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Posts Tagged ‘Edinburgh libraries’

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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Newcastle City Library at night

One of the most inspiring sessions at The Edge 2010 conference came from Tony Durcan, Head of Culture, Libraries & Lifelong Learning, Newcastle Council; and Councillor John Shipley, Leader of Newcastle Council.   Tony and John talked about Newcastle’s new City Library: a 7 year PFI development project costing £24m and resulting in a fantastic new library for the people of Newcastle; a public space boasting 8,300 square metres of books, PCs, resources, advice; and a café, of course.  The new library opened in November 2009 and by the end of January 2010 reported impressive figures:

  • 792.000 visitors – 35,000 new members – 396,000 items loaned

Undoubtedly Newcastle’s new library is a huge success and I think that’s partly to do with Tony Durcan’s infectious enthusiasm coupled with strong support from Cllr John Shipley.  I don’t think I’ve ever come across a Council Leader who has spoken so passionately about the value of public libraries.    He just ‘gets it!’ And following his positive and inspiring talk there were calls from the audience  to ‘clone him’ 🙂

Here’s a few gems of wisdom from John’s talk (I’ve paraphrased):

  • If we want to build social  inclusion in our communities we need to build libraries where people want to be
  • City centres without free public spaces, like libraries, are only welcoming to those who have cash to spend
  • Governments should invest in public libraries because it’s the right thing to do!
  • Everyone in society can participate in the public library experience: it’s a majority service rather than a minority service
  • We shouldn’t be shy about demanding extra expenditure because public libraries are cheap & lead to a more inclusive society which leads to lowered costs elsewhere on things like crime, health, education…
  • We need to stop focussing on statistics because they reveal nothing about the true value of the public library
  • We need to make a stronger case for our public libraries – if we can communicate value successfully then politicians will invest!

I think he’s telling us that ‘the ball’s in our court’.  And in order to secure the future of public libraries WE need to make the case for our libraries; challenge misconceptions and communicate value – in a language that those holding the purse strings can easily understand!

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The second Keynote Speaker at last week’s Edge 2010 conference was Ewan McIntosh.  From the very start Ewan’s energy and passion for social media was infectious.  He spoke enthusiastically about Twitter, Facebook, Bebo and running his own blog.  He discussed the “illiterate professional class“, highlighting a couple of high profile news stories about users of social media being unaware of the reach of the platform that they were using and an inability to understand that when you post something online, it’s never truly private.   There really is no delete button – it will always exist, somewhere, out there! Worth bearing in mind if you’re considering slagging off your boss – which is pretty much what this Facebook user did last year.

© Blogging Librarian on Flickr

Ewan also talked about the power of the blog in today’s society.  It used to be that once something appeared in print it was rarely ever challenged. I think, to to a certain extent, the system in place for challenging the journalists and national newspapers was too complex and time consuming for many of us to pursue. ..not to mention that the Press Complaints Commission is a self regulating body… Today, however, it’s much easier to correct factual inaccuracies, as Ewan pointed out when he talked about his own experience of being misrepresented in the press. He used his own blog to put into context a quote used in an article published in The Herald about GLOW – “the the world’s first national intranet for education.  In his own blog post Ewan was able to put across his own point of view, thus challenging the journalist’s interpretation of their correspondence.

This is not the first time we’ve seen social media act as a platform to correct factual inaccuracies in the press.  Ben Goldacre regularly takes to his blog to challenge sensationalism and ‘bad science’ in the press.  For example, he was one of the first bloggers to post about the suspicious nature of the bullying allegations against Gordon Brown.

There was so much food for thought in Ewan’s presentation…he also touched upon the pros and cons of the hyperlink; the importance of visual literacy when communicating; open data opportunities for Councils; Mapumental; and net neutrality.  Just sitting there I could tell that Ewan’s presentation had stimulated lots of thoughts and ideas and at the coffee break afterwards I overheard delegates talking about how they really should be upgrading their intranets and exploring social media as a serious tool for communicating with citizens.

I hope that Ewan uploads his presentation soon so that I can post a link to it as there’s lots more that I don’t have space to cover in this blog post.  All in all, an excellent keynote speech! 🙂

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Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Edge 2010 conference at Edinburgh Castle – and what a fantastic conference it was! 🙂  The speaker list was top class and thanks to some excellent programming from the event organisers I didn’t have to miss any of the sessions.   This was such a relief because there’s nothing worse than getting all excited about the speaker list then realising that all of the big names are on at the same time.  But The Edge managed to avoid this pitfall and offered delegates an impressive list of sessions that truly were all killer and no filler!

The journey up to Edinburgh Castle was stunning and delegates were filled with a real sense of occassion before the conference even started. The conference suite was jam packed by the time I arrived and there was standing room only for Susan Benton’s keynote speech.    A wonderful sight, especially considering the audience was made up, not only of librarians but also high profile councillors, MSPs, Chief Executives etc.; all joined by a collective desire to “push the boundaries of public service delivery“.

Up first was a truly inspirational speaker – Susan Benton, President and CEO of the Urban Libraries Council (ULC).   Unfortunately, thanks to some freak snowstorms in the West of Scotland I missed the start of Susan’s keynote speech but I managed to catch her final remarks. Susan spoke passionately about the public library as a “trusted neighbour” in our communities, highlighting the vital role that they play in “bringing diverse entities together” and the need to “strengthen the public library as an essential part of urban life“.  I’ve been a huge fan of the ULC for a while now and Susan’s speech reflected some of the wonderful research they’ve carried out in recent years to communicate the value of public libraries in communities in the US.  A selection of these publications are linked to below:

Welcome, Stranger:  Public Libraries Build the Global Village

Making Cities Stronger:   Public Library Contributions to Local Economic Development

The Engaged Library:  Chicago Stories of Community Building

Following Susan’s rousing “call to arms” speech we welcomed Ewan McIntosh-digital media expert and founder of the innovative 38 Minutes project.   I’ll be discussing Ewan’s talk in a future blog post…

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