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Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Book Surgeon

 

Books can be things of beauty, but American artist Brian Dettmer also known as The Book Surgeon,  takes it to another level as he cuts away away at old books and creates amazing works of art.

The Household Physicians. Photograph: Brian Dettmer

 

Todays World.  Photograph Brian Dettmer

The age of information in physical form is waning. As intangible routes thrive with quicker fluidity, material and history are being lost, slipping and eroding into the ether. Newer media swiftly flips forms, unrestricted by the weight of material and the responsibility of history. In the tangible world we are left with a frozen material but in the intangible world we may be left with nothing. History is lost as formats change from physical stability to digital distress. Dettmer.

There is food for thought here as we ponder the apparentlyy transient nature of information in the digital form, and the diminishment of its physicality.

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Photos reproduced with permission from Brian Dettmer.

More photos of his work can be found at his website

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Posted by on March 24, 2011 in Art

 

Stats

At the risk of being random, and lowering the overall quality of posts on here, I came across some rather interesting stats about internet use/access the other day, which seemed relevant after our recent class discussions about the changing sources of information in the world today.

National Geographic has produced a series of statistics based on dividing the world up by average per capita income level.  They produced four groups: low-income level ($995 USD or less a year), lower middle (up to $3,945), upper middle (up to $12,195), and high (more than $12,196).  There is then a range of statistics about these four sections of the world, but the ones I found particularly interesting were the number of internet users per 100 people: 2.3, 13.7, 29.9, and 68.3 respectively, and the number of personal computers per 100 people: 1.2, 4.3, 11.9, and 60.4.

We’ve been hearing a lot in class about how the internet and electronic resources are the way of the future, perhaps at the expense of traditional materials, and while the world may certainly be moving in that direction, it seems to me these statistics prove we’re not nearly there yet.  Sure, there may be some countries in Europe that are striving for 100% access to broadband internet, but when you mix them in with all the other ‘high income’ countries in the world, it sill only brings per person access to internet of any kind up to 68.3 and computer use up to 60.4?  That’s just not widespread enough for me to think it is justifiable for information professionals such as ourselves to lose sight of the importance of traditional sources of information.  After all, literacy rates world-wide are much higher than internet and computer usage rates (66%, 80%, 93% and 98%) which indicates to me that for a significant part of the population literacy skills are important not for technological applications but rather for access the same traditional materials that have been available for years.  In saying this, however, I must admit that the study also pointed out that “Most of the world accesses the Internet through computers shared in libraries, offices, or Internet cafes.” (my emphasis), so providing access to technology isn’t something information professionals can ignore either.  I suppose the question, as always, is how to get the balance right.  At least for me, a study like this one suggests that it might be more on the side of traditional materials than our western-centered, future-focused classes may suggest.  Or is it possible that I too am guilty of choosing to pay most attention to the statistics that support my opinions?

-Erin

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2011 in Please find me a home?

 

Essay hints and tips

Essay IWM15

An analysis of the relationship between information professionals and national information policy

 

  • Your work should demonstrate an awareness of the responsibilities of information professionals in the shaping of information policies and their relevance to the general welfare of society.
  • The essay should also demonstrate an appreciation of policy debates explored in the module.
  • Good papers will show an understanding of information professionalism, key developments in information policy, issues principles and effects.
  • Relevant examples will engage with critical discussions of technological infrastructure, political and economic agendas of different stakeholders, implications for culture, social organisation or everyday life.

Assessment criteria

  • Clarity of structure, writing and argument.
  • Evidence of wide and critical reading.
  • Level of analysis of concepts, issues and relationships.
  • Appropriate and consistent referencing.
  • Quality of sources used (range of journals, books etc. AND policy documents).

Essay

  • Focus on one debate for example; public library policy, use this example to illustrate the relationship between IPs and NIP through more general ideas. Look at CILIP – how have they responded.
  • Examples – Digital Economy Bill passed by labour government, current government revisiting it, what has been happening – this will tell something about what happens in general policy making.
  • What general lessons are learnt through the example? Take the example and use it to explain general relationship between IPs and NIP.
  • Having used the example, explain what message it sends through government policy and social responsibility.
  • Define your terms – IP etc.
  • For example you could use Intellectual property and then bring in other information professionals.
  • Needs to be NATIONAL LEVEL POLICY but doesn’t have to be UK.
  • Need to show understanding of conceptual issues
  • Use the example to exemplify the relationship between policy and information professionals.
  • Way up the arguments
  • Don’t go through the whole history of a policy; try to focus on recent changes or developments.

