Where politics and libraries meet #fop12

The Scottish Parliament has created its own Festival of Politics  which runs between 17-25 August in Edinburgh.  Debate and discussion are at the heart of the event, now in its eighth year. Our 2011 CILIPS President Alan Reid, last year opined that the Festival didn’t seem directly relevant to our own professional concerns.  He’s clearly a man of influence because this year’s themed programme ‘Politics. Culture. Creativity. A force for change’ includes several events featuring libraries, writers and professional practice.

So as Alan might ask, ‘What’s in  the programme for library professionals this time around?’

Well, Festival partners Carnegie UK Trust are offering the following sessions featuring some well known faces from CILIP and the library world.

Public libraries in the digital age (Committee Room 1, Friday 17 August, 1.30-2.30pm)
New technology provides new opportunities for public libraries to reimagine themselves and to provide new kinds of services; but also changes the traditional model of the public library service.  How can libraries respond to these opportunities and challenges, and ensure that the public library service remains relevant to the needs of 21st century citizens?   This session, chaired by Melvyn Ingleson of Microsoft, includes contributions from Martyn Wade, National Library of Scotland, Max Whitby from Touch Press, and Liz McGettigan, Edinburgh City Libraries.

The importance of reading to children (Main Chamber, Saturday 18th August, 11.30am – 1pm)
Reading to children and encouraging children to read, is one of the most significant ways to improve their life chances.  This session will explore how we can encourage children to read and what we can learn from practice throughout the UK.  Annie Mauger, Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP), Marc Lambert, Scottish Book Trust, Miranda McKearney from the Reading Agency, and children’s author Theresa Breslin will debate the key issues.  The event will be chaired by John Scott MSP, Deputy Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament.

Aye Write! and the National Library of Scotland have joined forces to present

Preserving our Culture, Shaping our Future
Saturday 25 August 10.30-11.30am, The Scottish Parliament, Committee Room 3

Stuart Kelly will chair a discussion on the importance of archives to cultural heritage.  Speakers include Professor Richard Demarco, of the Demarco European Art Foundation, and David McClay, Curator of the John Murray Archive at the National Library of Scotland.

Aye Write! are also offering a second event:

Scotland’s Bookshelf – Politics and Society in Scottish Writing
Friday 24 August 6.30-7.30pm, The Scottish Parliament, Debating Chamber

Hear Iain Banks, James Robertson, Louise Welsh and others discuss how Scottish writing has reflected our politics and society over the last century.

You can find out more by downloading the full programme

and you can book tickets by clicking here

Many of the sessions at the Festival are free or charge only a nominal fee. The theme complements the Year of Creative Scotland which also involves several library initiatives. Where else should professionals be discussing library matters in relation to their political context this summer but at the Scottish Parliament!


Digital Participation

Willie Coffey MSP reconvened the Scottish Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Digital Participation on last evening. The growing interest in this area of work is reflected in the wide number of attendees from an increasing number of interests – everyone from Quarriers who are running ICT programmes with learning disabled and physically disabled adults to BT and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

The first presentation came from Sheena Watson of Digital Fife. She started by describing Fife’s demographics as ‘Scotland in miniature’ and the statistics reveal a deeply troubling picture with 30% of those on Job Seekers’ Allowance under the age of 25, a doubling of serious financial arrears in debt/rent and 5% of the population in deep financial difficulties. Around one in 5 are living in fuel poverty. In that context, all the government targets of getting online and signing up to broadband seem a huge challenge.

Digital Fife was established with funding from Big Lottery and develops local digital champions to work with community groups, supporting projects, building websites and developing other digital champions. They use net books and dongles for maximum flexibility with connectivity and work through the Learning Partnership, including libraries, to develop digital skills. The web content also includes online learning and some 1250 learners are registered. The modules are aimed at those running community groups and include courses on fundraising, organising meetings, basic computer courses and using the internet. When Martha Lane Fox, the UK Digital Champion, visited Templehall Library in January 2011, she met some of the digital champions and heard about the initiative. Projects have also been developed, aimed at helping those with mental health issues back to work. This includes a touchscreen project which can be bluetoothed from screen to smartphone or portable device for later study in private. There’s potential to make this accessible from a film screening added to windows which could, for example be added to mobile libraries or community buildings – offering 24/7 access.

