Category Archives: Occasional Papers

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:

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.

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 !

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

“From Modernisation to Capabilities: Changing Views of ICTs in the Development Process” Talk at the Development Informatics Department, University of Manchester by Richard Heeks on Monday 19th February 2007 – write up by Paul Catherall

“From Modernisation to Capabilities: Changing Views of ICTs in the Development Process” Talk at the Development Informatics Department, University of Manchester by Richard Heeks on Monday 19th February 2007

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Conference Follow-up: Ruth Rikowski and Anneliese Dodds at GLOBALISATION, LIBRARIES, INFORMATION AND EDUCATION, a Career Development Group Wales and Information for Social Change event, Swansea University, 02/12/05 by Paul Catherall

Ruth Rikowski and Anneliese Dodds at GLOBALISATION, LIBRARIES, INFORMATION AND EDUCATION, a Career Development Group Wales and Information for Social Change event, Swansea University, 02/12/05. 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.