Author Archives: Paul Catherall

Makhan Singh: A Revolutionary Kenyan Trade Unionist

Makhan Singh: A Revolutionary Kenyan Trade Unionist.
Edited by Shiraz Durrani
ISBN: 978-1-869886-22-6
Date of publication:May 2015

makhan singh

This book examines the life and work of a remarkable trade unionist and revolutionary. Makhan Singh laid the foundation for radical trade unionism and influenced the liberation struggle in Kenya. He actively participated in the struggles of the working classes in India. For this, the colonial authorities in India and Kenya detained him for over 15 years. This collection, marking 101 years of Makhan Singh’s birth, explores different aspects of his life as a father, a trade unionist, a political activist, a poet and a communist committed to social, political and economic liberation from colonialism and imperialism. His vision, his actions and his courage are as relevant today as they were in his time.

Please also see the Book flyer

Information for Social Change Issue 34

Information for Social Change Issue 34 now available / Call for papers

Information for Social Change 34

This issue of ISC is a general issue addressing a range of concerns and trends observed across the Library, Information and associated sectors during 2014 and eclectic coverage provided by ISC contributors on topics as varied as the origin of UK Public Libraries and unusual classification systems.

This issue comes at a time of ongoing impact caused by austerity policies in Western and European nations, including severe retrenchment and closure of library services in the UK, where community activism and protest is currently trying to avert the mass closure of libraries and other community services and facilities.

Other topics included in this issue include trends in digital and online education, the development of community-led public libraries, the rise of e-books, implications for the proliferation of virtual libraries and handheld devices and current developments for the library sector in Norway.

  • Editorial and Contributors
  • The New Independent Norwegian “Debate Libraries” – Anders Ericson
  • Developing a Community-Led Public Library – John Pateman
  • The library in your pocket: the nemesis of the Public Library? – Andrew Hudson
  • Just For Fun or How to Classify the Same – Martyn Lowe
  • Comment on the Origins of Librarianship, the Public Library & Current Trends – Paul Catherall
  • Critical Perspectives on E-Learning II – Paul Catherall
  • Definitions of E-Learning – Paul Catherall
  • E-Books and Education, some Reflections – Paul Catherall
  • Liverpool City Libraries Update – Paul Catherall & Martin Ralph
  • Not Train but Waste Flask Spotting – A Campaigning Book Review – Martyn Lowe
  • The development of an original theory of “Improvised Learning” – Paul Catherall
  • Library activism – what it ought to become – Mikael Böök
  • The Rise of Food Banks in the UK and Implications for Society, Information and Education – Paul Catherall, Sharon Catherall and John Vincent
  • Stalking Grounds (Poem) – Paul Catherall

Special ISC issue Winter 2014/15: The Changing Nature of Library Education – Call for Papers

Over the last couple of decades library school education has shifted from training about books, cataloguing and Librarianship toward aspects of Library Management. The next issue of ISC will focus upon these changes.

For this issue we would like to include: -

  • Articles from both current library school students, & those who have become qualified librarians within the last few years.
  • The changing nature of Library and Information Management education – e.g. comment on new skills or other professional demands evidenced in recent years.
  • Personal career development experiences, including challenges, barriers or insights in personal development.
  • Lifelong learning issues – i.e. was it necessary for you to re-train in the sector, are new skills supplanting practices such as cataloguing?
  • Problems or challenges related to the job market, maintaining employability in the climate of austerity or need for flexibility in the context of increasingly diverse Library and Information roles.
  • Critical perspectives on developments in Library and Information Management Education.

Contact Martyn Lowe: or Paul Catherall

Please also read our submission guidelines:

Library activism – what it ought to become – Mikael Böök

Library activism – what it ought to become

by Mikael Böök

Prelude -

My Norwegian friend Anders Ericson, who is a librarian and a journalist, has minted an expression that summarizes a good deal of what I mean with library activism. It says that The Library Takes Up The Case (LTC), or Bibliotekket tar saka (BTS), in Norwegian.

Anders no doubt had some particular cases in mind. One such case which he thought that the librarians should take up was the transformation of a defunct military airfield in Rygge, near Moss, where Anders lives, into a third airport for the growing civilian air traffic to and from the Norwegian capital, Oslo.

Inevitably, some people in the region gladly supported while others vehemently opposed this plan. So what would the staff of the public libraries of Moss, Rygge and other nearby towns do in this situation? Would they just continue to do their usual job and let the heated discussion and politicized decision-making about the Rygge airport have their own course? Or would they take up the case?

When do librarians take up the case? And why should they? And how can they?

