Kent refuse to reveal rejected proposals…

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County Hall, Maidstone (image c/o John47kent on Flickr)

During a meeting earlier this year, proposals were put before the 73 Conservative members of Kent County Council regarding the future of libraries across the county.  It is alleged that these proposals included the potential closure of a substantial number of libraries across the county.  The Kent Messenger’s political editor, Paul Francis, wrote at the time:

 

“Precise figures are hard to come by but at least one source has mentioned over 40.”

There are presently over 100 libraries across the county, meaning that the proposals suggested the closure of nearly half of all the libraries in Kent.

Interestingly, not all the councillors were enthusiastic about the proposals:

“Sources say that many county councillors were aghast at the proposals, not least because some of those identified for closure were in Kent’s Conservative heartlands. Others pointed out that they had made various election commitments that local libraries in their areas would be safeguarded.”

Perhaps recognising the strength of many campaigns across the country, one councillor allegedly remarked:

“You can do more or less what you like to any other service and not many will care, but not to libraries.”

Read more at Voices for the Library.

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.

Statistically speaking…

Tea - vital when dealing with statistics

One of the areas of cross-over between my job and my role in Voices for the Library is processing statistical data.  Every now and then I work on some local authority statistics to analyse whether their claims for low usage actually stack up with the reality.  Sometimes it is evident that over time there has been a growth in usage and whilst the usage is low, its growth suggests an increasing need for the service (not a decreasing one that the authority would argue).  At work I tend to process statistics for e-journal and e-book usage.  I particularly like to focus on trending data as it can build up a useful picture about whether a particularly product is seeing an increase (or decrease for that matter) in usage.  This involves a fair amount of playing around with spreadsheets and charts, but I weirdly kind of enjoy it (as I’m sure fellow VftL-ers will testify).

However, me and maths haven’t always had an easy relationship.  I always remember getting my first piece of maths homework back from secondary school and scoring a G (or something similarly poor).  Despite the fact that the maths teacher at the time was also a PE teacher (no, really), I was pretty devastated.  But I was sure this was a little hiccup (my maths teacher also taught PE for the love of whatsit) and I would turn things around.  And I did.  Things got better and instead of poor grades I scored slightly higher than average.  Things were looking up until that fateful day I will never forget…

I had always planned to go to university.  Right the way back at primary school I was determined to get to uni and get a degree.  No-one else in my family had made it that far and I resolved early on that I would be the first.  As I moved onto secondary school, I knew that I would need a GCSE in maths in order to achieve my goal.  Without a grade C, I was doomed to either scrape in or not get in at all.  The ‘C’ in maths was a vital step in achieving my ambition.  Nothing would stand in my way.  Then it happened…

Spreadsheets - heaven or hell?

As exam time approached, we were given our predicted grades for each of our subjects.  My maths teacher (not the PE one, an actual maths teacher by this stage) called me up to the front and showed me my grade.  He looked up at me to see if I had seen the grade marked on the register.  I nodded slowly and walked backed to my seat.  I was predicted an ‘E’.  I was devastated.  I went home from school that day and cried.  Not only was I predicted an ‘E’, I was also dropped into the intermediate stream where the maximum mark I could achieve was a ‘C’.  Suddenly my university dream seemed a lifetime away.  Despite the disappointment, I decided to work my butt off to make sure I proved my maths teacher wrong and get that grade ‘C’.

To cut a long story short, I got that ‘C’.  Not only did I get a ‘C’, but my grades had improved so much in the lead up to the exams that I pushed to be allowed to study A-level maths (alongside English Lit and History – strange mix).  The maths teacher was reluctant to do so, particularly as I was on the lower stream, but I convinced him I should be allowed to take the course.

I got a lot of stick in the first few months from the other A-level maths students.  They thought I was out of my depth and that it was an insult that someone from a lower stream should be able to do it at A-level.  But I persevered, worked hard and by the end of the two years some of them were asking me for help (ha!) and, to top it all off, I was awarded the Senior Mathematics prize in my final year.  That day I spent crying over my predicted grade seemed a lifetime away.  My maths teacher approached me at the end of the school year and told me he was very pleased that I had proved him wrong and I think he was genuinely pleased that I had turned things around.  I wonder what he would make of what I do now!

I do find that my relationship with maths has helped me immensely in recent years.  It has certainly helped in my work with Voices for the Library.  But it has also helped me in terms of how I read.  The use of statistics in a newspaper column has me digging deeper to find out what it actually means.  In the past I may have just accepted a statistic as a factual element to the author’s argument.  Now I question it.  A good example came up recently in an article by Tim Montgomerie in The Daily Telegraph recently.  Well, two examples in fact:

No, the real power is in the hands of the Murdochs’ arch-enemy: the BBC. When it comes to news, 73 per cent of us get most of it from television – and the BBC supplies 70 per cent of TV news.

and

A study of BBC employees’ Facebook profiles found that they were 11 times more likely to describe themselves as liberal than conservative.

