Thursday, 25 September 2008

News update

In the news this week, Gordon Brown's plan to ensure all family homes have a broadband connected computer. Whatever the ins and outs of the plan may be (and there is much debate about ongoing support and sustainability costs - sound familiar?) I do wonder where it would leave the people's network of public PCs in libraries.

With most authorities currently puzzling out how to fund replacements for their public computers and some authorities in England already charging for access, this development is going to be an interesting one.

Incidentally Welsh public libraries have made free access to computers a core entitlement for all users as part of the new "entitlements".

Wednesday, 27 August 2008


Estates- an intimate history by Lynsey Hanley

I've heard of copy cats...

... but not copy penguins. No doubt inspired by the tremendous singles nights at Swansea Central Library, at last a major player in the book trade has recognised the link between literature and love.
Penguin books have teamed up with online dating agency to help lonely literature lovers hook up. Read all about it here

room for a little one?

Seems not as all seats are taken by reading children at Swansea Central library! Now there's a scene to warm the heart...

Friday, 8 August 2008

A recipe to save libraries?

An interesting blog entry from The Bookseller site about the future of public libraries.
Interesting as it is written by a Waterstones branch manager who has probably(?) never worked in public libraries. We in libraries are often being told to look to retail to raise standards. In Swansea, we have taken this on board. We have improved presentation, stock management, customer service skills, book knowledge of staff, opening hours, library layout and environment.

We even (just), pipped the big W with the introduction of a black polo shirt for staff.

And yet, here is Mr. Latham, telling us that we shouldn't have gotten rid of the books that no-one wants to borrow, and criticising libraries for not wanting his Dad's old book collection.
All reserve stock should be orderable via the internet, he proclaims. Held presumably in giant warehouses, staffed, lit, heated, rent payable &c. on the offchance that bucking the trend, someone should one day want to borrow a copy of of Lord Snodbury's guide to modern manners 1936 edition. Hardly a good use of public money. It might be alright in Dr. Who but where do you stop? With publishing seemingly expanding every year, soon every square yard of this sceptered isle would be covered with huge hangars storing every book ever held by any library ever, as if that were in itself a mark of quality.

You know what - no.

Libraries are public services and have to repsond to customer needs and demands. Library managers apply principles of collection management that boil down to basic common sense when deciding what to keep in store for a rainy day. Sometimes we get it right and sometimes we get it wrong. It's not as perverse as the retail practice of returning everything at month end that hasn't sold, even if the same day more copies of the same book arrive in boxes. We are not governed by the same commercial principals but we do have to ensure good use of resources to maximise usage.

This doesn't mean dumbing down - far from it. In fact I know that Swansea Central library boasts a far wider range than the local W, even in very popular areas such as fiction and childrens.

If Mr Latham had his way, libraries would be full of dusty old books and Waterstones would be full of shiny new ones. Libraries would be staffed by "veteran librarians" for whom "customer skills" would not be a priority, and Waterstone's staffed with customer friendly book lovers.

I wonder if Waterstone's believe that you can't have both customer skills and book knowledge? Do their staff need LIS degrees to select and recommend books or do they just employ people who love books and people?

I wonder if he's a little bit scared of what a good library could mean for his business?

I know the answers to a lot of these questions - do you?

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Show me the cakes!

Interesting article in The Times about low literacy levels in boys (particularly white, working class boys).

This year's Read a Million Words in Wales campaign is focusing on reluctant reader boys, and getting them engaged with reading but it's a hard ask. We've been thinking about library author events, sports related events, even graffitti art and rap workshops (with reading at the heart - obviously). Maybe a trip to Greggs would be more successful though...

Wednesday, 30 July 2008


My good friend the library bug!

Inspired by Plynouth's bookstart bear (and maybe me but I wouldn't like to say...), my good friend the library bug has started his own blog. You can read it here

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

How does he type with those paws?

Practicalities aside, here's the beginnings of a nice blog , from Plymouth Libraries. I'm a great fan of Plymouth's Bookstart bear and his many and varied travels as documented on Flikr. I would link but computer says no - Web 2.0 is often incompatible with workplace filtering.

I should have called this post "web 2.NO"

Poetry in Motion

I forgot to say - please feel free to leave comments on the post below, I'd be interested in your opinions.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Appetite for instruction

An interesting article in the Independent on the weekend by Andrew Motion, the poet laureate. Motion, recently appointed as chair of the MLA, apparently wants to shake up our libraries.

Not too much new in Motion's article for those of us in the trade... libraries are old fashioned (check), libraries have an image problem (check), lots of people think libraries are not for them (check) along with the usual anxiety around the medium for storing and diseminating knowledge - book vs computer.

He does have a good point about community engagement though. In libraries we all know that there is something for everyone. Outside of libraries there are a huge number of people who are kind of vaguely aware that libraries exist and that they are on balance "a good thing" but would never think of crossing the threshold themselves. Non users surveys are remarkably consistent. Depending on your vantage point, libraries are simultaneously for the poor and disadvantaged who can't afford to buy their own books and largely populated by the middle classes and posh educated people - exclusive.

A lot of what Motion suggests is already going on in the better libraries - remodelling, refurbishments, family history workshops, online services, literary events etc. What some libraries seem to get wrong though is acting in isolation or picking one thing to focus on at the expense of others.

How many of us have experienced the "fur coat and no knickers" of library refurbs or new builds where someone has spent an inordinate amount of time and energy on a fantastic new building and then stocked it with the same old books as before?
Or the amazing events programme, reading groups, author talks and baby rhyme time in a building with plaster coming off in chunks and no toilet?
Or the modern, accessible, light and airy, toilet filled library that is shut on Saturday afternoon?
Or (possibly worst of all), the new library with every book, PC, event and toilet you could want, whenever you want it - staffed with the grumpiest, most miserable, untrained, unmotivated staff you could ever wish to see.

