The implication being that the government envisages a two-tier internet, with all the inequality that goes with it (he later claimed that this wasn’t the case). The implications for the digital divide could not be more stark.  As Tim Berners-Lee has warned:

“Control of information is hugely powerful. In the US, the threat is that companies control what I can access for commercial reasons. (In China, control is by the government for political reasons.) There is a very strong short-term incentive for a company to grab control of TV distribution over the internet even though it is against the long-term interests of the industry.”

Abandoning net neutrality could lead to a shift in the control of information.  At present the flow of information is neither controlled by the state or by corporate interests – it moves freely enabling equal access for all. The removal of ‘net neutrality’ would change this, leading to corporations controlling access to information.

“…we are on the slippery slope towards a much more controlled, less open, internet.”

However, it is not just net neutrality that should concern us.  The Guardian recently reported that the growth of smartphones also poses a danger to the freely accessible internet that we know today.  In an article subtitled ‘The proliferation of powerful mobile phones could see control of the internet pass into the hands of corporations’, John Naughton comments that:

“…we are on the slippery slope towards a much more controlled, less open, internet. If these trends continue, then it won’t be all that long before a significant proportion of the world’s internet users will access the network, not via freely programmable PCs connected via landline networks, but through tethered, non-programmable information appliances (smartphones) hooked up to tightly controlled and regulated mobile networks.”

The root cause of this problem is the established belief that information is a commodity that can be bought and sold, a vital cog in the economic machine.  The growth of the internet has provided business with a wealth of opportunities, many of which remain untapped.  For the libertarians, commodities are best placed in the hands of corporations who can utilise them to their advantage and grow the economy, turning a blind eye to its potential impact on society.  As Anne Goulding noted ten years ago (£):

“The danger is that governments, supported by business and industry, will place a higher priority on the development of ICTs to support economic productivity than on assisting social cohesion and progress.”

This leaves us in a perilous state if our public libraries are destroyed.  Libraries do not discriminate when providing access to information.  You do not have to be rich to take advantage of the wealth of information that the library provides.  Likewise, you do not have to be wealthy to consult a librarian and ensure you gain access to the very best information available.  This is the danger in believing the internet will remain static and unchanging forever.  The internet is a mechanism for corporations to make money, whereas for libraries it is a tool to enhance the social, political and cultural life of society.

In 1998, Noam Chomsky, in an interview for CorpWatch on Microsoft and corporate control of the internet, argued:

“If you really know exactly what you want to find, and have enough information and energy, you may be able to find what you want. But they want to make that as difficult as possible. And that’s perfectly natural. If you were on the board of directors of Microsoft, sure, that’s what you’d try to do.”

Libraries and librarians are here to make that process as easy as possible.  When we suddenly find ourselves in a world of paywalls and divided access, will we look back in shame at what we cast aside because of a failure to understand the nature of technology?

Voices for the Library – a call for articles!

Voices for the Library

Hey you!  Yes you!  Are you a librarian, library worker or library user??  Think that there is too much negative coverage of libraries or the people who work in them?  Do you find the continual focus on closures and cuts depressing?  Think librarians and library workers are undervalued?  Want the opportunity to share the fantastic, wonderful, life-changing things that libraries and librarians offer?  Fed up with a long list of questions that are a frankly desperate attempt to build to something spectacular?

Ok, that’s enough of that!  I have noticed on Twitter and on blogs over the past few weeks (probably months to be fair) that a lot of people have commented on both the need to demonstrate why librarians are important and the somewhat defensive tone to some of the library campaigning messages out there.  Well, there is a place you can address this if you wish.  Simply get in touch with Voices for the Library and share either positive stories about libraries or the role of librarians.  Lots of people read it (including lots of people in the media), so it is well worth doing so.  Of course, it won’t change things overnight, but it might help a little bit.  And if nothing else, it will be nice to share some positive stuff to balance out all the bad news stories out there at the moment.  And we’re all for some positivity!

The media love libraries – let’s make the most of it!

Don't let the opportunity go to waste! Image c/o Robbt on Flickr

One of the fascinating aspects of my involvement in Voices for the Library has been working with Lauren and the rest of the team in developing strong links with the media (both local and national).  As time has passed, I think we have all realised that there are a lot of media types who have a great deal of affection for libraries.  Certainly, my interactions with various journalists have been very positive.  Every single one has been supportive and keen to find out more about the situation facing public libraries across the country.  Ok, sometimes these interactions do not always necessarily lead to stories in the national press or on the TV, but it isn’t always about getting a story out there (much as we would like it to be so), sometimes it is simply about building a relationship – the importance of this for the campaign cannot be underestimated.