This was followed by Stuart Robertson of Highlands and Islands Enterprise who spoke about Digital Highlands and Islands and Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). Highlands and Islands are one of 4 recipients of BDUK funding (Cumbria, Herefordshire and North Yorkshire) and are seeking to improve broadband provision from an economic development perspective. This is not to be confused with the Highlands broadband pathfinder which is aggregating public sector demand for broadband. The European targets are 30MB by 2020 and H&I have £10m of the £68.8m allocated to Scotland by BDUK and estimates are that at least £300m is required for all H&I coverage.

The final report came from Vicki Nash of Ofcom and looked at the latest Ofcom Communications Market Report. This did not make particularly easy reading either. Scotland is the least connected nation in the UK, having been second to England a mere 6 years ago, Scotland has slumped to the bottom with a complete flatline for the last 2 years. Broadband take-up is particularly low in Greater Glasgow (50%), amongst those aged 55+ (34%), by DE social groups (30%), and in households with incomes less than 17.5k per annum (26%). There’s more on this on Slainte news in August. The statistics are quite stark, if you’re older and poorer you are less likely to be connected and, therefore, less likely to be able to take part in the economic benefits available. That said, there was a growth in uptake of ‘bundles’(telephone/broadband/television) and we can only conclude that the Scots like a bargain! A fifth (21 per cent) of adults with a mobile phone in Scotland now own a smartphone, below the UK average of 30 per cent. Scotland had the lowest proportion of homes connected to a fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) enabled exchange in March 2011 at just 7per cent where-as the Northern Ireland Assembly Government has made a big commitment to FTTC. As part of Ofcom’s consumer advisory role under the Digital Economy Act, Ofcom has developed interactive maps. I see South Lanarkshire has an average connection speed of 7.7Mbit/s (not in my house, I hasten to add) and 65% sign up to broadband, but even this compares poorly to a UK average of 74%.

This is in the context of Job Centre Plus targets of moving 80% of transactions online and a UK total of 9.2million people who aren’t online. Libraries and other partners are working hard to provide the access and the support for skills development required but it is going to be a long, hard job to get people connected and digitally active in a recession.

Rhona Arthur, Assistant Director

Digital Fife added
The Digital Fife team also included Fife’s head of ICT who was involved in setting their digital inclusion strategy and was interested in ways to use council investment in IT to support Fifers.
I also wanted to highlight that one of the short online learning modules provided is Accessing government. Anyone can register and do the module -even outside the Kingdom.

First Click

The 100th learner at Lossiemouth
Vicky Jamieson is 90 years old and a former librarian. She has just completed Equalskills.

The BBC developed a digital participation campaign called First Click aimed at over 55s who had not been online and it was launched in October 2010. Over the period of the campaign the help line received nearly 66,000 calls and 38,856 referrals were made. Over the period of the campaign 44,561 beginner’s packs were given to First Click learners. In terms of perspective, government information indicates that 9.5m people are not yet online, so about 0.6% responded to this campaign positively, whilst many more were influenced.

BBC First Click
The detailed breakdown is not available from the Scottish data so this is drawn from the UK data. The vast majority were in the over 50, with over 30,000 over 60 and nearly 5000 were 80+. The mean age was 71. The majority were retired or not in paid employment and they contacted the help line for course information. The vast majority were white and not in learning and recorded no disability. Of those signing up for assistance 46% went to libraries, by far the biggest provider, and libraries attracted an even higher percentage from those who had no prior experience. In Scotland learners could expect the second smallest tutor to learner ratio at 1:6. The most effective communication remains word of mouth with 47% reporting this was how they heard about the campaign and only 27% through television and 5% through radio advertising.

