I was talking to a teenager today who could not communicate with me by “normal” means.  Pretty normal for a teenager you may think … but this is not what I mean.  This teenager is a very intelligent chap and wanted to contact the library – he had a few ideas about how we could improve things – but had failed.  This was despite him (a) knowing where we were, (b) our opening hours, (c) our phone number and (d) our email address but none of that was of use to him.  You see, he simply uses forms of messaging many public libraries, at least at branch level, doesn’t.  He texts, he facebooks, he tweets.  Some public library branches do all of these, most don’t do all.  Public libraries can, and should be, masters of information technology and communication and, as it was brought home to me today, we sometimes fall behind that ideal.

Come to think of it, being people text more than they phone, why don’t all libraries have that capacity?  I don’t mean some central text receiving/sending office but texts in all libraries.  How come we’re ignoring such a common method of communication?  Is it that we somehow see such a method as frivolous?  As not befitting “proper” work conditions?  If so, we may well be missing a trick.  Perhaps we should be following our clientele in this and using their methods of communication rather than being stuck in the world of an audio-only telephone on every librarian’s desk.  Texting is less obtrusive than a phone, we can deal with it when we’re free and we can gain big kudos amongst hard-to-reach groups by using a popular cheap technology – but we don’t because we somehow think that texting is not serious enough.  Mobile phones are cheap and everyone texts.  Why don’t library staff while they’re on duty?  Just a thought.

Reality is of course far far removed from my theories about the wisdom of a texter at every desk.  It is with great sadness that one reads that half of Harrow’s library computers are out of order for instance.  It doesn’t help that most of the machines in public libraries date from the halcyon days of significant People’s Network funding.  Those machines, so shiny and needed then, are starting to not be suitable for purpose now.  Heck, libraries should be aspiring Macs and tablets-with-everything now.  But the reality if quite different in many authorities.  This difference between what is and what should be is going to really hurt many users who will be coming into libraries in the new year due to having no home online access and the need to access Government “digital by default” services.  It would be a great shame if the expected surge in library computer use, driven by government policies, next year, was rebuffed due to “out of order” signs caused by another government policy.

The other eye-catching news is that the much-trumpetted and promised new library at Artsdepot in Barnet has been cancelled.  This was to replace both the closed (and now squatter cause celebre) Friern Barnet Library and North Finchley Library.  Some of the money saved will go into keeping North Finchley open and to improve it.  There are no plans to reopen Friern Barnet.

News

  • Banning fifty shades trilogy in public libraries - South Florida Sun (USA).  “Libraries in Florida, Wisconsin and Georgia have taken this book off the shelf; due to poorly written material they are not willing to purchase or because of the sexually explicit content between two of the main characters, Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. Many critics have addressed this new infatuation as “mommy porn,” even causing the topic to make its way to a “Saturday Night Live” skit.” … “Brevard county public libraries own copies of the graphic “Complete Kama Sutra” and other erotic novels, but had a recall on “Fifty Shades of Grey” after concluding it was too pornographic. American Civil Liberties Union advocates would agree that this topic is protected by the First Amendment. “I care about the First Amendment and I know censorship when I see it,” said Maria Kayanan, Associate Legal Director, ACLU of Florida.”
  • David Baldacci campaign to launch in libraries - BookSeller.  “Running until the end of February 2013, the project will see more than 500 libraries across 35 different local authorities getting involved, using targeted information to promote the author. Each library service will be given 100 free copies of Baldacci’s books, and readers will be encouraged to fill out review cards after reading, to be placed on a review board in the library. The library with the best review board will win a case of wine for staff and £100 to spend with Pan Macmillan. Peterborough’s Central Library is one of the libraries around the UK taking part in this project.”
  • Not all libraries are created equal - Corin Haines.  A look at a few different public libraries in South Korea.  Voice activated self-issue machines anyone?
  • Real crime novel: shocked library staff discover gun hidden inside book’s secret compartment - Mail.  “One public library found a bestseller packing a little extra literary firepower than usual – when an employee opened a donated book to discover a gun inside. Tucked away in a hallowed-out-space made in a novel from 1998 called ‘Outerbridge Reach’, the .31-calibre, single shot, A.S.M. gun with a gold and wooden handle elicited gasps from staff at the Valparaiso branch of the Porter County Public Library.”
  • School librarian organises mass lobby at Westminster - This is Hampshire.  “Barbara Band, a mother-of-two, who works at The Emmbrook School, in Berkshire, will join other librarians, authors, teachers, parents and students from across the country at a march in support of school libraries. The protest will call on the Government to make sure that every child has equal access to the knowledge and information that a good school library provides.”

Changes

Local News

  • Barnet – Artsdepot and the fight for Arts and Culture in Barnet - Lost Arts.  “in May 2002, one of the newly elected Conservative council’s first acts in office was to put in a planning application for a variation in the use of the site from a purpose built arts centre in artsdepot to a library.  The most obvious flaw in this new plan was that the construction was already well under way, and there had been no provision in the existing plans for a library.” … “Barnet has already closed Friern Barnet Library and plans to close North Finchley library. Of course, negotiations have begun with the London Borough of Barnet about housing a large Landmark library within artsdepot to replace the two closures. That Landmark library is absolutely essential and an important lifeline for a close-knit community like ours. But not much has happened to make it a reality and in any case it would be too inaccessible for many in the local community.”
  • Barnet Council rules out reopening Friern Barney Library despite North Finchley artsdepot pull-out - Times series.  “Libraries portfolio holder Councillor Robert Rams said: “Friern Barnet closed because we had to make a saving to our ongoing revenue budget and that building’s closure is saving the taxpayer around £100,000 a year. The money from the sale of the building will be put back in to the library service. All council services are having to make savings at the moment, with our library Service making a saving of around £1.4 million over the period of the spending review. This is around two per cent of the overall financial saving the council has to make.””
  • Council pulls out of “landmark” library investment in North Finchley artsdepot - Times series. “Major plans to spend thousands on a new “landmark” library at the artsdepot in North Finchley have been scrapped by Barnet Council. The authority has instead pledged to invest the cash in the existing North Finchley Library, which would have closed under the initial proposals, and has ruled out reopening the Friern Barnet Library. A breakdown in relationship between the council and artsdepot directors has been blamed as the reason for the pull-out.”
  • Councillor say thousands of pounds wasted on fruitless “landmark” library plans – Times series.  “opposition councillors argue the council has already wasted thousands of pounds on a temporary library at artsdepot, as well as a feasibility study and temporary security measures at Friern Barnet Library which was closed under the library policy.” … “The council spent £26,126 on the artsdepot project, including £10,126 on a feasibility study and £16,000 on supporting artsdepot to develop a longer term business strategy. “
  • Harrow – More than half of Harrow’s public computers out of order - Harrow Times.  “Harrow Council’s response to a freedom of information request submitted by blogger Paul Boakes, who runs community website iharrow, shows that as of October 19, 76 of the borough’s 142 public computers are out of order. The worst of Harrow’s 11 libraries to try and use a computer is at Gayton Library in St John’s Road, where just four of the 19 machines are working.”