the CILIP Manifesto is a good step forward

19 Apr

CILIP has launched its new Manifesto – six priorities for the next government. You can view details of it on CILIP’s website, or click here to download the whole thing – it’s only a 4 page PDF.

A picture of CILIP's Manifesto

To avoid accusations of political bias, CILIP appears to have chosen to colour its Manifesto in the popular 'Tory Periwinkle'

The six priorities are

1. Make school libraries statutory

2. Promote and protect the rights of users within copyright law

3. Build a successful knowledge economy

4. Preserve the UK’s digital cultural heritage

5. Fund and enable the effective co-ordination of health information

6. Develop a set of library entitlements for public library users

Leaving aside the colour of the thing, I like this a lot. It is short, to the point, clearly laid out, and with basic information you can take in at a glance and more in-depth stuff too if you have time to read it. Here’s a quote:

“A copy of every book published in the UK is deposited at
the British Library and, by request, at other national
deposit libraries.This is not so with audio-visual or digital
material and much unique material has already been lost.
There are eight million websites in the UK domain but,
for example, no contemporary web records exist for the
death of Princess Diana or the unveiling of the Angel of
the North.”

It makes its point well, highlights the dichotomy of the traditional perceived role of the library and the one we actually have to serve now, and gives a solid and tangible example of what failings need to be addressed.

All six priorities are important, and the chances are one or more of them is relevant to either your work or your other professional activities – for me, the whole Preserve the UK’s digital cultural heritage business is fundamental to the LIFE-SHARE Project.

I like that there is are instructions and suggestions on how to use the document for lobbying and advocacy, including an email template to write to your MP, and details of how to go about contacting your local media. This is what a public and national library body should be doing – empowering its members to act, and providing the tools and the guidance to help them do so.

What I really like, though, is how widely CILIP has distributed this Manifesto. It’s gone to a LOT of people, including all parliamentary candidates. (There’s more than two-and-a-half thousand of them.) It has also been sent to political Party HQs, senior Information Professionals, and a press release has gone out. Much effort has been made to escape the echo chamber – this is not a Manifesto just for us to read among ourselves, but to communicate what we all say to each other to the wider country. I’ve thought for a while that libraries sometimes seem under-represented in popular culture – as well as all the funding cuts, the well-worn cliches, the closures etc, it doesn’t always feel like we’ve got enough fire-power to fight back in the public domain, via the media and so on. This is the first time CILIP has sent out a message to so many people (and so many potentially important, policy-forming people at that) and I really applaud them for it.

In other CILIP related news, the Diversity Group Conference 2010 has been announced: “An Inconvenient Truth: Race, Class and Libraries”. It takes place on Monday 14 June 2010 at CILIP HQ, and you can find details of the programme, prices, how to book etc on the Diversity Group’s web-pages. The talks look really good, and Bonnie Greer, no less, is providing the keynote. So check it out. I have a special set of circumstances this year which means I’ve used up each and every iota of leave and / or conferences-not-directly-related-to-my-9-to-5-job allowance for this cycle so will have to miss this, as well as Liver and Mash, and some other good looking conferences and a couple of events I was asked to speak at, which is sad times (although all in a good cause) – so I can’t go, but I wish I could. It’s an important issue, race in libraries; we seem to be a very un-diverse profession. It’s particularly noticeable in Leeds where I work in the UK – the population of the town has myriad ethnicities, as does the student population, but this doesn’t seem that well represented in the library staff. So if anyone reading this goes to the Diversity Group conference, I’d be interested in hearing what gets said…

- thewikiman

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you are only as good as your last customer interaction

08 Apr

I’ve said this before in papers and presentations, but never as blog post of its own – a recent Agnostic, Maybe post about library advocacy has reminded me of it.

Picture of a 'PUSH FOR HELP' button

How can we help you, REALLY well?

Sport is riddled with cliches, and one of the less vapid ones is “you’re only as good as your last game.”  Of course, your reputation should actually be the sum total of all your actions, but the most recent of these actions is by far the most important in forming opinions. Your reputation can be absolutely stellar right up until the point at which you choke in the final; at that point your reputation will be ‘choker’ rather than ‘silver medalist’, most likely.

The same applies in a very real way to library customer service. The reputation of each library is only as good as its last customer interaction. There are, of course, a million and one caveats to this, but I’m trying to learn the art of briefer blog posts so I won’t insult your intelligence by listing them here. Serve every customer superbly and there will gradually be a net gain in the reputation of your institution; serve one rudely or lazily and there may well be an instant reputation plummet. Word of mouth is so important, and everyone knows the majority of people are more likely to pass on bad experiences than good ones; it’s just the way we are.

I wanted a nice pithy definition of ‘reputation’ to use here, so I looked it up in the OED. Turns out there isn’t really a useful summary you can fit into a single sentance, but the gist of it is this: reputation is the general esteem in which something or someone is held.

This general esteem is easy to percieve as a fixed constant, a largley solid and static ‘thing’ which is sometimes influenced by particularly significant events. The reality for something like a library is that reputation is a constantly updating, evolving and shifting entity, held in the collective (and individual) conciousness of both the library’s users and even people who’ve never set foot on its premises. The reputation of your library is in part informed by you – literally you, as an individual, based on your actions as a member of its staff.

