Category Archives: News

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:

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:



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

Developing community-led public libraries … a review by John Vincent

Published in February, this new title[1] from Ashgate looks at how community-led libraries have developed in the UK and in Canada since the publication of Open to all? in 2000.

I need to start with a declaration of interest, in that I was involved in this book (in commenting on and checking the text as it developed) and he also contributed a brief case study.

Just as a quick reminder, Open to all? was the result of an 18-month research project which looked at public library policy and social exclusion. It produced a final report with eight case studies of different types of library authority; a survey of UK public library authorities; and a series of working papers that reviewed aspects of social exclusion[2].

This work was one of the inspirations for the Working Together Project in Canada, which ran from 2004-2008.[3]

This book takes the learning from these two pieces of work, and applies it to nine critical areas:

  • Consultation
  • Needs assessment and research
  • Library image and identity
  • Outreach, community development and partnerships
  • ICT and social exclusion
  • Materials provision
  • Staffing, recruitment, training and education
  • Mainstreaming and resourcing for social exclusion
  • Standards and monitoring of services.

Each of these nine chapters follows broadly the same format:

  •  Open to all? recommendations
  • An overview of UK public library policy and practice in relation to social exclusion from 2000-2012
  • Findings from the Working Together Project
  • The development of a community-led service philosophy in public libraries in Vancouver, Regina, Halifax and Toronto between 2004 and 2008.
  • Each chapter also has some “Helpful Hints”, practical tips for ways of taking this work forwards.

The final two chapters provide a synthesis of the findings from this work in order to give “a blueprint and road map for developing needs-based and community-led public library services.” [p22]

At a time when many public libraries in the UK are under threat[4] and there is also something of a move away from community-based and community-led services (unless it is to give over parts of the service to the community to run entirely), this powerful book is a strong reminder of the importance of community-based work and of the role that libraries can play, and asks us to rethink the way we work. As just one example, in the chapter on ICT and social exclusion, it stresses:

“… it is important to view ICT as a means to develop relationships which can extend the breadth of library services in the community beyond technology.” [p118]

Reminding ourselves of the importance of focusing on community needs (rather than assuming that most people are online and ‘connected’ – or want to be) is emphasised too in the “Helpful Hints” for that chapter, eg:

“#2: Libraries should draw up ICT plans which include a strategy outlining how the needs of socially excluded communities are prioritized. ICT should be used as a means to tackle social exclusion rather than as an end in itself …

#4: ICT initiatives should be targeted more closely at excluded groups and communities in a proactive way. Appropriate levels of skilled staffing and support should be offered to users.” [p121]

Highly recommended.

[This review is an edited version of that which appeared in The Network Newsletter, June 2013,]

[1] John Pateman and Ken Williment. Developing community-led public libraries: evidence from the UK and Canada. Ashgate, 2013. Further information at: and at: An extract is available at:

[2] Dave Muddiman et al. Open to all? The public library and social exclusion. Volume 1: Overview and conclusions. Resource, 2000. Available to download from:

[3] For background, see: A major output from this Project is: Community-led libraries toolkit. Working Together Project, 2008. Available to download as a pdf (1060 kb) from:

[4] See, for example: Steve Davies. The public library service under attack: how cuts are putting individuals and communities at risk and damaging local businesses and economies. UNISON, 2013. Available to download as a pdf (1900 kb) from:

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

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:

University of Liverpool staff told to accept new terms, or face dismissal

The University of Liverpool was today accused of putting “a gun to the head” of almost 3,000 staff who face dismissal unless they accept revised terms and conditions.

Furious union officials warned strike action could follow the move.

The university insist its move to “standardise terms and conditions” would bring “equity across the institution”.

In the firing line are 2,803 workers, whose jobs include librarians, computer technicians, clerical posts and groundsmen.

The proposed changes have been subject to long-running talks between the university and union chiefs whose fear the non-teaching staff’s revised terms would force them to work over 35 hours a week, at weekends and evenings and Bank Holidays without lieu days or overtime.

For further details see

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

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.

