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October 12, 2012


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Nicola Franklin

I just had a conversation with a good friend of mine, and he asked "hasn't Amazon had an impact on libraries, now they sell digital books?" This friend works in IT, plays online games and reads a lot. When I said to him 'your public library loans out ebooks for free' he was amazed - he'd never heard of such a thing - and delighted "now I'll have lots of bathroom reading!" he said.

If someone who reads a lot, and is a member of his local public library, had no idea libraries loaned ebooks, what chance has a 'regular member of the public' got of knowing this?

Amazon and Google and others put a lot of effort into marketing and getting the message out about what they offer. I know budgets can be an issue, but over and above that I think libraries tend to take it for granted that people 'just know' what they do... this isn't true any longer.

If libraries even want to be one of the options people consider when they think 'I'd like something to read', never mind being the first choice, then they need to get out there and tell people that they offer ebooks, that they offer access to online info hidden behind paywalls, & that they offer a better deal than Amazon.

Trevor Craig

I think I probably agree with all of the above, including the comment from Nicola, there is a problem with libraries spending money on technology and then either not having the knowledge, budget or common sense to promote it properly. On Ebooks libraries are going to have to offer something slightly different to the market to make sure they aren't giving away content that the market can provide already. I have always has mixed feeling about libraries doing dvd's as there isn't any independent video shops around anymore and I think libraries are to blame for that a bit, yes it generates income but then your on a slipperly slope to the state creating duplication and competing in lots of areas with market providers which cannot be right. Perhaps on the ebook thing the library sector could agree to loan ebooks for a shorter period than amazon etc and this way the content is still available for free via libraries and if you want to pay for amazon prime to get ebook loans for longer then you can. Finally on libraries changing and not just being about the book to survive I completely agree. The sad irony of this is the libraries that are already leading the way and are best at engaging their communities are the small libraries that are in the firing line for the cuts. Even ebook readers at 8 quid won't tempt me away from proper books, hopefully I have about 50 years to go so I will keep fighting for my library until then.

Jeroen Bosman

Quite right, libraries are not about libra but about liberation. Power is in ideas coming together, not in paper. The librarian's call is pointing to infornation and setting it free, with great calibre.

Jeroen Bosman

And yes I did mean to write libri and information

Desmond Clarke

When you talk abour "publishers" you mean the relatively smaller trade publishers of fiction, biography etc. The largest and most successful publishers are those that publish "have to have" information in areas such as legal, scientific, technical and medical, financial services and education. You should look to services such as Lexus Nexis, West, Web of Science etc etc and the growth of businesses such as Pearsons, Thomson Reuters and Reed Elsevier.Those responsible for developing a national e-book lending service could learn much from the success of these global publishing businesses in moving from print to electronic.

Carol Wakefield

WOW I agree with everything you have said but my main concerns are what do we do next. I read a lot of blogs and am a concerned Librarian who feels they have no future within a service that is fractured and falling apart. I might have my Blinkers on when I say could all the Campaigners and Bloggers not get together and agree a strategy on what to do next, because until that happens I fear I will be stacking shelves in Tesco. I'm in for making changes and moving forward but that has lead to my downfall. When and where shall we meet everyone.

Phil Bradley

Carol - thanks for the comments. There is the Speakup for libraries campaign and meeting on November 10th - more details at http://www.speakupforlibraries.org/conference.asp

There is also National Libraries Day held every year, which we're hoping to turn into a week. However, there is - unsurprisingly - a level of fragmentation with all such campaigns as different groups have different agendas - some want to keep libraries open at all costs, others just want to see libraries kept open if they are staffed by professionals, not volunteers, others are mainly concerned about the rights of workers and so on. Unfortunately this isn't a problem for the government, which has a single agenda.

Desmond Clarke

It is wrong to suggest that campaigners are fragmented. In fact there is considerable agreement about our objectives and much mutual support between campaign groups. In meetings with ministers and shadow ministers (I have attended five such meetings) we have been able to put across a shared view. We have also been able to put across a clear message to the media. Campaigners are also well supported by many authors and the Society of Authors. I was once asked to address the committee of the Society of Chief Librarians and, in reponse, a past chair of that body said that it was difficult to disagree with what I had said. However, campaigners do disagree with the policy of "quiet diplomacy" proposed by some senior librarians. Andy Burnham set up the independent Hillsborough Inquiry when he was Culture Secretary not because of what the professionals and officials told him but because campaigners shouted their concerns.
As CILIP President it would be good if you gave your full support and backing to the campaigners in Brent, Lewisham. Doncaster, Kirklees, Bolton, the Isle of Wight, Somerset, Oxfordshire etc who are fighting to retain a proper library service in their communities. They are all supporting each other.

Phil Bradley

Mr Clarke - it is perfectly clear that different groups have different aims. There is nothing wrong with this, and is to be expected, but I thank you for another example.

I am on record, in the UK, Canada, Finland and Iceland for praising the work of ALL campaigners, not just some. When I speak on the radio, to journalists in newspapers or in the 30 odd events that I have been to this year I take considerable pains to ensure that people are aware of how important campaign groups are, and what good work they are doing.

hebert - productos omnilife

excellent article thank you very much .. also very good blog ..

Martin Cove

Excellent and stimulating stuff as ever- interesting to contrast your considered view with Mr T Coates recent rant on 'Good Library blog' at public libraries and (physical)book buying.

I agree wholeheartedly with the need to move with the times and especially to appeal to the majority who never darken the doors of a public library. I stand in disbelief, though, at cuts to training and development budgets here which mean professional library skills and knowledge go by default and volunteers replace paid staff even where buildings are retained.

Phil Bradley

Thanks Martin. It always amuses me when Tim Coates goes on about how CILIP needs to say things, and get engaged, but he never seems to publish my comments on his blog, or engage with me.

Anna Martin

Enjoyed reading and watching this, thanks, Phil.
The concept of "libraries" moving towards becoming providers of cloud services is interesting. It is true that libraries need improving rather than saving.

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