I’m going to pull out my favourite quote here – it’s from Elizabeth Esteve-Coll, in Information and Library Manager 5 (3) 1985:

“The library is not an abstraction. It has an identity, an identity created by the staff contact with the users.”

Two things strike me about that quote – firstly it came from someone who wasn’t a librarian (Dame Esteve-Cole, as she later became, was an academic and two years after writing the article I’m quoting from she became the director of the Victoria & Albert Museum) and secondly I was five years old then, and I’m not entirely sure her message has got through over the last quarter of a century. Library advocacy is a complicated issue and something of a problem for the industry, but the one thing we can all do as indivduals to improve reputations is good customer service. If 100% of librarians are nice 100% of the time, people will start to notice…

It’s really hard to do, by the way. It doesn’t take a genius to point out that being nice to people will improve reputations; of course it will. But actually applying that maxim to the full, particularly five minutes before you’re due to close with an annoying patron who isn’t showing you any courtesy at all in return, is often easy to duck out of. But it’s worth sticking with it, for the good of all of us.


- thewikiman

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the future of libraries: a video

31 Mar

Don’t worry, it isn’t yet another ponderous and doom-laden post on the future of libraries… It’s a 1 minute video I created with the ridiculously easy-to-use Xtranormal.

The premise is, many years have passed and we’ve finally arrived at a future where there ARE no libraries. So the first thing such a future would need to do, is introduce them. If you describe what a library actually does without using the word ‘library’, people would be blown away by how amazing it was. What a concept! That’s what happens here.

I now have a Youtube Channel, if you’re interested. That’s me done till after Easter – have a nice holiday people! :)

- thewikiman

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Why Twitter Is Worth It

29 Mar

I resisted Twitter for ages – the reason was two-fold. Firstly because I have too many distractions as it is; secondly and mainly because I didn’t really understand it. It is too easy to go with the lazy interpretation of much old media, which dismisses Twitter as ‘just a place where Stephen Fry tells you what he’s having for breakfast’ and all that stuff. Of course, Twitter does indeed serve that role for those who want it but it does a lot more than that, much of which is potentially very useful for Information Professionals.

Why write the 68 billionth blog post about Twitter? Because it was my ignorance of what Twitter could actually be used for that prevented me from joining from so long, so here is a very brief 8-slide presentation about why Twitter works for me. (I’ve resolved never to make a PowerPoint using the default slides again, it’s just too ugly. Style-wise, this is an homage to the likes of Helene Blowers and Bobbi Newmanwho perform the frankly sorcery-like trick of making PPts pretty…)

I should thank those other Info Pros who badgered me into joining (Woodsiegirl was definitely the ring-leader…) – ultimately the sheer utility of the medium overwhelmed me and I caved in. Part of the reason it works so well for us in the Library & Information sector is because so many of us embrace these kinds of social media – there is massive population of library related people on Twitter. Perhaps this is because it suits our interests so much – I was struck by a comment on Woodsiegirl’s recent blog post about Twitter, where she debated the merits of separate accounts for work and personal. Annie (is that Annie_me from Twitter?) said in favour of just having the one account:

Chances are, if you’ve chosen to be an information professional, it’s because you enjoy the work and are interested in the wider professional context. ‘Work’ becomes ‘personal’, because you’re not just interested in things because it’s your job to follow them.

That’s a very good point, and one I’d not heard articulated before. Of course Information Professionals like all this stuff! It’s part of why we like our jobs, and further support for the idea I was getting at a couple of posts ago, that we do what we already love, and that’s why we love what we do.

I’m no Twitter expert but while I’m on the subject, here’s some things I’ve decided about it:

  • If you don’t have a Bio, then I’m not going to follow you (unless your last few tweets are AMAZING!) – just put something up so we know who you are, even if it’s just a job title and what country you’re in
  • I am very weary of information overload – I really don’t know how people cope when they follow thousands of others in Twitter (even if they do use lists..). I try and be as ruthless as possible and follow as few people as I can, rather than go for a reciprocal, follow everyone so they follow me back type of approach. It works for me.
  • Has there ever really been anything, in the history of mankind, where you don’t get more out if you put more in? Twitter is like everything else – if you give of yourself you get more back. Being part of the community is great. Don’t be afraid about showing a little of your personality either. (Assuming you have a nice personality)
  • As Joeyanne said in the presentation that got me into social media in the first place – you have to go where the conversation is. If at some point a lot of Information Professionals abandon ship and head for another micro-blogging platform, I’ll be there, sheep-like, in their number.

- thewikiman

oh any by the way

The event that myself and WoodsieGirl are speaking at (a presentation on Marketing the Information Profession: Escaping the Echo Chamber which, to be quite honest with you, is looking awesome) is actually open to non Yorkshire & Humberside people. Originally I thought it was just for those from this region but in fact those from further afield can attend (although priority will be given to Yorkshire folk if it gets over-full). So, come on down! Especially students – there’s no better feeling than earning some of your Information Management Masters fees back than by attending an event for free as a student, even though you’re in full-time employment… Details of the event are elsewhere on the blog.

oh and by the way II

This post has been in my drafts folder for a while – since I wrote that the train strike has been announced, so I’ll let you off if you can’t come after all…

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