It’s public knowledge – or is it?

This week SLIC and CILIPS have been engaged in drafting a response to the Scottish Government consultation on proposals for a Freedom of Information (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill. The consultation follows an earlier exercise to determine what should be included in amendment legislation.

In common with the outgoing Scottish Information Commissioner SLIC and CILIPS argued for the inclusion of additional bodies, such as local authority trusts to be designated under FOI(S)A legislation but the latest proposal suggests only two technical amendments and not the hoped for extension of coverage of the Act.

Scotland’s Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion,  who will demit office later this month, contends that the state of freedom of information in Scotland is still strong but acknowledges there is more to be done. His final report  is well worth a read in the context of the current consultation and what is and is not a ‘designated body’ as that is where our concerns lie.

SLIC and CILIPS will continue to advocate for extending peoples’ information rights. We would like the loop to be closed on anomalies such as that experienced by residents of one local authority who lost the legal right to ask for information about their leisure services in 2009 when leisure services was outsourced to a trust. We remain optimistic that the Scottish Government will extend our ‘right to know’ in a future parliamentary session.


‘Library staff are the signposts to learning’

So said Principal of City of Glasgow College  Paul Little as he welcomed delegates to his college. The SLIC annual FE Libraries Conference took place there on Thursday 24th November, shortly before the new supercampus building development was announced.

Once again the programme was planned in partnership with Scotland’s Colleges CoP and the JISC RSC Scotland.
‘Learner Landscapes: the future of FE Libraries’ opened with a topical debate around Scottish Government proposals for post 16 education reform which Tom MacMaster summarised neatly for everyone. It was clear from the feedback that the proposals were generating worry among the FE community but nevertheless offered some opportunities for library services too.

Tom MacMaster

Moving on, the annual FE Libraries survey was launched by Director of SLIC, Elaine Fulton, who discussed  findings which revealed increasing use of online resources and technology such as QR codes as well as more Saturday opening in response to learner demands. Everyone received a copy of the survey in Conference pack which is also available to download.
Karen Stevenson, Library Management System Coordinator at Glasgow University, reprised and updated her presentation  given to a CILIPS audience in Glasgow earlier this year and discussed developing a mobile strategy for the library, something which more of our members are starting to think seriously about.
From Boston College we welcomed JISC award winner Daisy Fulton accompanied by Bran Lanbourne who introduced delegates  to their use of QR codes in library induction in a very enjoyable presentation. Our exhibitors, 2CQR, CLA, Demco Gresswell, OCLC and PTFS looked on as Daisy discussed her prize winning project.

Daisy Fulton, Boston College

Following a networking lunch, beautifully catered for by Rhona of the catering company franchised to the college, and a look round the exhibition it was straight into a QR exercise in the College’s Learning Curve, before Mark Clark and Joan Walker of the JISC RSC Scotland took some time out with delegates to discuss recent advances in eBooks technology.
After more refreshments we heard from OCLC on their Webscale discovery project and CLA on the new licensing arrangements planned for the sector. Gordon Hunt, our super able chair for the day had one last duty after that which was to pick our prize draw winners with the assistance of Jill Evans. Congratulations to Stephanie Rae of Jewel and Esk College who won first prize of a Kindle!
Did the delegates enjoy it? Let them speak for themselves:
“Sessions were highly relevant and engaging; active session on QR codes overcame possible post lunch slump; good buzz in the room all day!”
“This was one of the most engaging events I’ve been to, the programme was fantastic, the venue is easy to get to, the food was good, and Gordon Hunt was a great chair”.
“It was an excellent event with a well balanced programme”

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, 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

The age of new media

Scotland’s Festival of Politics, now in its sixth year, took place at the Parliament Building in Edinburgh last week running alongside other Fringe and Festival events. Last year I had attended to hear the recently retired John Prescott, look back on his career. Since then he has developed a whole new Twitter persona and has taken to tweeting  in a BIG way and is as prominent in the media as ever. This year’s  theme was renewing politics in the age of new media and there was much to interest and excite information professionals.

Scottish Parliament venue for the Festival of Politics

‘Has Twitter changed the world?’ was the specific question posed by the event. I wanted to garner tips and hints on how CILIP in Scotland/SLIC can better use new communication media to enrich the member environment.  And there were plenty of pointers on offer.

The story of how Kirk Torrance  and ICT guru  Ewan McIntosh   used social media tools to help take the SNP into Government for a second term is a case in point and a bluprint for others to follow.

However the highlight of the debate for me was listening to Dr Andy Williamson, the Hansard Society’s Director of Digital Democracy,   expound the importance of information literacy in creating a politically aware society, the key  role of libraries in encouraging information literacy and helping individuals to develop the tools for effective digital engagement.  Sadly, Dr Williamson is leaving his post soon .

The debate itself was inconclusive – but there are plenty of sites to help you make up your mind. Meanwhile I’m off to examine more closely event amplification using social media to enhance participation and debate around our conferences and seminars.