The First Click campaign was overwhelmingly considered to be the most relevant of the BBC campaigns by over 80% of the services. The supporting materials and information packs were considered to be very good, very informative and well developed. Feedback from a couple of the local authorities indicates it First Click wasn’t a brand which was requested specifically and the success of word of mouth advertising rather than television/radio promotion; both of which cast doubt over the impact of the BBC partnership. However the statistical evidence is that the higher profile did bring people to libraries for ICT classes as there was a 19% increase in demand for classes in libraries last autumn. The 6 authorities who have responded to date indicate that over 1000 people have attended First Click courses.

There isn’t sufficient data as yet to analyse demand for classes and any regional variation, however anecdotally there are examples of additional classes being put on in Kirkcudbright, whilst Wigtown attracted only 3 learners. In Linlithgow people were put on a waiting list until suitable arrangements could be made. The Scottish response was lower than the national average, at 4.88%, although this only means fewer Scots phoned the help line.

South Lanarkshire Active IT
In a recent survey carried out by SLIC for the BBC, 87% of Scottish public libraries said digital participation and inclusion were identified as strategic priorities for their services in the next year. 91% said they felt that the BBC learning campaigns with libraries helped to increase learning and literacy and 78% specifically mentioned that, in their view, the campaigns helped to drive digital take-up. SLIC is working with Scottish Government to develop appropriate support for digital participation both through the Public Library Quality Improvement Fund, of which £305,000 will be dedicated to increasing digital participation through libraries in 2011/12.

Some services intend to continue to run First Click until materials run out and are finding that many of the participants go on to sign up for more courses at the library, it was felt that they built confidence after taking part in First Click and found an appetite for more learning.

The feedback was dominated by disappointment at the changes to both ILA Funding and the new “My World of Work” website from Skills Development Scotland. This seems the Digital Strategy and initiatives like the Race Online 2012 and SDS on the other are contradictory. The withdrawal of ILA funding for beginners courses will have an impact on our ability to achieve digital participation targets.

Rhona Arthur, Assistant Director

European Congress on E-Inclusion

Entitled Transforming Access to Digital Europe in Public Libraries, this was the second of these congresses I’ve attended, the last one being in 2009. The congress was held over a day and a half at the European Parliament in Brussels and attracted around 150 participants. Chris Batt, formerly Chief Executive at MLA, chaired the event which was run by Civic Agenda and supported by a host of organisations including JISC TechDis, Bibnet, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Eblida, to name a few. You can visit the event website and see all the information and presentations from the speakers, www.ecei11.com and Maria Cotera is writing a piece for the CILIP journal Update so you can also learn more about her impressions.

The event opened with two presentations on how to advocate to the European Parliament. The institution does not fund statutory services, like public libraries, but it will fund community hubs and telecentres. Not for the first time, I wondered whether libraries are driven to develop along certain lines because they chase the funding or because there is customer-demand. This was followed by some really impressive examples of taking advocacy into tough political environments and winning, namely Digital Wales and the work of IFLA with WIPO. Linda McAvan MEP joined a panel discussion and took questions from the floor before hosting a reception, which two other MEPs came along to as well.

The second day was a feast of papers from around Europe showing how libraries are repositioning themselves in the digital landscape including working with learning disabled adults in Latvia, the unique selling proposition developed by Bibnet, the inspirational Urban Media Space in Aarhus and developments in Romania. The next session on best practice led into an afternoon panel and question and answer format, which was quite a refreshing change for the more traditional conference session. Discussion included developing digital skills, e-government, peer-to-peer support, use of structural funds, broadband connectivity, social inclusion, gaming, working with specific target groups and accessibility. The final presentation came from Helen Milner of the UK Online Centres who challenged the congress to imaging a world without libraries and to consider that any strategy which is based on buildings is doomed. This enabled the conference delegates, mainly librarians, to consider what they really sought to achieve – namely people who are fulfilled, nourished, knowledgeable and empowered – and whether they thought they would find them in the library.

