Sunday, 8 March 2020

Sue Williamson - The role of Arts Council England and Public Libraries

The Role of Arts Council England and Public Libraries
Sue gave a fascinating and detailed presentation on how the Arts Council England works to support Public Libraries and gave indications on the future of Public Libraries sending us away with the thought that great libraries build communities.  She tweets as @librarychampion.
We heard about some of the projects that the Arts Council funds : Libraries Connected (was the Society of Chief Librarians), cultural activity through the National Portfolio (but note core activities are the responsibility of local authorities), staff development, Business & Intellectual Property Centres  supporting small and medium business enterprises. After three years 90% of businesses are still functioning.
Funding comes through Grant in Aid and National Lottery money and there is partnership with agencies such as Carnegie UK, Welcome Trust, Wolfson Foundation, Public Health England and the BBC (Sue gave the example of the Virtual Reality headsets).
Notable successes have been the publication of Libraries Deliver in 2016, and the provision of wifi in every library.
Sue then looked at opportunities and challenges 2018-2022 including : the revision of the four universal offers to comprise reading; Information and Digital; Health and Well Being; Culture and Creativity all underpinned by learning, a programme transforming leadership and Libraries apprenticeship.
Public satisfaction with libraries is high, Bradford is investing money from the public health budget and new business models are emerging such as partnerships across Local Authorities (ie SPINE). Libraries are cultural hubs, examples given included Arts in Libraries, GiLiL – get it loud in libraries, which encourages gigs. There are national projects – a long running one being the Summer Reader Scheme and research is planned to back up anecdotal evidence on advanced reading levels over the summer break. This year #letscreate launched a ten year strategy with opportunities to get creative
This talk counteracted the doom which sometimes surrounds public libraries and gave a real sense of hope for the future. Thank you Sue.
Post contributed by Suzan Griffiths, Churchill College.

Thursday, 14 November 2019

James Parish - Fictional characters and the law of copyright

After a short plug from the Cambridge University Libraries Copyright Group, James Parish, a PhD researcher in the Cambridge law department, gave us a fascinating talk regarding whether copyright could apply to fictional characters.

James Parish - PhD Researcher

James Parish is a Solicitor of England & Wales; Teaching Fellow of Intellectual Property Law, King's College London; and PhD Candidate, St Edmunds College (University of Cambridge). His thesis probes the jurisprudence of Copyright Exceptions and Limitations, but as his early career was spent in the film industry. But when talking to a group of librarians, he decided to add a literary element!

James explained to us that copyright law only protects the author’s expression of a work (ie creative choice that the author makes when selecting and arranging the words on a page). Copyright does not protect the underlying ideas of the work. The distinction between expression and ideas is a little tricky, yet the courts have generally accepted that the plot of a book is more than a mere idea and the plot can therefore be protected by copyright as part of the author’s expression. But what about another key element of literary works? Could copyright infringement be claimed on characters themselves separate to the plot of a book?

James took us through the arguments from several interesting legal disputes in the UK, Europe and the USA. (For those that would like to read more I have hyperlinked to some commentary):

· Da Vinci Code case (UK) – ideas from history can be freely used for the basis of new characters.
· Pippi Longstocking case (Germany) – a supermarket selling a Pippi costume.
· Wind Done Gone case (USA) - a parody of Gone with the Wind written from a slave’s perspective and thus using the plot and characters of the original work.
· Sherlock Holmes case (USA) - dispute arising over licensing fees as Conan Doyle’s earlier books were out of US copyright but the later ones weren’t.
· Dalek book case (UK) - regarding whether copyright to the Daleks belonged to Terry Nation and the original TV show or the more recently published books.

In discussing these cases James highlighted the difference between UK copyright exceptions (known as fair dealing) and the more wider “fair use” system in the US. He quoted from various judgments and pointed out that the more fully developed a character becomes the more likely copyright could be attached.

James finished off the talk highlighting that a lot of new popular fan fiction could be infringing and this could become a problem for the new authors – particularly as their hobbies become more commercial. During the question and answer session he also considered whether copyright restrictions could stifle creativity in, for example, a creative writing class and whether occasionally publishers panic and make unnecessary changes in order to avoid any threat of copyright infringement claims.

Post contributed by Kate Faulkner, Legal Research Librarian, Squire Law Library

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Mary Burgess - Local History Talk

On the 16th of October we held our AGM and October event at Cambridge Central Library hosted by Mary Burgess of the Cambridgeshire Collection. After refreshments and the necessary business, Mary took us down East Road in photographs and maps, showing how the area has changed dramatically in the last 60 years. As three generation of her family had studied at the former technical college, now Anglia Ruskin University, her illustrations were brough further to life with the anecdotes she had heard about the various pubs and shops which once filled the area.

