It was my first time…at a CILIP conference, after over 17 years in libraries, so finally I made it! Initially I was concerned with practicalities, trains and hotels and connecting up with the YOHHLNet bursary winners. Once sorted I had to set about deciding what I wanted to see and hear. My main aim was to avoid listening to anything to do with the day job, so knowledge management and impact/evaluation, task and finish groups and tool-kits so predominant in the health library sector at the moment were given short shrift [with apologies and a big wink to all those engaged in such things].
I wanted to see/hear something new, something that might move me and/or make me think differently. Two sessions in particular did this for me. This first blog post looks at David McMenemy’s talk on ‘sustaining our common values: the pressure at play, and to come…’ I found this really interesting and thought-provoking.
David began by asking us to think about what being ‘universal’ meant for libraries, a library for you whoever you are and wherever you come from…and how this was being challenged by the fragmentation of public library services where community and charity run libraries are increasingly replacing that ‘universal offer’. This was particularly interesting to me because my local library is one of those voluntary run community libraries, its great and thriving and the local population I believe absolutely love what it offers both in terms of resources and in terms of Place. As David said it does fit nicely with the Government drivers to enhance community well-being via the use of more volunteers and charitable activities.
But of course not every village or small town has the wherewithal in terms of resources [specifically people with the enthusiasm AND the knowledge/know-how to set-up their own library service] so that immediately places these populations at a disadvantage. With the loss of the universal offer, who you are and where you come from starts to handicap you in terms of access to libraries.
One of the points made was with regard to Who sets the library up, is it a specialist interest group within the community? Or is it weighted towards a particular social class? What might this mean for universal access and is this likely to influence the kinds of resources/activities available? Would it feel or even become exclusive? A library for some but not for everyone, whoever you were and wherever you came from?
The other aspect of our common values focused on the issue of patron privacy, essentially protecting the right of our patrons’ to privacy in terms of their online activity. As with other organisations LIS have the technologies to hand to analyse the users online searching activities, and to filter out particular content. I found this really interesting because I often simply take this for granted, or don’t even think about what is happening to our service users and indeed myself as a seeker of information in an online world.
Are we both:
- snooping into someones private business and
- interfering with an individual’s right to seek information
I also found it useful to note that because technology allows us to see what our service users are doing online doesn’t mean that we should just go ahead and access that information, and is it up to us to censor content?
So the central message seemed to me that we should be asking questions, reflecting upon and thinking critically about the values we have within the LIS community. Through research the evaluation and analysis of these values could form the evidence base for a set of commmon values for the future. To see the presentation given by David click here
Helen Rotherforth librarian