Essay Style

Introduction – define what you are going to talk about.

Conclusion – in answer to the question… On balance….

Structure – one point per paragraph.

References/Resources

  • Use journals and books to frame the issues.
  • In-depth research – web, journals, newspapers.
  • Acts of parliament
  • Bills of parliament
  • Audit commissions
  • White papers
  • Green papers

Bibliography – range of resources (see above) can include Wikipedia.

-Shona

General Notes:
Case study = specific example as a way to illustrate how policy making in general works. Preferably start with a particular national policy, or possibly one event or happening and consider the essay as a snapshot or slice of the issue – consider focusing in on one report or response to the issue.  Keep it a definable/limited area to talk about.  For example: Digital Economy Act: the progression, how it began, underlying philosophy, the impact.  Outline the process and what it says about the policy process in general.  Examine the case in depth with details.
Ask who are the main players and how do things happen?
Use traditional materials/resources to frame the question.
Analyse the debate and draw out alternative views.  Provide a balance of views or situations.
Government publications and CILIP studies are good relevant sources.  Also try looking at Acts of Parliament, Bills, Government papers, statesments or reports, and reports by the Information Commission for policies. Policy can come from any nation, does not have to be UK.
News and web are acceptable sources as long as they are part of a range of sources presenting a balance in the resources.
The CILIP/ALA/professional body response could be considered the information professional response, and in this case consider the position of the organization in relation to the governmental policy process.  Consider checking professional blogs for individuals’ responses.
Shona’s Example: Library cuts: the grassroots response may be overtaking the professional response. Local authorities are directly cutting due to a general national direction to cut their budgets.
It is not necessary to PROVE an argument in this essay, rather to present all the views.
Layout how you will approach the topic in the beginning (introduction), for example, how you will use a particular policy to exemplify general issues, and draw out the relevance to these general issues at the end (conclusion).
Meaning of terms is important; use terms accurately.
-Erin
 
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Posted by on March 21, 2011 in Coursework Help

 

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A response that tells you little

While researching the Information Policy essay, I visited the MLA website and was curious to find that there seemed to be no mention of the fact that it is soon to be abolished by the current government .  After a quick search, I discovered www.theyworkforyou.com, a website that keeps tabs on debates in Parliament.

Through this I pulled up a series  of responses from Ed Vaizey on questions about how the decision on abolishing the MLA was made.

Click here to see the series of Q & A.

Here are some choice answers from Edward Vaizey.

“The decision to abolish the MLA was made with reference to these previous reviews and within the context of the Government review of public bodies which aims to increase the accountability, transparency and value for money of public bodies.”

“The decision to abolish the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council was taken as part of the Government’s review of public bodies which aims to increase the accountability, transparency and value for money of public bodies. The decision was taken on the basis that the potential for cost savings outweighed the potential liabilities. Transferring museums and libraries functions to Arts Council England will ensure work is delivered in a more efficient way with a reduction in back office functions.”

“No formal consultation took place prior to the decision to abolish of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA). Ministers at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport regularly meet representatives from a wide range of cultural organisations and within the context of these meetings the role and structure of organisations in the cultural sector, including the MLA, has been discussed on a number of occasions.”

Is it not ironic that Vaizey speaks of abolishing the MLA in order to ‘improve transparency and accountability’  then states that the decision to abolish was not made on the back of a formal consultation?

Does he have any facts to prove that abolishing the MLA will be “value for money”   and when he says “value” what does he mean exactly?

Ka-Ming

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2011 in Your Thoughts are Welcome

 

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Greetings fellow inforgs!

As the person with the idea for starting this blog, I figured it was probably high time to pop on and make my presence known.

First off, I’m pleased to see that we already have posts from class members! I will be posting things too though.  They are most likely to be short and lightweight things, such as a pointing you towards the Read or Die Wikipedia entry that gives you information on a Japanese animated series about a librarian who is an agent in  “the British Library special operations division, a group tasked to locating and protecting rare books worldwide.”

Because somebody has go to do it!

Secondly, the blog entries, don’t seem be showing who posts what, so it is probably a good idea to include your name within the post.

Lastly,  I hope that we can make good use of this blog! I would like this to be a place where we can feel at ease in sharing whatever we want about the course the professional field and fictional librarians who save the world.

xx

Ka-Ming

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2011 in Please find me a home?

 

Libraries: Equality, Potentiality and Privatisation

Hello everyone!  I wrote this at my blog.

