Are English libraries serious about fighting ‘fake news’?

The upcoming general election is a big one for English libraries, as well as the nation at large.

It’s a serious test of Libraries Deliver, the national campaign to advocate for public libraries which was launched by the UK library association CILIP in association with the US organisation EveryLibrary. I don’t know much about the American campaign, or how it ports over to the very different environment in which British public libraries operate; it’s definitely the sort of moment at which one wishes that the information sector benefited from the attentions of an independent and questioning press.

In the UK, Ian Anstice at Public Libraries News does a great job of chronicling changes in the sector and navigating the fractious debate about public libraries’ future. CILIP’s own Information Professional is always a useful read, but is of course an organ of the library association itself. British librarians will also be found reading the interviews and features hosted by Princh, a Danish company offering cloud printing solutions to the sector. I’ve chatted to the Princh team before, at the suggestion of trusted peers and colleagues, but it’s always felt somewhat strange that such a significant platform for sharing librarians’ ideas is really a marketing campaign by a library supplier, where the library workers offer their thoughts for free and the Danes benefit from clicks, pageviews, and trickle-down prestige which they hope will earn them some money. It’s interesting to reflect on how questions of agendas, authorities, and funding surround the flow of information and news even within the information profession itself.

All of which brings us to the ongoing question of ‘fake news’, or the bundle of phenomena and practices including misinformation, disinformation, trolling, poor information literacy, and general carelessness which get lumped under that unfortunate label. Read more

Dream and Deliver 2018

Last year, I delivered a session called “Dream and Deliver” for librarians from across south-west England, hosted by Service Delivery Manager Tabitha Witherick and her colleagues at Libraries Unlimited. (The workshop’s excellent title was Tabitha’s idea).

Tabitha writes:

Dream and Deliver: Finding New Ideas, Developing Relationships, and Making Good Things Happen on a Budget

I had the pleasure of working with Matt on a regional project to bring together library people from across South West England, to provide a workshop packed with creative, practical tips and techniques for strengthening the library’s relationship with the community, empowering staff, and delivering spectacular, innovative, cost-effective programmes and services.

Matt is incredibly easy to work with; he supported me with information to complete funding applications, promotional materials to engage participants and helpful communication pre and post workshop. On the day the participants experienced a highly interactive session. Matt puts everyone at ease and fosters a collaborative atmosphere.

By the afternoon the group were creating new library experiences together, being encouraged to understand inclusivity and diverse perspectives and needs, experimenting and evaluating, all within the safe space that Matt had created for them.

As a result the follow up pledges the group put forward were really inspiring!

But don’t take my word for it, see what the participants said:

‘Matt is amazing! Really engaging, fun and informative. I look forward to using some of the techniques back at the ranch. Great, out of the box thinking, very refreshing. Can we borrow him please?’

‘Matt was really good at engaging everyone and making us all feel a bit special. I will definitely use the practical ideas like the penguin and kinder egg.’

‘A really innovative, refreshing workshop with an inspiring presenter. Lots of things to take away and think about and so many games and ideas to try back at the library. Lots of fun!’

‘It reminded me to look for solutions rather than simply identify problems. I feel renewed – there is a future in libraries!’

Castralien

“Castralien” – a fantasy of the 1940s, a German refugee’s vision of a world-encompassing internment camp where displaced persons are shuffled between Britain and its colonies.

Hutchinson Square, Douglas, Isle of Man
Hutchinson Square, former internment camp in Douglas, Isle of Man – Image by Wikipedia user jamesfranklingresham under a CC-BY-S.A 3.0 licence

This week’s Marvellous, Electrical brings together Queensland ghost towns, Sixties television, European wars, plus histories and fantasies of offshore detention.

Read “Castralien” here.

Library under siege

Last week was a huge one for British public libraries. A BBC report highlighted the severity of cuts to library services in recent years, and library lovers in the borough of Lambeth made national news when they occupied a branch due for closure.

I believe that the battles happening in Lambeth, and across the UK, aren’t just about those communities. They have lessons for librarians around the world. Read more

We The Humanities: Interview with Daisy Johnson, University of York

This week you can find me over at @wethehumanities, a rotating Twitter account where people working in the humanities get to share ideas, experiences, and stories. I’m using my week to talk about the grey areas between fact and fiction, dream and experience, stories and everyday life – as well as people who cross back and forth over the walls of universities and academic institutions.

Writer, researcher, and librarian Daisy Johnson blogs on children’s literature and literary tourism – which also happen to be her research topics as a doctoral candidate at the University of York. She began by telling me about her thesis.

I research children’s literature and literary tourism in the United Kingdom. I’m interested in what happens after the book; that moment when you visit somewhere in the real world that you’ve previously read about in a book.

I think I’ve always been interested in literary tourism without quite knowing what it is. I visited the Achensee in Austria when I was younger, solely because of my interest in the Chalet School series by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer, and ever since that point, I’ve been interested in the edges of the literary experience and what happens when you experience the fictional in the real world and vice-versa.

Read more