IAML (UK & Irl) conference 2016 – part 2

Here is part two of my write up of the recent IAML (UK & Irl) conference. For part one click here. I will just quickly mention the two fantastic visits to Royal Northern College of Music and Manchester Central Library and its Henry Watson Music Library. I really enjoyed both visits, especially the recital by two RNCM tutors including a truly astounding Delius violin sonata (manuscript held in the RNCM Library). If you’re in Manchester, definitely visit the magnificent Central library – it was stunning! And teeming with people which was great. The music library was a dynamic place, with people practicing (out loud!) on the electric pianos. They also have a cool little performance space where there are open jamming sessions in term time.


Credit: ‘Manchester Central Library, March 2010’ by Ricardo (Wikipedia CC BY 2.0).

  • Heather Roberts (RNCM Archivist) – ‘What makes you special: Archives and outreach’

Heather started off with the quip: ‘uniqueness and authenticity are currency’, meaning people are interested in unique and authentic content, i.e. archives and special collections. She talked about supply and demand in regard to their collaborative efforts with e.g. Digital Women’s Archive North (DWAN). RNCM had the supply of archive material and DWAN had the demand and provided a platform to promote their collection. ‘Stories’ was another buzz word and Heather talked about collaborators being the gateway between your stories and the wider community. Her top tips were: think about stories in your collections not just music, and to be open to other people wanting to use your collections for various reasons (not just musical ones!).


  • Caroline Boyd (Copyright Hub) – ‘Developments in Copyright’

The Copyright Hub is a new organisation jointly funded by the government and industry that aims to make copyright workable in the digital age by seamlessly linking people who want to use copyrighted material with the rights holders. She talked mainly about their browser plug in that uses rights holders’ metadata to connect users with copyright information and license options for the media/information. She said anyone can upload their metadata and make copyright content available in this way.

  • Stewart Parson – ‘Get it loud in libraries’

Stewart formerly of Lancashire Libraries started Get it loud in libraries when he was made redundant from his library job. The idea is to utilize libraries’ spaces for programmes, workshops and gigs. Their target audience is young people in Lancashire and they bring pop artists off the beaten track to rural areas for gigs. Responding to a question about whether their gigs boost library use/participation from this age group, he didn’t have any evidence for this but said the gigs generate good buzz and publicity for the library. An unrelated example of this from the conference was the weekly term time jamming sessions run by music student volunteers at the Henry Watson Music Library, which apparently are very successful.

My Bookshelf 20/3/2015

The World that Made New Orleans by Ned Sublette

My family is from the city and I studied Louisiana history at school, but boy did I learn a lot reading this engaging and well-written book. Music is woven throughout, as it should be, but that is not the main aim, which is namely, a social and political history of the Crescent City from about 1700 to post-Katrina. One thing I learned was the close links musical and otherwise between New Orleans and Caribbean island nations such as Cuba and Haiti. Well worth a read but please, no long ‘e’ sounds!


New Orleans at Night (NASA, International Space Station, 01/26/11). Image credit: NASA.

The Remembering by Steve Cash

This is the final novel in the Meq series that I’ve been reading. The previous book ended with the bomb being dropped on Nagasaki and The Remembering picks up in the aftermath. I enjoyed it, especially the surprises in the plot, though the pacing was sometimes slow. If you’re a fan of sci-fi, this series is definitely worth a read.

Lamentation by C.J. Sansom

Another masterpiece in the Shardlake series (part of me hopes he carries on but poor Shardlake could really use a break after six novels). This one takes him deep inside the glamorous and cutthroat court of an aging Henry VIII. Queen Catherine Parr is a principle character as the plot centres on the theft of a religious book she’s penned. Sansom does a brilliant job of conveying the uncertainty and terror under which people lived during this time of great change in what constituted orthodox religion.