Rhona Arthur, Assistant Director

E-Books Unbound: Speakers confirmed

The 2011 ebooks planning group have confirmed the line-up for this year’s conference which takes place in the National Piping Centre in Glasgow on 27thOctober.

The National Piping Centre, Glasgow: venue for the 2011 ebooks conference

The speakers are:

Nora Daly of the British Library who will be looking at how digital technologies have changed research and exploring what role the 21st research library has in this new environment;

Consultant, Ken Chad, who has been working with a JISC ebooks project  looking at ebook business models in higher education with a view to help libraries and publishers better understand the requirements of patrons and develop affordable library-delivered e-books;

Emeritus Professor at Loughborough University, Charles Oppenheim, is our featured keynote speaker, and he’ll be discussing the legal aspects of the expanding digital  business models;

Sophie Rochester, an independent literary consultant and founder of The Literary Platform, a website dedicated to exploring new platforms for literature, will discuss new platforms and developments within ebooks,  and finally

Wendy Walker, of Glasgow University, will look at  patron driven acquisition at her home institution.

The Planning Group are delighted to announce that Jason Miles Campbell, manager of JISC Legal Services, has agreed to chair the event.

The exhibition to accompany the event has sold out in record time – a week after we announced the event all our spaces had been snapped up!

If you’re interested in attending there is a special earlybird rate of £65 avaiilable until 15th September and you can register here

You can also visit our lanyrd page   to find out more and add yourself as a delegate or opt to track the event.

Don’t forget the hashtag for the event is #ebooks11 so you can follow ebooks  on Twitter

Tales from Tallinn

Following on from my last blog, I have to report that everything that President Reid says in his Presidential Blog is true about the Twin Cities Conference and Study Tour in Estonia. You will have to visit the new CILIPS website on http://www.cilips.org.uk to read it for yourself.

Last week I took 4 speakers from Scotland and 1 Welshman to make their contributions to a conference organised by the Estonian Ministry of Culture spearheaded by Adviser on Libraries Meeli Veskus. The practical tasks were taken on by the small but mighty Triinu Seppam, ably assisted by Kaie Holm, Kalju Tammaru and Vaiko Sepper. Barbro Wigell-Ryynanen of Finland’s Ministry of Culture led the Finnish delegation. Contributions were focused on the conference theme To (too?) Public: Library Marketing and Public Relations in Public Libraries Today and speakers from all the different countries gave interesting presentations in excellent English.

The conference started with a quote from Information Scotland read by chairman Kalju, which goes to prove we have an international readership, about Aira Lepik from Tallinn University’s presentation to the 2007 conference. She gave another excellent presentation about marketing which finished with a glorious twist back to the Royal Wedding linking Something old, something new, something borrowed something blue.. and a silver sixpence in her shoe to library marketing. Paula Kauppila from Finland spoke strongly about taking the library message to the decision makers (I do prefer this term to stakeholders) and Jeanette Castle followed on describing West Lothian’s marketing of libraries as community hubs (the Estonian’s understood Blackburn is now famous as the home town of Susan Boyle and her popularity is amazing). Alan Watkin spoke about Wrexham’s involvement in the delivery of the Welsh marketing strategy and ably demonstrated how libraries have raised their game and the use of celebrities is very interesting and something we could learn from. Hannu Sulin from Finland’s Ministry of Culture talked about the constitutional context in Finland and the Minister’s framework for libraries and Katre Riisalu presented the Estonian Librarians Association’s strategic plan for supporting the development of the workforce.

My favourite was Kirajtokaista presented by Riita Taarasti which is part of libraries.fi and has 50 people working to provide services under one user interface. They have 369 videos and have produced 829 radio shows to promote libraries (see this clip and you can see the quality of the work http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1eITfhOwyTU). Once I has stopped smiling it was time for President Reid’s presentation on http://www.lovescottishlibraries.com and Marja Kivihall on the Estonian Library for the Blind and how much trouble we have reaching beyond the very supportive local press into national media.

