Also! I now have in my possession some of my most anticipated books of the year (the new Patrick Ness, the last Discworld novel, plus Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown, which I really should have read sooner), and I’m fretting about the fact that I won’t have a lot of time or emotional availability to enjoy them properly for the next month or so. I know this is a good problem to have, but still. The Shepherd’s Crown alone merits me clearing my entire schedule. There will be a bit of time in trains and things, though, so you bet I’m taking them along on my adventures.
- From “Evidence on the use of volunteers in libraries and on volunteer-run libraries” [PDF]:
The National Federation of Women produced a report in 2013 based on the experiences of 13 volunteers from seven different community-managed libraries. It refers to the piecemeal approach that is being taken by local authorities to this and points out that not every community will be equally able to take on the running of a library, thus exacerbating inequalities:
“....only certain communities have the resources to effectively set up and run a library and we are concerned that the proliferation of these models could effectively lead to a ‘postcode lottery’ of library services with the creation of a two tiered system of library provision that undermines the benefits of skilled and trained library staff and under-estimates the role that they play in both delivering an effective public service and supporting communities”.
It raises the issue of inequality in another way: it describes how in one community where the library was taken over locally the book stock was updated to reflect the largely middle class demographic and while this was popular with many of its users it raised the issue of whether those who had less resource or capacity to organise might not see their needs met. “If the needs of a community are not being adequately evaluated then access to the library could be significantly restricted for a large proportion of the population”.
- Visiting libraries is the most popular activity in the UK. It’s good to see some actual data that chips away at the convenient notion that library closures in the UK are a sad but inevitable result of the fact that nobody needs them anymore in this brave new world of widely available technology, rather than, you know, a deliberate political decision.
- Speaking of which: Libraries – “isn’t it all on the Internet?” Nope.
- Access, enclosure and authority: Ambition Beyond Libraries Being Open. This article is excellent as a whole, but here’s my favourite part:
Bulk buying pre-catalogued best sellers, chosen by corporations, shared among every other library service in Britain, and aiming at the middle ground (as the vast majority of public library services including Birmingham now do) similarly buys into a false virtue of customer choice. In both instances circulation metrics, and a problematic understanding of “customer needs” have come to be valued above sensitive, community focused, challenging, collection development. This is not said out of snobbishness. Not only has the effective outsourcing of the key library functions of acquisitions and cataloguing resulted in job losses for library workers and a downgrading of the profession, it also creates the risk that library collections come to reproduce the societal oppressions that are evident elsewhere in society. Where subject librarians cease to exist, the book lists of small radical publishers pushing out diverse work on race, class, sexuality, and non-western cultures are very unlikely to be scoured and ordered from. Where designated BAME, LGBQI+, or ESOL (for example) library roles get deleted – as they have been across the country – those groups receive a piecemeal at best level of support. Likewise, where outreach reader development work in libraries ceases to exist, that connection between the library and its community is severed, and those users who aren’t white middle class educated and lack traditional confidence and digital literacy miss an opportunity for education.I think about this all the time.
- Barbara Fister on that recent New York Times Amazon piece:
Amazon is simply a highly visible exemplar of a philosophy that emphasizes individuality, ubiquitous surveillance through data-mining, a belief that competition is the natural order of things, that enabling the consuming of things as quickly and as cheaply as possible is our highest calling, that there is no such thing as enough productivity, and that a handful of visionary leaders understand this and we should either be one of them or should at least fall in line. Librarians say we value privacy, but now we routinely send information from use of their webpages to Google because Google Analytics is free and awesome and Piwik is free and hard, or so we've heard.
But so many of the fundamental values embedded in the business practices of tech giants whose platforms have become fundamental to the exchange of information today are hostile to library values which include access for all, social responsibility, democracy, diversity, lifelong learning, the preservation of culture, the public good, privacy, and intellectual freedom. Yes, service is also a library value. But service based on our values is not the same as delivering consumer goods more quickly and cheaply than the competition. The more we conflate consumerism with service for the public good, the harder it will be for public institutions like libraries and universities to do their essential work.
- Liz Chapman on Improving LGBTQ* provision in your library: why and how to do it.
- Similarities Between Anti-Suffragette Posters and Anti-Feminist Memes. Unsurprisingly, there are plenty.
- Bitch Media interviews Zen Cho about Sorcerer to the Crown. I really need to make time for this book.
- This GIF set of John Lewis on The Daily Show made me cry. Read March, everyone.
- Some lovely cosplay pictures from the midnight launch of The Shepherd’s Crown.
- Elizabeth Minkel interviews Rebecca Stead about her new book (which I can’t wait to read): “In real life, there are always more than two doors”.
- “We stand on the shoulders of queer and trans and POC and female giants. Many are still around, still writing! We can't let them be erased.”
- All the Dragons in the World – The Depiction of Sexual Abuse Exposure and Escape in YA Literature.
- Lastly, next year I need to make sure the weekend in Hay-on-Wye I’ve been planning in my head for year actually happens.