UK Government approves 14 firms to help the NHS

This week, the UK government approved the use of 14 private firms to work within the NHS, these include BUPA, AXA and other US health care companies (announced by the Labour health minister Ivan Lewis). Many commentators feel this represents a further step towards privatisation of the UK health services and transformation from a public service to a non-tax funded and profit-based system. Continue reading

St. Athan Military Academy (Wales)

A first meeting has taken place of people and groups opposed to plans to build a huge, privately-run military academy at St Athan near Cardiff. This vast, privately-owned training school will be run by a consortium ‘Metrix’, with partners including arms manufacturers Raytheon and the Open University. More information and how to get involved in the campaign here: Continue reading

West Virginia Labor History Association Votes Unanimously to Support Preservation of Blair Mountain at Press Conference

Charleston, WV April 24, 2007] The West Virginia Labor History Association voted unanimously on Saturday, April 21, 2007 at its monthly board meeting to support the preservation of the Blair Mountain battle site. There will be a press conference in support of the nomination at noon on May 1 in the lower rotunda of the State Capitol. Members of WVLHA will attent the press conference in support of preserving Blair Mountain, the site of one of America’s greatest labor events. Between August 25 and September 4, 1921 more than 10,000 armed coal miners marched to Blair Mountain to fight for their union and their lives. Last year the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed Blair Mountain as one of the most endangered historic sites in America. Read More…

Information for Social Change Polices

Information for Social Change has undertaken a review of policies and procedures, a process which reflects the formalisation of ISC as a voluntary led, progressive and collective-based organisation. The new policies and procedures are intended to define the aims and objectives of ISC as an activist organisation and as a periodical, but also to outline the means through which ISC undertakes its stated aims to reflect and comment on the broad range of social, cultural and economic issues in the context of information, education and related spheres of activity. The policy document also defines the submission and publication process for contributions to the ISC journal and Web site, ensuring the mechanisms and procedures of ISC are transparent to ISC members, contributors and general users. Continue reading

Library of Congress to Outsource Auxiliary Cataloging Functions

Washington, D.C., March 30, 2007 – The Acquisitions and Bibliographic Access Directorate of the United States Library of Congress this morning announced a new initiative for its cataloging workflow. A pilot program — expected to launch by late spring — will involve outsourcing several resource description operations to Mountain View, California-based Google. Continue reading

Knowledge Management: Social, Cultural and Theoretical Perspectives Edited by Ruth Rikowski

This book includes contributions from a variety of academics and professionals, looking at KM from different perspectives. The book is divided into 4 parts: Social, Economic, Political and Philosophical Perspectives; Practical Perspectives; Cultural Perspectives and Theoretical Perspectives. Both Ruth Rikowski and Paul Catherall have contributed chapters to this new book (also edited by Ruth), Ruth’s chapters include: Leadership in the knowledge revolution: an Open Marxist theoretical perspective and analysis. Knowledge management: internal, external and social cultures. An Open Marxist theoretical analysis of knowledge management within and across cultures. Knowledge management: an Open Marxist theoretical perspective and analysis. Continue reading

Two Cheers for Inclusion

John Pateman’s article ‘Two Cheers for Inclusion’ has been published in the 20th anniversary edition of the Public Library Journal (Vol. 21, No.4, 1986-2006). In this article John looks back at all the articles which he has written for PLJ over the past 20 years. Some common themes emerge – social class, internationalism and social exclusion. John concludes that, while there has been some progress with regard to public libraries tackling social exclusion, he can still only give them ‘Two Cheers for Inclusion’.

Blackboard Sues Rival Provider of Course-Management Software, Alleging Patent Infringement

The e-learning scene is currently reeling from recent legal action taken by e-learning software company and market leader, Blackboard on its competitor, Desire2Learn. Blackboard has been awarded a patent on around 50 features of e-learning which are apparently unique to the Blakboard system, some commentators beleive this will undermine the development of new learning systems and threaten popular open source systems such as Moodle which offer an alternative to commercial systems such as Blackboard. Read Full Article.