The controversial demolition of much of the area known as the Kite, to develop the Grafton Centre in the 1980s alrered East Road Significantly, but more recently Anglia Ruskin has been behind major changes, with offices and ever increasing amounts of student accomodation replacing older buildings. All the audience, whether new to Cambridge or long standing residents, found the pictures of what used to be thre fascinating. There were far more small business, industries and pubs, in the area in the past, serving a greater permanent population. The resources of the Cambridgshire Collection, both photographic and print, especially old newspapers, are a fascinating source of interesting and amusing information about the places we take for granted and walk past today.

As well as the talk, based on her recently published book, we had a display of material relating to library history in Cambridge, including records of the Cambridge Library Group from the 1960s. It was interesting to see some familiar names in the attendance book, many of whom were known to people, some of whom are still members fifty years on. I hadn't realised the group had started that early. The pohotographs of the first branch of the public library, on East Road, caused considerable amusement, as it was basically a windowless shed, but served as a reading room from 1875 until closing in 1955.

Thank you to Sarah Preston for this write up.

John Corr: Reviewing books

On the 26th of September we kicked off our 2019-20 programme with John Corr talking about his experience of reviewing books, what got him into it and the people he has interviewed.

John was born in a small mining village in Durham and he had been encourgaed to read from a young age and therefore had become quite fluent before he even started school. He went to his village library, which was actually a church hall with trestle tables covered in books. It was here that he devoured everything that he could. After taking a job as a trainee sales projection engineer and not enjoying it, John decided to join the Merchant Navy.

It was when John was in the Army that he got involved in reviewing books, for a Soldier Magazine and most recently John has been reviewing books for military themed website, Army Rumour Service, which revels in the acronym ARRSE! John told us about some of the different books that he has had the pleasure to review, such as books on military history and politics. He was even asked to review Fifty Shades of Grey and turned it down because it was absolutely awful!

John has also been able to have to the chance to attend book festivals and interview some famous faces. He told us how he has interviewed Boris Johnson and Andy McNabb to name a few. He told us how he was inspired by something Andy said:

"No matter how poor your start in life, you can make something of yourself" - Andy McNabb

John went on to tell us how he reviews around 3 to 4 books a week and he doesn't watch TV as he spends a lot of his time reading books. He has two kindles and keeps one in the living room and one in the bedroom. He can always be found reading a book. 

We were absolutely delighted and extremely interested to have John speak to the Cambridge Library Group and we do hope he will be happy to come back and speak for us again.

Monday, 2 September 2019

CLG Membership Renewal 2019-20

It is the time of year now to renew your membership to the Cambridge Library Group, and maybe ask a colleague to join.
Over the past year we have run monthly events including talks on professional resilience, on temporarily working in a bookshop as a holiday, and what is like to be a prison librarian.  A visit to the Library at The Welding Institute was very popular.
The 2019-2020 programme is suitably varied and exciting –, talks on copyright, local history, reflections of the University Librarian, humanitarian work and an insight in to the work of the librarian of the new Royal Papworth Hospital.
Membership fees have not increased – full members £10.00, retired/not working members £8.00
You can either pay by cash, cheque (payable to the Cambridge Library Group) or by bank transfer (sort code: 30-91-56 Account: 04016121)
Group membership form:
**We are offering special group rates if your college/department/line manager pays for CLG group membership.  Some colleges already do this, by enrolling all their library staff, and it is a great way to invest in staff development.  This year we are offering discounts  - the more staff you enrol, the cheaper it gets – see Group membership form for details.
Information on all Cambridge Library Group events can be found at:
To try and be ‘greener’ we are not sending out programmes.  Please contact, if you would like a printed copy.
Membership of The Cambridge Library Group represents excellent value for money.  
We look forward to seeing you at events over the next year.

Thursday, 25 July 2019

June Talk: Prison Libraries, HMP Thameside

The CLG is a group that can bring us into very different worlds that are a step away from the academic world many of us work in. We were very lucky to have a group come to us to tell us about the world of Prison Libraries from both sides.

Neil Barclay is the civilian librarian working at HMP Thameside in South London and he kicked off the evening with a wonderful introduction as to the way his library works, what it does and the whole range of services and events that they offer.

Under his leadership the Library has doubled it's lending numbers since 2013 and has 7000 titles for 1230 prisoners. Prisoners work in the Library in order to help with their return to work upon leaving as you might expect but the range of schemes is immense. Literacy skills, prison mentoring, art therapy every 2 weeks, drama and scriptwriting, book club, street poetry, film clubs, Library magazine
(Booked) and a number of visits from a variety of well known authors that has brought a lot of attention, support and funding for the work he
and the prisoners do at Thameside. It's not all about money but the organisations supportive management as well. Hearing everything that happens in his library you really go get the level of effort and dedication Neil has put into his work.

And this was totally backed up by the kind words of the other speakers that followed Neils talk.

From Left to Right
Graham, Matt, Simon and Neil

Simon Ramnet told us that being locked up is bad enough but it is psychologically drastic and he told us about two other prisoners who never came
out of their cells once they were unlocked. Just stayed inside. If you don't open your doors there is something wrong there.