I have been lucky so far in that a few things I have brought to the attention of various media outlets have been picked up (like my financial analysis of the libraries vs internet debate – picked up by The Guardian).  However, most stuff tends to go nowhere – again, whilst this can be frustrating, it is worth remembering that not everything can be published (space is finite after all) and the creation of relationships will lead to greater benefits in the long run.  That said, sometimes you push something, a story about a particularly authority or campaign, and it can pay off in spectacular fashion.

Let me give you an example a little while ago I was invited to a lunch hosted by a certain satirical magazine.  The lunch provides an opportunity for politicians, newspaper columnists and journalists to network and share stories.  I have already witnessed how one news story seemed to grow and flourish in the days and weeks after the lunch (the so-called ‘super injunctions’).  I perhaps didn’t truly appreciate it at the time, but they are great opportunities to develop relationships and plant seeds.

One of the people I got talking to was (I later discovered) an important figure in national broadcast news.  We talked extensively about the situation facing public libraries, the closures and their potential impact on local communities.  Again, as mentioned above, there was a great deal of sympathy in terms of the plight of public libraries, not least in terms of the impact on those that use them.

After a long and engaging conversation, I was handed their business card and told to get in touch if anything of interest crops up in the future.  Realising the importance of gaining such a key contact in the media, I resolved to make use of this new avenue wisely and sparingly.  There was no point sending them every story that came along.  It was important to choose a story that would be significant and highly newsworthy.  And then a story emerged that fitted the bill perfectly.

Johanna Anderson and the Friends of Gloucestershire Libraries have been fighting a long and difficult battle with their local council over the future of public libraries.  Despite garnering widespread local support, the campaign was continuing to face an uphill struggle in convincing the local council that their proposed cuts to libraries should be rolled back.  The disregard shown by the council leader for his electorate was breathtaking.  Contempt for both library campaigners and library users seemed to be his default position.  In such circumstances it is hard to imagine how Jo and FoGL had the strength to continue to take on the council.  Many would have conceded defeat and walked away.

But there then emerged a glimmer of hope for library users in Gloucestershire.  The High Court had issued an injunction (pending a hearing earlier this month) against Gloucestershire County Council calling a halt to their proposals for the future of the library service in the county.  This was unprecedented.  It was also just the story I had been waiting for.  Not only was this about library closures, but the legal aspect made for an added dimension to the story, one that may have implications for other such battles against both central and local government cuts.  This story had scope for expansion and, therefore, had the potential for coverage by a national broadcaster.  So, I tipped them off and, with the help of Jo, put them in touch with someone involved in the local campaign.  This was the result:

I was chuffed to bits that this kind of coverage had been secured.  It demonstrated to me, once again, that there is a willingness to engage on the library closure issue and, furthermore, that if a particular story can be shown to have wider implications, it is more than likely to gain exposure.  It is no good just trying to engage with the media simply about libraries, if you can link it into something bigger you have more chance for success.

I guess this is the biggest lesson I have learnt since getting involved in Voices for the Library.  It has taken just under a year to learn it, but I have come to realise that it is important to think strategically about all interactions with the media.  It is easy (and very tempting) to just go ahead and send everything that crops up, no matter their significance.  It is, however, far more sensible to wait for that significant story to crop up and, when the time is right, hit ‘send’.  It’s a lesson I am still learning (there are still more ‘misses’ than ‘hits’) but it is without doubt the most important lesson I have learnt from my involvement in Voices for the Library.  Well, that and learning what can be achieved when you work with a bunch of passionate, talented people who give everything to keep this campaign running.  I really am very lucky indeed.

* Incidentally, permission was granted for a High Court judicial review of GCC’s library cuts.  Hopefully this will lead to bigger and better good news for the dedicated and hard-working campaigners in Gloucestershire.

Why Niall Ferguson, Ken Livingstone and Toby Young got it wrong on national debt

It has been a while since I last wrote anything along these lines.  I think the last time I debunked some lazy journalism was when I corrected a piece by Melanie Phillips in an article for The Guardian.  But once again we have seen an example of poor information research and once again it needs to be corrected, not least because of the implications of such mis-information.  So let’s get straight into it.

The nub of the problem is a post written by Toby Young about Thursday night’s Question Time.  His particular claim is that Ken Livingstone ‘lied’ about debt and Niall Ferguson was correct.  Young writes:

On Question Time this evening, Ken Livingstone claimed that when Labour entered office in 1997 government debt as a percentage of GDP was 42% and 13 years later, when Labour left office, it stood at 40%.