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Libraries have been a sizable part of my recent life, however the vast majority of my time in them hasn’t been spent as a borrower, it’s been as a Library Assistant (or a Senior Library Assistant these days).  I’ve worked in libraries for almost four years, from the quite large, like Woking’s public library, or Brighton’s Jubilee Library, or (where I am currently) University of Sussex’s academic library, to the very small, like the public libraries of Rottingdean or Mile Oak in Brighton and Hove, or the tiny five-hundred book local history and genealogy library housed in the plush, modern surroundings of the Surrey History Centre.

As you’d imagine, there are some significant differences between them.  The policies, the architecture, the technology, the book stock, the number of books, the book classifications, the staff, the opening hours… it’s a list that could go on and on.  I love libraries for their differences.  But what I love most about libraries is what’s the same.  It’s the thread that runs throughout all of these disparate institutions: the fundamental equality of libraries.

At all of the libraries I’ve worked in, when you walk through the door you are immediately levelled.  You enter a space that simultaneously demands nothing of you and yet can provide you with almost anything.  There is no question as to why you are there.  Your purpose is yours, and yours alone.  You can share it with a library assistant or librarian if you so wish, but the information is always given voluntarily, in the interest of facilitating whatever it is you want to do.

You might be putting the finishing touches to your doctoral thesis, or taking out ten Mills and Boon for your holiday abroad, or looking for group study space, or seeking directions to the local tourist attraction, or keeping out of the rain, or browsing the internet, or self diagnosing an illness, or making use of a place that you have every right to be in and doesn’t question why you appear homeless, or drunk, or distraught, or exhausted, or terrified.  Sometimes you might not know what it is you want; sometimes might not know how you will use the space that is provided.

Libraries have a very specific function, and yet by their nature they are also entirely void of function.  That’s the most beautiful thing about libraries.  That sheer potential; the physical and functional limits which simultaneously and necessarily are at any moment going to be obliterated by infinite possibility, like a haiku, or a band limiting itself to three instruments and the key of Bb minor for an entire album, or ‘Ready Steady Cook‘.

Despite the mass closures across the country we don’t actually know what Government policy is going to be regarding libraries.  That’s what’s most worrying.  The current closures are local government responses to the economic climate rather than a policy decision, and while it is certainly true that our Government has had a large hand to play in creating this economic climate (and maintaining how we perceive this economic climate) the really scary stuff is likely to be found in the first policy document regarding libraries that comes out of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

If the history of Government policy documents regarding libraries is anything to go by, and given the current Government’s violently neoliberal approach to public services, we can expect a document which advises the ‘streamlining’ or the ‘rationalising’ of library services and a document which encourages the privatisation of libraries.

‘Streamlining’ or ‘rationalising’ means the reduction of staff, and specifically the reduction of professionally qualified staff.  As anyone who has worked in libraries will know, this isn’t a new idea.  I first caught site of it working for Surrey County Council in 2008.  It’s been at every library I’ve worked at since then.  And of course it’s been going on long before I started in libraries.  However, the potential scale of this ‘streamlining’ or ‘rationalising’ is what’s really dangerous.  We know Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ rests on volunteers doing pretty much everything in the public sector (an argument Philip Pullman has recently and now rather famously destroyed): this is very likely to be just the tip of the iceberg.

What we haven’t seen as much in recent times is the whole-scale privatisation of libraries.  Sure, libraries themselves have outsourced all manor of services to private companies (be it IT, cleaning, acquisitions, security…) but the places themselves have so far, to the best of my knowledge, stayed in public hands.  To the corporatist state – a thing Naomi Klein describes as “a system that erases the boundaries between Big Government and Big Business”, the main characteristic being “huge transfers of public wealth to private hands” – this situation is quite clearly ridiculous: think of all those assets locked away in the name of the ‘public good’! That’s profit waiting to be made!  Right?  Right?!

But fortunately, people seem to have noticed that this worrying future is showing all signs of coming to fruition.  A day of national protest occurred, and quite brilliantly small local campaigns have now on a number of occasions managed to borrow every single item within their respective libraries.  This has to be one of the most simple, elegant and profoundly political actions I’ve seen in all of the resistance to austerity measures over the past eight months.

Whether we end up in a world where we have our books issued to us at a checkout in Asda is dependent on the success of such resistance movements, the degree to which different resistance movements link together (the higher education movement looking to libraries for teach ins in response to the marketisation of our universities anyone?), and the people these movements can inspire.

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Posted by Tim

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2011 in Please find me a home?