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Lately I’ve been hearing a lot about the essential role that public libraries are playing in the regeneration of Scotland’s communities.  An example of this is happening right now in Craigmillar
in Edinburgh where work has just begun on the development of a new neighbourhood and library centre.    Replacing a number of tired and old buildings this cutting edge facility will be a hub for the local community; housing a number of council services, partner agencies and of course a library service that’s responsive to the needs and expectations of 21st century users.  Exciting times for the residents of Craigmillar!

Take a quick peek at the 3D walkthrough of the new centre.    Impressive stuff.  Can’t wait to visit when it opens in 2013! 🙂


					

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Aye Write Book Festival organisers

Only 11 days to go until one of my favourite times of year – the Aye Write book festival at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow! 🙂 Although some of the big names, like Germaine Greer, have already sold out there’s still plenty of time to grab tickets for a range of  thought-provoking and amusing author events.

I’ve had a look through the catalogue and cherry picked a few for myself, not necessarily because I’ve been a life long fan of these authors but because I feel like I’ll learn something/have some fun by attending their events:

Alain de BottonThe Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

Greg Milner Perfecting Sound Forever

Christopher BrookmyrePandaemonium

Tim Blott (my old boss!) – The Herald Debate on the Future of the Media

For the full line-up check out the programme on the Aye Write website.

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© Christine Rooney-Browne

© Christine Rooney-Browne

Instead of talking about the presentations,  the hot topic at the start of the IFLA conference seemed to be the WIFI access at the conference centre. Many were discussing the fact that they would have to pay €10 for 4 hours WIFI access.  The alternative was to either queue for 10 minutes complimentary access in the hallway, or at the library bus just outside of the conference centre.

And so began the confused and somewhat bemused updates on Twitter, with a number of #fail tweets from disgruntled tweeps and bloggers who had expected the WIFI to be free; it seems to be free at most of the other conferences we’ve all attended recently…

Some dismissed the issue, stating that we were there to listen and learn from the presenters and to network in real life, rather than to check our e-mail.  I think they were missing the point a bit.

There are various reasons why one would expect and rely upon free access at an international library conference; and these reasons extend well beyond being able to check our e-mail!   For example, during sessions it can be beneficial to be able to check out the speaker’s online biography; or to look up a specific library website; or even to bookmark some of the resources that the speaker has highlighted on their slides to our Del.icio.us accounts…

Also, I know that I am incredibly lucky to be able to attend this conference and I’m well aware that there are many more library and information professionals back home in Scotland who would have loved the chance to attend, but are unable to because of financial constraints, lack of time, etc… Many of these people follow my updates on Twitter; some specifically to be kept informed about news and ideas filtering through from the sessions I attend.   A fellow IFLA blogger referred to this as citizen journalism.  And I guess it is… 🙂

In addition, as a few of the sessions I wanted to attend were on at the same time, it would have been beneficial to be able to conduct a quick search using the IFLA hashtag on Twitter (#ifla2009 or #ifla09) to see updates from other delegates tweeting from these sessions…

So, on the second day I succumbed and purchased the €10 card…thinking that if I only logged on occasionally I could make my 4 hours stretch the duration of the conference.   However, on Wednesday came the announcement that WIFI would be free for the remainder of the conference – yay! The power of Twitter, again?  🙂

Surely, at an international conference where we all come together to discuss hot topics in librarianship and the information society, such as; freedom of information; democratic access to the world’s knowledge; the future of library service provision etc… delegates should be provided with free and democratic access to the internet?!  Plinius, a fellow blogger referred to access to online resources at this year’s conference as IFLA1.5, rather than 2.0 😀

Apparently, free WIFI at future IFLA conferences will be discussed in more depth at a later stage.  Word on the street is that it’s a budget issue…but I hope that at IFLA 2010 in Gothenburg the issue will be resolved and that all delegates are given a username and password as part of their IFLA welcome packs!

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ifla09audience

Audience at IFLA pre-conference in Torino, 2009

Last week I presented a co-authored paper at the IFLA pre-conference in Torino, Italy.  Even though this was not my first time presenting at IFLA (having presented on public libraries and Web 2.0 at IFLA in Quebec last year), this year’s experience was truly amazing. The pre-conference focused on the library as ‘space and place’ and there were some fantastic presentations given during our 3 day meeting.

Every single presentation that I attended, whether it was about library architecture, convergence, academic libraries, virtual libraries or ethnographic studies; all seemed relevant to my research interests.

On day two I presented our paper: “Public libraries as impartial spaces in the 21st century…possible, plausible, desirable”?.  I think my favourite part of the whole session came after my talk, during the coffee break when I had the opportunity to speak to a lot of people from the audience.  It seems that the commercialisation of the public sphere is a hot topic internationally and I had some great discussions with librarians from America, Australia, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy Japan and Norway. Many were also keen to discuss the potential of Web 2.0 and virtual libraries and seemed interested in receiving future updates about my PhD research into measuring the social value of public libraries.  A LOT of business cards were exchanged.  It was a truly exhilarating experience; and I learned so much in such a short space of time.

I’m extremely grateful to the organisers for inviting me to speak; and to the Italian Library Association and the City of Torino for their wonderful hospitality (which included a complimentary visit to a Michelin star restaurant) 🙂

I managed to bump into a few people from Torino at the Milan conference and it looks like there’s a chance all of the papers given in this section will be published at a later date.  I’ll post a link when I know more! 🙂  In the meantime, I’ve uploaded our presentation to my Slideshare account.