Ferguson pointed out that, in fact, debt as a percentage of GDP when Gordon Brown left office was 71.3% not 40%. And he’s absolutely right, as this chart from the Office of National Statistics makes clear.

So far, so seemingly plausible.  Or is it?  Well, no.

First of all, Livingstone actually said (and you can check on the video clip above) was “when Blair won, our debt was 42%”.  This 42% figure that Livingstone introduced comes from the UK National Debt as a percentage of GDP which was 41.92% in 1997, so let’s call it 42%.  It is probably worth explaining at this point what figure government, politicians and the media refer to when they talk about “UK National Debt”.

The website UK Debt Bombshell explains:

The precise term ‘National Debt’ refers to an older definition of public debt that excludes too many liabilities to be meaningful nowadays. The official government measure of what is commonly known as the national debt is Public Sector Net Debt. In this context, public sector refers to central government, local government and publicly-owned corporations. [emphasis mine]

So, essentially, when you hear the term ‘national debt’ what is being referred to is Public Sector Net Debt.  Going back to Livingstone’s 42% reference earlier, he is talking about Public Sector Net Debt (the official government measure remember).  So Livingstone is right on this point.  Debt was 42% in 1997.

Where Livingstone goes wrong is by claiming that it was 40% when Labour were kicked out of office.  It wasn’t. It was 40% when the banking crisis started, but it was not 40% by the time of the election due to the banking crisis.  The Office for National Statistics states that:

Public sector net debt (excluding financial interventions) was £875.8 billion (equivalent to 58.0 per cent of GDP) at the end of February 2011. This compares to £729.9 billion (50.8 per cent of GDP) as at the end of February 2010.

Note that the right-hand graph refers to Public Sector Net Debt.  Remember, “public sector net debt” is the official government measure of national debt as we have already demonstrated.  So, Livingstone is wrong.  National debt was at 50.8% of GDP in February of 2010 and, using the graph as a guide, around 55% when Brown left office.

But then Ferguson claims that the figure was actually 71.3% when Brown left office, a claim repeated by Young.  So where does this figure come from?  Figures from the ONS have already demonstrated that using the official government measure of debt the figure was around 55%, so where does this 71.3% figure come from?

Young handily links to a ONS report that shows where this figure comes from.  Unfortunately for both Young and Ferguson, this is not a chart representing the UK national debt, this chart refers to general government debt, a quite different measure and not one that has ever been used to signify UK national debt.  The ONS states:

In the financial year 2009/10 the UK recorded general government net borrowing of £159.8 billion, which was equivalent to 11.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

At the end of March 2010 general government debt was £1000.4 billion, equivalent to 71.3 per cent of GDP.

This figure refers to general government gross debt which is quite different, as explained here:

General Government Gross Debt (GGGD) used by EU. is similar to Public sector net debt but excludes net debt of corporations. Also does not offset liquid assets.

So, it is not the same as the government’s official measure for national debt.  Which means that when Ferguson and Young correct Livingstone, they are right to do so (he got the 2010 figure wrong) but the figure they gave is equally incorrect in terms of the measurement of national debt (this chart demonstrates where Livingstone got his 42% figure from and charts that figure right up to 2011).  They are both talking about something completely different to Livingstone who was clearly (as demonstrated by his reference to the 1997 figure) talking about Public Sector Net Debt (the government’s official measurement of national debt – worth repeating).  So, Ferguson and Young are also both wrong.  As stated above, national debt according to the ONS was around 55% in April 2010, not 71.3%.

In summary then: Livingstone was right about national debt in 1997.  Livingstone was wrong about debt when Brown left office.  Ferguson was wrong to claim that debt was 71.3%.  And Young is wrong to repeat it.  And Young’s error is perhaps the greatest.  His wasn’t made in the heat of debate, it was made when he was at a computer and able to check his facts first before blundering in.  A simple check would have revealed to him that the ONS put UK national debt at around 55% in April 2010.

Ok, so why is this important?  It’s just a game of numbers right?  Well yes, but it matters on two fronts.  Firstly, it matters because of the justifications that are being made for the current cycle of cuts.  All the named players above have vested interests at play.  Livingstone wants to play down debt to defend Labour’s record.  Ferguson and Young want to make it sound worse that it is to defend their own ideological positions on the economic right.  Both are wrong and, as usual, the truth is between the two.  Which leads me on to the second reason why this is important.