For the full article please see:

Information for Social Change, proposed Conference 2015, Liverpool, UK

We are proposing an ISC conference in Liverpool, UK in mid 2015 (likely early Spring), at present we are considering an open and informal format for the conference for broad coverage of topics of interest to ISC Editorial Board members, contributors and readers.

The exact date and venue of the conference has yet to be agreed, however this information will be disseminated on the Blog as plans develop. For suggestions on topics for presentation or informal discussion at the conference, please see our past issues, incidental papers and other coverage on the ISC Web site
If you would like to contact ISC regarding the planned conference or have any questions please email

New revelations on the failures of marketized Academy schools in the UK

Further revelations have emerged surrounding the failings of the so-called ‘Academy schools’ in the UK, demonstrating the dire consequences of these de-regulated, for-profit providers:


“The governors of Nottingham University Samworth Academy (NUSA) have received a “pre-warning” letter from Nash, saying the school must boost its performance or face further action.”

“The letter raises concerns that the percentage of pupils at the academy achieving at least five A*-C grades, including English and maths, in their GCSEs last year, fell to 32% from 35%– below the government’s minimum threshold of 40% – and were “some way off” the school’s predictions of a 44% figure.”

“About 40 academies have been sent pre-warning notice letters since September 2011. The letters warn the schools to raise their game or face action – which could ultimately include being taken over by a different sponsor.”


Also see the recent article in the ISC issue 33, ‘Academy Schools and the Anti-Academies Alliance’:

Information for Social Change number 33 – Recent Developments in Public Services for Young People

The latest issue of Information for Social Change is available via the ISC Web site

ISC 33 – Winter 2013/14
Recent Developments in Public Services for Young People
Issue Editors: Martyn Lowe & Paul Catherall

  • Whole issue (PDF format, file size to download: approx 700 K)

Contents and Editorial

  • Editorial and Contributors
  • The Impact of “Austerity” and Deregulation on Young People’s Services in the UK – Paul Catherall
  • Academy Schools and the Anti-Academies Alliance – Paul Catherall
  • E-Learning: Some observations in 2014 – Paul Catherall
  • Engaging students and young people in campaigning – Miriam Dobson
  • Free Schools – Paul Catherall
  • Looking Back At My School Days – Martyn Lowe
  • Military activity in UK Schools – Owen Everett
  • Personal Reflections on a Comprehensive Education – Paul Catherall
  • The corporatisation of the University – Comment on a live broadcast with Professor Noam Chomsky (MIT) – Paul Catherall
  • The Importance of Libraries for Young People – Paul Catherall
  • Threats to Libraries, Facilities for Young People and Public Services in the Liverpool Area – Martin Ralph
  • What is the Great University Gamble? Comment on a Presentation by Andrew McGettigan at University of Liverpool, 02/10/13 – Paul Catherall
  • The UCU University of Liverpool Academic Charter
  • Trends in University Research Funding and the Open Access Publishing Debate of Green vs. Gold – Paul Catherall
  • Comment on Workfare – Paul Catherall
  • Ab Ovo Usque Ad Mala (Poem) – Paul Catherall

Book publication – LGBT People and the UK Cultural Sector

Book publication – LGBT People and the UK Cultural Sector – The Response of Libraries, Museums, Archives and Heritage since 1950

LGBT People and the UK Cultural SectorJohn Vincent, The Network, UK

This book examines the complex and conflicting relationships between LGBT people and our cultural and heritage organisations including libraries, museums and archives. In this unique book established author John Vincent draws together current good practice, and also highlights issues which urgently still need to be addressed.
To set the work of libraries, museums and archives in context, Vincent traces the development of LGBT rights in the UK. He goes on to examine some of the reasons for hostility and hatred against this minority group and critically explores provision that has been made by cultural and heritage organisations. He offers examples of good practice – not only from the UK, but from across the world – and draws up an essential ‘charter’ for future development.
This compelling, practical book should be read by managers and staff in libraries, museums and archives around the world looking for guidance on this important issue.

Available from Ashgate Publishing:



A Discussion with Martyn Lowe on Local and International Green issues

A Discussion with Martyn Lowe on Local and International Green issues

Discussing the Threat of Nuclear Waste in Merseyside, Impact of Nuclear Industry on local Workers, The Fukushima Disaster

The University of Liverpool
Harold Cohen Library, Ashton Street, Liverpool
(431 on Campus Map
Wolfson Meeting Room
Tuesday 11th February

Martyn Lowe is radical Librarian, peace activist, veteran Green issues campaigner, member of Kick Nuclear, former Greenpeace (London) activist, and spent 28 years as a volunteer with the War Resisters International.