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

An interesting novel that is a sort of loose, surreal autobiography. I struggled through especially when his 11th year went on for what felt like 25 chapters. Rushdie also covers the political history of India and the region in the mid-twentieth century, a subject I knew little about. Otherwise I felt as if I was caught up in a psychedelic, stream of consciousness flow where the social commentary got lost in the jungle.

Labyrinth by Kate Mosse
Similar type of novel to her Sepulchre (historical fiction with two heroines connected across time) and just as gripping. I also learned a lot about medieval southern France and the persecution of the Cathars.

Reflective Writing by Kate Williams, Mary Woolliams and Jane Spiro (Pocket Study Skills series)
Handy little book I’m reading as I thought it would help with my academic writing and my blog. It is very useful, written in plain English and utilises a lot examples. Mostly geared toward an academic context but there is a section on ‘reflection for career planning’ as well.


One of the best articles I’ve read on copyright and what it means in everyday life: Jonathan Band on Jon Stewart and Fair Use 

This NY Times article describes the educational opportunities of the Internet, “information overload” and how we’re coping, but takes a glaringly narrow view. It omits any mention of information professionals in the discussion of who can handle the vast amounts of information available today, limiting the candidates to visionaries such as Steve Jobs and Bob Dylan who apparently have some magic ability to function in the information age. But read it for yourself and let me know what you think.

Exploring E-Readers

As part of some reading intervention we are doing at school next year, I have been asked to look into getting some Kindles. I thought it was a great idea as our students LOVE technology and it would be something different from the typical reading lesson. I don’t have an e-reader myself, so the only things I knew about the topic were bits gleaned from the wider library world. This was not a small amount actually as it is a hot button issue at the moment: viz. Amazon’s recent announcement of Kindle “Unlimited”, where you get unlimited e-book downloads for a monthly fee, was making waves on library-related social media. So I at least knew there were some copyright and legal issues involved with using e-readers in libraries.

My first step was to search the archives of (what I call) “Collective Wisdom” on the Yahoo School Library Network. This turned up several threads that in the end seemed to conclude that lending either Kindle the device or the content violates Amazon’s terms and conditions (they are for personal use only). However some schools still use them, but one librarian commented that you don’t want to be the school Amazon goes after. I do tend to doubt they would prosecute for this; imagine the headlines – “Online Behemoth Amazon Seeks to Stop British Schoolchildren Reading for Pleasure” – not good public relations really.

Another e-reader option, Kobos, came up in the SLN threads. Several school librarians went to great lengths to ascertain the legality of their use in schools and got written permission from the Kobo people. So I am currently looking into this option for our school. It has been suggested to start off with a pilot group of about a dozen students.

Further information on e-reader issues and campaigns:

CILIP briefing on ebooks


Jisc summary statement on copyright issues


Radical Library Camp

© is the copyright symbol in a copyright notice

© is the copyright symbol in a copyright notice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I attended Radical Library Camp in Bradford last month. The organizers were a mix of radicals from different library backgrounds, and the same could be said for the attendees! While I wouldn’t have considered myself ‘radical’ before, after going on the camp I think I am! There was a lively Twitter feed (#radlibcamp) on the day and I believe someone is archiving the tweets; in addition there is the Wiki for more information.

In the tradition of other library camps and un-conferences, the day was very chilled out and no frills. Everyone brought food to share and about 10 or so people gave pitches on sessions they wanted to run. All the sessions I went to were very much discussions rather than formal presentations. Yes, there was a bit of ranting about this or that institution or professional body, but discussions did come back to how to make a practical difference and impact on issues we cared about.

Here are some thoughts about the sessions I attended (apologies for the length!):

  • Library Spaces/Design

This session started with everyone creating their ideal library space on paper, either with pictures or words. A big discussion ensued when we were going around sharing what we’d put down:  the pros and cons of desks. The point was raised that users being forced to communicate with librarians sat behind desks reinforced inequality and outdated power relationships. It was suggested that users are loath to ‘interrupt’ a librarian working at a desk, and that the desk is seen as a barrier. A new ‘desk-less’ model that’s been adopted at a university library is the idea of ‘roving’ librarians. The librarians walk around and are (and are seen to be) accessible to students. They also carry iPads for searching the catalogue, etc. However in my school library, sitting behind the desk means I can look at the Year 7s at eye level, whereas standing up I loom over them…Clearly the roving solution isn’t for everyone, but it is good food for thought.