When I first read this article I was at a loss as to what these actually mean.  Sure, it looks straightforward at first, but where does the figure relating to 70% of TV news being broadcast by the BBC actually come from?  Without knowing the methodology behind it is meaningless.  Sure, it might sound good to the uncritical, eager to bash the BBC and produce any statistic to do so, but without the context it is worthless.

Likewise, what does it mean that employees of the BBC are 11 times more likely to describe themselves as ‘liberal’?  What employees were consulted?  Given there will probably be a lot of people working for the BBC who are neither ‘talent’ or in a position of authority, does this really mean anything?  If the report focused on purely journalists and editorial staff, maybe it would have some relevance, but to include all staff at the corporation?  It is worse than meaningless.

So, there you go.  Stats can be boring and tedious but, on the other hand, it does rather help you sort the wheat from the chaff.  Hey, I wrote a whole post on stats without using numbers or drawing graphs!

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.

On the campaign trail…

You gotta fight, for your right, to..er...library? (image c/o freestylee)

Probably strange timing to write a post about this given the results from local elections across the country today, not to mention the AV debacle built as it was on the most outrageous lying I think we have ever witnessed in any kind of campaign for votes.  But anyway, I kinda got to thinking of late why I do what I do.  Why I’m involved in campaigning for libraries and why I am so passionate about it.

I think the reflection has come about due to a recent break from involvement in the Voices for the Library campaign due to a number of personal issues that have required my attention.  That two week break gave me a chance to think about my involvement in the campaign and reflect on the things that we have achieved so far.  I was helped through this period of reflection by a number of information professionals telling me how great they think the campaign is and how they are actually quite proud to be able to say that they know me and, by extension, one of the founders of VftL.  They did not know that I was having a break at this point, but their words were immaculately timed.

So why do I do it and how do I find the time (another question often asked of me)?  Well, I’ve been pretty much engaged in online campaigning for several years now, long before my involvement in VftL.  For a few years I kept a somewhat political blog that I used to promote certain campaigns I felt passionate about.  Everything from Guantanamo to Palestine to modern day slavery.  I think it is fair to say that my campaigning was fairly scatter-gun and admittedly ineffectual.  Sure, it probably reached a small handful of people, but I very much doubt it changed anyone’s minds or had any impact at all of any note.  I like to tell myself those evening locked in my spare room were worthwhile but, well, that’s probably not the case.

I stopped keeping this blog some time ago as I became increasingly involved in what was going on in the library world.  As a result, my evenings spent blogging about various political issues of the day was pushed to one side and I became more and more focused on public libraries in particular.  And I guess that is where VftL came in.  I was excited about the prospect of being involved in a campaign I believed passionately in and that might even be able to achieve something.  No more tapping away on my own at the computer at night hoping that someone somewhere might take notice of my crazed rantings (not that they were crazed I can assure you!).  This was a chance to achieve something.

So now, instead of blogging about various fringe issues that mattered to me but not a whole bunch of other people, now I am involved in a campaign that a lot of people are very passionate about.  From library users to library staff, there are a great many people who care a great deal about the wonders of the public library service.  A great many people who feel like they are under attack and have been pushed onto the backfoot.  And, for some of those people, VftL has provided a voice and a platform to shout about why libraries are important and why they should be protected at any cost.  That is something that makes me very proud.  It is also something that keeps me going at times when I am feeling that I have given all that I can give.  When I needed a break to deal with my personal issues, it was this that made me determined to come back and not  cut off my ties for good.  Sure, it has its moments, but if it wasn’t this I would be campaigning about something else.  Far better to campaign on something that could deliver results than something that will be largely ignored (no matter how important I think those issues are – and believe me, I think they are very important.  Catch me in a one-to-one conversation and you will know it!).

I have recently finished a book by Susan George called ‘Whose Crisis, Whose Future?’ – a fascinating read and one that I can heartily recommend.  At the end of the book, George reflects on how she responds to the question ‘what keeps you going?’.  She writes:

“I know that I cannot predict or know today, or probably ever, what may be the impact of my actions.  They may have none at all.  One can make every effort not to leave the world as one found it and still have no guarantee of success.  This is why I do not answer the recurrent question ‘Are you optimistic or pessimistic.