Martyn will discuss local nuclear waste processing occurring in the Merseyside area and developments at the Capenhurst uranium enrichment plant. Martyn has undertaken recent research into the movement of nuclear waste materials around the North West and Merseyside areas and will provide an overview of operational, safety and environmental issues arising for the region and local workforce. Martyn will also discuss wider nuclear developments including the continuing Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in Japan, representing the most severe nuclear incident in recent decades. Martyn will offer insights into the ongoing issues surrounding Fukushima, including long term destabilisation of the plant’s infrastructure, the difficulties of the cleanup operation, dissemination of nuclear waste across the coastal region & surrounding ocean environment and impact on marine life as far as Alaska and California.

To confirm your attendance, please email Paul Catherall

Suggested Links for further information on the topics covered by this talk:

Class and Librarianship: Essays at the Intersection of Information, Labor and Capital

New book available from Library Juice Press

The current crisis of capitalism has led to the renewed interest in Marxism and its core categories of analysis such as class and exploitation. In our own discipline — Library and Information Science — voices and ideas that have long been confined to the critical margins have been given buoyancy as forms of critique have gained traction. This volume allows for a fresh look at at the interaction of information, labor, capital, class, and librarianship.

Editors: Erik Estep and Nathaniel Enright
Price: $30.00
Expected: Early 2014
ISBN: 978-1-936117-74-1
Printed on acid-free paper

UK Conservative-LibDem Government anti-immigration campaign

The Conservative-LibDem UK government has launched what many commentators are describing as an intimidating roadside publicity campaign to persuade illegal immigrants to return to their country of origin, the campaign features lorries with high visibility placards worded “106 ARRESTS LAST WEEK”, “GO HOME OR FACE ARREST” and similar slogans, with large graphic images associated with crime and punishment, such as handcuffs . The campaign appears to profile certain ethnic groups, with the automated answer line for the advertised phone line offering advice on deportation in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu or English (apparently limited to South Asian languages). A twitter trend has emerged with individuals calling the telephone line offered to ask for assistance to “go home” e.g. by asking for the taxi fare from their office… As one blogger has pointed out, the ConDem campaign is a reminder of racist behaviour more common to previous decades than 2013.

You can read further details about the campaign on the Guardian Web site

Living Wage Commission launched in UK

John Sentamu the Archbishop of York has called for evidence from the low paid and employers to advocate for a living wage in the UK, Sentamu is part of a new Living Wage Commission set to investigate how a living wage can be implemented in the UK.


The Living Wage Commission is an independent, 12 month inquiry into the future of the Living Wage. Bringing together leading figures from business, trade unions and civil society, Commissioners are investigating what potential the increasingly popular concept of a Living Wage holds for Britain’s five million low paid workers. Commissioners will research and assess evidence on the value of the Living Wage, barriers to its implementation and how these could be overcome.

See further details on the Living Wage Commission at

For-profit nature of the privatised academies schools project in England again in the spotlight

Paul Catherall

The for-profit nature of the privatised academies schools project in England is again in the spotlight with revelations of large bonuses paid to individuals associated with commercial entities running these schools. It is increasingly apparent that public funds are being siphoned off for the same kind of massive executive payments seen in the recently discredited banking and investment sectors.

As many commentators pointed out in the early years of the academy project, it is increasingly apparent that funds are not being spent on educational facilities, buildings and qualified staffing but on gigantic director pay-outs. When we also consider the disassociation of the academies from the National Curriculum, school safety regulations, requirement to hire qualified teachers and the special educational needs regulations, we are left with a highly questionable and increasingly discredited liberalised schools sector at the mercy of deregulation and commercial exploitation.

Please see the following recent guardian Academy chain under fire following revelation of payments made to bosses

Third of library staff to go at Bury Libraries

A town hall is sacking nearly a THIRD of its library workers – while scrapping plans for four modern community centres after realising they were too expensive.

Bury council will make at least 20 employees redundant by next year as it slashes £570,000 from its library service budget, under plans going before senior councillors next week…

For full article please see

The CILIP Re-Branding Exercise, Summer 2013

Aran Lewis

CILIP, the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, recently had a look around and noticed that since its creation over a decade ago from the merger of the Library Association and the Institute of Information Scientists it had failed to become a household name. Although a cleaning product with an almost identical nomenclature has succeeded in hammering its brand into the minds of the British, CILIP has concluded that it is not its actions, its strategies or its Byzantine organisational structure that are to blame for its ghostly media presence, but its name. The way forward, CILIP concluded, was to rebrand, and to this end members and anyone else who happened to be passing were invited by means of a survey to vote for a new name.