In my view we need to apply a simple and holistic approach to library service delivery.

Great product - books, services, information, events, ICT
Accessible places - opening hours, cleanliness, design, repair, location
Great staff - trained, motivated, friendly, diverse

Then - let peple know about it.

All good things come from here and we need to get it right - all of it. Libraries fell down when they lost pace with customer expectations. Never pass something second rate off to customers and expect to get away with it. Aim high - that's where customer expectations are.

Don't get in a comfort zone - very few businesses have the luxury of segmenting their market and staying alive. Libraries are for everyone and we have to reach out to all sections of the community - not just the easy hits.

Often the cry is for more money, but it's time for services to prove that they are competent to spend it

In Swansea we are trying hard to achieve this high quality, customer focused and holistic service. The ongoing programme of refurbishments (ticking all the boxes) and the opening of our new Central library have had a big impact but we have a long way to go yet. We are an improving business, looking to grow.

Come and visit us Mr Motion (we can all forget that we're in Wales for the purpose of the exercise) - and we promise that if you give us some money, it won't be wasted.


Into the wild and The Invasion - one has a happy ending and one has a sad ending but both were a good watch.


Against the machine - being human in the era of the electronic mob - I have a bit of a love/hate thing going on with the old interweb...

Swan Peak by James Lee Burke - possibly my favourite crime author ever.

Teach yourself decluttering - the Turner household needs some order!

Thrifty ways for modern days - what better way to beat the credit crunch?

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Babs in the house

Esteemed author Barabara Erskine will be rocking up to Central Library tomorrow at 2pm to talk about her new book, The Warrior's Princess.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Looking for love?

Literary lonely hearts take note - there's love to be found at Swansea Central library on their regular singles night. I haven't been myself, but I understand it's very popular and growing in notoriety as the place to meet.
People are quite literally coming from miles around in the hope of finding love among the shelves, and we've even made the national press, as well as the redoubtable South Wales Evening Post.

If you're interested in finding romance at the next singles night, it's on Friday 11th July between 6pm and 8pm.

Amnesty International

OK, I hold my hands up, I've been AWOL for a while. It's not that Swansea Libraries hasn't been an exciting place to be or that I haven't had anything to report. Far from it, there's been loads going on and I have been utterly negligent in my duties. More of that later.

No, the sad truth is... I've been too ashamed to post.

Ashamed because I am a flagged user, a defaulter, an abuser of the system, operating on the very margins of a legal and just society.

I have had overdue books.

There - I've said it. I, Paige Turner, am no sort of library role model and not fit to communicate with you. But, salvation is at hand. My blushes will be spared by the good folk who run the library service here in Swansea.

For an amnesty has been announced, a chance for all those of us who have crossed the line to sally forth and become upright citizens once more. Between 14th July and 2nd August Swansea Libraries will be accepting back all overdue items FINE FREE!

It's an opportunity too good to miss - I'm off to clear out the attic.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

View from the Bont

Those nice folk from the Welsh Assembly Government have given us some money to refurb the lovely but rather dated library at Pontarddulais.

As ever, you can look forward to a brighter and more welcoming space, a review of opening hours, modern and user friendly shelving and layout and of course (what Swansea libraries do best) - loads of new BOOKS!


Roll on September.

Brum Brum!

I read here that there is a new £193 million library proposed for Birmingham. Being a good librarian ;-) I have validated this information, and you can read more about it here

I wonder if it's the same library that was being project managed ooooh, around 5 years ago now by the delightful Ayub Khan.

Anyway - it's going to be great I'm sure. Either enormously HUGE or made of solid platinum. Hope it's the former.

Mr. Coates thinks they should spend £20 million on new books, which is around 10% of the toal budget (maths not my strong point). Sounds reasonable - the book suppliers could pre-order their lear jets now - but I'm not sure how big it's going to be.

Being a much 'umbler city, our new library cost around £6 million and we had around £700,000 to spend on new books to add to the decent stuff from the old place that we bought along with us.

When I say new books I mean newly bought, not newly published i.e. we were able to get spanking new sets of brilliant backlist as well as new titles.

I was at Birmingham central library a while ago (undercover on covert ops) and counted 3 spine labels on one fiction book (author surname lead letter, number corresponding to the row of shelves in which book was to be shelved, and genre). It would probably have been easier to shelve and find if the labels hadn't obscured the author's name!

Still, I'm sure that's why the good librarians of Birmingham are desperate for a new library and best wishes to them in their endeavours!

Monday, 7 April 2008

See anything you like?

The Story so far...

We have joined 1500 new library members.

We have loaned out over 20,000 items.

80% of customers are using the self service machines (and most seem to like them)

95% of customers tell us they love the library and many have written complimenting the staff :)

We have walked and walked and walked... 2 pedometers have already cracked under the strain!

We love our new library - come and see us!!!

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

We have lift off!

Central Library is now open! I think it's fabulous - what do you think? Please leave any comments here.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Happy New Year!

Well the season to be jolly has ended but 2008 will hopefully bring many other reasons to be jolly for all those involved with Swansea libraries.

First on the agenda of course is the opening of Central library in March. I did manage to sneak down for a few photos just before Christmas and it looks fantastic!
Just think of all these shelves filled with lovely books!!

Looks comfy too!

Who thought map cabinets could look so good?

and the view....