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!

Lovely libraries

I’ve been out and about this week and I thought I’d share a few of my photos with you. The first come from Westhill in Aberdeenshire. It’s a new build from capital money and located within a primary school. I loved the atmosphere, design and layout. There was a great deal of thought given to space, movement and people. The buggy park, clearly labelled on the way in was the first sign. The second sign of ‘goodness’ was the two girls playing on iPads – which were on security locked fixed stands, with a swivel. They kindly showed me their games.

Next, one of the lovely young mums told me how nice it was to bring the little ones into a bright safe space, with activities and the storytunnel got a big thumbs-up from her little girl. Finally professional staffing had been secured for the first year to give the new branch a boost and to build the audience.

The second set of visits was at Inverclyde Libraries. The Watt Memorial Library was built in memory of James Watt, the inventor. I felt a bit foolish having assumed Greenock was a bit ‘in decline’ because, of course that means it had a glorious past (at one time). I was down to look at a Scottish Government Public Library Quality Improvement project which bought a scanner and computers for the library, which is the local studies/archive part of a larger museum/gallery and lending library complex. It has to be said, there’s room for BIG investment but the people who showed me how they were capturing their memories for Greenock were large on imagination and energy. One was trapping local tales, another using her family connection to early photography in the area to promote images from the 1850s onwards, another on James Watt and so on.

The library visit led to the museum and the Francis Frith images and then the Scottish colourists in the Gallery. My thanks to George for his knowledgeable guide, which made me realise how much I’d missed in the past. Greenock is, of course, the gateway to the workd for Scots and many of the wealthy shipping connections brought home their collections and gifted them to the town.

There’s a lot going on down here with the Central Library about to relocate to an interim home, until it moves back to the original library (vacated in 1967) and a new library at Inverkip and refurbishment at the South West Branch. One the way home i treated myself to a stop at Kilmacolm to see the new library. It’s gorgeous and I love all the glass, stone and wood. The community were determined to have a new library and to support it and it was good to see it all worked out so well.

National Libraries Day: In the Loop

People up and down the UK celebrated National Libraries Day on February 4th in a variety of ways from Stephen Fry’s description of them as ‘places of incredible glamour, possibility, power, excitement and pleasure’ to author Julia Donaldson’s protest poem on library closures down south.  Libraries across the nation delivered  special activities to mark the occasion while off duty librarians did their bit too.

Newspapers including the Herald and  Financial Times made the case for the value of libraries to economy and society and set the positive tone for the day ahead – a Glasgow librarithon and shoogle tour called In the Loop!.

In Glasgow, Anabel Marsh, librarian at Strathclyde University Jordanhill Campus developed an idea for a librarithon based around stops on the Glasgow Underground and floated it at a recent tweet up where it generated a lot of interest. In the run up to National Libraries Day librarians, CILIP in Scotland, Glasgow Life and Glasgow Subway all offered to support the initiative resulting in a hugely enjoyable day of fun, culture, learning, exploration and networking.

Glasgow Subways presented participants with ‘shooglebags’ to hold the books we would borrow at each library and they even sent a photographer along to record the event.  STV picked up the story and featured it on their website.

Assisted by our guide, Myra Paterson, a chartership candidate at Glasgow Life who gave up her day off to escort us around four very different service points in Glasgow, we were welcomed with coffee and proud enthusiasm from Doreen, Jo and John who showed us around Hillhead Library, library at GOMA, Partick Library and Gorbals Library on the south side of the river Clyde. Children’s author, Lynne Rickards joined us for part of the tour and for lunch in the west end of Glasgow. Anabel has blogged about the event and about ‘shoogle’ terminology while Lauren Smith, CILIP Vice President, described her experience using lots of pictures. Lynn Corrigan gave us a diary record with photos

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SmartSM Scottish User Group launched

The first meeting of the SmartSM Scottish User Group was held in Perth on 14th November. Representatives from 15 of the 16 Scottish SmartSM customers were joined by Bridgeall’s Jennifer Jackson, Consultant George Kerr and Rhona Arthur, SLIC’s manager of the Scottish Public Library Quality Improvement Fund.

The smartLINK consortium (Argyll and Bute, Falkirk Community Trust , Glasgow Life , Inverclyde, Moray, Perth and Kinross and West Lothian) successfully applied for Scottish Government Public Library Quality Improvement Funding and the consortium is about to add more members (Angus, Fife and West Dunbartonshire). Following discussion it was felt that there was enough support for a SmartSM Scottish User Group from existing customers (East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire Leisure and Culture Trust, High Life Highland, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture and Stirling).

The aim of the SSUG is to provide a platform for dialogue between users and with Bridgeall, to contribute to the development of new products and services and to share good practice. Pat McCann of Aryll and Bute agreed to chair the group and this will be rotated annually. Rhona Arthur agreed to provide a note of meetings, maintain contact with members and organise meetings in May and November or at the request of the group.

Following a session of getting to know where each service was on the implementation journey, the participants shared experiences in library management system ‘family’ groups. This provided lively discussion and feedback indicates it was highly valued. Jennifer Jackson gave an update on new products and services at meetings and this was followed by some furtehr discussion and 1:1s.

All services agreed to provide short updates on progress before future meetings, raise items for discussion at meetings for the agenda, provide presentations on a voluntary basis and share good practice.

Rhona Arthur, Assistant Director

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