The public controversy around the rebranding began when CILIP announced that consultants had been appointed to lead the process at the impressive price of £35,000. Loud objections were raised by members against both the cost and the time invested in what many saw as a marginal and profitless distraction when public libraries in particular are facing an unprecedented existential crisis. The embers of dissent were fanned into flame when it was revealed that the list of new names for CILIP offered in the consultants’ survey featured neither the word “Library”, nor “Librarian”. Angry librarians rallied to a call by Tom Roper to demand a general meeting of CILIP members. Tom’s motion presented at this meeting on 8th July 2013 was a request to CILIP to stop the rebrand and – I paraphrase here – stick to the knitting.

By email, website and magazine centre-spread delivered to every member’s home, CILIP urged rejection of the motion on the grounds that if members chose to stop the rebrand and focus instead on more important issues (such as widespread Library services redundancies in Bury) – they would be choosing not to have a choice, which, although they would have chosen it, would not actually be a choice, as they had chosen it instead of choice. Which would be bad.

Despite their huge advantage in access to members, CILIP HQ won the ballot on Tom Roper’s motion with a rather less than crushing 51% of votes cast, amounting to a mighty 5%, 1 in 20, of the membership. The number of votes cast seems to have been smaller than the number of people voting, one of a number of curious aspects of the process. Another was the large gap between the number voting to change the name in the first web survey, 1556 (53% of 2936) and the number voting at the general meeting to continue the rebrand, 804. Enthusiasm for rebranding seems to have dwindled with remarkable speed.

Online derision was aimed by commentators such as Frances Hendrix at the first (or, to put it more accurately, least hated) choice in the consultants survey, ‘Information Professionals UK’. Frances pointed out that the acronym for this name, if pronounced as two words, had unpleasant connotations. This had not occurred to the denizens of CILIP, who even claimed that IPUK reflected authority and gravitas (one could suppose a fresh pool of IPUK could reflect just about anything, as for MIPUK…).

A fellow library and information professional (FLIP) has pointed out that the PUK is one of the main parties in Iraqi Kurdistan, noted for a robust approach to competitors (e.g. when a rival party (the KDP) were forced to call upon Saddam Hussein’s army to save them from a rampant PUK militia in 1996), and the head of the PUK is now President of Iraq, so perhaps further comment on this aspect would be imprudent. Moving on…

The consultants’ research was deeply flawed. The most obvious methodological error in the survey is that it didn’t ask respondents what they thought of the current name, ‘Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals’. Instead it asked how well the acronym represented the aims and ambitions of the organisation (which it doesn’t as it is just an acronym). Even so 47% chose “well”, “very well”, or “OK” for CILIP.

Given that 22% of identified respondents (818 of 3712) were non-members and CILIP has said that non-members in particular favoured change, this 47% may well represent a substantial majority of the members voting. Although non-members’ views matter because CILIP wants more members, an organisation which cares more about non-members than members is likely to end up with more of the former and fewer of the latter. It’s a shame that the raw data has been withheld so that the member/non-member balance of voting is obscured.

I refer to “identified respondents” because the voter type figures don’t add up, i.e. 68% members, 6% branch activists (also members, or does this include co-optees?) and 21% non-members adds up to 95%. Who were the rest, the 216 unidentified voters? If the consultants didn’t have a reliable method of determining who were members and who were not, all the voter type breakdowns must be inaccurate.

The scale of this mistake, i.e. failing to ask about the current name and just the acronym, is illustrated by the results of the alternative name poll. Here on p13 the moderately awful “Information Professionals UK” is the clear winner, while a shortened version of the same name – Info Pro UK – comes last…

And on p14 the winner of the alternative names vote comes last in the most preferred alternative name vote. That level of contradiction reveals a survey so badly designed its results are meaningless. Calling the middle response “OK” is one of its weaknesses. I would rate OK as a positive response, but it might be intended to be neutral. Perhaps this should have been labelled “no opinion”, or “neither well nor badly”.

The question of voter authentication remains unanswered. A commenter on the CILIP President’s blog alleges that multiple voting was possible in Survey 1. I’m not aware of any response from CILIP, but if true this on its own would of course invalidate the results. In the second survey, authentication seems to have been by IP address, so I could probably have voted from work as well as home if I had wanted, but I didn’t so I’m not sure. It does at least give a clear result and one I’d be happy to support, in favour of a return to the name ‘Library Association’, although it is just a name and matters far less than CILIP’s aversion to being noticed. On the twitter feed covering the debate at Tom Roper’s general meeting, #CILIPGM, CILIP trustee Nicholas Poole bewailed the failure of so many people to see the great work CILIP was doing, a classic example of CILIP failing to understand with an almost heroic obtusity that for advocacy to succeed, it has to be visible.