Day two included presentations from Virpi Launonen on young people and library spaces and there were many shared experiences of consultation and development, Veronica Raudsepp Linnupuu on promoting Viljandi City Library and Tiina Viik on branding libraries. Leigi Kütt talked about her experiences in marketing Lääne-Viru and shared lots of practical promotional ideas. Audrey Sutton from North Ayrshire and Alison Hunter from East Lothian completed the formal presentations about the crowd sourcing Flickr project North Ayrshire’s Yesterd@ys and the innovative branding of the library service in East Lothian.

This doesn’t really strike at the value of all the chatter between papers, receptions and meals, a tour of 5 gorgeous libraries and the way our imaginations were sparked by sharing ideas and experiences. We were generously hosted and hope our contributions will help our colleagues as much as theirs will help us.

Rhona Arthur
Assistant Director

Future gazing in Liverpool with JISC

Last week I travelled to Liverpool to represent CILIPS and SLIC at the annual JISC Conference.  JISC11 was held at the BT Convention Centre adjacent to the Albert Dock on the waterfront and was attended by around 600 people, although not many of those were from Scotland. This perhaps reflecting pressures on training budgets (for the first time JISC  charged for attendance at their annual conference) and staffing arrangements.  The event offered 29 sessions presented by 10 speakers.

‘Financial challenges – digital opportunities’ addressed  delivering services during a period of challenging financial circumstances for institutions and for JISC itself which has been the subject of an independent review commissioned by HEFCE.  Professor Eric Thomas, Vice Chancellor of Bristol University, used his keynote address to highlight the importance of the use of technology by the sector to encourage student applications, predicting that within ten years there would be more students studying in their own home towns and local education institutions to save on costs.

Strategically, when the recommendations of the Review have been implemented, JISC is going to look quite different.  Already, in Scotland, we know that the JISC Regional Support Centre, North and East is to close, although cross Scotland coverage won’t change. So it will be interesting to monitor the progress of the working groups being led by Malcolm Reid, JISC Executive Secretary and Professor David Baker, Deputy Chair of JISC, as they enter into consultations with JISC staff and members on the Review recommendations.


Liverpool Lambananas come in many varieties

Apart from the general updating and keeping abreast of technology in education, for SLIC and CILIPS three topics were of particular relevance:

1)       Event amplification – a term coined by Lorcan Dempsey.   With  over 250 on line users in ‘virtual attendance’ or ‘dropping in’ remotely to live streamlined sessions, conversations or social media sites, JISC itself was extending its reach and attempting to overcome some of the difficulties its members have in making time to travel to and attend the conference. A most useful session explored  event amplification and its potential to widen participation by exploiting networked technologies to do so through live streaming video, slides on Slideshare and ‘back channel’ discussions on Twitter.

2)       Digital Literacy – the ability to locate, organise, understand, evaluate and analyse information using digital technology. As JISC points out, with   90% of new jobs  requiring excellent digital skills, improving digital literacy is an essential component of developing employable individuals who can make best use of digital opportunities.  Using the findings of the Supporting Learners in a Digital Age (SLIDA) JISC funded project, this session explored how institutions can better develop the digital literacies of their community. It’s well worth an exploration of the virtual goody bag on this topic.

3)      Rethinking libraries – innovation in a time of limited resources explored how libraries can remodel services to deliver more efficiently. Following on from the recent RIN report on ‘Challenges for academic libraries in difficult times’ this was a timely and useful discussion from JISC who have a strong record in supporting libraries and their services. It was heartening  to learn that  as well as working with colleges and universities to embed core digital skills into the curriculum JISC is   proposing a new programme of work to support organisational strategies and approaches for improving digital literacies for all staff and learners.

Much of the material from the Conference including streamed videos  has been made available by JISC and it’s well worth taking some time to explore this.

Well done to all for a fascinating and engaging day in the home of the lambananas!