Another thread was the importance of consulting users when building or renovating a library space. And also, how you consult is important, i.e. types of questions asked has a big impact on results.

A final issue raised was future-proofing your library when you have a transient population (such as students) and when technology is constantly changing. Two solutions were offered:  investing in the basics (like desks) and investing in power and data (e.g. the cloud) is always worthwhile.

  • Radical Management

I went to this session because I’ve noticed that managing and managerial experience has been a theme throughout the library job world. There were only a handful of people there who were actually in managerial posts, but it was an interesting discussion nonetheless. Opening questions asked included: Can you become a manager without selling out? How do you make the leap to management?

Some of discussion points were:

You can effect change either from within an organisation or from the outside (and obviously managing allows you more opportunities to do that from inside).

One should have good management practice regardless of your politics.

Fairness is not about being liked.

Authentic leadership means staying true to your values, as much as you can whilst working within ‘the system’. Ideally you should work in an organisation whose mission and values match up with your own. However the point was raised that we need to eat, therefore might have to take a less than ideal job just to put food on the table…

The barrier between professional and non-professional staff and the idea of ‘selling out’ if you move up.

  • Copyright

The consensus beginning this session was that copyright law is broken, therefore the discussion began with asking what constuctive ways are open to us to challenge/protest copyright as librarians. The Creative Commons licensing scheme was mentioned and somehow the discussion became a bit of a rant against a certain professional body at which point, @Mariacotera kindly stood up and enlightened us as to the efforts that various organisations and government bodies are making to lobby for changes to copyright law.

The Copyright and other Legal Matters (CLM) committee of the International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) is lobbying for the library community on this issue and working with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) to get clarity on and change copyright law. They recently won a victory (and set legal precedent) with the Marrakesh Treaty, which addresses the rights of blind and print-disabled people.

The conclusion was that lobbying personally and supporting the lobbying efforts of bodies such as CLM and IFLA is an important way to effect change in copyright.

  • International Perspectives on Radical Librarianship

This session looked broadly at the organisation IFLA and a recent report they commissioned on trends in society. General awareness of IFLA and their work was slim at Radical Library Camp so this session was well worth it, though there was a small turn out (but all of us internationals at camp were there!). IFLA, in short, is the global voice for librarians. CILIP is an IFLA member, so if you’re a CILIP member then you also have member benefits with IFLA. The IFLA Trend Report  was commissioned in 2012 and the process culminated in the identification of five high level societal trends which impact the library and information world. This year is given over to discussion of the report amongst the library and information community and at the next IFLA conference policies will begin to be nailed down. The trends are:

  1. New technologies will both expand and limit who has access to information.
  2. Online education will democratise and disrupt global learning.
  3. The boundaries of privacy and data protection will be redefined.
  4. Hyper-connected societies will listen to and empower new voices and groups.
  5. The global information economy will be transformed by new technologies.

IFLA have published a short report called Riding the Waves or Caught in the Tide? Insights from the IFLA Trend Report, which is the starter for digging deeper into the trends. I found the trends resonated with issues raised in the New Librarianship MOOC I completed recently, and also it is a great way of articulating the big information issues of today.

  • Wrap-up

A final plenary session wrapped up the day and revolved around how to take the Radical Library Camp idea further. The current social media platforms will be continued and there was definitely universal consensus for another camp. I found the day very useful, interesting and a launching pad for learning more about issues that interest me. It was great hearing non-mainstream opinions and views from library radicals, and seeing how others address problems and issues we’re all concerned about. I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next one!