Finally, a self-selected sample is not a random sample, so you cannot generalise from it to the whole population. The voters in the rebranding surveys don’t represent the membership or anyone else, they only represent themselves. What happens next is far from clear. Although there will be a vote at this year’s AGM whether to change to a new name that has been chosen by the CILIP Council (so far a closely guarded secret) or keep the current name, John Briggs has pointed out that a name change requires a change to the Royal Charter, and that can only be done with a two thirds majority at a general meeting called for that purpose.

Meanwhile the librarians of Bury are about to be thrown on the scrap heap by their Labour local authority to save money in case we need to help more bankers. Will CILIP finally take a stand and condemn, loud and clear, the wanton destruction of a century and a half of cultural heritage by people elected to serve the public? This is the case against “Library’s” made by one commenter on the story in the Manchester Evening News, quoted verbatim:

“You have to look at the bigger view in 25 years time will there be an need for so many library`s as we just dont know what going to happen with E books. it not right to tie tax payers into a 25 year bill to save a few job`s that will go at some point as self service is the way it going. give the Library`s to local groups or rent out space to costa coffee to fund the staff.”

Can CILIP spot the weakness in this man’s position, and counter it, perhaps, by suggesting that with such a poor grasp of his native tongue, he needs a library more than most? If not, I fear that they have more to worry about than the timbre of their acronym.

Aran Lewis is Senior Cataloguer and Repository Manager at Middlesex University. As a UNISON activist in Lambeth and Middlesex he has, with occasional success, supported campaigns against public service cuts, acts of managerial genius such as locking the fire exit in the children’s library in West Norwood after a serious fire in the adjacent room, and public library closures.

Undercover – By Paul Lewis & Rob Evans

‘Undercover lays bare the deceit, betrayal and cold-blooded violation practised again and again by undercover police officers – troubling, timely and brilliantly executed.’ Henry Porter

The gripping stories of a group of police spies – written by the award-winning investigative journalists who exposed the Mark Kennedy scandal – and the uncovering of forty years of state espionage.

Overexcitable publishers like to bandy around words such as “explosive” and “shocking” when trying to flog their books, even though generally you could substitute them for ones such as “mildly interesting”. Not with Undercover, though. Subtitled “The True Story of Britain’s Secret Police”, and doggedly written and researched by Guardian journalists Rob Evans and Paul Lewis, the revelations in its pages are genuinely explosive. And even though a lot of the material was in last week’s news and formed the basis of a Channel 4′s Dispatches, reading it line by line, deception by deception, is genuinely shocking.

See full Guardian/ Observer reviews.

The Joy of Viewing – Martyn Lowe

Seeing Old Friends

Going to visit an art gallery in order to see a favourite work of art, is very much like popping over to see an old and much loved friend. The same can be said about experiencing architecture, or viewing ones favourite statues.

I still get the same thrill while walking through the doors of the British Museum, or the Sir John Soane’s Museum, as I first do so many many years ago. While the sight of Kings Cross and St Pancras stations from Pentonville Road has always been one of my 7 architectural wonders of the world.

The more you see of these works of art and architecture, the more you appreciate them.

Visual Understanding

Much of this appreciation comes from reading about history, artists, architecture, and the history of art. Yet it also comes from taking the time to observe what one is looking at, and a working knowledge as to just how these works of art are constructed.

This may be just their visual construction, as each brush stoke, or line drawn, will inform the viewer about the both the artist and work of art. To appreciate the painting of many artists, it is just as import view their drawings. Only then will you start to fully understand just what they have achieved in their painting.

For example: -

The works of both Gustav Klimt and Rembrant van Rijn are built upon their drawing. On the other hand, you do really need to look at the water colour sketches of J.M.W. Turner in order to fully appreciate just how his paintings work.

The later oil paintings of Vincent Van Gogh are the most glorious examples of drawings in colour. While with architecture you need to look at the all of the details, and the building as a whole.

Historical Context

Of course one does need to view many paintings and other works of art from within the period they were created. The most obvious example of this comes from the effect that photographic images first had upon artists during the 19th century.

To fully understand the paintings of the Dutch Golden age, medieval sculptures, or renaissance paintings, you do really need to know exactly what was going on within the society in which these works were created.

While contemporaneous advertising images, graphic novels, or the ‘comic book’ has influenced many other artists. One just has to look at the works of Andy Warhol, Alfons Mucha, Norman Rockwell, and Roy Lichtenstein in order to appreciate these symbiotic influences.

