Ask Scotland Development Day

The morning of Friday the 13th of November saw the Ask Scotland Development day at the Mitchell library. The day was a chance to outline the overall strategy of implementing the service and was also an opportunity for the first group of librarians involved in Ask Scotland to ask questions about it and give their own thoughts.

Elaine Fulton, Director of SLIC, started the day with a brief introduction to the day and the ideas behind Ask Scotland. Library services need to do more to keep themselves relevant in an age where increasingly the perception is that the first place to gather information is Google and Wikipedia. Library services need to align themselves more closely with the needs of a generation that tends to expect to receive information immediately and also not to discriminate between formats.

This introduced Senior Information Officer, Gillian Hanlon’s, presentation about the Ask Scotland service. Developments in the web (commonly described as “web 2.0”) allow people to access and discuss information in a variety of ways. People can share information via social networks or even contribute to the knowledge held online via a variety of services such as wikipedia or youtube. Furthermore this desire amongst people to contribute as well as consume can lead to the development of other services, such as the free to use Ask A Citizen service which allows volunteers to answer questions about their country.

This, to detractors, would seem to make libraries an anachronism. However, library services have much to offer to web users that goes beyond what they can find when making searches at online repositories or via online search engines. Scottish library services have much to offer even now; as a community they have great reserves of professional knowledge and also a great deal of esoteric knowledge which is less likely to turn up easily in a Google search.

Many people have an interest in, for example, genealogy or local history. Queries about these topics are where local library services can shine. Indeed, when it came to discussing the kinds of question that are frequently received at reference desks it seems clear that these kinds of query are frequently received by reference librarians. When one considers both those that have moved within Scotland and the wider Scottish diaspora, it would seem that the ability for anybody anywhere to make enquiries on Scottish matters is a positive step for Scottish libraries.

After the presentations the day moved on to a discussion amongst those that are already making use of Ask Scotland and what they have found so far and what they’d hope to see. Also considered were future developments of Ask Scotland (including frequently asked questions, how this can feed into ongoing digitisation projects, and the implementation of new services, such as online chat.)

Overall the day was a positive one and we hope to see Ask Scotland go from strength to strength! Thoughts or questions about the service and any ideas for improving it are always welcome, too.


ScotlandsPeople discount in libraries

Last Friday’s ministerial launch of the ScotlandsPeople discount voucher scheme in public libraries seems to have done a good job in raising the profile of the initiative (view press release).  Details of the launch appeared in several newspapers including the Daily Record, the Scotsman, the Sun and the Sunday Telegraph.  SLIC has also experienced increased demand for vouchers, including orders from several local authorities that hadn’t been participating in the initial phase of the project.  Many other library services have organised successful events to promote the scheme.

ScotlandsPeople is the official Government web source of family history information in Scotland, usually accessed on a pay per view basis requiring a debit or credit card transaction.  Under this national scheme, vouchers will be available from public libraries giving library users throughout Scotland the opportunity to access the website at a significantly reduced cost.

For more information or voucher ordering, contact Penny Robertson e:

Author’s Campaign for the Book

The children’s author Alan Gibbons is launching a ‘Campaign for the Book’ which has the aim of establishing “a network of authors, professional bodies, trade unions and local pressure groups to resist attacks on reading for pleasure”. In a recent article Alan writes about how reading for pleasure is being eroded as both public and school libraries are facing the challenge of cuts in library budgets, resulting in: library closures south of the border; a fall in number of professionals in library posts; and professionals being re-graded and their pay cut. The campaign is being supported by a growing number of authors, illustrators, librarians and teachers. Many of the authors are offering to speak at public meetings and rallies where library services are under threat.

If you would like to support the ‘Campaign for the Book’ email Alan using the contact link at

Alan also has a blog. In his most recent posting he states the very worrying statistic that 24 UK councils spend less than 1% of their total library budget on children’s books.