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The Arts Council England (ACE) have published this document on the 13th September 2011. It is intended to demonstrate how the strategic responsibility they are taking on for museums and libraries from October 2011 fits with their existing strategic framework ‘Achieving great art for everyone‘.

I have found it an interesting read, especially in relation to my role as Black Country Library Services Project Manager. I can see a lot of synergies in what I am trying to achieve with the ambitions for the sector as set out in this document. I am looking forward to seeing how this develops.

In particular I think the long-term goals for libraries and museums they list will be a useful reference point as library and museum services develop and change over the coming years (especially when difficult situations are being faced):

Goal 1: Excellence is thriving and celebrated in museums and libraries
Goal 2: More people experience and are inspired by museums and libraries
Goal 3: Museums and libraries are sustainable, resilient and innovative for everyone today and looking forward
Goal 4: The leadership and workforce in museums and libraries are diverse and highly skilled.
Goal 5: Every child and young person has the opportunity to experience the richness of museums and libraries.
There are some particularly useful statements that I am sure I will see quoted in a number of key strategic documents in the future.

What has been particularly useful, as far as I am concerned, is the literature review that has been done to support this document. I have not seen this kind of review on library evidence in the past. The literature review clearly shows where ACE has found gaps in evidence and what they are planning to do to fill these gaps.

I wait to see with interest what colleagues in libraries think of their proposals, especially the idea of a one day census of library use.

There has been a lot of information/ posts about this subject recently – I am not intending to give instructions on how to use social media in libraries here – that can be found in a number of places. What I will be doing is giving some of my own views on why social media is useful for libraries and librarians, although I am always aware that a medium that works for one person is a complete anathema to another. So please bear this in mind when looking at social media and considering whether it is useful for you or not!

This post was inspired by a post called “the vocal employee” about the actions of some Domino’s employees and what their company did about it. …….It made me think about the fact that not having a social media presence does not stop bad things happening about your company (or library) – and maybe if the company listened to and worked with its employees this situation could have been averted. In my view the risk of not being there is greater than the risk of being an active presence.

You only know what people are saying about you if you are in the same places and listening to/ monitoring what is happening in the places where people go to talk. And if you are there listening /monitoring, surely it is better to interact and contribute to the conversations rather than being a ‘lurker’. This needs to be part of a planned communication programme so that the messages in all of the media you use (and face to face is one of these) and professional BUT the style used needs to be appropriate to the format you are using. For example, the tone of a news release is very different to a piece of information put onto Twitter. Twitter is a long conversation you dip into and out of and so you need to be interesting and concise. Information on Facebook is a mix of the two. Staff using social media need to be trained and made aware of the ‘do’s’ and ‘do nots” but without taking away their own voice – so long as that voice is appropriate to the image you want to give. One good example of the use of humour is the twitter feed for Orkney Libraries.

It is also excellent PR to be seen to respond to the bad comments – not necessarily to answer them as some issues may be too sensitive – but to say something like

“thank you for your comment – I have passed it onto ………. who will answer you directly”.

You are acknowledging the issue and being seen to respond. It may be that your answers are made public afterwards but the complainer’s points will be made public anyway.

You will also have positive comments and feedback that will be in the public sphere and seen by others – never a bad thing.:-)

The recent issue of how Twitter and Facebook were used during the riots is a case in point. Yes, they were used for negative things, but there was also a major positive element to their use which would be lost if they were switched off during similar occasions in the future. In Wolverhampton, Twitter was used to help to calm down the situation in a very positive way through Superintendent Payne noting the misinformation that was going out and posting information about what was really happening (or more often not happening). This has been continued by regular updates about what has been done about the rioters by the police along with continuing to do his regular posts about the job.

From all of my news feeds I usually find out about what is happening first on, maybe because I check it quite regularly. I can then go to sites with more information either from the tweet or directly to the webpage.

I currently don’t make much use of you-tube or other social media sites, so this musing is based on the ones I find useful .

In my mind the benefits of using social media well outweigh the problems.

This post is inspired by a blog “A librarian’s worth around the world’. There is a statement at the end of the blog which says:

Librarians are trained professionals with advanced degrees. They make a huge contribution in their libraries and communities.

I agree with the 2nd part of the statement more than the first as there are a lot of excellent library staff  who are not professionally qualified, but who, with training, are professional in the work that they do.

The blog compares American public libraries with Amazon transactions (every day libraries circulate nearly 4 times more items than Amazon handles), and Macdonald’s buildings (12,804 compared to 122,011). Both of these companies have high profiles and many people know about what they do – this is rarely the case for public libraries and is something we all need to do something about.

There are a number of statistics which show the volume and range of work that libraries do – which also show how the cumulation of statistics can have  a wow factor. It made me think about the fact that libraries need to be promoting and SHOUTING  about the positive impact we have in what we do – even in the difficult times we are currently living through. This has been done by some people, one of whom is Liz McGettigan who manages Edinburgh Libraries in Scotland.