Joy To Be Found

Without all of this knowledge there can be no complete understanding of what you are seeing. Though the joy of viewing a beautiful work of art can never be diminished by not knowing. So view and enjoy I say to you all, and if you can learn more - just do so !

Jobless forced to pay for library internet access in UK Libraries

Britain’s libraries are making the public pay for services previously provided for FREE before the Tory-led Coalition’s cuts, a shock survey reveals today.

And the new charges are hitting jobseekers, children and the elderly hardest as they had relied on free access to the internet and computer services at their local library.

In prime minister David Cameron’s Witney constituency and the rest of Oxfordshire, disabled people who could borrow DVDs and CDs for free now have to pay charges from £1.25 to £4.50.

Many libraries are providing the first half-hour of internet access free and then charging a range of fees to stay online.

And librarians say the move is poorly timed – just as the Government is putting more of its services online, such as applying for benefits and fill in job applications.

Further information:

The Ethical Consumer – article on Buying Books without Amazon

In December 2012 the Ethical Consumer launched a campaign to boycott Amazon in response to the growing anger amongst consumers, smaller traders and elected politicians about the company’s systematic tax avoidance. Their irresponsible attitude to tax has distorted markets and contributed to the erosion of our public services…

For full article see

Advocacy for rural school library development (in Zimbabwe) – by Hosea Tokwe


Lessons learnt from Matenda School Library Project in Midlands Province


by Hosea Tokwe: Chief Library Assistant

Midlands State University Library, Zimbabwe 


Successful advocacy is critical to a librarian’s ability to address the needs of his/her community. “Advocacy is a planned, deliberate, sustained effort to raise awareness of an issue. It’s an ongoing process in which support and understanding are built incrementally over an extended period of time and using a wide variety of marketing and public relations tools” (Canadian Association of Public Libraries 2001). In fact, advocacy is more than just lobbying for extra funding, or stating the importance of the role of the information professional within a school community, or seeking school-based support for an information skills/literacy programme. It involves advocating for excellent school library services, appropriate staffing and facilities in the context of advancing the educational opportunities of a school community.

Justification for School Library Development

More than 40 years ago De Perez (1971) viewed school libraries as one of the most effective ways of renovating education. De Perez’s view especially makes sense today when new technologies are threatening to reverse the literacy revolution achieved by education systems the world over. Due to the advent of technologies like laptops and social networking people rarely want to read. Resultantly, children in our schools face serious literacy and comprehension challenges. Literacy and comprehension challenges are most prevalent in Africa. The illiteracy situation is saddening in the rural communities in Zimbabwe where there is a dire lack of rural school libraries to provide reading materials for pupils and students in deprived communities. Sturges and Neill (1998, p 154) are right that there is a compelling argument within Africa’s educational system which calls for greater library involvement. It is, therefore undeniable, that in this decade our schools need assistance from libraries and librarians. School Libraries aid in uplifting student enquiry, comprehension and thinking skills. The role of a school library is further elaborated by the UNESCO Public Library Manifesto which states that school library offers learning services, books and resources that enable all members of the community to become critical thinkers and effective users of information in all formats and media.

Brief on Library Development in Zimbabwe

International voluntary organisations such Rural Libraries Resources Development Programme, Book Aid International, Rotary Club and Books for Africa initiated library development in Zimbabwe either through donations of books by institutions or prominent personalities teaming up to fund for construction of libraries. Though these efforts are greatly appreciated no attempt was made to assess progress made by the schools which received support from international voluntary organisations. Way back the Ministry of Education used to run a School Library Service, but over the years the model library set up in the Ministry has been run down. In Zimbabwe except for College and Universities, School Libraries are still in dare straits in both urban and rural schools, such that there is no culture of reading as there are no ideal Libraries to support the teaching and learning process.

Rural School Library Development

Rural Schools need school libraries to for student achievement. The International Federation of Library Association (IFLA) acknowledges in its School Library Manifesto (2001) that in rural areas the concept of a rural school library “is essential to every long-term strategy for literacy, education, information provision and economic, social and cultural development.” Educators the world over agree that once there is a rural school library, it will play an important and positive role in the curriculum; thereby facilitate quality education in the school. One scholar Zondi (1982) goes on to suggest that the school library is “an essential teaching aid” and “vital necessity” in rural schools. Guided by these important pointers to school library development, an initiative was undertaken to establish a School Library at Matenda School.

