Sunday, 22 July 2012

Keeping in touch...

Now it's easy to dismiss the likes of Twitter, Facebook and the rest as frivolous tools designed to help up do nothing more than poke away our lives glued to digital displays... but what social media has done to bring people and communities together is undoubtedly fantastic. In Thing 12 we are asked to contemplate "Putting the social in social media" and many CPD23 bloggers (Bookslinger1066, Charmain the Librarian and others) have already pointed out just how invaluable having this network available is to remote libraries like Orkney Library & Archive.

It's also always exciting to find out what libraries elsewhere are doing and I find social media can help to provide an insight when trying to predict what might be around the corner for libraries here in the UK. I follow the University of Manchester Library Facebook Group, having studied there as an undergraduate and noted with interest that their John Rylands Library now provides a recharging station for students to use to charge up their equipment. Further afield, posts I saw on Twitter and YouTube prove that some libraries in the US are already starting to dabble with 3D printing. @Thelibrarynews reports that the University of Nevada, Reno just this week became the first academic library in the States to offer this campus wide. This is one of a host of innovations which are predicted to be the next disruptive technology; a concept defined prosaically as a product which creates a new market by applying a different set of values but in simpler terms is something with the potential to change the way we live, work and even think. Here’s a video all about the potential applications of 3D printing within a library context:

Boffins in the know are starting to say 3D printing may be prominent in libraries of the future
[Uploaded by mybluheaven here - Licensed under Creative Commons]

At a time when many libraries in the UK are under threat, I also use social media pages to keep up with the progress of public library campaigns. There is a burgeoning list of these on the Voices for the Library Wordpress site. A campaign I follow with particular interest is the plight of Brent's libraries. Fear not, as I've no plans to turn this post into a political rant - the likes of Zadie Smith, Jacqueline Wilson, Alan Bennett, Kate Mosse, Philip Pullman and Patrick Ness (winner of this year's Carnegie Award for Children's Fiction) have already expressed their grievances about these closures far more eloquently than I ever could. The uproar about the Council's decision culminated in a high profile but ultimately unsuccessful case heard in the High Court last year. In Quantum Leap parlance, this week was the leap home with a visit to a pop-up library set up outside Preston Library - the very first library I ever set foot in and a victim of these cuts and closures in the London Borough of Brent:

 The Preston Community (pop-up) Library sits 
at the entrance to the former Preston Library

My own mother has been working tirelessly to try to help save Preston Library. The pop-up library is the culmination of several months' effort from those intent upon giving the libary back to the community. The library is not staffed and has only limited shelter from the elements but the public can come along to choose from a host of items selected from a growing collection (already amounting to literally hundreds, if not thousands) donated by well-wishers. 

The library is not staffed - users are trusted to fill
in a card pledging to return any items they take
Storage for items not on display has generously been provided by local organisations and there is much support from the community. 

Kensal Rise Library, opened by Mark Twain in 1900, was stripped of its books, furnishings and an historic plaque commemorating the opening in a dawn raid of the property by Brent Council last month. The Save Kensal Rise Library! Facebook Group boasts support from the Mark Twain Museum in Connecticut, as featured in this article in the Guardian

At Barham Park Library (which also succumbed to Brent's library closures) campaigners have gone a step further, opening a volunteer-run library in Barham Park Primary School's Nursery building. Activities for children to get involved with, such as art and quizzes are available and over 200 members have already signed up within the library's first three months. Sadly, the Nursery itself is having to close very soon too as the school is undergoing refurbishment. The school has agreed to donate its furniture to this project, however and yesterday I was able to lend a hand packing this and the library's books onto a truck so that the facility can be relocated to a new venue on Wembley High Road.

The quaintly mock-Tudor Barham Park Library, now closed
along with 5 other Brent Libraries in the past year

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