The list of information at the end of the blog giving an overview of what librarians do for their libraries and communities might form the basis of a series of blogs if I can get enough content for them ….

The Future Libraries Programme final report was published today. You can find it here.

The following comments are my own and are my initial thoughts about the report and the responses it has had when it was first published and promoted.

There are some strong feelings going around about the recommendations in the report that libraries should work differently along the lines of ‘but that is what we already do’. In many cases this is right – especially in the better library services, but it is not true everywhere, and it may not be true in full in every library authority.

My concern is that the high level of press coverage with the annoyance at some of the content is missing some really useful messages that strategic library managers and campaigners need to be making use of when working to keep library services we can all be proud of and want to use.

The document has many things that would be better for us to make a noise about, 2 of which are demonstrated in the following quotes:

‘Investment in a good process will achieve the best outcomes both in terms of efficiency and effectiveness for local residents and communities.’

‘Change will only happen if political leadership and professional expertise are harnessed in the same direction. ‘

This document also says that change takes time to implement effectively (the document quotes 12-18 months).

Hallelujah – but does that mean those of us who are trying to develop innovative new ways of managing libraries in a financially challenged time will be given this type of support? Lets hope so, but we need to be passing on these messages not just the frustration that the document keeps telling us to do the things some of us are already doing.

Maybe the reason that we keep being told to do things we already do is that we haven’t told enough people often about what an excellent library service actually does in words that mean something to them? The report does make reference to this:

‘For many decades, libraries have developed good practice across a range of outcomes and demonstrated innovation in partnerships and programmes to meet the needs of new communities or changing customer circumstances and choices. However this has not always been reflected in strong corporate buy-in at the level of the council executive and corporate management team. One of the key lessons from the Future Libraries Programme pilots is the need to position modernising libraries within and alongside wider transformation programmes taking place in the council.’


I am starting a new role on the 1st August with a secondment for up to 2 years to the role of Black Country Library Services Project Manager.  I am still acting as an Assistant Director managing the Libraries, Archives and Adult Learning division for Dudley while working out what the future for all of these services will be. It will be an interesting challenge.

One of the first tasks that I will need to do in developing the Black Country Libraries project is getting a single, joint vision which is ‘owned’ by all four authorities. This leads me to wonder what it is about a vision that makes it successful and what is the difference between a vision and a mission.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines them as:

Vision: 1. the ability to see the area that you can see from a particular position; 2. an idea or a picture in your imagination; 3. dream or similar experience, especially of a religious kind; 4. a person of great beauty or who shows the quality mentioned; or 6. the picture on a television or cinema/movie theater screen.

Mission: 1. an important official job that a person or group of people is given to do, especially when they are sent to another country; 2. a group of people doing such a job; the place where they work; 3.the work of teaching people about Christianity, especially in a foreign country; a group of people doing such work; 4. a building or group of buildings used by a Christian mission; 5. particular work that you feel it is your duty to do; 6. an important job that is done by a soldier, group of soldiers, etc; 7. a flight into space; or 8. a task or journey that is very difficult and takes a long time to complete.

Looking at these I think I am will be working to develop a vision within definitions 1 and 2, although developing one can often feel more like 3 although not always religious!

For the mission – the key definitions for what I am trying to achieve are basically 1 and 5 and I need to work against it feeling like 8.

Any thoughts from others would be gratefully received.

I have decided to have a go at writing my own blog having started reading ones that other people have been writing. I also often have conversations with myself about issues and just general thoughts, so ‘why not share this with others and see if they want to join in’ I thought – so here are my musings.

Coeliac and librarian are the two words that I use the most when identifying what I am. I have to use coeliac every time I eat if I am not at home – this was not a choice but is a medical condition. Librarian because this was my first profession and I still use it to describe myself if I am asked what I do even though I haven’t managed a library directly for many years. I am still responsible for a library service though.

I also wanted to try to post some positive thoughts about libraries as there is so much negative information about them around at the moment. This does not mean that I want to denigrate the postings of those people fighting for libraries, but just that I feel the positive things libraries, and librarians do, is lost in all of this. I have been particularly inspired having just visited the wonderful Newcastle Library for the first time.

The building is lovely, and the art work inspiring – a really good mix and a lovely advert for libraries still having a place.

I will also be writing about my experiences as a coeliac – which may not be as positive as the library posts – as this is a real identifier for me as it has an impact on any experience that includes food I am not preparing for myself. It is quite surprising how differently I react to the experiences I have as a result depending on my mood, health or stress levels.

So there it is – I hope some people find it interesting, but if not I can look back at my conversations with myself, which I can’t do when they are in my head ;0)

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