Stages of Implementation in School Library at Matenda School

The implementation program began in July 2007, and involved visiting Matenda School, meeting the Head and Staff. However economic and political challenges seriously derailed implementation schedule.

Stage 1: Meeting School Authorities

In African rural schools where one is total stranger it is important to consult with the School Head, an honoured person in a rural community. It has to be borne in mind that working with the rural community is not an easy task; rather it calls for deep understanding of the social, political and cultural background of the community. Most often development should be locally owned, in this instance approval to visit the school had also to be sought from District Education Offices. These being Education Officers responsible for rural schools found in rural Zimbabwe. Meeting with the School Head paved the way for formation of

Library Committee comprising of Chairperson, Secretary, Treasurer and four teachers, with the Deputy Head being the ex-officio member..

Stage 2: Announcing the Matenda School Library Project

The Matenda School Library Project was made know to the Matenda community at a gathering for the School’s Prize Giving Day late in 2007. It is true that when librarians and teachers work together, pupils achieve higher levels of literacy, learning, problem-solving. I emphasised that the school library and the services would be provided to all members of the school community, regardless of age, gender, language and race. Being in a rural setting this occasion helped to sensitize other local stakeholders, like the chief, councillor, headmen, parents and the School Development Association about this Project would benefit the entire Matenda community.

Stage 3: Library Setup

With books now available next stage was setting up the Library. Local material was used in the construction phase and the Library Setup Committee decided on the different sections of the library, Reference Section, Textbook Section, HIV/AIDS Section, Fiction Section, Non-Fiction Section and Adult Readers’ Section. The School was privileged to receive posters, promotional and informational materials from a School Librarian based in the UK, as well as Non-governmental organisations such as SAfAIDS and local Book Publishers.

Stage 4: Matenda School Library Launch

The Matenda School Library was finally launched on 16 July 2010. In a rural setting such an occasion drew a lot of people, School Heads from surrounding schools, Headman, the Chief, Councillors, Health Workers and local business people..

Some Personal Experience of Developing a School Library

First, to successfully establish a school library in a rural setting requires standing out for the cause or felt need of the stakeholders (in this case the community). Second, one has take full personal responsibility, believing in self, and voluntarily going out all the way to sell out libraries and ourselves as librarians with felt need for Schools at heart. Advocacy of course implies being mindful of the real or key stakeholders, but it is no easy stroll to capture interest of the community and also accommodating their expressed needs. What is needed is the will to provide and support rural communities locally produced educational materials to put them at ease on the specific agenda of the School Library.


The success of rural school library development can come to reality if and when there is government involvement and a blueprint to re-establish the School Library Service in the relevant Ministry. In the process standards will have to be looked at to ensure that school libraries are established throughout rural Zimbabwe. Also, basic requirements in every school library in terms of infrastructure, material resources, and appropriate manpower will need to be spelt out. For Matenda School it is envisaged that a well-stocked School Library will be put in place to support the teaching and learning process. The School looks forward to mobilise for provision of relevant locally produced books to address the needs of their local community and to encourage a culture of reading among pupils and teachers to help nurture reading skills.


ALIA & ASLA 2004, Standards of Professional Excellence for Teacher Librarians, Australian Library and Information Association and Australian School Library Association, viewed 11 December 2004,

Canadian Association of Public Libraries 2001, Library Advocacy NOW!, Canadian Library Association, viewed 20 January 2005,

Hartzell G 2002, ‘The hole truth’, School Library Journal, viewed 21 January 2005,

De Perez, V(1971) ‘Modernising Education in Latin America through School Libraries”, School Libraries, Vol 20, No. 2 pp. 36-40

Lance, K(2000) How School Libraries can help kids achieve standards: the second Colorado study, Hi Willow Research and Publishing, Castle Rock, CO.

Mitchell P 2005, ‘Workshops to raise awareness’, Access, vol. 19, no. 1, pp. 29-30

Mugara, E., Nyamba, J.B.(2004), “Towards a School Library Development Policy for Uganda,” Library Review, Vol. 53, No. 6 pp. 313-322

Olen, A(1995)”Academic success and School Library Use”, SCHOOL Libraries Worldwide, Vol 1. No. 1, pp. 69-79

Sturges, P AND Neill, R(1998) The Quiet Struggle: Information and Libraries for the People of Africa, 2ed , Mansell Publishing, London.

Zondi, O.T.(1982) ‘The School Library as a power centre in education”, African Library Association Newsletter, Vol 6. Pp. 11-19

Thank you, Martyn – office volunteer leaves London

Today WRI bids farewell to Martyn Lowe, the longsuffering Cockney cherub who has been a reliable help week in week out for nearly 28 years. Martyn, proud of his Cockney (East London) heritage, is leaving London for Liverpool … but he has agreed to come down and help once or twice a year.