“…I prefer the world of reason, sense and possibility and to recognise that I might write something or reach someone with an idea; I might act or inspire others to take action of their own.  I might be the crucial, though insignificant grain of sand that causes the system to reset in a pattern at once safer, greener, fairer, more humane and more civilized.

“So might you.”

That, for me anyway, sums up why I have been doing what I have been doing for the past six years and why I have an urge to do something.  It is that that keeps me going more than anything else when I am feeling tired of arguing and fighting.  You just never know if someone, somewhere, may just change their mind as a result of something you have said or written.  And I guess when it comes down to it that is all we can hope for.  I know that I’m not going to change the world (I stopped thinking that a couple of years ago!), but if I can change one person’s mind then that makes it worthwhile.  And if it is a councillor who changes their mind, then all the better.  Although, perhaps I won’t hold my breath on that.

What do libraries mean to you?

Last week I asked a question on both Facebook and Twitter:

What three words would you use to describe what libraries mean to you?

I had been thinking for a long time that the number of followers for both the Voices for the Library Facebook Page and Twitter account would mean that gathering their thoughts on what libraries are about might be an interesting exercise and, hopefully, draw a wide range of response.  So it turned out to be with over 50 people contributing in excess of 150 words.  The product of this process was an interesting (well, I think so anyway) word cloud:

What do libraries mean to you?

Before going any further, it may be worth pointing out something about the contributions themselves.  The question was asked, as I said, on both Facebook and Twitter.  Whereas it is fair to say that responses on Facebook would have come solely from people who have signed up to ‘like’ the Voices for the Library page (meaning they are possibly more likely to be library workers or library supporters), Twitter was an altogether different proposition.  As Twitter is ‘open’, more people were exposed to the question and consequently, this potentially led to a more varied response from a greater range of people (beyond the usual librarian/library user responses).  In short, basically this wasn’t just a collection of responses from librarians or library workers, it was far broader than that, which is why some of the responses are interesting.

Note, for example, that although several words imply a relationship with books (‘reading’ and ‘literacy’ for example), ‘books’ itself is barely noticeable (it is just under the ‘c’ of ‘community’).  Compare that with words such as ‘knowledge’, ‘community’, ‘freedom’ and ‘information’, all of which feature prominently (word clouds size the words according to the frequency with which they are used – small for rarely used words, large for commonly used words) .  So what does this tell us about how people view libraries in this admittedly limited experiment?  It seems that the most important aspects of the service are the provision of information and the access to knowledge, in all its forms.  So whilst books are important, does it not also suggest that anything that is considered ‘information’ or that imparts ‘knowledge’ should be considered central to the library service?  It would appear so.

It is also interesting to note that the ‘community’ aspect is considered vital.  For many people, community spaces have rapidly diminished.  There are few places left for groups of people to come together and create that sense of community.  Some might argue that that is no longer important as technology has plugged the gap, but I would argue that communities still need that social space.  Who knows, maybe this lack of communal space has helped to exacerbate the individualistic nature of modern society.  He says writing on his blog.

There does appear to be a paradox at play here though.  Whilst it is easier than ever to build connections with people in distance lands, connections closer to home appear more distant than ever.  Although the growth of the Internet has broadened our horizons, has it also blurred the foreground?  That said, are the recent events in the Middle East proof that this is not the case?  Do the uprisings in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya indicate that communal bonds have been strengthened to such an extent that they can tear down (or at least attempt to) repressive regimes that attempted to keep communities from uniting?

Well, this was supposed to be a post about the word cloud created from a simple question about libraries.  That little diversion was not supposed to happen.  Ah well.

The other thing I found interesting from collecting this data (and interesting in a fairly minor way), was the difference in responses from people on Facebook and Twitter.  Whereas there was limited interaction from the ‘followers’ on Facebook, there was a continuous flow from Twitter.  It rather suggested to me that Facebook users are a little more passive than Twitter users who prefer to engage and discuss rather than simply observe.  But then I guess that reflects the type of person attracted to Twitter, it is not exactly well suited to observation and passive engagement – which is perhaps why many people who try out Twitter for the first time find it hard to get into.

Anyway, getting back to the central driver behind this post (the word cloud remember?!), I’d be interested to hear what thoughts others have as to why words such as ‘community’, ‘knowledge’, ‘information’ and ‘freedom’ took precedence.  Why are these more common responses than ‘books’?  What do this mean for libraries?

The ‘Thoughts….’ Annual 2010 – Part I

As 2010 is drawing to a close, I thought what better way to commemorate the passing of one year and the beginning of a new one than to look back over the past year and revisit some of the events that I have blogged about and some of those things that I hadn’t.  There probably are better ways (getting blind drunk and dancing in the street singing Lady Gaga’s greatest hits for example – quick little 2010 cultural reference there….my finger is practically stroking the popular zeitgeist and tickling its soft underbelly), but I’ve decided to do this now so there is no turning back.  So, without further ado, here begins Part I of my review of 2010.