As an orderly Simon had more freedom and was able to take books around to people. One of the prisoners who never came out slowly started to be interested when he heard speaker 2 had books. Over the next few weeks this prisoner opened his door and became visible. The other prisoner never opened his door and never came out. Until his body was brought out.Books are not a silver bullet but someone staying inside their cell only have their internal thoughts.

"A book is a window to the outside world, when you have one you are controlling a passage to a world and better things and dreams, bruisers
crying as they've managed to write a story to their kids, the excitement of reading our own stories and poetry"

Matt Foster-Smith started by saying "Neil saved my life too".
Prisons are dehumanising places, no normal clothes, grey drab tracksuits. Working in the prison library then going back to your cell and watching Shawshank Redemption is irony.

It is a private prison and the library is the same so they have their own budget and as such are very different entities to state funded prisons. Thameside's library is in a new building which is in the centre of the prison and acts as a hub with people going through it to other things. 

And simple things like it snowing and staff can't get in means that prisoners don't get let out of their cells. They get given several days food at once and left on their own in the cells and having your head in a book is the way to escape those situations.

Prisoners have a right to access to library books not libraries which can have a massive difference where you can end up with just a line of
books in an understaffed library.

A prison is a closed economy as it only has what is there to use, books are often used for trading so they do go missing. But in some prisons the only books you will have access to as a prisoner is the bible in the chapel.

You needed to show compassion and empathy to prisoners as we are all one mistake from being in the same situation. And Neil's contribution to a lasting rehabilitation  through caring where they go from now not the weight of their past activities.

From Left to Right
Matt, Simon, Neil and Graham

Graham Coster is not an ex-prisoner, he is someone who volunteers running the reading group for the last 5 years. There are 3 groups a month and they have the same system as any reading group you or I might go to, without the wine.
He works for a non-profit organisation that runs groups in about 50 prisons (there are 120 prisons in the UK, 14 of which are private).

They cater for readers of all levels but do need to include everyone  to give people a voice and time to express their opinions and need a peaceful and orderly environment in which to show those opinions. It encourages an empathy with your fellow man and gives you the chance to learn of other people's experiences. Each member of the group gets to keep the book and so build up their own library and the books become a physical part of their lives.

Getting books sent to the Library is hard depending on security and the way the prisons are run. Some prisons will basically just accept something for you but just go into your property box for when you leave. If a book is sent in it needs to come from Waterstones, if it comes from Amazon it will just be turned back. Checking packages sent into the prison requires staff time so can easily take a very long time if it happens at all.There is a list of banned items provided by the government but often it is at the discretion of the governor, examples of banned books are 48 Rules of Power and books on hypnotism. Also books can be restricted for specific prisoners if they are connected to the crimes they committed. 

We were given a wonderful insight into the world of HMP Thameside from a librarian, a volunteer and two ex-prisoners who really gave us a very
detailed view of what the Library means to all of them from their different points of view.

Many thanks to all our speakers.

Thank you to Kevin Symonds for this write up. 

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Trials, Tribulations and Applying to Library School: Part 3

Trials Tribulations and Applying to Library School - A talk by 3 former library school students

Post contributed by Katherine Burchell, English Faculty Library (@katherinehelen_)

When I was asked to speak about my experience of Library School I jumped at the chance. I saw it as a great opportunity to talk in more detail about why I chose to study at Sheffield and my recommendations for those who are thinking of going to Library School. It was also a chance to gain more experience of public speaking, which I plan to use as evidence in my later my Chartership portfolio. 

Deciding to apply to Library School was a very early decision that I made in my career, after only having worked in libraries for 3 months. I had always known that I wanted to do a Master's, so it made absolute sense for me to pursue a course in the area that I was extremely interested in and in the field that I knew I'd most likely end up working in and enjoying. I chose to study with The University of Sheffield as I knew that I wanted to continue to work full-time whilst studying and a distance learning course was the only way that I'd be able to do this. The course also had been recommended to me by a few people that I already knew in Cambridge were doing it and the way that the course was taught through "live" lectures appealed to me as a good way to learn. 

There was a good selection of optional modules to choose from, such as Academic and Workplace Libraries to Public Libraries, as well as core modules, which were of interest to me. Although there were good modules, there did seem to be a lack of "practical" elements, such as teaching and information literacy on the course. These are things which I am now seeking to learn more about and gain experience of through work and outside of the course. 

After having completed the course in September 2018, it has given me a lot of time to reflect on the course and its usefulness. I overall would definitely recommend doing a Master's in Librarianship, however, I wish I'd known that there were other ways in to the profession, without having the Master's. If I had known about CILIP's Certification or Chartership options, then I may have explored these and then considered a Master's in a slightly more focused area of Librarianship. That having been said I would not change anything about doing the Master's and now doing Chartership, I see this as an opportunity to guide me into the next stage of my career.

Once again, thank you to the CLG committee for their continuing support and for giving me a platform in which to speak and grow in confidence. I would be very happy to answer any questions about the course and library school, so please do contact me via my Twitter, linked above.