We are told repeatedly that we live in a world where all the information you could possibly want is free for anyone and everyone to access.  That we don’t need librarians any more to point us to the information we require.  Google can do it all for us.  What we have seen here (as with the Melanie Phillips example cited earlier) is that even journalists and academics make errors when obtaining and sharing information.  And this has very serious implications when one considers the roles that both sets of professionals play in society.  In this case, both Young and Ferguson make a basic error in not understanding what national debt actually refers to.  It is an easy mistake to make.  Who doesn’t leap at the first bit of evidence they come across that defends their own ideological position?  However, the skill is to look deeper, find out what this information actually means before drawing conclusions.  It is a skill that not everyone has, but it is a skill that is essential to the role of the information professional (and, to be honest, it is surprising that an acclaimed historian failed on this score).  Non-prejudicial information retrieval and evaluation.  Remove the information professional from the equation and, as here, you are left with a separation of information from its meaning.

Of course, now Young has put this out on the Internet it is there for all to see.  If only he had asked a librarian for the national debt figure, he might not have made himself look so silly.

Oh and in case you think Young wasn’t talking about national debt (he only uses the term ‘debt’ in his blog post), here’s his comment on Livingstone’s blog post on the issue of debt:

Toby Young

All kinds of good

"Can I interest you in lunch?" Image c/o Regonold on Flickr.

A lot of goodness has been floating around the past couple of days.  It kinda feels weird saying that when you have spent the best part of two days in bed and feeling as rough as a…well, you can guess the rest.  Anyways, like I say, there has been plenty of goodness around.  First up has been the cool news that Lauren Smith, friend, fellow VftL-er (does that even work?) and all round super-campaigner (cheque better be in the post Lauren ;)), has been highlighted as a Library Journal ‘Mover and Shaker of 2011’.  This is fantastic news and is nothing less than she deserves.  From her article in The Guardian through to her local and national campaign work, she has been an inspiration and I am certainly proud to work with her (maybe write out another cheque??).  Ned Potter was also recognised for his awesome work too, something about an Eccles Chamber or something…think it was to do with cake.  Oh no, echo chamber!  Sorry Ned, just kidding 🙂 Oh yes, and do check out Ned’s slideshow here, also awesomely super.  Anyway, congrats to both, it was really very much deserved and it’s well good to see you get the recognition [round of applause].

As well as having some fab news regarding a fellow VftL bod, I have also had some rather good (if completely surprising) news.  An email dropped into my inbox yesterday inviting me out for lunch next week.  “So far, so meh” I hear you cry.  Bizarrely, this offer of lunch didn’t come from an old school friend, an ex-colleague or a distant cousin (which would have been interesting for me, but made for a very dull blog post).  No, this offer came from Private Eye magazine!  Yes, the phrase “WTF?!?” was the first thing that sprang to mind when I read that email.  So much so, I ill-advisedly asked if they had made a mistake.  Turns out they hadn’t, I was genuinely invited to lunch by Private Eye care of the Library News editor on the magazine (I have recently made contact with them and thrown a few library things their way).   I’ve been a pretty regular reader of the magazine for some time so to say that I find this rather cool is a bit of an understatement.  I am pig sick with nerves about it, but I am also very excited and blown away by the invitation. God it feels good writing these words!  Definitely a case of all kinds of good.  [Funnily enough, whilst writing this I was asked what I would like from the menu!  It’s like all real and stuff!].

The trip to London for the lunch could (potentially) be my third trip to London within the space of a couple of weeks.  Later that same week, I am hoping (baby sitting permitting) that I will be attending the big march on the 26th for public services (alongside my fellow VftL-ers with luck).  But I am also due a trip up to London on Thursday to attend a meeting after recently becoming a member of a task group in the M25 Consortium of Academic libraries.  The consortium is:

…a collaborative organisation that works to improve library and information services within the M25 region and more widely across the East and Southeast. The Consortium now has 60 member institutions. Its aim is to provide services and resources for the benefit of learners and researchers.

The Task Groups themselves provide staff training, foster good practice and facilitate the exchange of experience.  The Task Group I have taken up a place on is the Operations Management Task Group which looks at “outsourcing, knowledge management, restructuring (inc. options & theories), operational / manpower planning, strategy, quality.”  I’m very excited about this opportunity to aid my development and gain some new skills and I hope I can make a good contribution to the Group. It will certainly be an interesting challenge and one I am very much looking forward to.

So there.  All kinds of win.  Now if I could just shake off this blinkin’ dodgy chest…