January

January saw my usual sceptical take on the Kindle and a bunch of statistics that Amazon had thrown at us in the immediate post-Christmas period.  Strangely enough, almost a year later, Amazon are still throwing out statistics about the strength of Kindle sales. Yet here we are, a year down the line, and I am still far from convinced that a Kindle is the right option.

January also saw me make a decision about my option modules for my course.  Looking back I still believe I made the right choices, as I think skills in both marketing and digitisation are going to be very important.

I also blogged about CardStar, an application for smartphones that allows library users to recreate their library barcode on their phone.  This had some interesting ramifications for libraries and pointed to the need for staff to be on top of developments to ensure that service delivery isn’t compromised.  That said, I haven’t used CardStar at all since I blogged about it (but then I don’t have many storecards either), but I still think awareness is key.

Finally, I also blogged about the announcement of the iPad and it’s potential to seriously rival the Kindle.  To date that post has had over 5,000 views and is by far the most viewed post on my humble little blog.  It also holds the record for most viewed post in a single day (over 500). Not bad going!

February-April

Seville's Feria de Abril

These were very quiet months for my blog……so quiet I didn’t write a damn thing!  That said, it wasn’t exactly a quiet period in other respects.  First of all, April saw my very last study school come and go.  It was kind of a weird feeling back then.  I thoroughly enjoyed all of my study schools and they certainly brought back memories of my student days.  However, upon completion of this study school I knew that I was heading towards the final straight and a long hard slog was ahead of me.  I will miss the schools and the connections they provided (I met several previously unseen Tweeters at this last study school which was quite weird…..the collision of the virtual and the real always sends me into a spin), but I am looking forward to getting the qualification under my belt and moving on professionally.

April was also fairly traumatic as my wife and I had intended on taking our daughter to the fantastic Feria de Abril in Seville for our little girl’s first birthday.  Unfortunately, Eyjafjallajökull decided to kick off and any chance we might have had disappeared before our eyes.  A sad end to April, but hopefully we will rectify this in 2011.

May

And with a quiet few months behind me, the blogging began again in earnest.  First off, I blogged about my experiences at the study school I went to in April (see above).  I hoped it might prove useful for those on the distance learning course to see what lies ahead of them.  Of course, I may have just freaked them out, but that’s the chance you take!

May also saw some exciting news on the job front.  I had been successful in applying for a library systems post at my local university and I was about to straddle that line between librarian and shambrarian (a libshambrarian if you will).  I have to say i have thoroughly enjoyed the new challenge that this has brought me and I certainly do not look back with regret and my decision to move on and try something different.

I also blogged about privacy concerns on Facebook (something I am sure will continually creep around ad infinitum) and a post about marketing in libraries wondering whether they should focus on those that use the service or those that do not.  A problem I still struggle over and I have yet to come to a satisfactory answer.

June

Gardens of the Real Alcazar in Seville

And so we reach June (or does June reach us?) and my utter annoyance at the coverage of library closures on Newsnight. So throughly cheesed off was I that I devoted a rather lengthy post to defending the library service and attacking those that fail to see its value (and indeed those that fail to defend it sufficiently). What infuriated me at the time, and continues to do so to a certain extent (although, like the Icelandic volcano, my initial eruption has subsided somewhat, causing only slight discomfort to those in my immediate vicinity), was the fact that the defence was put forward by someone with a tenuous grasp of libraries and their role and that a series of middle-class assumptions were made (everyone has broadband/internet……tell that to the 9 million people who have never….let me repeat that…..never even experienced the Internet firsthand).  Furthermore, it set in motion the narrative that has seen councils ignore the local people’s demands of a comprehensive library service (surely the Big Society is all about meeting the demands of the local community?) and force them (yes, force) to run the service voluntarily without professional guidance.  The horror.  Ironically, the Big Society seems to involve government forcing people to provide services that they feel are better provided by their local councils.  Not so much Big Government, more Bullying Government.

On the flip side, June also saw a long-awaited trip to Seville and my birthday.  See, it’s not all doom and gloom

End of Part I

So, that’s where we leave it at the end of Part I.  Our hero is sat in front of his computer, over the festive period no-less, tearing his hair out in frustration at some events that he has voluntarily decided to re-visit.  Let’s hope things pick up a little in Part II or else this experiment in creating my first blog review will remain an ill-advised experiment.  And not one worth repeating (are any ill-advised experiments worth repeating?).