Longsuffering? Indeed he has been. Martyn has suffered indignities to which no other volunteer or staff member has been exposed. Perhaps the worst of all came one afternoon in – was it 1987? – when the major part of the WRI filing system came away from the wall landing on top of him. A whole wall full of heavy ringbinder files. Veronica Kelly and I were downstairs, leaving Martyn in peace and quiet to get on with some filing, when we heard a crash and a muffled cry for help from Martyn. We hurried upstairs, but the door was blocked with fallen archives. Finally, we managed to get inside and there on the floor sat Martyn, looking very shaken and surrounded by ringbinder files.

Still, Martyn is nothing if not resilient, and he kept coming back, and gradually took on more responsibilities. For most of this time, Martyn was working as a librarian in the public library services (as well as being a committed organiser in Librarians for Social Change). He’d take one day a week off his paid work – usually a Wednesday – to come and work in our office. For generations of staff, he has been at our side through the gamut of stresses that come up in this work, and ready to provide a sympathetic ear to our complaints about those we’re supposed to rely on.

…read the full article here

Ricky Tomlinson – comedian and actor Campaign for Justice and E-Petition

Campaign for the Shrewsbury 24 E-Petition

In 1972 Ricky Tomlinson the well known UK comedian and actor was a qualified plasterer and builder working on the new Wrexham bypass in North Wales, he became involved in union activities to improve the poor working conditions and pay of workers in the construction industry. Following a series of rare construction industry strikes (held peacefully amid amicable encounters with police) he and other Union members were arrested in a climate of judicial secrecy and ad hoc process. Lacking any real evidence, Ricky and fellow union members were imprisoned following a conviction under the archaic 1875 Conspiracy Act and he spent the next two years in a variety of prisons, including a substantial period in Shrewsbury prison. He later found he had been secretly classed as a political prisoner. During his imprisonment Ricky went on hunger strike and endured other privations to impress his innocent status and this status was often openly recognised as such by prison guards and even a prison governor. One of Ricky’s fellows was made extremely ill by their ordeal and died tragically some time later, it is on behalf of his fellow union members that Ricky has campaigned on this issue for many years. Documents relating to the trial and judicial process concerning Ricky and other union members were classified as top secret and this status has been extended to 2021. Ricky is campaigning for wider awareness of this travesty of justice for the “Shrewsbury 24″, for release of improperly classified documentation concerning the case and to clear his name of this criminal conviction for the sake of his family who have also been adversely affected by this episode. Please see the following government e-petition demanding the release of government documents relating to the trial:  this petition has been subject to a declaration of some 50,000 invalid entries by the UK government. Ricky’s campaign is appealing for fully completed signatures on the petition to ensure this reaches 100,000 – the number needed to trigger a debate on this topic in the UK Government House of Commons, the deadline for the petition is 27 June 2013.

Please also see the following resources -

Rick Tomlinson describes his Shrewsbury 24 experiences (Youtube):

Personal Appeal from Ricky Tomlinson Ricky Tomlinson writes to Labour movement supporters to ask they sign the Downing Street petition on an historic injustice in the construction industry

“You know me as an actor and performer today but as a young man I was a plasterer working in the building industry and a member of the T&GWU. We were low paid and had some of the worst working conditions of any workers in Britain in the 1970’s. Like any good trade unionists we decided we would take action to change this. We had a national strike in summer 1972. We picketed sites that were not well organised and where union members needed our support. Five months after the strike ended 24 of us were arrested out of the blue and six of us were sent to prison after lengthy trails at Shrewsbury Crown Court.

I was sent to jail for 2 years for carrying out trade union activities. Today you do not hear of trade unionists in Britain being sent to prison but that’s what happened to me and 5 of my colleagues. Others got suspended prison sentences.

Please sign my e-petition to demand the release of Government documents. We believe that they show that there was government interference and manipulation in bringing the prosecutions. The Coalition Government today continues to refuse to release these documents on grounds of “national security”. “

Information for Social Change – New Open Access Policy

Information for Social Change is defining all site content under the Creative Commons License Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).

Due for the need to allow sharing, with full attribution and credit for works across the many channels whereby ISC is disseminated, ISC has decided to define all site content under the BY-NC-ND license to ensure a clearly defined sharing license is in place. If any ISC contributor whose works feature in ISC do not wish their works to be defined under this license, please contact the ISC Editorial board.


Also please see 3.2. Distribution and Open Access Policy in the revised ISC Policy page.