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National University library, Torino

National University Library, Torino

This week I am in Torino, Italy for the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) pre-conference.   The theme for this meeting is Libraries as Space and Place and there are speakers from all over the world attending; check out the full programme here.    The pre-conference is split into three sub-themes:

Wednesday 19 August 2009
New libraries, new spaces with new challenges

Thursday 20 August 2009
Libraries as a Third Space

Friday 21 August 2009
Finding New Design Solutions

I’ll be speaking tomorrow about the public library as an impartial space in the 21st Century; discussing whether or not this is a realistic or romantic notion.

We’ve just completed a tour of the Royal Library of Torino, which is a fascinating place.  Not only does it house the majority of the Italian Royal Family collection, but the archives are home to some of Italy’s treasures, including original sketches by Leonardo Da Vinci, which we got to see!:)

I’m looking forward to this afternoon’s sessions, which features speakers from Italy, Australia,  Singapore, Birmingham and Canada:

  • 14.30 Session 1: The Turin Library System and the City.
    Paolo Messina, Director, Turin City Library System, Italy
  • 15.00 Session 2: Beyond co-location: designing and managing new model library spaces and services to reflect trends in convergence and integration.
    Sue Boaden, Director, Australia Street Company P/L, Sydney, Australia and Carina Clement, Cultural Programs and Audience Development Team Leader, Library Museum, Albury City Council, New South Wales, Australia.
  • 15.30 Session 3: The UnLibrary – library within a library.
    Damien Wang, National Library of Singapore.
  • 16.00 Session 4: The Library of Birmingham – Hub of the Knowledge Economy
    Brian Gambles, Assistant Director, Culture, Birmingham City Council and Francesco Veenstra, Partner Architect, Mecanoo, UK.
  • 16.30 Session 5: In the Words of the Users: The role of the urban public library as place
    Francine May, Librarian, Mount Royal College, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

And now, for a spot of lunch before the real work begins! 🙂

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Glasgow Libraries Barred Website Message

Spent the weekend at The Mitchell Library in Glasgow; soaking up the atmosphere from the latest Aye Write Book Festival.  Attended a couple of really good events too.  However, despite enjoying both of these events immensely they’re not what I remember most about my visits…

I had thought it might be a good idea to tweet about the events I attended but when I tried to access Twitter on The Mitchell Library’s public access computers I was informed that Twitter was considered to be an ‘unacceptable website’. Surely not, I thought, so I tried again, on a different computer.  Same message again.   Made me wonder about what else would be blocked.  Attempted to login to Facebook and although the ‘unacceptable website’ message did not pop  up, a strange login screen did and when I attempted to type in my user name and password I realised that nothing was appearing on the screen. Seemed to be locked out of that one as well.  Tried MySpace, same thing! Okay, they’re blocking social networking websites I thought….but then something happened that made no sense whatsoever.  I was able to login to Bebo no problem.   I also tried to access Flickr and YouTube but they were inaccessible too.  Stranger still was what I found out later.   Glasgow City Council had been using Twitter to help promote the Aye Write festival, and there were buttons on the Aye Write website encouraging users to visit their profile on both Facebook and MySpace…  

Confused and annoyed I asked a few different Library Assistants why I couldn’t access these websites and they all gave me the same answer; “all social networking sites are banned in the library”.  I asked each one  why  social networking had been banned and also, if there was a ‘blanket ban’ like they were suggesting, why was I able to access Bebo?  None of them could answer this question but they did invite me to write my queries on a customer comment card, which I did.  I’m looking forward to receiving a response because I really do want to know why Glasgow Libraries have taken this stance against social networking, especially when they appear to be using social networking themselves to promote their own  book festival.

I know that Glasgow is not alone in their approach to social networking but I am also aware that a growing number of library authorities are using  these new technologies to promote awareness and engagement outwith the constraints of the ‘walled garden’; providing users and staff with an opportunity to learn web 2.0 skills; educating users on how to effectively manage their virtual lives; and encouraging participation and collaboration.  

I understand the need for AUPs in public libraries and I am also aware that social networking is sometimes presented negatively in the press but instead of banning these websites wouldn’t it be more beneficial, for both the library service and the users,  if more public libraries took on the role of educator rather than censor?  

obamafb3gordonbrowntw3After all, when two world leaders, Barack Obama  and Gordon Brown, start using these very websites to communicate with citizens and promote awareness,  is it not about time that we stopped banning access to them in our public libraries?

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recession1I covered this a bit last week but there’s a great story in the Wall Street Journal today which also highlights the essential role that public libraries are playing in helping people deal with the current financial crisis.  

According to the article, American libraries are reporting up to a 65% rise in attendance over the past 12 months as droves of people visit their local library to make use of the free services on offer.  

It seems that the bulk of these new visitors are turning to the library after being made redundant from their jobs, with many needing urgent help and advice on how to search for jobs, update their CVs and survive the credit crunch.  In addition to ever popular lending services, free broadband internet access, counselling services and careers workshops are also proving a massive draw.

Surely this current trend of people turning to their libraries in times of crisis highlights one of the most important aspects of the public library; the fact that it exists!  

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